R 22

Rhodes 22


Cockpit Sole Issues

I'd like to briefly discuss "cockpit floor was a bit squishy". Fiberglass can delaminate, which causes it to feel springy when stepped on. In the four or five years I shopped for a boat which I could afford and which would have the shallow draught I needed, I stepped on a lot of squishy decks. Delaminated fiberglass lets in water. Most boats are not solid fiberglass, they'd weigh a ton and cost too much. Boats are constructed like a sandwich, with the fiberglass being the bread. Inside is balsa wood, or some kind of wood stringers with the spaces filled with foam. There are other materials, but I'm not a naval architect, so I can't discuss them. My friend in Annapolis had this problem on his Shipman 29, and even though he did the work himself [or with dragooned labor of his friends] the repairs cost well over a thousand dollars.

Repairing boats is like peeling an onion, you have to do so much disassembly to fix one problem, that you end up repairing the five or ten other problems which come to light.

Speaking for myself, since I'd rather sail a Sunfish than fix a Hinckley, I certainly would avoid any boat with known fiberglass problems. If you are retired, divorced, childless, reclusive, and very, very handy, and get a great deal of satisfaction from hard manual labor that requires you to wear an apparatus to protect your lungs, that might be the boat for you.

If I were to think more than once about that boat, I'd pay for a haul-out survey. If the deck is bad, what kind of blistering problems are not apparent?

Your standing rigging has only an insurable life of seven years. Check it for meat hooks. Check the chainplates for rust on the deck and for water stains in the cabin. Check the portholes for water stains. Does the boat smell funky? Look at the bilge, especially after a heavy rain, is it dry or overflowing. Taste the bilge water, is it sweet or salt?

Check the BUC book - available in your library reference section - What is the price for other boats of that make and vintage.

What comes with the boat? A mooring mushroom, a trailer, a pop top enclosure, an outboard motor, a boom room, modern electronics, a well placed compass? These items can affect the price you'd want to pay.

Perhaps other owners can tell you if the 1978 has concrete ballast. I'd steer clear of that too. There is a picture of the mess that concrete ballast can become posted on the picture site at http://www.rhodes22.org/rhodes/tech.html The two photos you want to look at are labeled John LeClare.

I'm not trying to discourage you from this purchase, just inject a dose of reality. It wouldn't hurt to have the owner spread out the sails for you. Sails have a finite life span also.

If you are satisfied with the physical condition of the boat, then and ONLY THEN should you take it for a test sail. Remember, you're buying a machine, NOT A DREAM. There are too many dreams rotting at their moorings as it stands right now.

Hope this helps,

21 Sep 2001

The cockpit floor (actually the correct term is cockpit sole) is reinforced by wooden stringers with foam injected into the spaces between the stringers. If the cockpit sole feels "punky" when you walk on it, there are several things to check:

You can actually see & inspect two of the wooden stringers. Look in the forward end of the lazarette compartment - the wooden stringer closes off the forward end the compartment in-between the cockpit sole & the outer hull of the boat. The other place you can see a wooden stringer is down in the cabin under the companionway. The wooden stringers on my 1976 Rhodes 22 are painted flat black. Take a sharp pointy tool like an ice pick & poke at both of these stringers. You will be able to quickly detect rot.

Carefully inspect the nonskid surface in the cockpit sole & at the inside & outside corners where the cockpit sole drops down to meet the smooth floor under the cockpit seats. Note that these inside & outside corners run the length of the cockpit on each side, port & starboard. Also inspect the sharp corner at each end of the cockpit where the cockpit sole meets the drain gutters. Sharp corners in fiberglass are intrinsically weaker & more likely to crack than rounded corners. You are looking for tiny cracks or holes in the gelcoat that might permit a leak. Push hard on the cockpit sole in the area you are inspecting, especially any area that feels punky when you walk on it. The hole or crack may reveal itself under deflection.

Look up under the gunnel under the seat on both sides of the cockpit where there is a joint between the cockpit liner & the outer hull. Parts of these joints may have pulled loose over the years creating a path where water could get in between the cockpit sole & the outer hull. You can also inspect the ends of this joint down inside the lazarette compartment.

Has a previous owner installed any fittings in the cockpit sole or under the seats? Possibilities might include things like footman eyes for gas tank hold downs & the socket for the table pedestal. Dynamic Equilibrium also has a 5 lb LP gas tank mounted in a special socket & footman straps for a toolbox hold down. A footman eye is like a padeye except that it has square corners instead of being rounded. A footman eye serves the same purpose as a padeye except it is intended for use with strap instead of rope. If any of these fittings are improperly bedded, they will allow water to leak down under the cockpit sole.

Also, please note that the smooth cockpit sole under the seats is only a storage area & was not intended to be walked on. Therefore, it is not as thick or rigid as the area of the cockpit sole with nonskid. If this is the area that seems punky to you, then don't worry. A little bit of flex in the cockpit sole under the seats is normal.

The area under the cockpit sole drains into the bilge in the cabin. Assuming the trailer the boat is sitting on has a tongue jack, bring the bow of the boat down. Look in the bilge to see if any water from under the cockpit ran down into the area under the cabin.

Worst case scenario: Assume copious amounts of water have gotten down under the cockpit sole & the boat has been thru numerous freeze/thaw cycles. The foam has delaminated from the fiberglass & the wooden stringers are rotten. The fix is somewhat messy, but not terribly difficult. You would cut out the cockpit sole with a saber saw. I would make the cut under the seats & along the corner of the drain gutters so the joint wouldn't show as much . If things are as bad as envisioned, the cockpit sole should be able to be lifted right out. You might need to use a prybar & a scraper to "help" it come loose in a few places. Then, you would remove the rotten wooden stringers & bad foam. I would use P.T. wood when I made new stringers & I would epoxy coat them for good measure. After the new stringers are epoxied into place, I would use several cans of a urethane foam insulation like "Great Stuff" to fill up the void spaces & epoxy the original cockpit sole back into place. Run some fiberglass tape & epoxy over the joint, sand, & paint. Viola! A completely servicible repair that will outlast the boat. Do-it-yourself cost: approximately $200 & 10-20 manhours depending upon how handy you are & how fast you work. A boatyard would probably charge 5X that cost.

Roger Pihlaja
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
22 Sep 2001

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