Fixing the Foredeck

The most significant fault identified during our marine survey prior to our purchase of “Anastasia III” (that was our KK42’s name when we bought her) was water penetration of the foredeck. This made the foredeck soft and spongey in several places, particularly around the foot switches used to control the windless. We negotiated a significant price reduction because of this, but also had to commit to fixing it when we arranged financing of the boat through our credit union.

During her build, hull #99 was ordered with the pricy teak foredeck option. It looks really nice when taken care of for a couple decades, but there comes a point when it is just plain worn out. Ours was well past that point.

Teak is attached to the standard fiberglass deck using adhesive. Back in 1986 they didn’t trust glue, so screws were also used to hold the teak down to the fiberglass underneath. Epoxy or silicone seals the screw holes, and rubber caulk seals between planks. When these seals are breached, water gets under the teak, and into the fiberglass. On Cirila, water also crept into the fiberglass laminations at the hause pipes (holes), where anchor chain goes through the deck into its storage locker.

In June of 2016, we embarked on the “fix the foredeck” project. Pepe’s Yacht Service on Clear Lake won our business with their sound reputation and competitive price. After a Memorial cruise to Galveston, we motored Cirila up the ship channel, back into Clear Lake, and directly to Pepe’s. We parked her in a tight slip at the boat yard, where work began a couple days later.

We continued to live aboard while the teak stripping got underway. This ugly, noisy, demolition process is hard to watch, but when your office overlooks the foredeck, is impossible to ignore. The long slender teak planks don’t give up easily – they crack off in splinters. No, we would not be repurposing the wood. Nor was it easy to remove the bowsprit – the teak platform on the bow that houses all the ground tackle (anchors and associated hardware).

These preparations lasted over a week, but living in Pepe’s shipyard seemed to last much longer. It’s not a pretty marina. Some nearby boats were there to die, others were already dead and decaying. Mosquitos were rampant and hungry, their population still thriving from the wet Spring still remembered for its “Tax Day” floods.

Salvation came when it was time to begin the fiberglass work. This meant Cirila needed to be hauled out of the water and we needed to find land based accommodations. The haul-out process is stressful because a 20 ton boat is a terrible thing to drop. This would be Cilia’s first time out of the water since our purchase survey the year before.

Cirila’s hull is an impressive sight out of the water. She looks more like a small ship than a “boat”. We were pleased to see that her hull remained in good condition – no surprises forcing us to dig deeper into the savings account. Pepe and his crew got Cirila on cribbing and supports, where she would remain for another month.

We spent much of the duration of the project booking Priceline deals in dog friendly hotels near Dawn’s office in the Galleria. Deals at the Sheraton were best, since Dawn could actually walk to work. The first stint was a fun adventure. On the second, hotel staff greeted Lola by name when we went for walks. By the third, the maid knew our names and by the fourth I was ready to scream. While the lack of commute was great for Dawn, the mayhem of living in the Galleria took its toll. Dining was expensive and with our window about 100 feet from constant traffic noise of the 610 Loop, I grew impatient with the pace of boat progress and anxious for new living options.

Back on board and once out of the water, Pepe’s crew began cutting the upper fiberglass skin off the foredeck in the softest, spongiest place – up by the hause pipe. The wooden core beneath was definitely rotted, so much in fact that it could have been used for mulch.

We progressed to panels downhill from the highest one at the bow, inspecting and evaluating how much core needed to be replaced. The bottom line – we decided to replace all of it – from the bow all the way back to aft of the pilothouse doors. This required a game plan since it couldn’t all be done concurrently, or just like the ice fisherman with too many fishing holes around his shanty, the guys would just fall through the weakened deck.

The crew worked a process involving a couple sections at a time on opposite points on the foredeck. For each section, the guys trimmed off the outer fiberglass skin, removed the old wooden core, cleaned and prepped the core cavity, cut, dry-fit and labelled a matrix of marine plywood squares coated in epoxy, then pressed the labelled squares into an epoxy putty bedding spread into the core cavity. Once set, they filled the remaining cavity with the putty, cleaned and sanded the outer skin then epoxied it back in place over the new core. The joints were then glued and faired with the surrounding material.

This continued section by section, day by day, in a process that seemed to take forever. To break our tiresome routine, we exchanged the hotels of the Houston Galleria for a quaint old motel outside Biloxi on a 4th of July road trip. Then, after a costly stint at the Westin Galleria, and badly missing our Marina clan, we stayed a few weekends with Ray and Tina aboard Tina Marie Too. To lower cost and keep an eye on progress, we shifted our stay to the La Quinta on Clear Lake, and used points to stay at the Nasa Hilton for a week. I can’t remember how we packed or where we did laundry – presumably brain blocking parts of the experience.

Thank God, with July waining, the project was nearing the finish line. Between a few weather delays, the foredeck was faired, gel-coated, and painted. Since Cirila was out of the water so long, her bottom and rudder needed a fresh coat of antifouling paint, adding another couple thousand to our budget overage. After over seven weeks, six of them on the hard, we were back on the water and in our home slip at Watergate Marina. It took another 3 days there before Matt of Mockingbird Marine was able to get the Bowsprit and ground tackle reinstalled.

The end result made this long and painful process well worth it.

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2 Responses to Fixing the Foredeck

  1. Jeff says:

    Finished results look GREAT! Long process, but seems worth it. How is it holding up?

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