R 22

Rhodes 22


Hull Repair

Never knew this list existed until Stan and Elton were kind enough to tell me about it during the recent Liberty Landing boat show. Looks like a lot of fun and a good resource!

Unfortunately, my first letter is a tale of woe about an older 1974 Rhodes22. I've been sailing on this boat since I was seven - so I'd like to save it! On Labor Day weekend, Eileen and I sailed 'Hiawatha' on what might turn out to be her last voyage - from Montauk to Block Island to Newport. On Saturday from Block Island to Newport, we encountered 4-6' seas and worse - some irresponsible powerboat wake (HUGE) at the entrance to Block Island harbor. In Newport, we noticed some water in the bilge but didn't think much of it- since the hull to deck joint leaks a little, it is normal when waves crash over the bow to take on some water...

Unfortunately, on the return trip we stopped at Block Island again (to ride out Labor Day squalls at anchor) and noticed that water was still accumulating while at anchor. We had a leak! After determining the rate wasn't too alarming (the bilge pump easily kept up with it), and taking a swim under found no big holes, we decided to motor her back to Montauk the following day (calmer weather, buckets and dingy ready just in case). I had the marina in Montauk take her out on the lift and the leak was easy to find - as water poured from a five-inch crack at the bottom of the hull (just under the water tank in the V berth).

How did this happen? I assume crashing through some substantial waves caused some excessive flexing where an older hull (possibly already delaminated in that spot) caused a crack. I've heard that older Rhodes had inconsistent fiberglass construction - perhaps that section of the hull didn't have as many layers.

In any case my marina refused to repair it (citing liability and the low value of the boat - and I am not sure I would want to pay as much to have someone else fix it anyway) and suggested bringing in a big dumpster to throw the boat away!

This caused me great sadness in remembering all the years and great trips aboard her. I decided she has a soul and I owe it to her to try a repair. I have bought Don Casey's book, 'Hull & Deck Repair' and it looks like it might be feasible.

I'm curious whether anyone has had a similar experience with hull problems and whether they were successfully solved. Any tips, suggestions that might give the 'operation' a greater chance of success would be greatly appreciated!

Save Hiawatha!
Tony Loscalzo

The good thing about fiberglass is that it is easy to repair. The key is to make sure the hull is dried out. What I would do is pull the boat out of the water for the winter. Don't plan on making your repairs till around March.

You want the hull to dry so cut off water to the boat. If your leave your mast laid out on your boat (pulpit to cockpit) run a tarp across. This should stop most water from coming in from the top of the boat.

Clean the hull completely. If blistering is occurring, you might as well fix that too. Get one of those Dremel Tool (rotary tool). This will help clean out the blisters and you can cut out any bad fiberglass around the 5" crack. You want to open up the areas till you are at good fiberglass.

Wash out your blisters and the 5" crack completely. Sand down the areas that you will be laying resin and fiberglass cloth on. You want these area to breathe over the winter.

To help in the drying process, wrap plastic around the boat from the sides to the ground. You can place a heater under there now to help dry out the hull. It is very important to get the hull completely dried out. That is why I am recommending this to be a winter job and to wait till at least next March before your start your fiberglassing. I would also recommend that someone use a meter to verify hull dryness next March.

To fill your holes and cracks, you want a mixture of resin and cloth. The cloth should be cut into very small pieces, like a 1" square. However an actual square is not important. This mixture is your filler. Fill the crack and holes level. For the crack, I would then resin an area at least a 12" to 15". Then lay cloth down in as many layers as deem necessary to build up the strength of the crack area. Resining each layer.

If you really know that the hull is dried out completely, you may want to go the extra step of putting on a barrier coat. Done properly, this will add years to the boat. Done wrong, it's a mess.

After resin has dried, sand smooth and your should be ready for your anti-fouling paints. You can do it yourself, but a dry hull, good cleaning and patience are the keys. I hope the project go well.

Take your time and you'll do fine.

PS - One last important thing, buy a very good mask and wear it when you're messing with the fiberglass.

There is another problem here; the yard's thing about "liability" was a 'Clinton-type' statement, maybe he thought he heard something about insurance. What the problem is with a boat of that age showing these types of problems, trying to fix the cracks will lead to many other things needing to be fixed because of trying to fix the fix. And the yard does not want their fingerprints on anything like this.

The project cost could very easily increase on top of standard project crap, and increase well above anything to be expected with fixing a crack. General Boats has the same problem here. Someone who is not bidding the job or is not worried about being suck with the job and does know the subject should look over the problem and give a "reality check" here. Even if he's going to do the repair himself he needs the overall game plan and an idea of what will be needed to do the job (cash, time, resources, skills)


I second the advice from Jack Harkins. Talk to Stan. Maybe send him some pictures. If the remainder of the hull is not flawed, a repair should be possible. The virtue of Epoxy (West System) is that it bonds to old fiberglass tenaciously. The real question is what caused the crack in the first place, what we call the "ROOT CAUSE".

Incidentally, I sail LIS out of South Norwalk. A trip to Block Island is on my list for next year. Any comments about the trip (it sounds like you do it frequently) would be welcome.

Dave Walker

Thanks for the feedback from everyone - I agree with Mike Meltzer - there is a chance that one problem may lead to another and 'Hiawatha 2' may be in the future. However, from what I have read you can tell what parts of the fiberglass need attention by using the method of tapping with the back of a screwdriver and listening to the feedback. If you get a dull thud, the fiberglass is probably delaminated or stressed. It seems to be this one spot (although somewhat large). I will have to create a mold for a 24"x20" section. I plan to try the West System and my thinking is that since the materials won't be too expensive, its worth a try. Besides, it will probably be a valuable learning experience in working with fiberglass - seems like a great skill to have...

As far as how the crack was caused - my theory is that there may have been some older damage to this section that was finally stressed enough to fail due to excessive flexing in rough seas. It's ironic - I was so enthusiastic with Hiawatha's performance that day - little did I know what was occurring below.

They are very nice at my marina, but I don't believe fiberglass sailboat repair is one of their strengths. They primarily cater to fishing boats (Gone Fishing Marina). I believe if I brought it to a real yard that does fiberglass work, they would certainly take the job. But I know the cost would probably be more than just getting another used Rhodes...

Thanks again,

Tony Loscalzo

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