Being a boat owner without unlimited funds usually means learning to do many of the repairs yourself. As a brand new boat owner with no experience in this area, I have been chipping away at tackling things I have never done before. I started with my very first oil change, and with instructions, a hand pump and 2 hours, I managed it without incident. A few small woodworking projects and installing blinds ensued, but nothing very exciting.
Since our first big rain, several months after I bought the boat, I have known there were leaks on the starboard side. I usually found them coming from the headliner above the shelf behind the settee. Three stubborn dribbles continued to occur with heavy rain, or water over the bow. Once I even saw water dripping from the screw hole in the barometer which is mounted above the other leaks, making me realize my problem was higher up. I naively applied Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure to everything I thought suspicious. I re-caulked the toe rail with no effect. I had the mast boot replaced, which stopped the dripping into the head, but the starboard leaks remained. The base plates on the shrouds were re-bedded when the rigging was tuned and I hoped for the best. Just in case, I re-bedded the Charlie Noble, having seen water from there in a windy rainstorm. A scorching dry summer in Seattle didn’t allow me to test the changes for some time.
In early August we finally had some rain. Not the typical plant mister rain, but real rain. The three little rivers on starboard showed up on queue. The barometer cried. The chimney was dry, but it wasn’t a windy day. BUT! a new clue appeared. Drops of water came from one of the screws of the forward starboard aluminum window frame. BINGO!
I had never re-bedded a window before, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what the internal anatomy of a window frame looked like. However, I had a friend that had just done this project on his boat and he emailed me detailed instructions. I bought what I was told was needed, and he even stopped by to make sure it was the same type of frame and prodded me to take the inner frame off to get a better idea.
Not only did it become more clear how the windows were mounted, and that this should be a doable project for me, but it was very clear there was daylight coming through the forward edge of the caulking and it was an obvious leak source. It was also obvious that whoever had cut the hole for the window did not have the steadiest of hands. The cuts were undulating and erratic, and at one point the inner frame barely covered the cut.
My first job was cutting through the bedding compound from the inside, then going outside and trying to lightly pry the frame from the compound and the boat, millimeters at a time with two flathead screwdrivers. The top and forward edge (leaky side) came loose easily. The aft and bottom took forever. I was starting to sense the frame coming out as I could hear the bedding letting go slowly. I had a vision of a small victory dance on the dock with the window in hand.
Then I heard another sound. CRACK might be the sound of victory on some circles (lumberjacks, chiropractors, gladiators), but it was not a good sound for me. Yes, I cracked the glass at the one area that the wood pinched the frame inside. I got the frame out, cleaned it up, cleaned the old compound off the boat, and taped plastic inside and out. It was a weekend, and apparently no glass places were open. The drama was starting, because I was leaving (with the boat) for over a month in 15 days (10 business days), and most glass companies had shorter workdays than I did, so getting the glass there and back would be a challenge. I did research, left messages, called friends, went on rushed lunchtime field trips, only to be told “at least two weeks”.
I was starting to panic, but with some footwork help from my friend John, a place was found that could do the job based on the photos I texted him of the glass and the frame. It happened to be one of the places I called Saturday, but hadn’t yet returned my call. They gave an estimate based on the photos and size, and quoted a twenty four hour turn around. I drove the frame there on Wednesday (my day off), but wasn’t sure how I was going to get it back again in time since they were closed on weekends. John agreed to take possession on Thursday, and the plan was to install Saturday. Then we got the forecast.
The storm was coming early Saturday, and it looked ugly. Rain and 25-35 knots of wind. It was great news for our wildfires, but bad news for a boat with a big old hole. I didn’t think the plastic on the inside and the shower curtain taped on the outside were going to make the grade. I was worried. John came through again and he and Lisa brought the new window around the time I finished work.
The job went faster with three pairs of hands. I grinded a bit off the areas that pinched and re-cleaned the surface. The window was dry fitted and the inside from secured lightly while the outside surface was taped off. The window came back out and the portion of the frame that fits against the hull was given a healthy bead of 3M 4000 UV. As John fitted the frame back in, I started re-attaching the screws on the inside frame loosely until they were all in, then tightening them all a little at a time like putting a tire back on. Finally after the screws were all tight, we got to work scraping off the excess sealant and cleaning any mess with denatured alcohol. Once that was finished, the tape came off, and the job was done.
At about 5 am the following morning, what was described as the strongest summer storm in Northwest history hit. Gusts of 40-50 mph were recorded. It is being called a mid-latitude cyclone. Read more.
I awoke at 8am to a text…”how’s the window?” Honestly I was afraid to find out, but the bilge pump hadn’t come on so I figured it couldn’t be too bad. I crawled from the V-berth and inspected the window frame-dry. The three rivers that ran down the wall beneath it-dry. The barometer-weeping like a willow. Oh well, three out of four is pretty good in my opinion. The barometer leak will wait for another day. I have a few leads and a lot of work, but at least I didn’t have a huge hole in my boat during the biggest summer storm in Northwest history!
Photo Credits: Lisa Mize – Sunrise Photography by Lisa
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
A while back, Dana aboard s/v Rubigale (good news - s/v NoName is now s/v Rubigale!) had to deal with a problem while looking a storm in the teeth...