Mending holes in boats.

Just got back from the boathouse. The original hole– referenced a couple posts back– is now mostly patched. The repair process proceeds in a few steps.

First we identified a crack in the hull of the boat. Where did it come from? Who knows– we hit a log, or it’s a stress crack from trailering, or the athletes hit the boat carrying it, or whatnot. Things happen and boats get broken.

You don’t want to patch over the skin of the boat, so the first step is to take a Dremel and grind away the top layer; this produced the hole. What you see below that is the honeycomb core of the boat. Then we take a piece of carbon fiber, lay it over the hole, and wet it out thoroughly with epoxy resin. This hardens overnight and ties the two sides of the crack together. Here’s what it looked like when I got to the boathouse this morning.

I went after it with the sander and knocked everything down to reasonably level. It’s very difficult to get the carbon truly flush with the hull so we need one more layer to fair out the surface– bondo works very well for this.

We slop the stuff on heavy; you can always take it off later. After this hardens overnight I’ll be back on Monday to sand it down to a smooth surface. After patching the four I was working on I hit the Hudson pair hard with the sander, smoothing down a variety of patches we made yesterday.

Once the bondo is smooth the boat is ready to row but looks aweful; we’ll use rubbing compound to clean and smooth the hull and then paint once we’ve got a warm day. In the end this process yeilds a fix almost as good as new (strucuturally just as strong, maybe just a bit heavier).

There’s a lot of satisfaction to making a broken boat whole. Thanks go to Lincoln who’s done a lot of the work so far this summer and helped me improve my skills quite a bit.


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