Catching Up – Part 3 – The Deck

Ahh the deck.  Source of much agony.  I opened up this series of posts explaining that this past year has been a whole lot of 1 step forward, 2 step back kinda work. The deck is where all of this really happened. When I last updated this blog a little over a year ago, the deck was considered to be pretty much "done" with the exception of a few minor things here and there.  Those were the good old days, before the rains happened... The first thing that happened sometime around last summer was the revelation of a few pesky leaks into the cabin.  Just as I thought the entire deck was water-tight, and I had a completely dry boat...a summer of consistent rain revealed that the deck was anything but.  Imagine my heartbreak when after spending 4 years trying to get job #1 done: "Seal all deck leaks", only to realize that new leaks have appeared and were very difficult to track down.

The first leak showed up came from somewhere under the deck caprail in the galley.  Water would pool up in the stove/oven area, and it just seemed to get worse and worse as the summer went on.  This is after I had completely refinished, installed and coated the teak caprails, they should be water-tight in theory.  I couldn't understand at all why it would leak.  What did weigh on my mind was that when I installed the caprails, I had some help from friends and family.  Neither they nor I had experience doing this job, but I at least had agonized over the procedure during the weeks leading up to it.  I blame myself for not instructing them properly, but the issue came to be that where about 3 bottles of sealant should have been used in the areas they worked on, only one was.  Meaning that not enough goo was under those rails, and that was on my mind the entire time of searching for leaks.

I could identify where the water was coming in under the caprail in the galley, but it did not correspond to a direct hole above it from the deck.  The water was coming in the boat at one point and showing up at another.  I can't imagine how awful tracing a leak would be with a complete boat, I had the luck of having a fully stripped out interior with no cabinets or other things to get in the way.

After many attempts of finding the leak, I gave up and decided to pull off the section of caprail on that area and re-bed it.  I did just that, but lo-and-behold the leak remained!  Furious and very down emotionally due to this set-back, I reassessed what was going on and researched different techniques to find leaks.  The technique that eventually worked was to connect my shop-vac hose to the "out" hole in the vac, blowing air instead of sucking.  I then duck-taped the hose up under the caprail area where I could see the water coming out of.  With the air blowing, I then went on deck and began to spray the caprail with soapy water, the theory being that if the air makes its way though the leak, bubbles will show up on deck.

After much spraying I eventually  found the leak source, about 2-feet aft of where the water was actually entering the boat.  The culprit was a small crack in the fiberglass on the side of the boat, not even under the caprail!  This explained how no matter how much water I hosed over the area, I couldn't get the leak to leak.  I wasn't even close!

I was somewhat relieved to find that it was not under the caprail despite it being rebedded.  But then I realized that this crack was one of many I found while inspecting the rest of the boat just under the caprail!  They were hairline cracks that were nearly impossible to see without focusing on them.

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Unfortuantely for me, this revelation of cracks led me to have to completely remove the caprail that I had recently finished.  I was able to leave on the caprail around the back of the boat, but the two lines going along the sides had to come off.  Furthermore, the fresh polysulfide sealant under the rails gripped tenaciously, and I had a few pieces of rail get damaged during the removal.  The upside of this task would be that I could properly bed the rails with as much sealant as I could put under them, eliminating the worry of them not having enough.

Once removed, I stripped them all back down to bare wood and made a few modifications to better seal-up when I put in the chainplates.

Rails all fixed, ready to be installed....again

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With the caprails off of the boat, I then repaired the hull-deck joint where these cracks were forming.  I did this by applying a layer of fiberglass along the entire edge, sealing up any spot where the crack may develop.  After the glass was on and cured, I sanded it down and prepped the areas to reinstall the teak caprails.

Caprial off, hull-deck joint glassed in.

You can sorta see in that picture that the sanding of the glass required eating up a bit of the green stripe, hence why I had to repaint it as described in the last post.

Once the glass was finished, I reinstalled the caprail along with my brand-new chainplates.  The chainplates were custom made from 316 stainless, and polished to a mirror finish.  After installation, the caprails received a few coats of Cetol to get back into the shape they were before all of this leak mess.

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Of course after all of that work, and meticulously preparing the rail and chainplate installation, one of the chainplates has developed a leak recently.  My shop-vac trick worked once again and I have traced the leak source, so a repair will happen soon.

More deck projects, and more setbacks in the next post...