Inspecting the fibreglass shell
I have been concerned by the cracks apparent in the saloon cabinetry on the port side. Given that the exterior hull damage is confined to the port side, these cracks may well be related. This could mean that the forces due to the impact on the hull have actually transferred through the laminate into the fibreglass shell. If this has then damaged the stringers then the repair work will need to take a different direction. I will need to expose the fibreglass shell to know for sure.
The most evident crack runs the entire length of the bookcase/cupboards above the settee. This split in the timber is about 4 feet long, and continues across the vertical rise. Most likely this was caused by the impact being distributed though the hull, which could potentially have damaged the stringers.
The settee backrests are set on hinges in the Hallberg Rassy 352’s (and most of the models I believe). When I lifted the backrest to the port side settee it was apparent that the covering of the aft shroud chainplate knee had come off. Therefore the knee was exposed. I could clearly see that the plywood had delimitated quite severely, most likely due to water ingress via the chainplate bedding. Of greater concern however was the lateral split along the fibreglass layer. Again this indicated that the impact had carried the forces through the hull. The only way to know for sure was to remove the entire saloon cabinetry to expose the fibreglass shell and look for evidence of structural failure.
Removing the Cabinets
The task of disassembling the entire port side cabinets was indeed a daunting one. I wasn’t sure how much of the cabinetry was bonded into place (meaning material need to be destructively broken to remove) and how much was screwed in. Even if everything was screwed into place, I would need to be able to put everything back together in the same order! I started from the outside and worked my way back to the shell. First came the settee backrest, which was attached to a hinge on the bookshelves. Then all of the lateral decorative strips could easily be accessed. Finally came the bookshelves themselves.
Fortunately, and to the credit of sound Swedish design, everything could be disassembled relatively easily. Nothing was bonded to the shell, and everything was secured with screws. The entire process to remove the entire port side cabinetry took about 5 hours. As I don’t yet have any undercover storage I have stored all of the wooden components in the aft cabin, all labeled in the order of disassembly. Hopefully when it is time to re-assemble the cabinetry I will be able to follow the reverse order in sequence!
My heart sank as soon as the final backing of the bookcase came away. Nearly every frame along the fibreglass shell had cracks along the tabbing or had come away completely from the fibreglass shell. Cleary the forces created by the impact of the hull bashing against the pontoon had indeed caused structural failure. Although the fibreglass hull had been able to flex with the impact, the frames and bonding clearly did not have such elasticity. They had therefore delaminated from the fibreglass shell, meaning the hull strength in its current state is severely compromised. The the surveyor’s words ‘some general GRP work is required but no structural damage’ rang in my ears and I had a quiet moment of extreme disappointment and desire for murder.
Stringers and Frames
GRP boat construction is new to me, so getting my head around the correct terminology is the first challenge. After further research I have learned that the term ‘stringer’ refers to the lateral supports that run for to aft. ‘Frame’ is used to describe the vertical supports that run parallel to the beam. The stringers around the area of impact are thankfully sound. However many of the frames will need to be repaired or replaced and then re-bonded to the shell.
Where to from here?
I guess anything can be repaired, it just comes down to cost. It is now evident that the survey was poorly done, and the surveyor has been negligent in his failing to notice and document the warning indications – the evidence of filler in the hull, the cracks in the interior joinery, the cracked laminate on the knee supporting the chainplate. All of these signs should have been observed and documented in the report. Although it may not have been possible to conclusively state that damage was structural, at the very least further investigation should have been recommended.
Given all of the above I have probably paid too much for Wanda; particularly considering the transportation costs. I will follow up with the surveyor and seek compensation, though I doubt the chances for that given the circumstances. Wanda will need more $$ and more time. I think I will next arrange a further inspection from a reputable survey qualified in structural repairs. Before I go any further it is probably best to stop and rethink, regroup and plan the next steps.