Still Here – Blanca, 11Sep2011


It’s been almost a year since my last entry here– sorry!  Work has progressed on Ballena Blanca, even though I almost uniformly forget to take pictures of the results.  Finally, here’s somewhat of a progress report.

Once she was launched and water was staying out from underneath, it was time to tackle keeping water out from above.  A closer inspection of the deck of the bridge showed a number of mounting holes (for the helm seat, etc.) that had been drilled through into the fiberglass core without being properly sealed.  20 years of rain had encroached into the wood core (the deck was a 3/4″ thick wood core sandwiched between two 3/8″ layers of fiberglass).  I cut the largest rectangle I could of the top ‘glass layer and pryed it off.  Removing the wood with a chisel (much of it was loose and rotted) allowed me to replace the core.  I found a synthetic core material online, called Divinycell– it’s basically a synthetic balsa.  Rick at Tall Timbers ordered me a 4×8 sheet.  Cut it to size, drill some vent holes, drizzle in epoxy and spread it around, weight down the original top ‘glass layer with cinderblocks and voila!  Repaired deck.  I wish it were as easy to do as it is to describe.

(Pointer– never mix an entire gallon of epoxy at once, especially in 95 degree heat, even with “slow” hardener.  It sets before you even finish stirring, and makes enough heat to melt your bucket and boil the river for a good long while.  At about $100 per gallon, epoxy resin doesn’t come cheap.  But hey, this valuable education I’m getting is gonna cost me once in awhile.)

It’s not pretty yet, but some grinding, fairing and sanding  (oh my!), plus non-skid paint, and it’ll be as good as new.  Better, since with synthetic core, it can’t rot.  Best side story– when hurrican Irene blew through, dropping enough rain in a day to flood the boatyard with a foot of water, I checked the overhead in the salon.  Water still leaks in along the windows, but not a drip from the overhead.  Success!

Along with that work was replacing and repairing the bridge bench areas.  The locker covers on the benches and the small bulkheads at the forward end of each bench were originally plywood.  Gone, baby, gone.  Now they’re made of 3/4″ PVC board.  The dark yellow is the epoxy adhesive filler.  It’ll get sanded smooth when I prep the whole area for paint.  Again, the acid test:  hurricane Irene wasn’t able to drive water underneath the locker hatch-covers.  The area under the benches stayed dry.



The last places that used to be enclosed with plywood that need to be re-done are the spaces under the water-ways, aft of the salon.  The starboard one already has its new column installed, but you can see where the old plywood enclosure was.  I used 6″ diameter schedule 40 PVC pipe as a support column (the water-ways don’t need the support, but it’s nice and solid that way). Good old 3/4″ PVC board for the rest, cut and fitted into place.  The dark space inside (where the extension cord is coild in the picture) leads directly into the cabin.  Doesn’t matter if you close the windows and doors, wasps can nest anywhere they want inside with those alleys open!


I’ve finished enclosing the port side one behind the ladder, except for an panel that will cover the access hole.  I’ll still need to be able to get into that space to install shore-water and shore-power connections, maintain the scupper drain hoses, etc.  After that’s all done, I can “bomb” the boat for bugs again in preparation for us to sleep aboard (amidst the scattered power-tools and fiberglass detritus!).

Fair winds!