The Rot Doctor


Subject: 73 trojan
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001

I have a 42' 1973 Trojan that has just been hauled out. I have several leaks which I need to repair. I have owned this boat for 8 years it never has been dry.What can I do to have a tight boat? What products do you recommend and how and when to apply them, (temperature dryness etc.) What to do from sanding to finish, (bottom only) Stays in water year round in Missouri. Need to start now. Charlie


Older wooden boats are never dry, not in their as-constructed form. I've had a bunch, sail and power, so I know this to be true. They just flex too much to keep all the seams closed all the time. It's usually just a question of keeping the leaking to a reasonable level, and then going after any leaks that become excessive. On the bottom this is usually done with clean seams, cotton and the right caulks.

You need to know where the water is coming in. This involves opening up bilge areas, a bucket, a sponge, a flashlight and a willingness to lie on your belly and study the situation. It may take time, but you'll find the worst spots. You may already have done this to find the leaks you're now looking at.

After that it's a matter of evaluating the location, the condition of the wood, and the proper procedures. If you'll get back to me with specific info on about how much water is coming in where, I'll be happy to help you with specific repair procedures. Making just the bottom watertight during a routine haulout is impossible. There is stuff out there that is advertised to seal the bottom, and it may, for awhile, if the boat is never powered up and used.

Can these old boats be made dry? They can, usually, assuming sound and well-connected wood, but it's a time-consuming process. They have to be hauled under cover and allowed to become bone dry. All seams must then be as-new clean, splined, epoxy treated, and then the boat sheathed in -- something, such as epoxy resin over cloth, thin ply laminates epoxied to the surface, or, as we are preparing to do with our old tug, roll-on polyurethane laminates. It's a big job and takes planning, care, and lots of work. If you ever reach the point where you want to attempt this, we can talk about your boat and what would be possible.

And it needs to be done from gunnel to keel.

Get back to me with what leaks you are planning to repair where, the type of construction of your boat (carvel or lapstrake?), and maybe I can give you some help.