Repairing the Transom, Part I (Destruction)
By clanders - Published April 29, 2014 - Viewed 2191 times
So I had the boat, and I had made it back home, it was time to start tearing things apart.
Looking around at online forums like Fiberglassics and iBoats, it seems like a new transom is pretty standard with a small boat restoration project of this vintage. I had done a lot of research about the boat, so I was prepared for it to need replacement, and I wasn't disappointed.
It was actually a tough call. The previous owner of my Westfield put a new plywood transom in, removing the inner fiberglass of the transom in the process, but unfortunately he didn't seal it up after he was done. The plywood seemed solid, but it had started to delaminate at the top, and my general rule of boat-fixing is that things are usually much worse than they appear, so with summer still a few months off, I decided to tear it out and start fresh.
Most boats like this use laminated plywood for the transom, encapsulated in fiberglass on all sides. It's straightforward enough to re-do, but a couple of things led me toward a different solution.
For one thing, it would be tough to get the new plywood in. I would either have to remove the cap, or cut back the floor and stringers to fit the new pieces (and since the transom is curved, it would have to be several thin pieces of plywood glued together). The floor and stringers on the MFG are all fiberglass, so I wasn't concerned about the rot spreading there, and I also wasn't relishing all that fiberglass work to finish the repair. I'm not great at finishing fiberglass, or drywall for that matter.
They are a fairly recent innovation, but pourable compounds for transom cores seem to be gaining popularity among boatbuilders and diy-ers. There are enough success stories online that I felt fairly confident in trying one. There are three main brands, each slightly different – Seacast, Nidacore, and Arjay. I went with Arjay, as the least expensive. It still wasn't cheap – about $350 shipped to Baltimore from Florida (with shipping accounting for a third of that) – but once you add up the costs of epoxy and marine plywood to redo it the original way, it seemed like a wash.
Step one was getting rid of the old transom. I wanted to keep the outer skin intact and remove all the wood from the inside. One of the things I learned when I was working on boats for a living is that once you make a decision to get rid of something, there are no half measures. Just get that part out as quickly as you can, so you can start replacing it. I started by making shallow cuts across the plywood with my circular saw and chunking the wood away from the fiberglass skin with a chisel and pry bar, then cleaned the rest out with an electric chainsaw, which actually worked pretty well.
In cases where the inner skin is intact, people have removed all the wood through the top of the transom with an auger drill and a chainsaw, but unless the wood is completely rotten that seems like it would be incredibly difficult to do a clean job. Anyway, the job was accomplished over a weekend or so of flying wood chips.
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