If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Plywood Deck Repair

January 30, 2017

Many potential boat owners are scared away from wooden boats "because they're so hard to keep up with." But what many people don’t realize is that even some fiberglass boats, especially nearly one-offs, are more wood than fiberglass. Which means that knowing how to work with and repair wood is a bonus for most boat owners, even those of us with "plastic" boats.

The shape of the hole

Eurisko has an all-wood interior, but since it is inside and we are adamant about our "water on the outside" policy, it rarely gets wet and therefore requires little maintenance. But she also has plywood decks. Though they are over an inch thick, they are still subject to continual water exposure: salt and rain. For a 39-year old, she has held up well, but on our last haul out Dave decided to finally fix a recurring headache the right way.

With the "plug" inserted

Our chainplates go through the deck and (after we upgraded them) are bolted through the hull. Where the chainplate for our forward lower shroud goes through the deck has seeped moisture since we bought her 17 years ago. He has tried a dozen "sure fixes," but never wanted to have remove the chainplate completely, cut a hole in the deck, and fix it the right way. But while we had her torn apart last time anyway, he got out the saw.

The "plug" screwed in place

After loosening and removing the shroud, he removed the chainplate and could get a good look at the deck. There was a small area of actual rot, but water had seeped a few inches into the plywood, so he cut out a piece of deck far bigger than had been wet, about 12" by 12". He cut the hole with rounded corners so he could use a router to rabbet the hole. This means that the outside of the hole was a bit larger than the inside of the hole so that the plywood he replaced it with had a shelf of sorts to sit on. It's hard to get a picture of, but here is a simplified sketch.


This design also prevented a point load at a corner. It's usually best to avoid sharp corners on any repair work, since this is usually the part that fails first. Curves are stronger.


He cut a piece of 1/2" marine plywood slightly smaller than the holes for plugs for the inside and out. After dry fitting, he wet out all the touching surfaces with neat (unthickened) epoxy and then mixed a batch of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica to "glue"" them in place. He used deck screws to hold the top piece securely to the overhang under it and the bottom piece to the top piece. Just before the epoxy was completely cured he backed out the screws 1/4 turn. This prevents them from getting glued in, as well.

Trace patterns

The next day he removed the screws and ground down an area over an inch bigger than the plug on all sides. He ground it down to a feather edge so there would be no sharp transition. He tapped off an area slightly larger than this ground down spot. He made a template from clear plastic the exact size of the ground down area. Inside this template he marked off a shape slightly larger than the exterior plug. He traced the larger shape on biaxial cloth, cut out the smaller shape, and traced it, as well.

Cut pattern material for the size and shape of smaller piece

He wet out the holes with neat epoxy, then filled them with colloidal silica thickened epoxy. He then wet out the exterior piece of biaxial cloth and the entire area to be covered with neat epoxy. He laid the larger piece of cloth first, smoothed it out, then wet out and laid the smaller piece on top. He used a roller to remove all air bubbles that would create voids in the layup.

Wet out

As long as nothing in this last paragraph is allowed to kick between steps, there is no need to sand. If, however, you get interrupted in a job and let epoxy cure, before you can put another layer of cloth or glue anything else to it, the epoxied area must be washed well with soap and water to remove all amines, and then sanded. It's faster, easier, less labor, and less wasted material to do it all at once.

Fill holes

He repeated the process inside, though I have no pictures of that because it was in a very small space. Naturally. The next day he faired the outside until it was smooth enough to not show under nonskid. There is no reason to get terribly picky with a deck repair, since it will be covered with some sort of nonskid anyway.

Wet out cloth

Because he was replacing the nonskid on the entire deck, at this point he treated the repair like any other part of the deck. Just like breaking a bone, he always says that his repairs are stronger than any other part of the boat because of the extra epoxy, cloth, and new wood. Even if you have a "plastic" boat, learning how to make repairs to her wooden bits can help you stop small problems before they become big ones.

Wet out entire area

Lay down first piece of cloth

Lay down second piece of cloth

Use fiberglass roller to remove all air

MONDAY we'll share our response to the claim, "I have more money than time."


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.

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