Saturday, May 16, 2020

867 Screws—Or—When It Rains Inside Your Boat . . .

In the past, if we weren't under covered moorage, this pot would be full
of water and the towel around it and the surrounding floor area
would be soaked. At those times, we were too miserable to take photos.
This particular leak was likely due to dried out and cracked upper deck caulking.
"Leaky tikis" are the nickname for otherwise awesome Taiwanese trawlers. Our 1977 Puget Trawler was no exception. When it rained hard enough outside our boat, it rained inside, too. 

But we love cruising in the beautiful Northwest. The problem is, part of the reason the Northwest is so beautiful is that it rains. It rains in winter. It rains in spring, It rains in summer, It rains in the fall. Rain here is unavoidable. We needed a solution.
Wayne, removing the original seams on our upper deck more quickly than
the prior ones thanks to the loan of a router from our friend Rick Hoffman. 
Finding the source of leaks is tough. Where the water enters the boat is not usually where the leak shows up inside the boat. 

What most leaky tiki boat owners do is rip out the teak decks and fiberglass over the top. But outside the caulk leaks, our teak was in reasonable shape, other than in need of a good maintenance sanding. It seemed a shame to just toss all that potentially beautiful teak.
The wood with new plugs and recaulked before they get planed and scraped.
This teak on our upper deck was in the worst shape of all our teak on m/v Serendipity.

Wayne did some research and some mulling. He discovered that often in the building process, manufacturers did not waterproof the entry point where the screws were drilled into the fiberglass to lay down the teak decking. Over time, as the caulk seams between the decking wore out and water could make its way through. Because the fiberglass deck screws were improperly sealed, the water eventually worked its way inside.

The deck screws are unnecessary. They were only put down by the manufacturer to hold the deck into place while the adhesive set up. Even without the screws, the decking will remain securely affixed.
The wood plugs Wayne used to replace the original decking plugs. There were a lot of original plugs.
In order to save the original teak decks but stop our leaks, Wayne adopted this process:

  1. Remove the original sealant between each teak deck plank.
  2. Remove every original screw which bolted the deck to the floor.
  3. Drill out each screw hole, and fill with thickened epoxy.
  4. Put a new wooden plug over each original decking screw hole.
  5. Shave the new plugs to level with the teak deck surface.
  6. Clean every newly routed channel with mineral spirits to get the teak oil off.
  7. Recaulk. Let it dry and remove the tape if used.
  8. Clean and level the entire deck surface by sanding it, 
  9. Vacuum up the mess.
  10. Retape and retouch any caulking areas that need it.
  11. Cetol (varnish) 5 coats over the entire surface.
  12. Pull the heater exhaust pipe out, clean it up, slide it back into place, Thoroughly seal all around the exhaust pipe until it's watertight. Technically, this is not a decking issue, but one more area where leaks could occur.

Wayne tapes the sanded deck for final caulk touch-ups.

I asked how many screws the upper deck took, he guestimated 867. "I really needed to do 100 more plugs," Wayne confessed. "I definitely still need to fix 40." When I asked why he didn't do that, he summarized "Lack of patience. Lack of time. Lack of plugs." Wayne estimates he's used about 1400 plugs so far for decking repair. He ordered more. 
Sanded deck, almost ready for varnish.
The upper deck was our last large decking area that needed refinishing. That and the propane exhaust pipe that ran through the upper deck were the most likely culprits for our remaining leaks. The propane exhaust pipe was just pulled and recaulked, too.
Wayne, laying down the fifth coat of Cetol.
Considering how rough the surface of the upper deck was, we were stoked at just how pretty it looked after sanding. Would it be as nice as the less damaged teak decks done previously?
Finished deck. Cetol varnish applied. The silver apparatus is where the propane exhaust came out.
It was also recaulked.
Close-up, teak deck, varnished.

We are pleased to finally complete this big, time-consuming job.

The question still remains to be tested in June, as we leave our covered moorage at the end of this month . . . When it rains, will it only rain outside the boat?

Cross your fingers for us!

Location Location
Wayne laid the final coats of varnish on our upper deck on our getaway weekend at Sauvie Island. 
The weather graced us with stellar views of Mt. St. Helens (above), plus
Mt. Hood, Mt, Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Jefferson.
We are still in Jantzen Bay Marina, Portland Oregon until May 31st (with some darned fine views of Mt. Hood on those rare clear days). We did slip away for an epic weekend May 8-11 to anchor off Sauvie Island, where we plan to head off the grid to for most of the summer. 

After that? We'd hoped to chase summer. However, who knows what our options will be, given COVID?


  1. Sounds like a HUGE project, but the result is really beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Michael. We were told it's the same amount of effort to fiberglass as to do what Wayne did, but the difference is all the work has to be done at once fiberglassing, The way Wayne's doing it he can do it a little at a time. However I've also been told the fiberglassing could be done on 2 weeks of intense work and Wayne has put in wayyy more than 2 weeks on what he's done, all added up.

      The cost is supposedly also about the same either way.

      If we paid someone to do it, the cost would be higher than what the broker told us is the going rate for our boat.

      Of course, Wayne wouldn't be doing all this for us to sell.

      For us, she's not just a boat, she's home.

  2. Congratulations to you and especially Wayne! Great job and I'm sure you both will be glad it won't be leaking any more.

  3. Thanks, Anna

    Fingers crossed. I'm sure we'll find out in a few weeks!

    I'm really proud of the work Wayne's done.

    Serendipity's been good to us so we like to return the favor.

  4. Looks awesome. Quick question. What did you use for caulk? Did you use backing rod? Thanks...dave

    1. Dave, sorry it took me so long to see this comment! The caulk was TeakDecking. No backing rod used or needed. There will be an article coming out about it in more detail in 48 North's digitial edition October 2020.

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