Soggy Screw-Hole Saga - Sail Magazine

Soggy Screw-Hole Saga

Harold Simpson of Dallas, Texas, asks:"I was replacing the solar fan mounted in the front hatch of my 1987 Hunter 23, and when I removed the hinge screws, I found clear water in the screw holes in the cabintop. I also recently developed a leak in the cabin roof, which appears to be coming through the mounting screws of a block on the port side of the mast. The water is
Publish date:

Harold Simpson of Dallas, Texas, asks:

"I was replacing the solar fan mounted in the front hatch of my 1987 Hunter 23, and when I removed the hinge screws, I found clear water in the screw holes in the cabintop. I also recently developed a leak in the cabin roof, which appears to be coming through the mounting screws of a block on the port side of the mast. The water is clear, so perhaps there is no damage to cabin core. How long will the water stay in the core? Should I seal every hardware-mounting hole and hope the water migrates out? Can I inject alcohol into the core to drive the moisture out?"

Don Casey replies:

Neglect is the number one cause of devaluation of older boats. Core damage is number two. If you are lucky, Hunter built the deck to accommodate the forward hatch hinges by making it solid in this area. Not all builders have been conscientious about this, so you need to probe the inside of the fastener holes with a sharp, stiff wire. The area around the mast should also be solid laminate, but probe these holes as well. If the sides of all of the holes are hard rather than soft or hollow, sponge the water out with rolled-up tissue. Then dry the holes out with a hair dryer and carefully re-bed the fasteners when you reattach the hinges. However, if your wire encounters any core or voids in any of the holes, you must take some corrective measures.

If there is moisture just around the hole, pouring in alcohol can help displace some of if, but if moisture has migrated away from the holes, it is trapped in there and cannot escape, particularly if you seal it in by reinstalling the screws. This would be like leaving a wet sponge inside a closed container.

To dry the core you must expose it to air. Leaving the hole open and protected from rain for a time may allow a modest amount of moisture to evaporate. If large areas of the core are saturated, it must be exposed, either by drilling a series of venting holes in the affected area or by removing all the top skin of the laminate. Tenting the boat with a dehumidifier inside the tent will accelerate the process.

To maintain the integrity of the deck, deteriorated core should be replaced. However, if your only clue is the trickle in the cabin, do not assume the worst. Lightly tap the deck around the holes with the round end of a plastic screwdriver handle. A sharp report indicates sound laminate; a dull thud indicates saturation and/or delamination. A small suspect area can be safely ignored if you take steps to prevent more water from entering. Treating small areas with penetrating epoxy is another option.

When fastening trim or hardware to a cored deck, the proper procedure is to drill each fastener hole oversize, then gouge out the core around the hole with a bent nail chucked into your drill. Vacuum out the pulverized core material. Screw holes should pierce the top skin and core, but not the bottom skin. For through-bolts—the only seaworthy fasteners for deck hardware—the hole through the bottom skin should be taped closed so you can fill the cavity you have created with epoxy that has been slightly thickened with colloidal silica. When the epoxy cures, re-drill the holes, which are now permanently separated from the core by the epoxy. Bed the fasteners properly when installing the hardware.



Chartering the U.S. and Spanish Virgins

Flying into Tortola in the British Virgin Islands one December morning, three months after Hurricane Irma, I felt like a war correspondent dispatched to the battlefront rather than a sailing magazine writer on an assignment to go cruising.As my LIAT plane descended toward Beef ...read more


Weather Gear for Inshore Sailing

Just because you’re not planning on braving the Southern Ocean this summer doesn’t mean that you won’t have some dicey days out on the water. If you haven’t got the right gear, a little rain or humidity can make things miserable. As with all safety equipment, “it’s always better ...read more


2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more


3Di NORDAC: One Year In

One year ago this month, North Sails launched a cruising revolution with the introduction of 3Di NORDAC. The product promised to deliver a better cruising experience for a market that had not seen true product innovation in over 60 years. Today we’re celebrating the team that ...read more


Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP

What SUP?Dinghies and kayaks are all very well, but there’s nothing like a stand-up paddleboard for exploring interesting new shorelines while giving you a good workout. Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP makes a fine addition to your boat’s armory of anchorage toys, either on its ...read more


Charting the USVI and Spanish Virgins

When my friends and I booked a one-way bareboat charter with Sail Caribe, starting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and finishing in Puerto Rico, we were a little nervous about what we would find in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria—even seven months later.When our plane ...read more


Know How: Sail Repair Kit

Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be times when your sail gets damaged while at sea and needs to be repaired. First, no matter what the job, you will need to do a quick damage assessment, a task that requires a flat wooden surface, sharp scissors and a helping ...read more


Coming of Age at the Atlantic Cup

Midway through the final race of the inshore portion of the 2018 Atlantic Cup, the three boats in the lead—Mike Dreese’s Toothface 2, Mike Hennessy’s Dragon and Oakcliff Racing, representing the Long Island Sound-based sailing school of the same name—suddenly broke free from the ...read more


North U’s Regatta Experience Program

“Want to check the keel?” North U Coach Geoff Becker calls to me from back by the transom. We’ve just suffered our worst finish in the regatta and are absolutely flying on our way back to shore, spinnaker up and heeling at an angle that feels like maybe we’re tempting fate. ...read more