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Old 01-29-2016, 10:37 PM   #1
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Rust under fiberglass deck of Vashon pocket trawler

I pulled a floor panel and noticed a crack in fiberglass deck in the cabin. Poked my knife in crack and it was soft so started digging out flaky material that looked a lot like shaley Rock - not red like rust usually is. I got a hammer and bar and started digging it up but it's looking pretty major at this point and I'm wondering whether this material is in fact rusted or rotten metal.

The Vashon is a fiberglass boat with a fairly deep keel and I would suppose that it is some kind of metal for ballast. Can anyone advise me about what this flaky metal is and whether I need to start tearing it all out? It's kinda scary looking. I appreciate any links or references to hull construction on the Vashon pocket trawler.
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Old 01-29-2016, 10:52 PM   #2
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Is it actually metal? Can you pick it up with a magnet? Rotten wood can get a dark, reddish color not unlike rust.
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Old 01-30-2016, 12:09 AM   #3
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How are the outside decks? Soft? Decks are often a fiberglass sandwich, f/g top and bottom, wood in between. Metal is unlikely, moisture can travel. The Vashon experts should know, from memory we have at least one.
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Old 01-30-2016, 12:47 AM   #4
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Good questions. I did test it with magnet and it had a strong magnetic pull which I think points to some kind of metal. The deck outside the cabin is raised and fiberglass - I imagine something is sandwiched in there. The area in question is I think is actually the top of a relatively deep keel. There is a claim that these boats are self righting and some describe the keel as being somewhat like a sailboat. I'm thinking this metal is more for ballast than structure and that maybe whatever metal like material I'm digging up may not really be a problem - but that doesn't really feel right to me either.

I have emailed a Vashon owner on this forum and maybe I'll do so again but I want to cautious about forum rules or bugging anyone on their private email. So far today I've dug up about a square foot by six inches deep of this material and have a bad feeling about how involved this will get. Thanks for the questions & help!
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Old 01-30-2016, 12:52 AM   #5
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And in answer to your question Bruce their is no sponginess in the outer decks. I'm all over them and they feel really sound. I'll try to post some pics of problem area tomorrow. Thanks
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Old 01-30-2016, 01:05 AM   #6
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The PM system to contact other members is there to be used, no problem. Better a localised keel ballast question than saturated deck sandwich migrating from outside. It could be normal, or simple to remediate, the experts will come to your aid.
The thread may be better noticed in another Forum category, I`ll flag it for the Mods for you.
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Old 01-30-2016, 02:06 AM   #7
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Thanks much!
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Old 01-30-2016, 04:26 PM   #8
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Trying to add pictures here Click image for larger version

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Hopefully this will help with my story. At this point if I'm thinking the thing to do is tear out the soft metal, get it as clean and dry as possible, fill with cement and then fiberglass over the cement. I'll touch base with Vashon Trawler to see if he has some idea how to approach this and would appreciate any other suggestions. Hope the pictures show up on this thread.
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Old 01-30-2016, 05:03 PM   #9
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Those particles all look the same. Could they be some sort of metal scrap punchings that were somehow used for ballast. To me they look like what is punched from a metal sheet to make a slot, many slots in this case.
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Old 01-30-2016, 05:45 PM   #10
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Steve I think it's entirely possible this is some sort of loose metal material that functions as ballast. The boat was built in 1979 by an outfit on Vashon island, WA which went out of business some time ago. I have not come onto any information about how this keel was constructed and am trying to be careful not to get into magical thinking that may get me into trouble down the road. If this is the case I shouldn't tear out beyond the damaged fiberglass and fill it back to the level where I can glass it over again. Hope you are right.

I sent a message to Vashon-Trawler and hope he has some idea.

In the meantime if anyone could give me a definitive answer affirming that this material is not structural and just for ballast I can get to work getting it encased again. Thanks
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Old 01-30-2016, 06:28 PM   #11
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Steve, that was a good observation. I looked at the photo again (it was way more detailed and easier to see than naked eye) and the particles do look uniform. I pulled some material under the light and it must be something that was stamped out. I have to go to work for a week but if I don't hear anything different I'm going operate on the assumption that I have no real problem other than a fiberglass repair job. Thanks
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Old 01-30-2016, 08:13 PM   #12
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Vashon-Trawler thinks Steves observation is valid as well. It's a curious construction method/material. Not often I think I might have a big problem and it turns out not to be much of a problem at all. A good day.
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Old 01-30-2016, 08:47 PM   #13
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I have no actual experience but when reading boat building boats from years ago steel punchings were often recommended as ballast in cases LIKE yours.

It's cheap, heavy per cu. ft. although not as much so per cu. ft. as lead, but it's cheap.
That was often the rational for steel punchings use. Small pieces like yours will pack/settle down and lock together. If it is sealed and kept sealed it was supposed to be just fine.

However, with steel/iron if it gets wet then it will rust and rust expands which can cause trouble.

If you think you can dry it out then it may be suitable for continued use. Dig a lot of it out to dry and maybe a dehumidifier.

Some builders would pour epoxy or cement in to lock it all together and seal it. They did it in many small pours [epoxy] due to heat production. TO much resin at a time can be a big problem from heat generation.

If you can dry it then cover it again with a solid fiberglass barrier to lock it into place AND seal it keeping it dry.

As mentioned, in my great experience????, in this matter I have only read that this was often done many years ago due to cost and availability.

Note, cement alone will reduce the ballast weight.

Here is a list of materials and weight per cu.ft.

Specific Gravity Weights Of Materials from READE
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Old 01-30-2016, 10:34 PM   #14
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In 1976 I contracted for a sailboat to be built for me. as the construction progressed, I learned that the builder planned to use steel punchings capped with concrete, in the encapsulated keel, for ballast. As it turned out, he found a source of lead and put baking pan lots ( about 100 lb each) of lead into the keel first, then filled the voids with steel punchings, then capped with concrete. I sold the boat in 1988 and saw it and spoke with the current owner in 2007. Apparently no problems with the steel punchings in the first 30 years.
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Old 01-31-2016, 01:46 AM   #15
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Thanks c lectric and koliver. I think that I'll dig down and suction as much water I can and open a hole forward so I can get a fan moving air across for a couple of weeks to get the material as dry as I can. Then place the material I dug out back in and cap the exposed areas with concrete up to the level where I can lay the fiberglass into the old. Since all the original material is there plus a little cement it should be as much ballast as original design.

Rust is a concern but in handling this material I got some kind of oily substance that was hard to get off my hands and am guessing it is something that was added to inhibit rust. The fact there wasn't red rust was part of what was perplexing me about what the material was - but it stuck to the magnet like crazy. I'm going to take the chance that if I dry it out well and glass it in so it can't get any oxygen that it'll be alright. The trick will be getting it dried out but at least it's on the beach so that helps. Just don't anyone tell me the winter kings are biting like last year. Thanks for the link for material weights and the great info. Rodney
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Old 01-31-2016, 11:26 AM   #16
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Steel punchings were indeed used as ballast years back.
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Old 01-31-2016, 12:52 PM   #17
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If concrete is used to seal the ballast, Colvin says to use at least 1 inch of concrete but no more the 3 unless needed for slopping to get water to run to a sump. After curing for 28 days under wet burlap, paint the concrete to water proof.

Today, I wonder if it would make more sense to use epoxy and fiberglass to seal and waterproof.

Later,
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Old 01-31-2016, 01:15 PM   #18
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Once you use epoxy, polyester resin will not stick to epoxy. Epoxy won't stick to oily material, sounds like cement to isolate the oily metal from resin is a good idea. In this case I would make the top coat epoxy and roving as it will stick better to the existing fiberglass and resist cracking better in the future. The fact that the ballast is not rust colored is a good indicator that this is a minor problem. Rusting iron and steel is so expansive that it would destroy your hull. I wonder what was used to coat the iron ballast that kept the rust at bay. You may want to add some to the existing ballast.
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Old 01-31-2016, 02:14 PM   #19
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Early Willards' were built with a concrete ballast with chunks of metal thrown into the matrix, which probably would have been fine except the concrete wasn't sealed and absorbed moisture over the years. Many have had to chisel out the concrete as it swelled and pushed at the hull partitions, I was happy mine was built much later and is encapsulated lead instead of concrete. I don't think it matter what is used for ballast IF it's fully encapsulated.
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Old 01-31-2016, 04:25 PM   #20
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So it sound like capping the exposed area with about an inch of cement, epoxy and then fiberglassing back in to original level for water drainage to the sump. I keep reviewing your suggestions so hopefully I gather the best final solution.

This morning I dug down to the bottom of the fiberglass hold and drew out as much water as I could with a turkey baster. I'll have to keep doing this for a while as the water migrates to the hole. As I'm doing this and considering plan A to open hole in the other end so I can push some warm air through and dry it out I realize the material is packed too tight for it to ever dry out.

So as was suggested from the beginning the way to dry it out would be to remove all the material. Obviously this would be a pretty involved job have to tear out the fiberglass structure to remove fuel and water tanks - and I expect it would turn into even more. So I'm really reluctant to go there.

Another idea a friend of mine suggested was putting antifreeze in and that seems sort of reasonable to me. The problem with the moisture I think is with the freeze thaw cycles. The potential problem with the metal casings is rust and that that will cause the particles to bind and expand (of course I am guessing cause I'm obviously not real knowledgeable about this stuff). So if I get as much moisture out as I can and put antifreeze say up about 2" from the bottom and fiberglass in a 3" piece of pvc with a slot up the side from the bottom up about 6" and wrapped with a stainless screen and a screw cap on top I'll have a water tight inspection hole. Then I can occasionally inspect for water level/intrusion and refresh the antifreeze.

The reason it it seems like this may work is antifreeze has rust inhibitor therefore protecting the metal casings and keep the water from freezing so I don't have the expansion from that. One question in my mind is what the antifreeze solution might do to the fiberglass hold. I'm referring to it as a hold because it appears to me like an independent chamber to hold these metal casings for ballast. It appears to me like this is not part of the hull. So it seems like glass should hold up to water as that's what glass boats do -albeit usually with some sort of coating. But will the antifreeze break the glass down and would there be a better method here.

It seems the right way would be to do the work and tear it all out but even if I did all this and successfully enclosed it, wouldn't water make it back into this chamber through condensation. This thought and the work involved leads me to think the above solution may be appropriate. I have to go to work on the ferry for a week so won't be able to respond for a bit but do appreciate the response and suggestions much. I would hate to give up on this boat. Thanks
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