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AS-29 Bilge Board Repairs

June 18, 2012

When we purchased our Bolger Sharpie we were told by the builder/owner that the port bilge board had not been working "for a while." He assured us that sailing with only one bilge board worked well for them, and that there was some debate as to whether an Advanced Sharpie needed any bilge boards at all. Dave replied that, need it or not, we would not be launching Walküre until she had two functioning bilge boards. The look on the previous owner's face should have been our warning.


The two halves

Only later did we do some math and compare years and realize that the board had been stuck in the trunk since the year after he finished building her. The same problem had occurred with the starboard board and he had removed it and repaired it. It must have been quite the ordeal (as we can imagine, now that we have completed the repairs to the port board) for him to discourage us from trying to repair the other one.


Regluing the aluminum

As we had been told, the board had delaminated. It took very little to completely separate the two halves of plywood. What we can't be sure of, is why. After studying the epoxy, Dave's theory is that it may have been laminated in the winter. Lower temperatures prevent epoxy from adhering well. Whatever the cause, the result was that we now had two pieces that should have remained one.


Grinding to ensure adhesion

The board was designed by Phil Bolger to fill with water when it is lowered and drain the water when it is raised. Water ballast seems like a good idea, until you're faced with the fact that you will probably have to rebuild the board because of the ingress of water. Dave started by removing the parts of the aluminum that extended past the plywood board. We decided to completely encapsulate the board, keeping all the weight inside the two plywood halves and sealing it with fiberglass.


We placed the cut off pieces inside the board

He ground the metal pieces and sanded the plywood board to ensure adhesion with the epoxy. We started by gluing the cut off pieces of aluminum inside the board with epoxy thickened with colloidal silica. We clamped these pieces overnight.


Two halves glued and clamped

Next, we glued the other half of the board back on, again using colloidal silica thickened epoxy. For the second half of the board it was very important to be sure we did not laminate a twist in the board, since that could affect how the Sharpie sails. Dave tightened and loosened screws that we had used to clamp the two halves together. We used a straight edge to be sure that the board was flat and allowed the epoxy to cure.


Screws and washers to maintain adequate pressure

We had intentionally filled the hole for the pin with thickened epoxy to give us a new surface to drill through. We drilled the hole before we laid the fiberglass just to be sure we didn't lose its location. After we laid the glass, we redrilled it.


Verifying flatness

Dave sanded the outside of the board to prepare it for fiberglass. We used neat epoxy to coat the plywood and then laid 6 ounce cloth over one side, being sure to extend the cloth to go around all edges. Once this cured, we repeated the process on the other side. Because both sides extended past the edge, the edges had two layers of cloth.


Hole for the pin

Finally, we epoxied several layers of fiberglass on the leading corner of the board, the part that will hit bottom first and most often when we use the boards as depth sounders. After allowing the epoxy to cure for several days, we then bottom painted the board.


Prepared to glass

When the day arrived to reinstall the bilge board, Dave asked if I'd wait before I started my next coat of varnish on the rig so that I could help him. "It'll only take 15 minutes." Yeah, right. We reversed the process: we raised the main mast (giggling the whole time! No crane, no stays, no fuss, just lift it up and poof, done!) and attached the boom. We moved the topping lift to align with the place on the boom where we attached Eurisko's boomvang tackle that we planned to use to raise the board off the ground, over the lifelines, and lower it into the bilge board trunk. Rather than going into the trunk, it dropped two inches and stopped. What we hadn't realized (and the previous owner obviously did) was that the trunk was just BARELY big enough for the board to fit into on a good day. Add several layers of fiberglass and bottom paint, keep the boat on the hard for over a year so that she twists and warps, and it's not a good day. A friend suggested we grind off all our hard work, but Dave shuddered at the prospect.


After a layer of 6 oz. cloth

Now, unfortunately, the board was stuck in the trunk. In our ignorance, we thought a little pressure would unstick the board and it would pop out of the trunk. In reality, it took me on deck with the boomvang and Dave below with a crowbar and wedges of wood to finally get the board to break free so that we could raise it out of the trunk while he made the necessary changes for it to fit back in. Rather than make the board smaller, he enlarged the hole in the trunk. He built a long handled chisel (a chisel whose handle was duct taped to the inside of a long piece of PVC pipe) and removed all the offending wood that was preventing the board from fitting into the trunk.


Ready to reinstall

The board now fits nicely, though we realize that we may have created a monster. It may wobble in the hole and make noises, but we will deal with that later. My ultimate suggestion to anyone contemplating building an AS-29 would be to consider leeboards instead of bilge boards. I wouldn't want to have to lock through too many times with leeboards, but they are always visible and infinitely easier to maintain than bilge boards.

We should launch in a few weeks. I'll let you know how the new board works.

MONDAY it's time for a knot. This one is purely decorative, but there are more of them on Eurisko than there are constrictor knots, and that's saying a lot.

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