The Rot Doctor


Subject: Bow Eye Repair (Part 1)
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999


I have a 1990 17' Key West (1700). My problem is the bow eye is pulling through the stem. The stem apears to be glass over wood, and I believe the water got past the stainless "U" bolt bow eye, and soaked the wood, causing rot. I can get access to the stem from the inside and can see the bolt squeezing through the stem. No damage is visible on the outside of the boat yet other than very slight gelcoat chipping right at the "U" bolt holes. I plan to grind the stem out this weekend to see what I've got. I'd like to see if there is a replacement for the wood so this doesn't happen again. Can I go back with laid glass to equal thickness, or use a composite? Help.

I believe that your assessment of the problem is correct. To fix it, I'd remove any chipped gelcoat and cracked fiberglas, dig out any soft wet wood. After drying the remaining wood, soak it in CPES before filling with the Fill-It putty. The epoxy putty will be much stronger than the original wood stem, and more water resistant. You can even remove extra wood so that there will be more epoxy in there. You will need to feather the edge of the outer fiberglas and re-build the outer shell with layers of fiberglas and resin, and finally gelcoat. We like our L & L resin the best for laminating, because it is significantly stronger and more flexible than the original resin (less chance of stress cracks). With a clean, sanded surface, it will bond fine with the original resin. The gelcoat finish is not just an appearance matter, it also waterproofs the repair.

Re-drill the eye mounting holes, bed the fitting properly, and you should be fine. For even more strength, add or increase the size of the backing plate on the inside of the stem.

Bedding the fitting "properly" means a careful, thorough application of high quality bedding compound followed by a 90-95% tightening of the fitting. Remove any excess, and let the compound fully cure then tighten the rest of the way. This will provide an o-ring style compressive seal.

Questions? Anything unclear? Let me know and I'll answer.