It’s a good feeling to strip out components and see the shell behind, but it can also be difficult to know where to draw the line. Once you adopt the mindset of ‘out with the old’ everything on a 30 year old sailboat begins to look like it should go…
Removing the fuel tank
The secondary fuel tank seems in good working order, except for some signs of diesel bug in the bottom of the tank. So I will keep it. But I need to remove it for now in order to get a good look at the shell near the turn of the bilge. It’s a little annoying that there is no inspection port on this tank, I think I will try and install one later. There is a slight curve to the top of the tank, so there may be some complications with getting an inspection port to fit flush.
The fuel tank is very much custom built for the 352; there is a lip that sits neatly over the stringer. The tank is bonded in place, and the settee bearers further secure the tank . The bearers came out easily enough, the tabbing was more difficult to deal with. I used my Ryobi One multi-tool with a cutting blade to cut through the bonding. This was the first time I used the multitool for this type of job, and I was impressed with how easily it cut through glass resin. So easily in fact, I had to be careful not to go too far and cut into the shell.
The fuel tank was heavier than I imagined, and took some maneuvering to remove. I carried it up the companionway steps and carefully placed it on deck. There is some fairly chunky tabbing residue left behind; I will need to grind that back at some stage. But for now the main purpose has been completed, to expose the shell underneath. Some good news at last; the laminate looks solid beneath, and the stringers and frames are all sound.
The black sludge at the bottom seems to be oil or diesel residue, it certainly has made a mess of everything. I need to remove all of the cabin sole at some stage and do some serious degreasing at some point. I’m constantly finding more and more issues that need attention or could be improved.
The next job to tackle was the holding tank in the heads. I believe this holds about 25 litres of waste. The tank is original, it is made from stainless-steel by the looks. The heads plumbing is fairly simple but not terribly useful; the toilet outflows into a thru-hull with a T junction between the toilet and the thru-hull. The T junction passes up to the bottom of the holding tank, via a shutoff valve. There is an overflow line from the top level of the holding tank out through a second thru-hull. No macerator, no pump out, no Y-valve, no air vent (and no anti-syphon values either).
With the heads seacock closed and the holding tank valve open, you are effectively pumping the waste ‘up’ into the holding tank. To empty the holding tank I suppose you open the holding tank valve, open the heads seacock and let gravity do what it is best at. The holding tank seems to be leaking, so I will upgrade the whole system at some point. I like the look of the new plastic/nylon tanks produced by tek-tanks. When I come to upgrade the holding tank system I can add in an pump out, Y valve etc.
Anyways, the tank was simple enough to remove, and as suspected there is indeed a continuation of damage to the frames in this part of the shell. The tabbing that secures the main bulkhead has come apart, and will need to be repaired. The frames aren’t as badly delaminated compared to those in the saloon; therefore the brunt of the damage is clearly contained to midships.
Time for some serious cleaning
Once the fuel tank was removed I noticed some issues with the cabin sole bearers. There are three main bearers that run across the beam in the saloon. All of these have parted from the shell where the tabbing has split, no doubt due to the impact sustained during the storm. I thought it was time to remove the entire cabin sole at this point, just to ensure that there was no further damage hidden away underneath. I had lifted up all of the ‘floating’ cabin sole sections and inspected underneath. However there was one large section that holds the saloon table that is screwed into the bearers; this needs to be unfastened and then the whole section comes out. Now seemed like a good time to take a look.
I spent the next three hours cleaning up that layer of oil residue; it was difficult to see the condition of the shell otherwise. I started out using WD40 degreaser, which is in a spray. That proved to be very effective in lifting the oil from the surface, but it tended to smear the residue around even more. After experimenting with different cleaners the best solution was to use undiluted bilge cleaner. The consistency was quick thick, almost like a paste. I then used a scrubbing brush over the oil residue, and then cleaned up with paper towel.
Finally I could see the entire shell of the hull from the deck all the way around to the bilge. One of the sole bearers has a split in it, but the rest are ok except for the cracking around the bonding. Looks like I can finally draw a line in the sand in terms of where the impact damage ends. I can ask David to finish the damage assessment now, and then finally start work!