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:
Social count:

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.



Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & more


Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors more


Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue more


How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. more


A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a more


The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure more


SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comGood ConnectionsI wish I’d had a dollar for every time I’ve cobbled together an electrical fitting with a “that’s good enough” shrug. An old shipwright once taught me that “good enough is not good enough” more


Gear Test: Tides Marine Sailtrack

Gravity is an important force at work on a sailboat. It keeps the boat upright, it makes the anchor drop to the bottom, and it makes the mainsail slide neatly down the mast to be flaked and put away at the end of the day… until it doesn’t.In the case of dropping the mainsail, the more