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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 04-26-2008
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Unhappy balsa core repair

I just posted a thread for moldy teak, I found that to be the least of my problems today.

I found a soft spot on the starbord bow of my boat that has a balsa core sandwich. I read a while ago about drilling several holes from the inside of the cabin about the size of surgical tubing and rigging a shop vac with the tubing to vacumm or suck the moisture out of the core. What I don't remember is what to use to replace the saturated balsa's fiber to recondition the core. I know once balsa is rotted you can't do anything to repair it, I did hear of a technique that saturated the balsa with a sort of chemical to reconstitute the core itself and not the balsa.

Did anyone here of such a thing? I guess the way it goes is;

you leave the vacumm going for several minutes in one hole (thirty to fortyfive minutes) then go to the next hole and repeate until all the holes have been vacummed, then you use surgical tubing with one end in one hole and the the loose end in a container of this very thinned epoxy or something of that nature while still vacumming until you see the fluid seeping thru to the tubing.

Sorry for the long winded description, I wish I was paying more attention when I read the article a few years back. I am bent on getting this fixed and all advise will greatly be appreciated. Oh yea!, I did find the source of the problem and am on the path of fixing that too.

Dennis
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Old 04-26-2008
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Looking at a picture I see you have S2 9.5, if I am not mistaken? I really liked their design back in the day (still do), "well carpeted boat" reputation notwithstanding. But every single one of them I looked at had significant core problems in the deck. What this is attributed to I do not know.

In any case, I can tell you that I saw quite a few where exactly this type of repair was attempted - drill, dry, seal. It clearly failed every time, leaving an ugly deck that is still all rotten and wet.

I am not sure what to suggest, but I'd say that the drill-and-dry way isnt going to do much for you. There is now rotten wet paste in between two layers of fiberglass. When I had to repair a small area on my old Beneteau (which did not even register too wet on the moisture meter), I opened it up completely from inside. As I did, water started leaking out. What I found inside was the consistency of tuna from a can - whitish soft chunks, and lots of water. There is no way to repair that, dry that or bring that to any decent condition. In my case I had to fully scrape that stuff off until I got to outside layer of glass (which was pretty thin), replace with new core (I went with marine plywood, thoroughly epoxied, which was ok for that situation but I wouldn't do that for a deck), and then reglassed from inside. It was a hell of a job, though a good learning experience for me

Anyway, YMMV, I am not a pro.
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Old 04-26-2008
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Brack is right open it up and be certain you have it fixed. He is trying to keep you from wasting your time, money and from making a mess.
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Old 04-26-2008
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i haven't tried it but there is a product called smiths cpes epoxy which is supposed to soak into the rotted epoxy and restore its strength. you can find it at rotdoctor.com
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Old 04-26-2008
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The boat is an S2 8.0B and not well recognised by the S2 community, although I am flattered.

I fear the method of pealing back the interior combing and re coring for the labor intensiveness of the project. Never the less, this boat would be worth the effort to me, I value this thing, the handling as well as the stability makes any passage a compfortable one.

I have heard many of the end of the road comments on this topic, but what can it hurt to try one more thing before gutting the core. Even if this is a failed attempt I can then surelly say it can't be done.

I do have a plan 'B', and that is to gut the aria involved and re-seal it with a stable foam replacement, I'm trying to do this the cheepest way first. If I don't ask then I have no leads.
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Old 04-26-2008
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ah, I know 8.0 as well, they are essentially a smaller sistership to 9.5 I beleive (a cruising version).

If there would be no harm in drilling - I'd say go for it. However it appears that drilling the deck weakens the laminate, which very well may be detrimental to any future repair.
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Old 04-27-2008
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Prior to doing anything, you should decide on what your plans are for the boat. Is this something that you have invested a significant amount of money in and want to be able to resell without incurring much loss ? Or is this a boat that you have purchased very cheaply and are willing to walk away from eventually ?

If you want to maintain the value of the boat, don't drill holes in the deck. Don't drill holes in the underside. The reason that I say this, is that 99 times out of 100, that type of fix is not successful for more than a few weeks. You end up with a boat that is weakened and also scarred. Any prospective buyer who retains a surveyor will know that there was a deck issue, that it was repaired on the cheap, and that this type of repair doesn't work that well.

It will take more time and money to repair (or have it repaired) properly, by cutting out the wet core, replacing it and reglassing the area, but the end result will more than justify the expense.

If this was not a big investment for you, and you want to experiment, by all means go ahead and pour potions into the core and see if they do the job. I haven't heard of anyone who has been satisfied with the results, but there are new products coming on the market all the time, and it is conceivable that some manufacturer has come up with something that works.

Good luck and let us know what happens - particularly if this stuff you mentioned does work for you. A lot of people would probably be interested in it.
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Old 04-27-2008
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Respectfully Sir, half a fix is no fix at all. As a wretched junior member I probably have no right to speak with authority on the subject, but I have re-cored a deck. Personally. I will direct you to my members gallery. Alas I took no "during" pictures, but I did about 20% of the deck. I went through the top, cut out the bad core, and reglassed. It took two years. I believe you'll find that balsa is cheaper than foam and works very well as long as you follow Casey's instructions in his book. His method totally seals the balsa so it can never get moisture in it again, so using expensive foam is not necessary. One of the disappointing aspects of doing a re-coring job is there is always more rot than you think. In my case at least 4 times as much. On the bright side my 33 year old '75 O'Day 25 looks almost new. It's resale value is squat but I really don't care. I regret missing two years of sailing. So it remains a personal decision, but it will be a huge amount of work and time. If you're 34 and used to hard work, it won't be a problem. If you're 58, a smoker, have a passion for good whiskey, and work behind a desk, you're in for a trial.
Now for the "suck out the moisture" method. It requires an industrial grade vaccume pump, the one the HVAC guys use. It works on the principal of lowering the vapor pressure of water till it will boil at room temperature. Under ideal conditions it might work, but it is likely there will be an air leak that will prevent you getting a deep enough vaccume for it to be effective. You'd probably have to have it under a deep vaccume for at least a few days for the moisture to migrate through the balsa to effect a complete drying, if you could get that 29' vaccume in the first place. You'd still have bad core which has broken away from the fiberglass layers and is no-longer structurally sound. In my opinion, you've gained little but the knowledge it won't get worse. You still have the problem of a soft, compromised deck. Pouring epoxy through those holes you've drilled it the deck works for bubbles in the deck that are from delamination only where the core is stable and dry and this fix is not suitable for rotten core.
Best of luck.
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Old 04-27-2008
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Sailorman,

I do appretiate your insight. I payed little for this boat and I do want to keep it and care for it, it would still be worth more than the nominal investment.

Tomand Karens34,

I just talked with someone at the boat yard today and you echoed exactily what he said, "there is no Holy Grail for this but to cut it out and replace it with it's origional balsa core, just seal it as you go and you will likely need to replace more balsa than what it looks like from the stains", he also said "sucking the moisture will take longer than just doing the repair and even then you may not get all the moisture out, just do it if you want it fixed."

I am not afraid of work as it is a labor of love for me. Never been behind a desk and only sip whiskey once in a while, but I do smoke (I accept all your prayers for me to quit).

Never the less. I put this question out to all of you to get the streight up on my delima, honesty is always better than a misleading compliment. Thanks to all of you I am focusing on the correct way to do this.

Dennis
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Old 04-27-2008
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That said, if I were faced with an issue like that right now, I would start by sailing a season, and begin repairs in fall. It will get worse in this time but not by much and I think doing repairs like these while everyone else sails - is just not fun Winter is there for that stuff.
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