Boat Maintenance Boat Project

Fixing Wet Rot

Monday, December 19, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

When I decided to highlight some of the jobs we’ve done aboard Cambria over the years, I’d planned on posting them in chronological order. That being the case, my next blog entry should be about installing a central heating system. But it’s a hectic time of year and I simply haven’t had the time to write anything up, so I have to resort to one that’s already been written which means this week the blog’s all about the propane locker (you can read the original post here).

In May of 2014, David went into the propane locker to change out tanks and got more than he bargained for – wet rot! Even though the propane locker could easily fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category until it’s time to change a tank, we saw a boat blow up from a propane leak once and have bordered on being obsessive when it comes to the entire system ever since – from the locker to the stove.  Despite that, we never felt compelled to take a screwdriver to the base to check for rot. Otherwise, we would have noticed the problem much sooner.  

The biggest surprise isn’t that this happened but that didn’t happen years ago because the original design was less than ideal. The lip of the drain was higher than the base of the locker and it was common to find a little water sitting at the base after a good rain. David considered correcting the flaw when we first purchased the boat but put the job in the “too hard basket” because he thought the locker was all fibreglass. It wasn’t. 

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ll stop there and let the photos I took over the course of the project take you through the process:
Photo 1 (from left to right): what David saw after removing the propane tank. Just two weeks before, there were no signs of a problem.

Photo 2:  A close up of the wet rot.

Photo 3:  The entire base was rotten and had to be removed.

Photo 1:  David began by cutting the base out of the propane locker.

Photo 2: The entire base was removed and all that was left was the drooping headliner in his wardrobe (the inside of the boat), leaving a large hole.

Photo 3:  David glued in false work to hold the new base in position while he glued it.

Meanwhile, we could see daylight inside his wardrobe.

And then, of course, it started to rain. David had just glued in the new base and we couldn't keep water out of the locker or the boat. In the end, we rigged our boom tent so everything drained overboard.

Photo 1:  Attempting to dry out the locker after we finally managed to keep the rain at bay.

Photo 2:  Resin and fibreglass cloth on the first base board.

Photo 3:  To avoid standing water, David installed a second base, raising the floor of the locker so that the drain will sit below floor level. In this photo, the second base has been installed, glued and has the first layer of fibreglass cloth.

And there you have it: our newly redesigned propane locker – better and stronger than ever!

Cost Analysis: 

¾ inch red oak plywood       $25

Resin-Epoxy                       $25

Hardener Resin                   $13

West System Pump Set        $11
Fibreglass Cloth                  $2
A Small Tube of 4200           $14
Labour (25 hours)                $0

Total Cost                          $90

Total Savings**                  $1410 – $1910 

*After using the red oak, David learned from a fellow dockmate who works in the boating industry that white oak, which is more dense and durable, would have been a better choice.  But because he purchased a hardwood ply and used resin, epoxy, glue powder and fibreglass cloth to encapsulate it, it’s a non-issue. 

**Even thought it took David approximately 25 hours to complete the job, a professional could have done it in 10 to 15.  At an average rate of $90 an hour, that’s $900 to $1350 for labour alone.  The consensus at the marina, however, is that the total job would have cost anywhere from $1500 to $2000 to have it done professionally.


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  1. Great fix! I love how much money (and aggravation) you saved by just doing it yourself.

    1. I had to laugh when I read "aggravation" because the original name of this post was "My Husband Swears Like a Sailor". It kept raining while David was trying to dry out the locker and he was freaking out a bit. Lol.

  2. Wow - that's a huge savings making that repair itself. I would have assumed it was all fiberglass as well.

    1. I know, it's crazy. Especially when it comes to jobs like this where a lot of the work stems from sitting around and waiting for things to cure.

  3. It is interesting how many times one project turns into more, unexpected ones, on a boat. When I read Lucy's reply, I had the same thought when she mentioned aggravation... :-) That is one thing you don't save on when doing your own work on the boat! Although, it is better to be aggravated when doing something yourself than to be aggravated at other people doing the job wrong and being out of the money on top of it! Great fix, David! Enjoy the celebrations, Stephanie.

    1. Absolutely! That's one of the main reasons we do all the work on Cambria ourselves (the number one reason is money).

      Happy Holidays to you, Mark and Hercules!

  4. Heck! I'm an escapist. I'd be into the canoe and away, Stephanie. No staying power, some people :) :) Wishing you a fabulous Christmas.