It’s been just short of miserable the past many weeks. Coldish, Pacific Northwest Pea Soup Fog, damp, muggy, warm, mosquitos from the lowest level of hell, rainy all describe the weather. I think we got 2 fairly good days in the last several weeks. I am most likely wrong. It has probably been more, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It has made it dang near impossible to work on projects outside.
One of the days when it was raining and cold, I noticed that the blankets in the V-berth were a little more damp than normal near the chain locker, where our feet would be. Now, Jodi could write a whole book on the atrocity, inhumanity, abomination, and barbarism of damp sheets and blankets and pillows. Yes, she abhors it that much. In the interest of preventing a midnight mutiny, I decided to do some inspecting and find out why they were abnormally wet.
I opened the chain locker doors. The chain was all wet. No surprise there, the hawse pipe is pretty much a “wide open” hole that allows quite a bit of water in when it rains. What I also noticed was the bulkhead opening for the doors was wet. Hhhmmm….and about that time, I was hit on the top of my head by a cold drop of water. That’s one of the advantages of having no hair on my head. I know absolutely when water is falling from above. I looked up and caught another drop in my eye. Water was dripping down the top of the bulkhead. This was dripping down and landing on the bottom part of the bulkhead and then running down the front and onto the bedding.
A little scrambling around inside the chain locker and some contortionism allowed me to look around see what all was going on.
1) The hawse pipe is not long enough to extend fully down through the hole in the deck in which it sits. The gelcoat that was protecting the wood core had cracked and chipped off so water was entering and soaking the core and then dripping backward to an opening and running down the bulkhead.
2) There was a leak on the recently bedded down windlass and water was dripping down one of the screws. At least that’s what I thought. I now think it was water leaking through the wood and THEN down the screw. I don’t think it was coming in from the deck.
3) The bottom layer of fiberglass that sandwiches the wood between the deck.
4) The “hole” in the hawse pipe that allows the chain to enter.
During one of the good weather days, I took advantage of the opportunity to get some work done. I replaced the center foredeck cleat backer plate and re-bed the cleat. I also removed both of the hawse pipes to start cleaning out some of the rotten wood and allow it to dry thoroughly.
Today it was raining so I decided to take a look and make sure that the Gorilla tape that I put over the hawse pipe holes wasn’t leaking and the wood core was staying dry. Much to my dismay, the tape was keeping the water out (at least it appeared so), but the wood was soaking wet where it had been drying out during the past few rain free days.
I could see the water dripping down the screw that was leaking on the windlass. That explained some of the water. But, the soaking wet wood toward the bow of boat was and is a mystery. All I can figure is that the last two foredeck cleats were leaking badly.
I decided to go ahead and pull off and re-bed the port foredeck cleat. Based on the saturation of the wood in the hawse pipe, it seemed logical that it was coming from the port side. So, I pulled that cleat off and . . . bone dry underneath and in the bolt holes. Dirty as crap, but dry.
That means that either the starboard cleat is leaking or the center cleat that I just re-bed was leaking. Well, what the hell, I’ll go ahead and pull it off to make sure.
It was a nice bedding job. No leaks. A shame to not trust a job that was done, but when things aren’t making any sense. . .
Since I had both cleats off, I decided to go ahead and clean out and back fill the holes with epoxy and then drill new holes through the epoxy. The idea is that the epoxy will be stronger than the wood and it will give something for the cleat and backer plate to sandwich against. The port cleat bolt holes were fairly easily cleaned. The wood was very dry but soft. Not a good sign, but I was able to clean out between the two fiberglass layers and fill all four holes with epoxy. The center cleat holes were solid. I couldn’t pick out any of the wood there. Which makes the whole leaking at the hawse pipe even more of a mystery. What I did for the center cleat was go ahead and drill out the holes to 1/2 inch. The bolts are 5/16. This will allow me to drill through solid epoxy and again give the cleat and backer plate something to tighten up against. This whole epoxying of the holes also helps to seal the wood.
This leaves just the port cleat to remove and inspect. I doubt I will find any evidence of a major leak there either. Truthfully, I hope I do. Then it would mean that the leak and wet wood has been solved. But, I just don’t see enough evidence to support that cleat leaking as badly as it would have to. That then leaves me with a huge mystery. Where is all the water coming from?
There aren’t many options. There are the 3 cleats and the windlass. That’s it. The wood that is sandwiched between the two layers of fiberglass on the foredeck kind of sits in its own little island. It is separated from the hull to deck joint on two sides and at the bow.
I took the windlass apart and checked its bedding. I don’t see how it’s possible that it is leaking. There is just too much butyl tape that has been squeezed out. Also, it wouldn’t be leaking bad enough for water to wick FORWARD toward the bow. There isn’t enough wood there to support that kind of water migration.
I’m really hoping that it was just the Gorilla tape (duct tape) that was allowing water to leak inside and I just didn’t see it. That would just make things so much easier.