The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Deck Leak - Quick Fix Artist

On a rainy Thursday afternoon, I was in the boat talking to the Dutch Sailor about boats - specifically about living aboard in winter and dealing with cold humid conditions. 

I was bragging about Jakatar's dry warm interior when he interrupted me. "I believe you," he said, "but a drop of water just fell on my head."

deck leaks

And, in fact, a constant drip was falling on the salon's cushions, coming from one of the small skylights that were originally meant for installing ventilation dorades. I hadn't noticed the leak because the white cushions are waterproof and the water was flowing behind and underneath them.

After removing the cushions, I placed an old bathrobe (that's right, a bathrobe) on the settee frame to soak up the drip and called it a day. If you're going to get all worked up about leaks on a sailboat you're gonna die prematurely!!

That night, at home, I woke up in a sweat from a dream about deck leaks and mushy deck coring. Although it was only a dream, it got my mind rattling about the never-ending list of boat maintenance tasks. Than got tiring pretty fast, so I began repeating my fail-proof chant "I'm sleepy, very, very sleepy" and fell asleep. It never fails!

In the morning I went out to the boat determined to fix the problem or, at least, make a temporary fix. So here is the quick fix artist's solution:

1. Removed the skylight trim.

boat wood trim

2. Dried the acrylic skylight area with a heat gun. Cleaned the surface with alcohol and repeated the heat gun drying.
heat gun for boats

3. Searched for silicone. Found a large tube I had bought last summer for a tiny job (long story). Since no silicone would come out the tip, even after penetrating the outlet with a long screwdriver, I cut the tube in half near the bottom where it was still gooey. Then, with a surgical glove, I dabbed gobs of the stuff along the acrylic-fiberglass joint. I kept applying the goop with my index finger until it looked ridiculously sloppy. Repeated the task for three holes, the other three holes looked dry.
cheap silicone for boats

4. Then I made a cup of tea, ate a power bar, set up the boat dehumidifier and relaxed.

boat dehumidifier
5. Lastly, I emptied three bilge compartments: the bow bilge collects water from the chain hawser; the bilge under the mast collects water that runs down the wires inside the mast; and the stern bilge by the engine collects water from the emergency tiller connection pipe.
bilge water

The plan now is to get some real marine silicone, clean up the mess and do a proper job on a long sunny day, probably in June...if I don't forget or if other plans don't get in the way. So many plans, so little time.

It felt very satisfying to get the job done, even if it's only a temporary fix. Action is the best remedy for non-action. How's that for a truism?


  1. Truism indeed!
    "I'm sleepy" chant... check.
    Leave old bathrobe at home.... check (even though I was planning on using it this summer).
    Keep old caulking tube... check.
    For temporary leaks I use blue-tac... the blue plasteline used for hanging posters and stuff. Lyn and Larry use play-doh!
    Rainwater in the bilges....boring!
    Oh dear.... you reminded me of the "list"!

    1. These days, instead of throwing old clothes out, I take them aboard for cleaning/polishing this point I could open a used clothes store but haven't done much cleaning or polishing.
      Rainwater in the bilges, yeah you're right, nearly everybody has that.

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