Almost every time I approached my boat in Wayfarerer's Cove, my eye fell on the lower bobstay fitting and I would often wonder if it was sound...but the fellow I had survey my rigging did not say anything about it, so I tried to ignore it. Also, I HAD looked at both exterior and interior of the fitting and saw no issues....although someone had completely hidden the interior with a plaster of fiberglass.
Three or four days into our passage from NC to FL, while puttering and inspecting (I've heard lots of tales of major problems that sneak up on people.... and previously DID find the bilges nearly full on a different boat (not one of mine) due to a leak and a shut-off bilge pump and have heard of losing engines and of near-abandonments caused by same) I found some issues with the bilges. The main concern was the bilge pump running frequently, so I cleaned the bilges, cleaned the pump, and made sure everything worked well....but fretted over the constant trickle of water.
I tracked the trickle through the bilges, opening various hatches in the sole (floor) until I reached the bow, dug down through storage and anchor chains to get to see hidden things....and found a rather rapid trickle (maybe a cup every five minutes....maybe faster) coming from the lower bobstay fitting....well, from under that mass of glass someone had packed in there. I pumped out the little pond there, groped around, and found rotten wood and mud and water in a void I could feel but not see. I guess that plunging through waves had washed away enough mud to let water flow more freely than in the marina.
Among the many things I applaud Cynthia for, staying calm and analytical under threats ranks high. She simply asked about my strategy for the leak and I told her plan A, B, and C (I LIKE backup plans!) and she seemed fine. We packed bedding foam ripped from a mattress into the hole as tightly as possible, then installed a scrap of wood as a brace to keep everything as tight as possible. This reduced the leak by perhaps half and we planned to live with this (and frequent bilgewater inspections) until we reached Vero Beach, our planned destination.... but were prepared to change our plans as needed.
I also tracked another trickle to the stern of the boat..... and found it coming in from a loose packing nut around the rudder post. I guess the boat had sat long enough that being active opened up a leak, but a minute tightening it with the channel lock wrench dropped the flow to nothing.
SO! Once in Vero Beach City Marina we shifted everything heavy to the stern of the boat, lifting the bobstay fitting and stopping the leak. I intended to clean the fitting, replace the bolts, and install new backing.First step: chip off the fiberglass sticking plaster and remove the nuts, bolts, backing plate, fitting, and the rotten wood that had acted as reinforcement since the boat was built.
The corrosion had left the stainless backing plate looking like lace, so that went into the trash.
A search online found a place in Maine, Spartan, that specializes in bronze castings and the strength of their larger bobstay fitting, 25,000lbs, fits my boat reasonably (perhaps I'l do the math in another post). I ordered it and got to work on replacing the rotten wood reinforcement... with a far stronger and harder thickness of epoxy-reinforced fiberglass.
Methodology? Wire brush and clean and dry the region to be repaired. Soak a bunch of triaxial glass cloth with resin, roll it into a nice tight roll, place it where the wood was, place waxed paper over it, then a piece of wood, and brace the whole assembly to squash it into a flat-topped low-resin, high-glass hunk about 1.5" thick. This will NEVER decay.
Once the fitting arrived I drilled holes through the glass (NOT easy: that stuff is VERY hard) and bolted the fitting loosely into place through a nice bed of UV-resistant caulking, gave it a couple days for the caulk to cure, then tightened bolts,
Of course, life often gives us little extras to deal with: while installing the bobstay I dropped the rod that braces the middle ("dolphin striker") and it disappeared into the murky water with a mocking "plop!". I dove for it, but found darkness and soft mud, so quit looking and dropped a marker for tomorrow, then went off to rest until my ear equalized and I stopped losing lunch....repeatedly. Happily, I got connected to a diver who took under five minutes the next morning to find the little mark in the mud where the rod was buried and recover it, so now all is well.
And the boat can sail again!