The last lingering leaks

Over the last month I have meticulously tracked down the last two little leaks in the boat.  One was up in the V-berth and required me sticking my head into a locker about the size of my head to finally see where it was coming from and the other was a complete mystery.  I knew where the water was escaping – the midships starboard side lockers but I could not figure out where that pesky water was getting in!

I mapped out a 6 ft by 10 ft section of the boat from the mast hole down to the rail and 5 feet in either direction port and aft.  I then got on my hands and knees and inspected everything inch by inch.  I was really starting to think I was going a bit crazy until I came across our old Beckson Port lights.  Maybe, just maybe, the water was getting past the outer ring.  And, maybe no one ever properly sealed the two layers of fiberglass that make up the headliner pan and the cabin trunk.  Maybe this left a little gap where water could freely flow down the headliner and right into the locker.  Who knows.  There was only one way to find out, so I decided to remove the port and have a look.

The view from our old Beckson Ports is just killer don’t you think?

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The plan was to keep all these ports installed until after we are done painting but water intrusion is not acceptable so this one had to come off.  Check out the third image below, you can see the dark gap in between the layers of fiberglass – this is where the water was getting in.

After removing the through-bolts and getting the pieces apart I cleaned up all the sealant:

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I then cleaned up the inside of the sandwich a bit with a bunch of painters multitools.  After all the gunk was cleaned up I separated the two pieces with some chisel wedges.

With the wedges in place I mixed up a batch of very thick epoxy with 404 and 406 to create a sturdy adhesive bond between the layers of fiberglass.  This is advantageous for several reasons.  First – No more leaks! Second, this will strengthen the area against the compression loads of the portlight and will create a more rigid bond between the layers of fiberglass eliminating movement that can cause more leaks over time.   In the pictures you can see where I’ve started repairing some hair line cracks in the headliner – these cracks were caused by the compression of the porlight and then movement of the headliner pan.  Filling the void with thick, strong, adhesive epoxy will eliminate this problem as well.

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Below, we have the finished product, all cleaned up and solid as a rock.  Afterwards I just installed the same old Beckson port with a ton of hardware store silicone as a temporary port until after we are done painting and install the new ports.

 

Here is an example of what we are thinking about going with for the new ports.  Recently I’ve been wondering if we should go with all metal though.  Please feel free to chime in if you have an opinion on which might be better.   These are from New Found Metals and are called Tri-Matrix Ports.  I installed this on in our head to see how we liked it.

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7 thoughts on “The last lingering leaks

  1. I’ve experienced the same cracking and damage to my interior liner for the same reasons: gaps in between the liner and the deck and all sorts of bolts and hardware cranked down, just using the flexibility of the fiberglass to create enough resistance to tighten the fasteners. Really leaves me shaking my head.

    Will be using, and have been using, a lot of thickened epoxy. Actually, I just copied your process. Really glad for this blog.

    I thought you had girded your old port light with some hardware before I realized that’s how the new one is constructed. Whether metal or some polymer, I vote for something else than the New Found Metals one you have. I’m sure it’s functional and well engineered. Just aesthetically speaking my preference.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Curtis! I think your right about the aesthetics – they are kinda funky and maybe don’t go with the classic beauty of the Alberg. I’ll keep thinking on what to go with 🙂

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  3. I’ll disagree with the rest here, I love your new portlights 🙂 I love the look of bronze on a wood boat that will get painted often, but a pretty boat with ugly green portlights staining the deck very quickly becomes and ugly boat.

    However, there is one thing I really do not love, and that is silicone. I bloody well hate the stuff. About the only place I deign to use it is for plastic portlights as you are installing here because the manufacturer specifies it, and then I prefer the boatlife hybrid one(while still hating it, it gets on my hands and tools, and somehow the tiniest bit of residue always ends up on something that will need painting later)
    Silicone screws up the bond of almost anything else later, especially things like paint! And it spreads itself around so wretchedly no matter how much sanding you do. I have chased fish eyes and pinholes for hours when some naughty owner used the stuff where they ought not have. Fortunately there is a solution, easier to work with than Sikaflex, half the bond strength of 5200, fast curing, UV resistant, easy cleanup with rubbing alcohol.
    It comes in a metal tube with a thread on tip, also from 3M, and only 1$ more per tube than 4200/Sikaflex.

    3M 4000UV is the thing to have 🙂
    People often think it’s a polyurethane like the 4200/5200(can’t use alcohol or risk bond/cure issues), but it is different, a polyether. It spreads more like a paste, doesn’t run or dribble or sag. Fit the part with sealant underneath, press the squeeze-out back in tightly with a finger to create a perfect seal, then paper towel and alcohol cleans it up so it looks perfect. One last swipe with a finger dipped in alcohol and it will even go slightly glossy and perfectly smooth.
    Safe above and below the waterline.

    Incidentally, you are one of the first people I have seen to have the right approach to when should I use 5200 🙂 A tube of 5200, a tube of 4000UV, and a small squeeze tube of Dow Silicone make up a sealant kit that will cover every standard boat repair.

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    1. I agree with you completely on the sealants. Interestingly these newfound metals trimatrix ports are supposedly “self sealing” and I have had one installed for a year or two now with good results though I’ve yet to test in real world ocean situations. Thanks for your input on the bronze portlights, I’m still deciding and really value everyone’s opinion here!

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