Contessa 26 Tech Notes

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Blister and Bumper Discussion

Mike Yelland—My C26 had a large quantity of small blisters sanded off, and I don’t think even 1/16” was taken off, but I’d like to build it up, maybe more so than original – any suggestions WRT cloth type, weight, dry or wet lay up ? Also I’m thinking of adding a ss ‘bumper’ on the front just in case I were to hit something maybe out at sea. I wonder if a 1” thick piece of rubber would be better, glassed in ?

Frank Otta—Yeah, but the glass will crack when the rubber is compressed.

Warren Kimmitt—I am also in the process of refitting and have started on the hull blisters. I sanded all of the bottom paint, and primer off leaving me with osmosis blisters about 3 inches apart over the entire hull. As the hull dries I had planned to grind out the blisters and use the epoxy sealer and filler, then add about 3 coats of epoxy to seal the hygroscopic gel coat (Interlux video method). Yesterday, a fiberglass “expert” came by and told me my best bet was to rent a gelcoat stripper and take all of the gelcoat off. When I poke a hole in the blister, the contents smell like vinegar. He tells me that this is sea water having dissolved my fiberglass resin, and because the manufacturer did not put a barrier coat under the gelcoat, the problem is not merely cosmetic. Apparently with the gelcoat off, and the hull completely dry, the osmosis spots are easy to see and repair as they are powder and fiber. He said it would end up being less work and a better finish. I may follow his advice as it will take only one day to strip the gelcoat. With the gelcoat off I will be able to completely survey the hull and put an epoxy (no blister) bottom on. Apparently some people put a veil (very light cloth) on top of the bare glass and then several coats of epoxy. A fellow with a CO26 near my town has done this and is very happy with the result. He ground his gelcoat off, but said he would use a stripper next time as it was very labour intensive. There are gelcoat repair video’s available from West Systems, Industrial Plastics, and Interlux Paints that are somewhat helpful, but I think I will go the epoxy bottom route as the South Pacific is in my future. I have spoken to perhaps a dozen people about the right way to repair this problem, and consensus is: be sure the hull is “completely dry” before you proceed with any of the above. I plan on 6 months of drying while testing with a moisture probe. I am told that a sealed bottom, gyproc heater and an industrial dehumidifier (rented) can reduce this drying time to one month, but I would be concerned about distorting the hull.

Steve Stewart—I use automotive body filler for much of the cosmetic work on the boats. It is inexpensive, easy to work with, and sets up in minutes. I have used it under the water line for periods of 5 years and it was in good shape after. Catalina used it to fair cast iron keels on some of their boats. It seems that with an epoxy water barrier over the top it would serve quite well for “small pox”. If you try it be sure to pick up some of the plastic applicators the auto stores sell for applying the stuff, they work great.

Steve McCrea—Regarding bumpers, I have to say, don’t bother. One of the many reasons I love full-keeled boats so is because the best “bumper” is a few days in the spring with a grinder and West System. Touching wood, (believe it or not, I have sailed Maine all my life, and have managed to only run aground in far-flung destinations, never here, yet, that is), I have yet to bounce off a rock with the Contessa. I expect that I will at some point, and I’m truly unconcerned about the resulting damage. One would be truly hard-pressed to do much to the forward end of a 26’s keel, even at top speed. When I purchased my boat, it was clear that someone had indeed found such a rock, at a decent speed; the resulting damage was little more than a slight dent-shaped gouge. I think perhaps the best thing one can do with a boat new to them is go run it aground, it reminds you that unless you’re in heavy seas, it is generally not a very serious problem. These lovely boats can take far more than we all dare to give them, I’m sure.

Mike Yelland—I’m not so worried about rocks or grounding, but floating stuff we always hear about. I thunked into something like a 2×4 this summer – no biggie but there are a lot of flotsam out there they say. 1” rubber strips covered with glass should do it.
Roger Myerscough—Well it seems that this has to be confession time! I received my comeuppance about five years ago when I motored L’Epice at full speed into a rock. As someone who is paid good money not to do this kind of thing this was an occasion of utmost shame and I slunk into the marina under cover of darkness and the haul out and repair was conducted under a cloak of anonymity and disguise! L’Epice, however, did not let me down and the damage was confined to a fist sized gouge at the bottom leading edge of the keel which was just ground out, dried and filled with epoxy, glass etc. This was a really full speed collision with that rock, the boat came to a “grinding halt” and the whole rig shook, so I think that the minimal damage that occurred was a testament to the integrity of, at least, that part of the vessels construction.

I did the gelcoat peeling routine last year. I opted to have the job done for me for two reasons, lack of time due to work and also because I thought that if I did ever come to sell the boat a professional job may be a little more desirable to a prospective purchaser. There was actually a third reason – laziness! But the first two make a better story! I did however go a little cheap and have the job done by a guy who I have known for many years rather than by one of the established boatyards in the area. This person has been doing the job for many years and I had seen examples of his work, in addition he had just bought a gelcoat peeler and all his previous jobs had been done by grinding/blasting. I also opted to do the job before it was REALLY REQUIRED inasmuch as she had a good number of small blisters all over the hull but it was nothing like as bad as some hulls that I have seen. The work was as follows:

  1. Gelcoat and first skinout peeled.
  2. Hull completely dried. The moisture readings were very low almost as soon as the hull was peeled, an indication that the blistering had not penetrated too far. However we had six weeks of drying – outside and in glorious weather.
  3. A layer of mat and Vinylester 411 Resin 4 Complete fairing of hull with Duratec Vinylester Putty 5 3 Coats of Duratec Vinylester epoxy primer 2 coats Bottom Paint.

The guy that did the job commented to me and to another CO26 owner at a separate time on the high quality of the lay-up and showed me the differences between L’Epice’s lay-up and that of a couple of other boats that he was doing. He also gave me a five year guarantee and I don’t think he’s left the country yet! Total cost $4300 CDN. I am very pleased with the result, he did a superb job of fairing the hull and I believe, rightly or wrongly that she is a stronger boat than when we started out.