Prior to buying my Pearson 36-2, I had it professionally surveyed. The surveyor spent more than four hours going over every inch of the boat. He found evidence of moisture around nearly every piece of deck hardware, something that is not uncommon with older boats. Most of the boat’s deck is cored, and is constructed with a layer of balsa wood sandwiched between an outer and inner layer of fiberglass. When the original deck hardware was installed, it was bedded with silicone. The silicone deteriorated over time and that, coupled with the movement of the deck hardware (imagine the forces acting on the stanchion bases, genoa track, cleats, etc.) caused water to find its way down the fasteners and into the balsa core. The surveyor used a moisture meter to detect evidence of moisture and tapped the moist areas with a mallet to determine the extent of the damage. His findings revealed that with the exception of the areas surrounding the chainplates, the moisture hadn’t migrated too far from each fastener. However, moisture had spread out several inches around all sides of each chainplates, and hammer tapping revealed evidence of balsa core rot in those areas. Despite these findings, I decided to move forward with the purchase as the problems could be fixed with some time and effort.
In order to repair the moisture around the chainplates, the chainplates had to be removed. The fasteners that secure the deck plate around each chainplate are accessible from inside the cabin in the storage areas behind the sliding doors above the settee on each side. The chainplates themselves are bolted to the hull structure. Access to those bolts is gained through round covers on the shelves above each settee. Once the chainplates were removed, a series of holes were drilled in the deck in a concentric pattern moving outward from the slot in the deck where the chainplate passed though in order to determine how far the deck was compromised by moisture. The test holes did not penetrate all the way through into the cabin. They were only drilled through the top layer of fiberglass and into the balsa core. Once the general footprint for the repair was determined, it was time to remove the top layer of deck and balsa core. The blade on a circular saw was set so that the cut would only penetrate down to but not through the bottom layer of fiberglass. The blade was plunged into the deck and cuts were made around the area that needed to be removed. The top layer of fiberglass and the balsa core was then removed using a chisel and scrapers. The bottom layer of fiberglass was then sanded and cleaned.
Rather than replace the core in the chainplate areas with balsa, it was replaced with fiberglass. Pre-laid pieces of fiberglass board are available and I purchased a piece that was 24” x 24” x 3/8” – just about the same thickness as the balsa core was – for $150.00. It was cut to fit, and was set in place with epoxy. Several coats of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica were applied and sanded, and gelcoat was then applied.
As the bottom layer of fiberglass was not disturbed in this process, the holes and slot left in that layer remained visible from inside the boat looking up at the deck, and served as a guide for drilling and cutting the penetrations necessary to reinstall the chainplates. A liberal amount of 3M 4000 was used. As the excess 3M 4000 is easily wiped clean with mineral spirits BEFORE IT CURES, I over-applied the sealant to make sure that there was absolutely no chance of a leak and then cleaned up the excess.
Repairing the moisture around all of the other deck fittings was accomplished without disturbing the top fiberglass/gelcoat layer of deck at all. It is clear that Pearson worked very hard at making sure that the underside of all deck hardware mountings is accessible. In many instances, the bottom of the fasteners can be accessed inside of cabinets, without having to remove any covers. There are a few places that require removal of decorative covers or the headliner, such as in the head and aft cabin where sections of the headliner were designed to be easily removed. The two most difficult places to access the underside of deck mountings were in the v-berth, where I needed someone with a slim wrist to reach between the top of the shelve liner and the underside of the deck to remove the forward stanchion bases, and at the stern on the starboard side to reach the stern pulpit fasteners. Once all fasteners were removed, I used a 1/2” whole saw on a 90 degree angled drill to remove the bottom layer of fiberglass and the balsa core. I marked the appropriate depth on the side of the bit with tape so as not to drill too far and disturb the top layer of fiberglass. Working from inside the boat, I carefully drilled up until reaching the tapeline on the bit. With the exception of the forward stanchion base holes, all of the deck fitting holes were accessible with a little creativity and contortion. The deck portion of the cockpit combings (where the primary winches and stern pulpit are mounted) is not cored, so there was nothing that needed to be repaired back there. After drilling the 1/2” hole beneath each deck penetration with the hole saw, I replaced the hole saw on the drill with a modified Allen key. The modification was to shorten the short side of the key so that it is approximately 1/2” long. The long side of the key was secured in the drill chuck. I inserted the short side of the key into each hole that was cut with the hole saw and worked it up and down and around in the perimeter of the hole. The Allen key was essentially working as a cutting or grinding tool, cutting back and grinding the balsa core out from between the two layers of fiberglass. When this core removal process was complete, I had cleared out 1-1/2” of balsa core around each deck penetration by opening up 1/2” hole from beneath, without disturbing the top fiberglass and gelcoat layer of the deck and the outside appearance on deck. In the few instances where the underside of the holes could not be easily reached with the drill, I followed the same process from above. However, before opening up the deck with the hole saw, I made sure that the deck fitting once reinstalled would completely cover the repair. In a few places, I had to use a smaller drill bit. Once the balsa and fiberglass bits were cleaned, I wiped the underside with acetone to clean the surface and then sealed up the underside of each penetration with good sticky duct tape. I over-taped and pressed hard, as this tape was going to keep the epoxy from running out all over the inside of the boat. I then used blue soft-release painters tape out on deck to tape around each deck penetration. Again – I over-taped and pressed hard on the tape as it was going to protect the deck (much of which is nonskid) from the epoxy used to fill the holes.
The next step was to fill each of the holes with epoxy. As the void area beneath each hole was significantly larger than the hole on deck through which I was filling, the epoxy needed to either flow freely or it had to be capable of being troweled into these voids. In some places, I used a West System syringe to push epoxy thickened with colloidal silica into the voids. In other places, I used West System Six10. There are pros and cons to each. Mixing the epoxy gave me some control over how well it flowed, but it was messier and required me to work in small batches as the epoxy cured quickly. Using Six10 from a caulking gun was a cleaner application and because the two parts mix in the tube’s static mixer on the way out, there was no time issue to deal with. Either way, the epoxy needed to be pushed into the holes in order to make sure that all of the voids were filled. I used a combination of a small plastic West System spreader cut down to a smaller size, and my finger. The epoxy shrunk a little when it cured, but I was careful not to leave a buildup that would require sanding.
Once the epoxy had set, I removed all of the tape on both sides of each repair. I then used Bondo lightweight filler, which dries quickly, to secure pre-cut aluminum backing plates to the underside of the deck beneath each deck penetration. Once the Bondo had cured (about an hour), holes were drilled for each piece of deck hardware. I chose to drill and tap the holes, tapping threads into the new epoxy and the aluminum backing plates. The deck hardware was then reinstalled, using liberal amounts of 3M 4000, making sure to wipe all of the excess clean with mineral spirits BEFORE IT CURED. As a precaution, I used washers and nyloc nuts even though the new holes were tapped.
I took the opportunity to replace some of the deck hardware during this project. While Pearson typically used well-built and sometimes oversized hardware, that was not the case with the lifeline stanchions. The stanchions and based on my boat were one piece and of poor quality. Several bases were bent, and the one-piece design made it impossible to remove the stanchions without removing deck fasteners. I replaced all of the stanchions on the boat with the more typical two-part socket and stanchion setup. The new stanchions and bases were ordered from White Water Marine in Michigan. The hole pattern was the same as on the old stanchions, but the new socket style bases were 50% thicker than those on the original stanchions. The total cost of the replacements stanchions and bases was $850.
I also replaced the wire lifelines, which were looking old and dirty, with Dyneema. I chose ¼” Samson Amsteel Blue Dyneema, and purchased 200’ of it for $190. I was able to reuse many of the turnbuckle fittings but replaced the ends where the Dyneema needed to be spliced in with equipment from C.S. Johnson. I used C.S. Johnson mini gate hooks with eye splice studs for each of the four gate sections, and luggage tagged stainless steel O-rings at each gate to receive the gate hooks. Dyneema is easy to splice and my brother-in-law offered to prepare the lifelines for me. The total cost of the lifeline replacement (with Todd’s free splicing labor) was approximately $400 including all of the new fittings that I needed.
I also replaced the dull black aluminum T track with new clear anodized aluminum T track from Crest Aluminum. The hole pattern matched up perfectly. I installed Harken adjustable genoa cars on the new track. I also replaced the four teak handrails on deck with custom stainless steel handrails from White Water Marine. The new handrails were $650. Once they arrived, they needed to be bent slightly to follow the curvature of the original wooden rails, but we were able to do without much trouble. The original teak handrails had been installed back to back with identical handrails inside the cabin. The new stainless rails are through bolted. To conceal where the fasteners for the stainless steel handrails pass through the headliner inside the boat, 3/8” thick teak strips were securely screwed into the headliner, and then the interior handrails were reinstalled into those teak strips.
I chose to use all new fasteners for these projects. I probably could have reused many of the old fasteners but some were stripped or marred during removal. Given the amount of time and effort involved in these projects, I wanted to make sure that I was using materials that would be trouble free longer than I would own the boat.