Thursday, February 14, 2008

Patching Holes

I think it's impossible to buy a used boat without acquiring an unwanted hole or two. And I'm not talking about the proverbial hole in the water into which we throw money.

The newest hole to fill on Narrow Escape was the two-inch opening where the throttle and shift mechanism for the old Albin engine penetrated the cockpit side. Frankly, I left the old unit in place and trained myself not to trip over it too often simply because I didn't want to deal with sealing it up. But several weeks ago I tackled the job of removing the unit and its push-pull cables. It was a dirty, awkward task. By the time I finished, my solution to sealing the hole was a length of Gorilla tape plastered across it on the inside of the cockpit locker. At least that would keep moisture, even rain, from invading the locker space, which houses the batteries.

It was hardly a long-term fix. I thought about the work required to fill it with a wooden disk backed with fiberglass cloth and faired with epoxy filler. That would have been more viable before I refinished the deck and cockpit. In fact, there was a similar-sized mystery hole near the rear of the cockpit that I did seal in that fashion last year during my refinishing project. But I wasn't interested in refinishing the cockpit again, so I tried to conjure up alternatives.

I decided to walk the aisles at West Marine for inspiration, which is where I spied a four-inch round stainless louvered vent cover hanging on a rack. Made by Seafit, it was $3.99. Of course it did have the disadvantage of those louver slits, so it wasn't a watertight solution.

But wait, there's more. In my dock box was a piece of 1/8-inch reinforced hard rubber, that I had used to make gaskets for my lifeline stanchions. A four-inch circle of rubber between the stainless vent cover and the cockpit wall would keep the adjacent locker dry even if a wave flooded my cockpit. And the vent cover would look good, too.

The rubber was easily cut with utility shears. I dressed the edge with sandpaper to make it smooth and fastened the stainless and rubber sandwich with four #6 stainless self-tapping screws. Quick, simple, good looking and cheap.

I recently faced a much worse prospect when I removed the Albin engine panel from the opposite side of the cockpit. That solution also was simple and cheap. I bought a 6x12-inch stainless "mirror" at the hardware store. It is only 1/16-inch thick, but it fits securely to the cockpit wall, with self-tapping screws, and provides an excellent mounting surface for my tachometer. If the cockpit filled, water might seep around it, but it is much higher on the wall and shouldn't pose any danger to the boat or its systems.

As long as I'm on the topic, I'll show you my first effort at filling an unwanted hole. This one is on the backside of the cabin, where an ancient, useless knotmeter was mounted. A Beckson six-inch round plastic deck plate was an easy solution. The clear screw-in plate lets welcome light into the galley and it can be opened for extra ventilation.

The replacement knotmeter is rectangular and I mounted it on the opposite side of the companionway, where the cable routing from the fathometer and knotmeter senders was easier.

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