Part of boat buying is The Survey. Part of the survey is to identify and disclose any "issues" with the boat. One of things our survey disclosed that "Foredeck exhibits excessive moisture and deterioration of core material from bow to aft of windlass and houser, repair and install better backing blocks."
This is Serious Structural Damage (SSD™). It's "reduce the price" serious. For some people it's "buy a different boat" serious. It remains to be seen if if we made the right decision. For most people -- including us -- this is a lie awake at night and worry (LAANAW™) issue.
Once we decided to proceed, we had two more choices: DIY and Pay Someone. Fiberglass work isn't all that hard. It's glue and tape. It's much easier than woodwork, since you're building up, not cutting and fitting. When you come up 1/4" short, you just add more fabric and epoxy. Can't do that with wood.
But, we have day jobs; it seemed like it would take all of our precious vacation time to tackle this job on our own. So we decided to pay someone. These aren't tough, LAANAW decisions. These seemed straight-forward.
Where and When
The boat was in Deltaville Boatyard. They do this kind of work. We could have researched other yards and -- then what? -- have her hauled somewhere else? Yuck. If Deltaville is reasonably competent, they don't have to be competitive against other boatyards. They have to be competitive against another boatyard plus a hauling service. Or, we have to splash and and drive to another boatyard nearby.
Driving her to another boatyard was distinctly unappealing. So unappealing that we didn't spend a lot of time hand-wringing over the hows and whys of driving her around the the Chesapeake.
This, however, is a LAANAW decision. What if they're not that good? What if this? What if that?
No Such Luck
We had a short list: deck repair and bottom paint. However, things are never that simple. The deck are looked like 10 sq. feet of damage.
After the first cut, based on moisture meter readings, all they found was "muck". Totally rotted balsa coring material.
After the second cut, they found solid core.
The base of the mast was also rotted. And a spot on the starboard quarter was rotted.
Net Damages: 30 square feet of deck repair.
Since we decided to do this in the winter -- in the shed -- the rig had to be removed. That's not free: it involves a subcontract with South Bay Rigging and a crane operator. Oh, by the way, the survey said "Headsail halyard wraps around forestay when unfurling sail and upper slide worn, repair or replace." And we have to take the rig down. But that's another story.
In the shed, good stuff happened. First, new core material was fitted into the space formerly occupied by "muck".
New epoxy is poured in and vacuum-bagged to assure that it permeates every crevice. This is very high-tech. We could buy the vacuum-bagging gear, but that seems like something better left to professionals with experience in doing it properly.
Then a period of curing out in the yard so that could be faired. Fairing is the nautical term for sanding. Messy, dusty work. Also better left to professionals who already have the vacuum-cleaner sander and breathing apparatus.
Once she's cured and faired, they can apply gelcoat, and then non-skid. A boat's hull needs to be super-slick to slide through the water. The deck, however, can't be super slick, or you couldn't walk on it safely.
The tradeoff is a textured "non-skid" surface. They mold diamond grid into the deck. Or they mix sand into the paint. Or, in our case, they use a mush roller and create a textured surface.
Did We Do The Right Thing?
Now we get to the core question.
Yes, the job is pretty. Very, very pretty. And structurally sound.
Could I have cut out the old decking? Sure. Rebuilt the core? Eventually. But outdoors? In the winter? Please.
Could I have mixed epoxy and assembled the vacuum bagging? Absolutely. That part I'm pretty sure I could do flawlessly. Reassemble the old skin? Sure.
Mix a paint to match and apply the non-skid? No earthly way. I would have bought pre-made non-skid panels and had a foredeck that looked nothing like the rest of the boat. I would have totally blown it there.
The windlass has to be remounted. That's not a matter of a few screws. The windlass can -- in principle -- have almost a ton of force thrown against it when trying to retrieve an anchor in bouncy conditions.
Further, it needs holes cut through the brand-new deck. Could I cut those holes? Absolutely. Could I mount appropriate hawsepipes in those holes to prevent future moisture intrusion? I doubt it. I want professional help there.
And, of course, the rigging needs to be remounted. And rewired. But that's another story.
Are we lying awake at night and worrying? Not about the foredeck, that's for sure. After watching this evolve over that last few months, we have complete confidence in the deck. Mostly we're worried about through-hulls and bilge pumps. But that's another story.