Projects: Emergency Tiller Access Repair

(3.23.04) Apparently Cape Dory decided to cut at least one corner during manufacturing. After removing the emergency tiller access plate the other day, I discovered that water had in fact penetrated the core, turning the balsa on the edges of the cutout into mush. Why Cape Dory decided that they didn't need to seal this hole like the others, I don't know. Fortunately, the water didn't penetrate too far and this should be a fairly easy fix. As most boat owners know, the proper procedure here is to scrape out all the wet, soggy core, overdrill the mounting holes, and fill all the voids with epoxy, sealing and protecting the core.

After creating approximately a 1/2 inch recess all the way around the cutout and overdrilling the holes, I used duct tape to create a barrier for the epoxy. I carefully cut wedges in the tape so it would lie flat on the deck, sealing the top and bottom. I then used a syringe to inject epoxy into each one of the four mounting holes, beginning with at the two at the forward end since Ariel is sitting with her stern down. This way I was able to ensure that the epoxy filled the entire void - once epoxy began to rise up into the aft holes I knew it had worked its way through the cutout. One thing I should have done but didn't, was wipe everything down with acetone prior to taping. After filling the holes, I began to notice epoxy oozing out onto the upper rudder support and I quickly scrambled to seal the leak and wipe off the rudder shaft. If I were to do this again, I'd tape a rag or paper towel to the bottom of the opening to catch any excess epoxy and protect the upper rudder bearing -something I eventually did, but too late.

Once the epoxy set up, I redrilled the holes and bedded the plate with polysulfide. I had to use my Dremel to grind down a few high spots in the epoxy first, but it didn't take much before the plate slid right in.

Exposed balsa core material. This should have been sealed at the factory, unfortunately, even good builders take shortcuts.

Exposed core removed and an epoxy barrier sealing the balsa from moisture.

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