The tools and materials required to maintain and repair everything on a boat will barely fit in a room. Just the kit required to maintain vital systems will raise the waterline of a large boat and is impractical in a smaller boat. Fortunately, when day sailing and even cruising locally, all we really need to do is get back to the dock...any dock.
The irregular shape of welds makes them difficult to inspect using ultrasound technology. Visual inspections can also be deceiving-especially with new welds. The prettiest bead can have internal voids and poor fusion. After a while, that pretty bead will begin to bloom with corrosion and cracks.
While many potential failures are easy to spot, some flaws are hidden under paint or within the structure, or are so small that a routine visual inspection won't pick them up. Standing rigging, hulls, decks and hardware fittings are the most common places where hidden structural weaknesses can lead to big repair bills, or even loss of life.
With more time than money on our hands, the sailors innate resourcefulness kicks in. Here are a just some of the penny-pinching projects tech editor Drew Frye has undertaken to improve his sailing life.
A key principle, at least from my perspective as an engineer, is knowing your boat. In 30 years of boat ownership, Ive only used contractor services for major sail work, new canvas (only because Ive never taken the time to learn), and hauling out. As a result, I know my boat inside out; thats a good feeling, an important part of seamanship, a blessing when something goes bust on a cruise, and a big help when time is available but funds are thin.
Our testers estimated that the exposure test was the equivalent of five years of exposure aboard a boat. Although the test demonstrated that a DIY solution using sandwich bags can nearly match performance, it also demonstrated that the makers claims of five years of protection could, in practice, be accurate.
We wished they could be as maintenance free as the carbon canister on your car, but they lack the regeneration cycles programmed into your car. The makers say the silica gel resin should be replaced annually, but Practical Sailor testers have found that three years is about right for diesel and five years for E-10 gasoline.
Cleaner than coil and grease coatings, these bags protect areas that are hard to reach. Additionally, the protective coating does not need to be removed, since it is very thin and will slowly evaporate once the part is removed from the bag.
The fastest way to attach light hardware to a cored deck is a self-tapping screw. It is also the fastest way to have hardware rip out of the deck and end up with a wet core and delaminated deck. But how to replace screws that have gotten loose or prevent a wet deck in your future? One method is to drill and over-sized hole, remove some core, fill the enlarged hole with epoxy, and then replace them with small through bolts (see Spreading the Load Practical Sailor, August 2016). But what if the backside is inaccessible? Can we create an improved repair by filling and reinstalling a self-tapping fastener, without major surgery? What sealing and filling material is best?
We recently tested shear strength of many caulks on many different materials and delivered a few tentative recommendations (See Marine Sealant Adhesion Tests, December 2016). Here is the two-year follow-up focusing on resistance to weathering, dirt, and mildew, as well as the ability to maintain a good bond above the waterline when flexed. This is one of nearly a dozen similar tests that weve done in recent years. Be sure to see the online version of this article for links to previous reports covering other key characteristics (underwater bonding, sealing teak decks, sealing hatch glazing, etc.).