“Fun” with Fiberglass

Labor Day weekend gave us spectacular weather – 3 days of sunny skies and moderate temperatures – perfect for fiberglassing over the four unused thruhulls that we we were left with after removing the head.

The previous weekend had been semi-relaxed.  Jeff had to work Saturday morning so we decided to stay home that day, wash the jib, and kick back for the rest of the afternoon.  We were able to go over every inch of the jib as we washed it, and we noted a few areas of loose stitching that would need repairing before next season.  This wasn’t an unexpected surprise given that sails get a fair amount of wear and tear.  I’ve been lusting after a Sailrite sewing machine for awhile, but they aren’t cheap so I was planning on waiting until next year before pulling the trigger.  After Jeff pointed out the money we would spend to send our sails to a loft for repair, he was finally able to convince me to get one this year.  Yay!  Once the first good sale comes along I’ll be ordering that bad baby up and repairing the jib will be project number one.

The clothesline is perfect for drying sails.
The clothesline is perfect for drying sails.

The following day we drove down to the boat where we continued to scrub and clean.  Jeff tried to get our fiberglassing project started but quickly discovered that the sander wasn’t going to do a good job of beveling the thruhulls, so we decided that Labor Day weekend would be dedicated to fiberglass work (and more cleaning).

The week leading up to Labor Day weekend was devoted to fiberglass research.  We really didn’t know the first thing about it, and given that we were going to be starting with a below-the-waterline repair (and four of them!) we needed to get this right.  I have to admit, I became fairly obsessed over the subject.  I don’t know if I’ve studied anything so much since the bar exam.

West System is one of several companies that make resin, hardener, etc., and they have excellent how-to guides which I pored over.  They also have a technical help line that you can call which I did, twice.  I also consulted our trusty Don Casey book, “This Old Boat” several times, posted on the Women Who Sail Facebook page, and watched numerous videos on You Tube.  By the time Labor Day weekend rolled around, we may not have had any practical experience, but we had a heck of a lot of book knowledge.

After the obligatory stops on Saturday at Defender, Home Depot, and Harbor Freight for an angle grinder, we were ready to get to work.  All of the prep was definitely a one man job, so while Jeff got decked out in his trusty Tyvek suit, respirator mask, and gloves, I started working inside continuing to scrub and clean.  The odor in the boat had been receding, but it still wasn’t up to our standards.  I wasn’t fretting over it too much, however, since I hadn’t yet scrubbed every inch of the interior.

Jeff used an angle grinder and 80 grit flap disks to bevel out the area to be glassed.  He wasn’t able to use a 12 to 1 bevel for all four thruhulls because two of them were very close to each other.  However, a call to West Systems earlier in the week had assured us this wouldn’t be a problem.  After all four thruhulls were beveled, we made four temporary backing blocks with styrofoam, plastic, and duct tape, and held them in place with a combination of dowels, a tool bag and a rock (the last two were necessitated by the fact that we ran short of dowel when it broke while being wedged into place).   By the time this done we were ready to call it a day.

After beveling. The one on the right has a temporary backing block.

Sunday found us back at the marina, and we started out our day by cutting fiberglass cloth into many, many circles, each one a bit smaller than the other.  After that it was time to make some epoxy and get to work.  Let’s just say that patching the first thruhull was interesting.  There were some raised voices, and at one point I fantasized about throwing the cup of epoxy across the yard as far as I could.  But we persevered.

Jeff won't smile after the first patch because he thinks fiberglassing sucks.
Jeff won’t smile because he thinks fiberglassing sucks.

I’m happy to report that the next three thruhulls went much more smoothly.  We had a better idea of how much time we had before the resin would kick, and we developed an efficient system of mixing the resin, wetting the cloth, and laying on the patch.  Jeff still thought that fiberglassing sucked, however.


After the patching was finished we didn’t have enough daylight left to start fairing the hull, so we used the time to empty everything, and I mean everything, out of the boat so we could set off some chlorine bombs that some boating friends had told us about.  They had used them on their boat to get rid of the odor that was present when they bought it, and we figured it was worth a try.  I had hoped to finish scrubbing everything before we set them off, but I had done as much as I could and timing dictated that it needed to be done on Sunday.

Our stretch goal for the weekend had been to completely finish our fiberglassing project, and Labor Day found us driving back to Shenny with a slight chance it could still happen.  We were only going to be able to put in half a day because Shenny was having a Labor Day picnic at 2:00 that we wanted to attend, so we figured we would do our best.

The chlorine bombs were very helpful (the smell has been reduced to a 3 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst), so it was a good start to the day.  Unfortunately, we needed to put a few more patches on one of the thruhulls because the divot was still pretty deep, so we took care of that before we could begin the fairing process.  We then made the newbie mistake of spreading the filler on the other two thruhulls, thinking we could finish in time to still take care of the freshly patched one.  West Systems had told us that we could put on the filler as long as the patch was still tacky.  Unfortunately, we seriously underestimated how long it would take to fill the first two, so when we moved to the other side of the boat we were greeted with the telltale “wax” on the freshly patched thruhull that told us we were too late.  Now we needed to wait until it thoroughly cured.  Oh well.  Looks like we’ll be finishing the job next weekend instead.

Two out of four isn’t bad.

We used our extra time to continue scrubbing, and by the time we were ready to stop for the day the only areas left to clean were the quarter berth and the anchor locker.  We’re also going to scrub the head again because we think the residual odor is coming from there (which would make sense).  By the end of next weekend we should be completely finished with the four thruhulls (including sanding and putting on the final coats of resin), and the boat should be squeaky clean and ready for another round of chlorine bombs if necessary.  I did leave three open containers of vinegar and three of baking soda scattered throughout the boat in the off chance they might make a difference.

The weekend was rounded off with the Labor Day picnic.  Jeff and I volunteered to man the bar for an hour, during which time it seemed like we met more members than we had over the entire summer!  It was a lot of fun, and we will definitely be volunteering for bartender duty again in the future.

As we drove home Monday evening we were tired, but very satisfied with how much we had accomplished laboring over Labor Day weekend.  Next year we’ll be able to spend it relaxing instead out on the water on Pegu Club!

4 thoughts on ““Fun” with Fiberglass

  1. Boy, that sounds like soooooo much fun. The bar-tending was a way to meet new people. Dad was the bartender for our show opening at an art gallery and he did a great job, and met everyone, even more than once. Dad said what lushes we have in the club. But we were opened to the public as well. We served finger foods in one room and drinks in another. I will send you our newsletter so you can see some of the show. I have now showed in a gallery. Yea!! I am so glad that the Club is really being taken care of so well. When you are finished you will be so knowledgable about every aspect, all the ins and outs. It was 109 here yesterday and there doesn’t seem to be any letting up of the hot weather. UGH!!!Ken & Sharon are coming next week for a few days. Love, N


    1. You are a fantastic artist! How exciting to be in a gallery. I would have never thought of dad as a bartender, but it sounds like he had fun. 🙂 Hope it cools down for you guys soon – but not for us! Love, Kimberly


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