starting at the bottom....

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by 58ketch, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    We've recently purchased a beautiful old piece of history...a 1958 41' Dickerson Ketch ..that has some "issues".
    Her bottom needs recaulking ,a few planks replaced and some seams are far too wide to simply recaulk as is.
    We are thinking of using cypress "fillers" and recaulking with 5200 for a more "permanent fix" ..we have also, considered using cotton.
    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    As it happens I have just read through a thread on this subject elsewhere in this forum that suggests that poly-sulfides would be the appropriate caulking for this exercise. That is an interesting perspective and arguable point. However, in my experience, not necessarily the case with a classic wooden boat kept in salt water year round. The other thread was in regard to a boat being trailered part of the year , I believe so, ....

    Has anyone here tried poly-sulfides in milder ( South-central Atlantic) waters?
     
  2. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Unfortunately, there isn't any real "permanent fix" in this case. There are only a few reasons seams open and you have to address these reasons or the miracle goo will just fall out.

    You see with carvel hulls, it's vitally important that the planks are edge set hard against each other. If for one reason or another they can't, then you have to fix this, not just pack the seams full of goo.

    In a different vain, if you use 3M 5200 on your seams, you will surely destroy them in the areas it stays stuck (not especially likely on soaked planks). By this I mean 3M 5200 has ruined many a carvel bottom. It can't be removed and renewed without tearing out large portions of wood. So if you elect to go the 5200 route, be warned the next time you have to deal with your leaking bottom, it will probably mean new planking.

    Planking is a consumable item on a boat, just like a fuel filter. Your has half a century of service and is past it's useful life span. You may be able to replace the garboards and broads and piece meal the remainder, but you're still fooling with half a century old materials.

    You might get a few more seasons from her planking with seam repairs. This entails cutting open the seams to removed the work hardened wood, then gluing strips of the same species wood and recaulking the "freshened" planks. You could also consider "wedge seaming" her, but I'd only do this on good planking, not the stuff that was on your grand father's boat.

    The bottom line is probably her fasteners and other structural elements. Has she had a comprehensive survey preformed? Not an insurance survey, where the guy walks around, looks in the bilge and says "nice boat" and leaves, but a real survey where it takes a full day and the guy is good and dirty when he's done.
     
  3. Omeron
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    Omeron Senior Member

    Re planking this boat entirely is a daunting process to say the least.
    Would sheating her outside with glass and epoxy be a solution? Or is the boat flexing too much to allow this? I dont think weight is an issue here.
     
  4. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    Sheathing the bottom, in this case , would be out of the question. The bottom planks are, for all intents and purposes, in excellent condition, quite solid and worthy of restoration. Were that not the case, I would consider "encapsulation" with West System and barrier coatings after some seam filling.

    Par, you are correct in saying that planks open for only a few reasons but, I disagree with you regarding the "useful life" of a plank, in general. These honduras mahogany planks are in very goo to excellent condition. Wooden boats flex constantly, as you know. 50 years of shrinking and swelling changes even the most robust planking and happens each time she is hauled or railed for repair.

    The jury is still out among many deadrise builders as to whether planking should be tight (which often causes planks to split or become unfastened through curling) or left fairly loose and caulked (which has its own set of problems). It would seem something in the middle that allows for shrinking and swelling (to some degree) and also relies on swelling for a bug-tight fit would be ideal.

    This leads me to the notion that spiling out the seams, evening them and then sistering one side with cypress or mahogany and then using some type of caulk in a seam that is faire and less than 3/16" (preferably around 5/32) would give a workable and fairly "permanent fix" to the problem at hand...given that "permanency" is a relative term in this case.

    As it happens, the previous owner IS a surveyor and I am a yacht carpenter.

    So,..about that poly-sulfide....?? Think that might fit the bill with the above application?
     
  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I think we both know that sheathing is a great way to kill your boat.

    The planking may be useful, if it's refastened, but not with the original fastener holes, which have "egged" out, likely have soft spots surrounding them and as a result of the movement now have worked the fasteners themselves. The seams themselves also have work hardened after 50 years and just may not take any more compression, short of hammer blows.

    With the exception of a few cases, all having exceptional care and being on very light weight hulls, I've never seen planking that old that's still serviceable without substantial refastening. Without tight fasteners, you can caulk your brains out and it'll still leak. The seams also need to be dressed and repaired. I would never recommend anything other the the same species used as the repair material, to restore seams. I've learned this the hard way with early attempts at wedge seaming.

    Yes, there's a debate over the "state" of the planking when caulking. It's generally accepted that the planks should be moderately loose, dependant on moisture content, but as to how to determine this amount is a judgment call made by the caulker.

    I wouldn't put much faith in the "deadrise" crowd's opinion of how to caulk boats. Not that they haven't a clue, quite the contrary, but as a rule their boats are built of lesser materials, use flat sawn planking and much sloppier building tolerances. So, yes their flat sawn, file planked bottoms need fairly sloppy fits and huge seams by yacht standards, because they'll experience that much movement with moisture gain. This is typical of working craft, not your Dickerson.

    If you're going to wedge seam, go ahead and wedge her. I wouldn't attempt a half wedge/half traditional seam, unless the wedge was more meranti and well glued to dry planking.

    I always use polysulfide below the water line as polyurethane isn't reliable on water soaked wood. Polyurethane works well if it's under pressure during the cure and on dry wood the whole time. Then it stays stuck, like an ugly ex-girl friend. If the wood gets soaked before the cure or is damp during application or isn't under pressure during the full cure, it will pull off like long rubber strings.

    I think wedge seaming could be a good solution for you if you're willing to do this level of effort. On a moored craft that doesn't see long on the hard stints, this is a good option. Personally, I'd refasten the old gal completely below the LWL, hoping for few bad holes, then I use a combination of techniques to fix the seams, some would just need dressing, others straightening, others some glued in repairs. Then I caulk her up again.

    It sounds like you old ketch has found a good owner and yes, go ahead and raise the mizzen the height you need, it will not hurt a thing, though it will require making a few things longer.
     
  6. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    58ketch- are the planks narrow on your Dickerson?

    Par- I looked at 40' Dickerson in the past that was strip built with ~2" planks. Does this change your assessment and possible salvaging of the planking?
    The one I looked at had opened up as well after years of dry storage. There was no caulking/paying used & I do not remember seeing the edge fasteners though they must have been present...
     
  7. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I know that Dickerson went through a few "phase" of ownership and build types. The ones I'm most familiar with are the hard chine 35's that gave the company it's reputation. I have to admit I was assuming (my bad) that this was a carvel build, which I eluded to in my first post. A stripped build is a different animal.

    If it's a traditionally built stripped hull then I'd have to think about it some and have a better feel for what's going on. If a stripped hull starts leaking, it's because both the edge fasteners and plank to frame fasteners have egged out their holes and are permitting movement. It's very probable in this case that both the sheer strake (maybe) and garboard have regular caulk. I'd check the fasteners, replace the loose ones and pound the garboard good and tight on a moderately damp hull, not soaked, but still good and damp.

    This is a lot easier to feel, smell and see then write about.
     
  8. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    I think this might be helpful....

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, we have begun spiling out the old cotton and tar caulk. The planks are in excellent condition (5/4 mahogany) and of various widths..a few, too wide that we may kerf for relief and caulk. The bottom is well fastened and tight to her frames. The only seepage appears to be from her seams and one through-hull. We had sea water put in her bilge and it does not leak out at all...a good sign. The keel is quite solid with one small bit of rot in the garboard a few feet from the stem...otherwise, solid as a rock! I see no reason to disturb the existing bronze fasteners and adding more may alter her natural "growth patterns" from 50 years of working.

    [​IMG]

    This is what I'm thinking (and taking your suggestions under advisement) ...we'll complete the removal of the old caulk, clean the seams with a router or saw kerf and add back material to the edge of one side only leaving a small (1/8" or less) seam that can be caulked with a poly-sulfide ( I am partial to the stuff from Maritime Woods, myself)...re-paint her with some old "Red-Hand" we have around and top off with a fresh coat of Trinidad Blue.

    Sound like a plan? or have you a better/different idea?

    As you know, these old gals were modeled after the log cut bugeyes and were originally work boats. Dickerson mad their name by turning them out as pleasure boats in the 50's and soon after went to carvel planking and then, fiberglass....no wonder...;)

    I think a fine pedestal helm would make her all the more sailable and quite handsome...and well worth a bit of sail altering.

    BTW,...I could not agree more about the local deadrise builders...these guys are brilliant in their own right but, have a "particular perspective" that entails spending 4 out of 12 months in a yard anyway....in fact, it is just such a fellow who has done some advising to the previous owner on this boat. He is a reputable builder and acquaintance whose opinion I value but, as part of the whole, not "the whole".
     
  9. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I grew up in your area, just a little further up the bay and perfectly understand the local "mentality", which is well and good as they need it to be.

    Take the set out of the teeth on a circular saw blade and you should be very close to what you need to open up the seams. If you bend up some stiff wire fingers, front and back on the foot of the saw, you can use these as a guide to keep the blade where you want it. Of course you can tack battens too.

    You do realize that the goo in a tube you're suggesting is a silicone, not a polysulfide. Personally, I wouldn't use a silicone on anything other then windows. 2 part polysulfide from Boat Life or other manufacture would be my recommendation, with a single part as a second choice.

    What adhesive were you going to use for the seam repairs?
     
  10. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    I had in mind using West system and micro-balloons...have you other preferences?

    You know, you are right...that particular "goo" is a silicone and works wonderfully for teak decking but, may not be the best for what I am doing..I do absolutely LOATH Boat Life, though...in fact, I think i just got some on me talking about it...

    I've not used a two part, however..only the tubed and canned.

    As you can see from some of the pictures, the seams are already quite a bit wider than ideal. I was thinking ( and have used in the past) the blade of a Porter Cable 4.4" worm drive saw would be about "sweet" in the end...sound about right?

    I am on my way to have this same discussion with my supply guy who is also a avid wooden boat restorer..it will be interesting to hear what he recommends as well...
     
  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Micro balloons and epoxy doesn't make a very good adhesive. A great fairing filler, but a lousy glue. If using epoxy, I'd use a 50/50 mixture of milled fibers and silica. Some would use Cab-o-sil or other all in one, but it's cheaper to mix your own. Wood flour and silica will work too.

    Having thought about it, this is a good time for wedge seaming the old lass. The fasteners have to be sound as do the planks, but it will seal her up tight as a drum.

    I have a few "custom" ground circular saw blades for this task. The blades have the teeth ground to a specific set of angles to make a V shaped groove. It restores the seam edges and shapes the seam all at the same time. You then either pound in wedges (of the same species as the planking) as raw stock or it's preferred to glue them in. When the glue cures, plane the wedges flush and call it a day.

    I wouldn't rely on caulk, you need some edge set on those planks. Wedge seaming works well, so long as you don't have prolonged storage on shore, where she can really dry out badly, so it's not good for trailer sailors, but you'll be all right.

    If using epoxy to glue them in, use staples to hold the wedges in place as the goo cures. If you pound on the wedges with epoxy, you'll starve the joint and have failures. All other adhesives like the idea of lots of joint pressure. This might be one of the places I'd actually try a PU adhesive and it's taste for moist lumber.

    I'd also leave the tiller in the boat. There's nothing better then tiller steering when it comes to feel and feedback from the helm. A wheel will give you some cockpit space (to a degree), but you loose the "attachment" you have with the boat and will never sail it as well as with a tiller. Besides, with a tiller, you can just lift it out of the way, but a wheel is married to the cockpit sole, like it or not.
     
  12. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    After a pretty lengthy discussion with my goo dealer ( who is a longtime West fanatic..I am not, btw..) a new product (to me) has entered the equation for consideration...I would be curious to know what your thoughts are on "G-Flex"..the book on this has it being more flexible than epoxy and q-cells or cabosil yet a true "hardener" and even applicable in wet environments.
    Sounds too good to be true...if it quacks like a duck..?

    Now, I'm wondering...after the wedging would it not be best to barrier coat the hull as we have reduced the wicking severely?...or do you feel that the planks and keel themselves will suffice and not rot topside?

    Having worked on these deadrises and similar for most of my life I must confess to at least a few prejudices...one of them would be not allowing for expansion by swelling. I have seen perfectly good planks cup and curl, popping their fasteners because of this. Obviously, I prefer not to have that happen....

    While most of my personal experience is in traditional joinery, I have spent more than ample time in the last 40 years messing with hull construction and restoration, both power and sail.
    That said, I know there are no absolutes, no "perfect fixes", no totally "permanent solutions"...only the wisdom of many people's experiences, a bit of luck, some common sense and good engineering....at best.;)

    Oh, as for the tiller....I WILL sail her with the tiller before making a final decision but, having had and done both...I'm a "wheel guy". More than a few hours at a tiller can be exhausting in less than ideal weather...I have stories....
     
  13. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    G-Flex is an option, though I'm not sure about it's qualities on damp lumber, which I'll assume yours is or will be during the repair. I've used G-Flex and liked it's elastic properties, but I don't know about the bond on fairly damp wood.

    This is a tough call, to be honest. It's one of those deals where I want to be standing under her belly, before I make a decision.

    No, a barrier coat on planking that looks at least 1" thick would be problematic at best. The rabbit and chine logs would still move, but the planks wouldn't, yep, a true brew for a mess if you ask me.

    I still think the planks need some edge set and not a cushion of goo in a tube and little slivers of wood (wedges) floating in it.

    It's the gaps that are killing me and of course the bond to wet wood. I'm pretty confidant about the PU adhesive in this application. But just taking a guess, you likely have in the neighborhood of 110 to 120 planks on the bottom (each side), each with an average seam width of say 3/32" or so. This is a total of a foot worth of gaps, if laid side by side under that boat on each side. That's a fairly substantial hole and I suspect way more then the lumber needs to swell and shrink into during haul outs or winter storage.

    During previous winter layups, what did the previous owner notice as an average gap in the spring when he went to recommission? What was originally used in the seams?

    I think the easy way out is to clean and dress the seams for a goo in a tube job. Apply your goo and see what happens. If you get lucky, well cool deal. If not, then you've probably bought her a season or two, before you have to get in there and put more effort into those seams.

    Personally, I still thing the plank edges have work hardened from movement and are "crushed" back, opening the seams. A goo job probably will not fix this for very long, but if I'm wrong, then it saves you some effort.

    If you're working at the tiller, it's not long enough, you've over sheeted or you haven't enough headsail drawing. Real men use tillers and shout Arrrrrrrr, for no apparent reason, from time to time.
     
  14. 58ketch
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    58ketch Junior Member

    LOL.....I believe that is "ARRGGHHH"...:)

    Well, THIS "real man" does many hours at the helm and has come to appreciate the wheel but, like I said....I'm give the tiller an honest effort first...;)

    Let me clarify a couple of things...

    1) I'm not looking for a jiffy fix...seems that has been done here a few times before me and the presence of a pile of Redhand tells me "not very well"...most of the cotton has been removed already and the planks that have been replaced show evidence of two different persons...one who used 5200 and a good snug fit and another who crowned the planks backwards and used a pile of goo in lieu of a good fit...wanna guess which planks need replacing?
    2) The previous owner, I have recently discovered knows very little about this vessel and did none of the work..in fact, it appears he is responsible for her sinking and has never actually sailed her...the things we discover "post sale".....
    3)As for "winter haul-outs"...not gonna happen. These babies were MEANT to be wet and wet she shall be. I have a slip available at my house where she can and will look beautiful while I address here above waterline issues so, right now, I am concentrating on making her float sans leaking as well as can be done within a "reasonable" time frame.

    #1, more than anything, seems to speak to the value of as good fit and the best possible caulk/adhesive be it 5200, G-Flex or what have you.

    Yesterday I water blasted the bottom up to the water line @2100 psi...concentrated on the seams and getting as mush debris as possible out plus removing some caulk and paint that hid a few other issues...well worth the afternoon and a gallon of petrol.

    I will be draining her bilge of all remaining water today to allow her to dry out completely. I will take some updated photos with some closeups. Right now I would estimate that there are around 65 planks per side ranging from 4- 6' but, I will verify that today as well.

    On a different note..it appears this old girl has a bronze keel. I would have bet on lead but, after blasting with H2O she appears to be bronze...imagine that...

    As we speak, I am think a good edge-to edge fit with some type of spline...perhaps a wedge in the more open seams and just some fresh goo in those that appear more substantial. Thoughts?
     

  15. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Yep, I like the idea of wedges more and more, especially if she'll "stay in".

    I can't tell you how much I dislike 5200 below the LWL.

    Do a scratch test on that bronze keel, it doesn't sound right to be bronze, when an iron ballast would have a been a fraction of the price, at about the same weight.

    The corners of the cabins on those old Dickersons where rot prone.

    No, I meant Arrrrrrrrr, I have a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder.
     
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