Monday, July 13, 2015

Last Minute Gem: Balsa Core Rot Found

OF COURSE we would find this little gem of a surprise 3 days before leaving! Why on Earth would it happen any other way?

It was supposed to be one of those "simple, easy, quick" projects. Haha, what a joke that combo of words is! We were just supposed to be rebedding a deck track that we knew had known was leaking when we bought the boat.
Holes, holes everywhere
What we didn't know/anticipate was the level of moisture in the balsa wood core between the outer and inner layers of fiberglass. We got digging around....and kept digging....and kept digging even more, more and more holes were drilled, more and more saturated wood was removed. Ron and I just kept looking at each other like, 'well, we're here, we're this far, we gotta keep going'. So go we went. All with our farewell party only 2 days away. Maybe people will just have to see our boat torn apart, which might actually give them a more accurate picture of what living conditions will be like.
Doesn't look like much but we got a lot out!
Now that we got all the wet stuff out, we had to put something back in that would provide some strength and support to the area. Epoxy it is. We hunted all over for epoxy, seriously Ron called about five 'local' West Marines and none of them had enough on hand for us...even combined. We were under the famous '5-7 day' delivery time to order it and it couldn't be over-nighted because it's a hazardous chemical (nice right?). Luckily Ron got in touch with a marine supply store he used to use for work and found they had enough of what we need....we just had to make a little 3 hour (de)tour getting back to the boat to get it. Whatever, we don't have any other options at this point and we want it done!
Follow directions!!
We went with "Git"-Rot, a 2 part epoxy. Understandably, I was a little anxious about using the product when it mentioned that the mixture 'may get hot enough to melt the plastic mixing container'. WHAT?!? That doesn't sound safe or effective. Then Ron informed me that he's used epoxy before and it gets warm, but it's no big deal. Okay, fine.

We mixed the instructed amounts together in the little mixing bottle about the size of a bottle of glue, but the area that we had to fill was so big it would have taken a ton of little mixings to fill it. So (and here's our bonehead move), we mixed the rest of the bottle so we could poor it all in together faster, you know, despite the instructions saying that mixing larger quantities can cause a 'larger reaction' between the two components. BAD IDEA. 

It started getting warm within a minute or two, Ron started using a syringe to put it in the deck and within a couple minutes he was yelling at me to get a bucket...because the epoxy container was SMOKING! After nearly wetting my pants, I grabbed a bucket and put a little water in the bottom to help cool it down and we threw the smoking/melting mess in. At this point I seriously contemplated throwing it in the water, worried that we'd manage to burn down the boat otherwise. Not fun. I do not recommend doing this.

I really really really hope we don't do this again!
After this near fiasco, we still had the rest of the deck to fill, and I was nervous. In a moment of genius, we decided to follow the directions and just mixed a bunch of smaller batches. It took a while, but it worked without smoking. However, the deck still felt warm where we put the epoxy in and I had to send up a little 'pretty please God, don't let our boat catch on fire' prayer. I'm glad to report that there was no fire, and a couple days later we re-drilled the holes and finished re-bedding the track.

We got the boat put back together, and just as our first dock party guests were arriving I might add. Sheesh, what an unexpectedly eventful few days! SO thankful it didn't delay us or wind up being even a bigger project than it was!


  1. Sometimes, learning hands on really is the best way. And just think - now you KNOW why you need to mix small batches. Glad you got that job done before you headed out! :)

    1. Haha, absolutely! We still have a little more to do, but I'm so glad we got a chunk done before we left. And now we know what to expect and will stick to the small batches!