Tag Archives: Boat

Bulkhead repair on a Fiberglass boat

Two weeks ago on a regular Wednesday night I was crewing on a good friend’s sailboat. We had a great race in very shifty winds and crossed the finish line in second place in our division. Only to realize that a change in the course we thought had only applied to div1 and div2 also applied to us. We had rounded the wrong windward mark on the third rounding. Having figured it out before the race committee did, and to avoid any later protests in good sportsmanship we informed the race committee that we would retire and forfit the race. Another boat close to us who had sailed the same course as us was adamant that they had sailed the right course and was going to protest the race committee. 

Having retired our thoughts were already turned to putting the boat to bed and pulling the beers out of the ice box once we were tied to the dock. So I still don’t know what happend with the protest.

What happened after that is that one crew member noticed two small cracks in the gel coat of the central bulkhead of the boat on the port side where the chainplate is bolted. We had a lively conversation about what it meant and how extensive the repairs might have to be. The following Wednesday the crew came back to help prepare the boat for repair. Remove as much stuff as possible from the boat and detach the shrouds from the port chainplate and then remove the chainplate bolts.

The next Wednesday we started to explore and cut into the forward side of the bulkhead to see what had caused the port chainplate to move up and crack the bulkhead Fiberglass.


What we found is that the location where the chainplate goes through the deck has historically not always been well sealed. Water had  come through and seeped into the bulkhead which is a sandwich of Fiberglass and balsa wood core. The sandwich of balsa was saturated and the wood was rotten and soft which compromises the strength of the bulkhead.


So what next? Clean out the rotten balsa replace it and re-glass? Or replace the bulkhead entirely?

That is the question we are asking ourselves. 

Picking up the Pieces

This friday Tania and I went down to Port Townsend to pick up the sheets of marine plywood machined by Turn Point Designs. The boat plans I purchased were designed by hand by Ian Oughtred on a drafting table. But Jordan Boats in the UK went through the trouble of licensing the plans and digitizing them to develop a file of cuts that can be performed by a CNC cutting machine. The North American license is held by Hewes and Company in Maine who sold me the kit, but to cut down on shipping costs have subcontracted the cutting on the west coast to Turn Point Designs in Port Townsend.

To me this is an amazing example of the new world we live in where a design can be transferred and machined anywhere. Although this process was reductive, ie: cutting marine plywood sheets. The concept is the same as the advent of 3D printers. The ability of a design to be shared and produced simultaneously in very disparate geographies. At the same time it will be a very traditional design wood boat, the juxtaposition make the prospect of completing the project all the more exciting.

Caledonia Yawl freshly CNC'ed at Turn Point Designs.
Caledonia Yawl freshly CNC’ed at Turn Point Designs.

Seeing this pile of plywood was super exciting and at the same time I suddenly realized how daunting my goal was to turn this pile of two dimensional plywood into something three dimensional.

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