It seems ridiculous, but it’s the reason we worry so much about our boat. It’s the reason we agonize over every little decision about maintenance and upgrades. Our boat is too nice.

When we bought our boat, the surveyor declared it to be in Bristol condition. A 38 year-old boat! The previous owners took immaculate care of her, and now the torch — to care for this beautiful piece of nautical history — was being passed to us.

Oh but it’s just a boat. That’s also true. We haven’t babied her as much as her previous owners, for the plain facts that we’ve lived aboard full time and introduced her to harsh saltwater. But we’ve done our best to preserve her original glory while also doing the necessary things to keep her seaworthy and suit our cruising goals.

“How much do we have to rip apart to make necessary repairs?” is the question we wrestle with in this episode. We’ve got a chainplate leaking into the deck, and there might be more. We know there’s some rotten deck core, but how much? We don’t know without tearing things apart.

How much worse does it need to get before we can start to make it better? The only way to find out is to start digging in.

Hope you enjoy,

Lauren & Kirk

FILMED: November 2019




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Thinking About Buying a Boat?

Boat Buying Dashboard

Episode Dialogue

– We’re back at the boat.

– We’re back! It’s the boat!

– I can’t stage it. We’ve already been to the boat. She looks good. I think we’re way more apprehensive when we came last year because we had no idea what to expect.

– [Kirk] Oh, bees. I didn’t even think about bees bees.

– Bees?

– Yeah.

– But this time we were looking for a couple of things. Mold water in the bilge. Water coming down the chain plates and frigging everything looks awesome.

– Yeah. The boat looks pretty good. I mean, all things considered.

– [Lauren] After hauling out to look for damage from the lightning strike, Soulianis had a near miss with hurricane Dorian. It brought some wind and lots of rain to St. Augustine, but the boat seemed no worse for the wear. Kirk and I ended up having a much more eventful couple of months in the Midwest. Kirk’s sister got married. We saw our families. Went through a tornado. Yeah. While we were visiting, a tornado hit my sister’s house. Check out our last episode if you haven’t seen it.

– Well we got a lot of work ahead of us. Again. It seems like owning a boat is more work than sailing. No one ever told us that. Wait… everyone told us that. We just didn’t listen.

– It’s funny cause we bought a boat that was in great condition. So I think we both thought like… yeah, we did good. We bought a boat that was ready to go.

– Yeah, we don’t have to do too much. Boats quickly fall apart if you aren’t constantly working on them.

– Yeah. Or if they’re struck by lightning. Fortunately the rig and hull were fine and most of the damage was limited to our electronics.

– We were hoping that it was gonna be a quick in and out of the boat yard this year, but the projects are stacking up as they always do.

– [Lauren] Mother nature had other plans.

– Yeah. Our mast was struck by lightning in July and I am working on getting rid of all of the garbage old wiring. This mast had electrical tape with twisted wires at the foredeck and steaming light connection. And the wire had chafed through its insulation in places. This was a mess, so this needed to happen anyhow. All right, ready?

– [Lauren] Yep. Wow. Nice setup.

– [Kirk] Thanks. Today, I’m working on the electrical wiring for the masthead light, the steaming and the foredeck illumination. Boom Shaka Laka. I’ve got new cable for the VHF which is also pretty corroded and nasty lookin. I’m gonna try and reuse the masthead light cause it looks good still. I’m just gonna replace the LED but I definitely need new sockets for the foredeck and steaming light. Giving myself plenty of extra.

– I’m making a warm potato arugula salad today for a late lunch. Okay, we got roasted potatoes, arugula, salt and pepper, rosemary, pine nuts, chopped tomatoes. And we didn’t have any Parmesan, but I had this hard cheddar cheese that says it tastes like Parmesan, so… Perfect.

– [Documentary Narrator] But in order for that explanation to work, we need to propose that many not finely tuned universes exist as well.

– That water’s getting really close. We’ve got really high tides right now because there’s some sort of King tide but we’ve never seen it this high. We’ve been in the yard for two weeks now. Got a couple small projects done. Kirk’s done a lot of ordering for all the parts that we need for everything. Rewiring the mast which is actually almost done. And once the mast is rewired, the next big project will be the chain plates, so. I’m about to go help Kirk pull the new VHF cable through the mast.

– Hey.

– [Lauren] That is a tiny little hole it’s gotta fit through.

– [Kirk] Yeah.

– [Lauren] Sweet. I think you did it.

– It’s not done yet. Don’t get too excited.

– [Lauren] I will feed.

– Okay. I will pull. Okay, ready?

– [Lauren] Yep.

– [Kirk] Awesome. Okay. Touch it to it. So I’m making this PL259 connector for our VHF antenna. And I just soldered a bead around where I’m cutting off the insulation here so that when I cut it, the weave stays together. So I think I’m done. You can check it by doing this… If there’s an open circuit, it means you’re good.

– Kirk’s been such a champ working on boat projects pretty much nonstop since we’ve been here. And I’ve been video editing. But today… we got a new toy. My toy. For the most part.

– [Kirk] Lauren?

– Yeah? Can I just show this new toy? Or do you want to be around for the unveiling?

– Are you ready for the grand ta-da?

– Yes.

– [Kirk] Ta-da!

– [Lauren] Woo! It means I have to start a boat project now.

– All right!

– [Kirk] Jordan and Randy, this one’s for you. We have kind of a funny story about this. We borrowed Jordan and Randy’s Sailrite from learning the lines when we were in marathon last year working on the Bimini, and we were super careful every single day for a month transferring the Sailrite and all the equipment from the boat to the dinghy from the dinghy to the dock, didn’t drop anything ever.

– [Lauren] Where we did all of our work at the workshop.

– Yeah. Every day we had to bring the sewing machine in and take it back out. And so the very last day, I’m walking down the dock and I go to hand the sewing machine to Jordan.

– [Lauren] We had just finished Bimini.

– We had finished everything.

– [Lauren] This is it. We were giving it back to him.

– We were handing it back to him. And this thing dropped out of my hands, hit the dock and fell into like 12 feet of water to never be seen again. So this one’s for you guys.

– So I am gonna be making that connector that goes between the Bimini and the Dodger. Fingers crossed it’s actually a simple project. I think we made our Bimini three times more complex than a normal Bimini, just because we have the radar that needs to go through it. We wanted to make a view window, which I guess most people wanna do. But then we also wanted to attach flexible solar panels to it.

– [Kirk] And it wasn’t square.

– And it wasn’t square. That’s right.

– [Kirk] It was a trapezoid cause we wanted it to shape the back of our boat.

– [Lauren] You’re right. Yeah. That was a beast. And this connector should… hopefully be cake.

– [Kirk] Be super easy. You can get access to that now.

– [Lauren] That chain plate looks good. doesn’t it?

– [Kirk] Yeah. So… this side’s all dry. It’s this side we gotta get into.

– [Lauren] So you have to take out that cabinet?

– [Kirk] I don’t know. Well. That’s cool.

– [Lauren] What are you listening to on your AirPods?

– A podcast I’ve heard, I think twice.

– [Lauren] Which one?

– Marketplace.

– [Lauren] With Kai Ryssdal?

– With Kai Ryssdal. Can I throw this stuff in the garbage?

– [Lauren] Sure. Aww. I have some work to do. But it’s all right.

– [Kirk] Why do you have your apron on?

– Because I’m doing the dishes.

– Does tearing our boat apart make you happy?

– [Lauren] This song does. All night, baby. And you inspected a chain plate and… it looks good and we’re making moves.

– No. That’s the backing plate.

– Whatever. So you’re sitting where we used to have a toilet.

– Yes. Which is in the… I don’t know what that is.

– [Lauren] Right here.

– [Kirk] The hallway.

– [Lauren] That’s one cool thing about our composting toilet.

– Yeah. It was super easy to remove. All I had to do is lift it up basically. So we are chasing down a leak in our port forward, lower shroud. On our bash across the Gulf stream to The Bahamas last season, this area has just started making a bunch of louder noise. Meaning the boat was flexing a little bit more than it did in the past. There’s a lot of dust right behind me coming from probably the friction of interior trim panels moving on each other. We have not pulled our chain plates to inspect them. And we have not rebedded them since we’ve owned the boat. But it looks like this one and maybe the starboard lower on the other side are the only ones that were really actually leaking. This dark area here is what we’re concerned about. But I think we’re still gonna pull them all and just give them a quick inspection and probably reseal them. I don’t know. We’ll see how these first ones go. It looks perfect. So I’ve labeled each bolt. What I didn’t do is label each bolt hole. I’m gonna do that right now. Success.

– A little dirty, but it looks fine, huh?

– [Kirk] It looks pretty good. The bolts look perfect.

– Yeah?

– [Kirk] Yeah. None of the bolt holes are elongated either. I mean they look perfectly round still. So that’s another thing to look for. And I need to go check the holes through the bulkhead and make sure that those aren’t like elongated. So like that these plates haven’t slipped or moved either. This was our worst leaking one. And if this one looks this good, I think I’d feel pretty good about the rest. Yeah, that’s rot. So when I used the moisture meter, this is what we’ve been worried about. So there’s moisture all around this chain plate. There was an area in here that was registering as soft. All right. So we just stuck our little snake camera into the core of the deck through the chain plate hole, which showed us we were not able to get all of the rot out with my little 90 degree angle screwdriver yesterday. So we’re trying to figure out what the best method is of repairing the rot in the core. Most boat decks use a sandwich construction with a layer of fiberglass on the top and bottom, and a structural core material in the middle that increases the strength and stiffness without adding much weight. Problems can ensue when the things going through the deck allow water to seep into the core. One easy option is you cut the top laminate of the deck off to expose the balsa core and then dig out, you know, whatever the rot is. But then you’re left with an unsightly kind of patch on your deck. And our deck is quite amazing for a 45 year old boat, like.

– Yeah. That’s been the problem with this boat the entire time.

– Yeah.

– It’s too nice. We’re afraid to do anything because we don’t want to ruin the beautiful wood or ruin the deck that is perfect even though it’s, you know, ancient.

– Then we’re like, well, what if we cut the laminate off down below on the underside? Cause we can just put the headliner back up and we’ll not have to look at it.

– But that’s the thick part.

– [Kirk] But the fiberglass there right at the chain plate bulkhead is like three eights of an inch of solid fiberglass. So I don’t really wanna cut through that.

– Yeah.

– So he came up with this idea. Let’s get a piece of paper that’s larger than the area of rot, where we think it is and trace it out on the underside so that I can go use that as a template on the top side. We’re gonna drill- a number of evenly spaced holes that are just shorter than the distance of this Allen key, apart from each other. Yeah, that’s wet. Stick the Allen key down in and spin. And hopefully clear out whatever rot is in that little grid of holes that we drill. It’s a little more solid.

– [Lauren] Yeah?

– [Kirk] Little bit. Then we are left with a very small number of holes in the deck which we’ll be able to easily conceal using a syringe filled with epoxy which we can touch up with our gel coat repair kit. Hopefully the idea being, we’re not gonna need to drill too many of these because the rot is not really that big. That one went through too easy too.

– Hopefully it’ll blend in a little bit with the non-skid.

– [Kirk] It’s worse than I thought. And we’ll be able to get all the rot out. We’ll suck it out with a vacuum through the chain plate hole because hopefully it’ll all be loosened up by then. That’s the thought. Okay. I think I found the end here.

– [Lauren] Yeah?

– [Kirk] All right. That’s starting to feel a little bit dry.

– [Lauren] Is that the end there?

– Yeah… seemingly.

– [Lauren] Think we need to take a piece of deck off?

– I don’t know.

– So this is what happens when you have a one track mind to finish a video. Dirty dishes in the sink. Groceries from yesterday’s errand run are still in their shopping bags. Tools here, tools there. And materials everywhere. And neither of us have attended to the state of our living quarters, but I am almost done putting in all of the voiceovers for this episode. And that means it’s now Kirk’s job to finish audio and color. And then I will finally clean up the boat.

– Well our forward lower on the port side chain plate was kind of a disaster. So unfortunately what started as just thinking that there was rot around here, ended up going… all the way up to this one, which was mostly dry. And I think it extends even like over into here. So in hindsight, I kinda wish that I didn’t drill all those holes because now when I cut the top skin off the deck, the piece that I could have reused is gonna have a ton of holes in it. I really should have just done some exploratory holes. But I was afraid of drilling holes too far into good wood and getting a bunch more holes that I needed to fill. The moisture meter didn’t indicate that the rot had gone anywhere near that far. We’re gonna have to cut the skin off. It’s gonna be a little bit ugly but we’re gonna have gotten rid of the rot. I just ordered some new balsa core. We’re gonna seal these chain plates up and no water is gonna get into the core. Lauren and I are having a bit of an argument about our chain plates and what the correct amount of effort to put into them is. Is that summed up right?

– I would say so however I take issue with correct. And that is where this argument as you call it has started.

– Appropriate amount of effort.

– Right. Which is very, very opinion-based. In my opinion.

– [Kirk] The fifth and sixth chain plates are hidden behind some trim. I made the argument that we should cut out an appropriate access space in the trim piece so that we can easily visually inspect the chain plates. Which would also mean that I could remove them right now and properly seal with epoxy the balsa core deck that we have. Lauren said they’re not leaking. It’s a lot of work to remove and or cut it out.

– We’re beyond that because you’ve cut into the trim piece. And I agreed with you that yes, it could very well just start leaking like the Port side did. However, we didn’t really have much leak in the uppers. And so…

– On the port side. On the starboard side I’m not sure.

– visible anything.

– But by the time we see leaking, we will have already let core get wet. We see it after it gets ruined. And so I just wanted to fix it before.

– Right. But really where we are at right now is, do we want to cut another notch into this beautiful trim piece?

– [Kirk] So there’s one bolt right there. Which, you can get a wrench up under here and access it. But the problem is this chain plate has to slide down to get through the deck. So we’re not sure how far down it has to come.

– It might not be necessary if we are able to unscrew the bolts and just sort of jiggle the chain plate a little bit so that there’s enough space to access all of the-

– Oh no. That chain plate’s coming out all the way.

– Huh?

– That chain plate’s coming out all the way. If that’s what we’re arguing about, we’re not arguing. We’ve done all this.

– Then we’re beyond everything and this so-called argument we’re having right now is just a post argument discussion.

– Made for TV argument?

– Yeah. Well then. To sum that up, I wanted to save as much trim as possible. Kirk, who wanted to fully inspect the chain plate, won the argument. Kirk one point, trim zero. We tackled the lower chain plate first because the trim was cut enough at this point to remove it. And then we didn’t film removing the upper, probably because Kirk felt bad cutting another inch and a half out of the trim. I need the wrench. Then it was back to the starboard side. All right. Top one, number one. Ready. So what does that mean?

– [Kirk] Let’s go back up to one.

– [Lauren] Ready.

– Yep, all right. It’s free. Not sure I’m gonna be able to take this one out though.

– [Lauren] You okay?

– [Kirk] Yeah.

– [Lauren] So we almost got this one out. This is a puzzle. How on earth did they get this bolt in, and we can’t get it out?

– We are playing the chain plate drinking game. Lauren, come and look at this.

– I already see the- oh my God.

– [Both] Whoa.