Current status: The foam issue

Approximately one month ago I decided to have look at a crack on my floor. The passenger / observers seat (it faces aft) in my boat flips up so that you can store things, like skis, up in the bow of the boat. Kind of a neat feature. Anyhow, the frame of that seat had broken through the floor. Here is the crack in the floor.

Crack in the floor

The floor is made of fiberglass and in this area it is not super-thick. I’d say it is about 1/16″ thick. To repair the crack I needed to cut it out, sand the fiberglass and then lay in new fiberglass. When I opened up the floor I found more problems. Remember how the early pictures showed leaves and such in the floor of the boat? It sat outside for a long time getting rained on and rained on…. so the water found its way into this crack in down to the foam underneath.

The little hole I cut

Not to become overly technical here, but almost all boats have foam in the hull. The foam is a material that is used to provide flotation and noise dampening. It is a rigid foam that is roughly the consistency of cardboard. Kind of stiff at first, but you can easily crush it in your hand. It feels like an old dry sponge. Foam works great until it gets wet. Then it starts to break down and if there is wood in your hull then the wood will start to deteriorate. My hull is all composite. But wet foam still weighs too much and needs to be removed.

Here you can see that when I push down on the foam water appears. Wet foam. 😦

Squish = there's the water

So, in the days following this discovery I have been digging out foam. It’s not easy and I don’t want to cut out my entire floor. So I’m going at it slowly and figuring out how to do this bit by bit. Here’s the current look of my floor and some pictures of my prey, the wet foam.

The big hole in my floor
Camera down in the hole
All the details

Working with gelcoat

After removing the carpet I started to fix things. The first area I attacked was the gelcoat issues. I was not concerned about making the boat look perfect, but I did want to fix the chips and gashes in the hull. There is a company based in Kent, WA that is called Spectrum Color. They make gelcoat for many of the boat manufacturers. They are a great resource to find perfectly matching gel for the original colors of Correct Craft boats. Gelcoat is bizarre stuff. It goes on like thick paint and then dries to the consistency of a really hard wood, or even more hard than that. It is hard to describe, but it’s not just paint. The first few pictures here show some of the progress. The process is to prep the area, mix up some gelcoat with a hardening agent and then quickly paint it on. You have about 3 minutes before the gelcoat becomes too stiff to work with. It ruins your paintbrush instantly and nothing can clean it off. Luckily there are cheap paintbrushes made for this type of work. I’ve gone through about 10 of them.

Susie was a great help because I needed stir sticks to mix up the gelcoat. She went out and purchased caramel candy that has the sticks in it to make caramel apples. We snacked on the caramel and I used the sticks to mix up gelcoat. Yum! I love my wife.

After painting you have to sand the gelcoat to get it smooth and to match the hull. In other words, you purposefully put on too much gelcoat and then sand it down to match. You have to use wet sandpaper. I don’t know why, but you do and it takes a lot of elbow grease. A lot. You start out with heavy grit and work your way up to really fine grit sandpaper. It gets rather boring rather quickly, but the end result is beautiful. It isn’t hard at all, it just takes time and patience. And it has to be warm. The can of gelcoat said it likes to dry above 70 degrees F. It doesn’t get that warm in our garage often, so I had to do this in the heat of the summer. I worked up a good sweat.

I am not going to bore you with pictures of all the areas I’ve fixed with the gelcoat. The nose is the easiest place to see the differences. I’ve only sanded this with the 1000 grit (very fine) sandpaper. Later I’ll polish the entire hull and this will shine like paint on a car.