That @&%^ transom

by Chuck March 8, 2003

The big project on Odyssey this weekend was filling the holes on the port side of her transom. This is the first time that I've repaired holes in fiberglass with epoxy putty, so all in all it's a learning experience.

I bought an epoxy kit from West Marine, it comes with 5 or 6 packets of pre-measured epoxy, some fillers (microballons and colloidal sillica), pots, stirring sticks, etc. I look over the directions, but there's no mention of which filler to use in which situation, so I'm on my own. I know that microballoons are for sanding, so I decide to use the sillica.

The kit comes with a pair of surgical gloves, so I put them on. Joey asks me why I'm doing that, I tell him so I don't get any chemicals on my hands. Joey climbs into the loft of the barn, he doesn't want to have anything to do with chemicals.

My first challenge is mixing up a pot of putty. The wind is blowing through the barn and that darn filler is light and doesn't want to get out of the cup it came in and into my mixing cup. I move to the tack room and now it pours fine. I mix some filler in, then some more, until I have a putty that looks pretty good.

Back out to the boat. I use one of the stirring sticks to trowel the putty into the holes. It's too thin and starts to slump. I dig most of it back out, put it back in the pot and add some more filler. Now it's looking really thick. I trowel it and and it works. Maybe five minutes later all the holes that I'm filling in this session are done.

So, once I'm done, there is some extra filler outside the holes, smeared around the transom. I'm not looking forward to it hardening, so I think, "Hey, let's try acetone. That might clean it up." So I get out a rag and some acetone and try rubbing it on the extra filler. To my delight, it appears to be taking off the extra. I clean up all the extra filler on the transom. (While I'm doing this, Joey asks "What's the awful smell?" "Acetone" I reply. Joey climbs down from the loft and goes to play on the haystack where he can't smell the acetone.)

That's all for Saturday. I clean up the mess, tossing the used cups, stirrer, gloves (need to get more gloves) in a plastic bag and putting the plastic bag in the garbage.

On Sunday I walked out to check and see how things were going. I learned two new things:

  • Epoxy that goes off in 20 minutes at 70 degrees is still tacky after 12 hours at 38 degrees or less. Working in these cold conditions does wonders for the pot life of epoxy.
  • Cleaning up the overspill with acetone didn't work as well as I'd hoped. All the extra filler was gone, but the hull is now stained with an orange color that I can't figure out how to remove.

That's how things sit today. On Wednesday (the 12th) I got a chance to go out and poke the filler, it's hardened up now. (Why so long? The farm. The weather. Little League practice. 4H. I'm lucky to get an hour or so a week to play on Odyssey. Next I have to figure out how to take care of the delamination and how to get rid of the orange color on the transom.



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