How can the very thing that floats your boat, and provides endless hours of enjoyment, be the same thing that can spoil your fun just as quickly? It just is, however you can easily prevent the bad stuff from happening, by simply snooping around your boat every once in awhile.
Start by inspecting the side cabin walls. They will most likely be your first indication of trouble. Look for walls that are not flat and smooth, and have a slight wavy look. Also look for rusty looking stains that come down from sides of the roof, and sometimes continue down the side of the cabin wall. These tell you there is moisture inside the roof or wall, and it is escaping out onto your wall. If you see this you can often detect dead wood spots by pounding the wall with your knuckles or a blunt object. Sometimes you may even find a soft spot. When you locate an issue with a side wall, chances are there is something happening on the roof that caused the issue. Most of the time it is where an arch support for the party top is attached. The arch flexes with the wind, and movement of the hull. Each times it flexes it stresses the attach points and caulk that was placed into the screw holes. The arches are sealed, and you cannot visually see where they connect to the roof. Look for spacing at the bottom of the arch that is uneven, or different from the arch on the other side of the boat. This can indicate screws that are in soft wood, and are coming loose.
The next area you should check is around all the windows inside and out. Check around all inside windows, looking for discoloration around the windows, and especially in the lower cuddy’s, which are often overlooked, since they may be more difficult to get to. This may give you an indication of what to look for on the outside windows. Check all caulk for any that is pulling away from the cabin, or has gaps. If you find any issues with the caulk, hopefully you found it before it became a problem inside. To find problem areas along bottom of cabin walls, crawl through the hull with a flashlight, shining it along the flooring where it meets the sides of the hull. If there is a moisture problem the plywood will be dark and discolored.
When caulking the cabin walls and windows be sure to use a quality caulk like Starbrite Marine Sealant. Remove all old caulk from windows and bottom of cabin. There are tools available now in the caulk section of stores, that makes caulk removal much simpler and removes caulk better. Wipe area to be caulked with acetone first, which will make it adhere better. Be sure to follow temperature recommendations on the caulk when applying.
As you can imagine, replacing soft walls can be quite expensive. Sometimes the boat must be pulled and taken back to the factory for repairs. Paying attention to the often overlooked areas of your boat will help you prevent issues from becoming an expensive problem. We want your boating time to be smooth sailing!
by Tom Miller