Engine Bed Repair – Progress

A strong step forward today in just a couple of hours of work.  Access was still difficult for working on the engine bed.  As I began positioning the drill (with extra long bit) over the bolt hole to over-size it, I couldn’t get the drill to stand up straight.  The exhaust elbow was in the way.  I took it off, which was far easier than I could have imagined, and also discovered a brittle hose in the process.  This is a good thing, because I don’t think it would have lasted another season.

The hose (not pictured) which attaches to the nipple on the bend of the elbow (upper left) was brittle.  A leak waiting to spring.

The hose (not pictured) which attaches to the nipple on the bend of the elbow (upper left) was brittle. A leak waiting to spring.  Oh, see the rust stain on the elbow? That’s an old leak repaired last year with new length of exhaust hose – seen in this photo.

With the elbow out of the way, I could drill with impunity.  Opening up the original bolt hole revealed “dark matter,” not nice, bright, clean saw dust.  So I drilled another hole a couple of inches away.  More dark stuff.  Another hole, more mulch.  Then I started angling the bit after the hole was drilled – and found nothing solid below the .25″ top layer of glass.  After 5-6 holes, it was apparent that there was nothing but rot underneath the fiberglass.

Well, I brushed all the rotten material away to picture the holes more clearly.  Should have left a little mulch in the photo for illustration purposes.

Well, I brushed all the rotten material away to picture the holes more clearly. Should have left a little mulch in the photo for illustration purposes.

At this point I pulled out the angle grinder, donned respirator and face mask, and started cutting the glass from the top of the engine bed.

Here is the same area that was drilled.  This photo shows the glass top cut off, and a screw driver stuck into the mulch that the wood engine bed has become from 32 years of sitting in a damp bilge.

Here is the same area that was drilled. This photo shows the glass top cut off, and a screw driver stuck into the mulch that the wood engine bed has become after 32 years of sitting in a damp bilge.

Another angle on the mulch.

Another angle on the mulch.

That was all I had time to do on the engine bed today.  But while bent double in the engine room I started a couple of other ancillary chores.  It is time to renew the hose between the shaft log and the stuffing box, so I removed the securing bolts and set screw from the shaft coupling.  The shaft will have to come out, of course, to change the hose.

You can see the empty bolt holes (circled in red) on the coupling in the lower left part of the photo.

You can see the empty bolt holes (circled in red) on the coupling in the lower left part of the photo.

I continue to be impressed with PB Blaster – the penetrating lubricant that un-sticks things long stuck and rusted.  These bolts came right out.

Coupling/shaft bolts turned right out after soaking 2 days with PB Blaster.

Coupling/shaft bolts turned right out after soaking 2 days with PB Blaster.

Here's the stuff.  Just squirt it on and wait.  It's better than WD-40 - no contest, really.

Here’s the stuff. Just squirt it on and wait. It’s better than WD-40 – no contest, really.

However, the shaft is pressed into the coupling with a key, and it is going to take more than a wood block and hammer to get the shaft and key unlocked from the coupling.  All I managed to accomplish with the hammer was smash my thumb. . . didn’t take long either.

I know, I know - I'm supposed to hit the wood block.

I know, I know – I’m supposed to hit the wood block.

If hitting your thumb with a hammer doesn’t get the shaft uncoupled, the next best method is to press it out with a socket between the coupling plates.  Requires longer bolts and nuts for the coupling, and a little more time, but it’s painless.  Unlike whacking the thumb.





  1. Rick, on the 28 foot sailboat we owned before the Watkins for 18 years and sailed for 12 of those years I had a somewhat similar rot problem. In 2001 we, ok I with occasional help from my wife or friends, started a process of of turning the base model into a retirement vehicle for use sometime after 2010. This boat had a bad habit of getting the little drains in the coaming lockers clogged which would eventually allow rain water to get down below. in the quarter berths on each side. For whatever reason the starboard side was worse about this. So first I went to work building a more rigid door with more latches for they were over 5 feet long with one latch originally. I rebuilt with three latches per door and heavy duty one that could seal really well. I was doing other modifications in the cockpit to get the tiller more out of the way and install a rail seat system which could allow me to have a shorter tiller with a nice tiller extension. I was also going to change the position of the batteries to 2 on each side and keep 2 in the engine compartment with the plan being 2 banks of 3 batteries each. I also was going to add an alternator bracket to the engine, solar etc. To test the compartments available I set a full size deep cycle in a starboard formerly storage compartment. Something went crunch, uh oh! So I put way hand of a rib and started to lean into it to see what might be wrong when the rib collapsed!!! I move my hand to the starboard main stringer that ran to the transom and It went crunch!!! The entire starboard quarter berth was a mix of “mulch and good wood inside the glass. More drill bit exploration found a little of the same on the port side. Research and exploration of the far back reaches to the transom found more rot. Some I could just replace with new wood and then glass it to the hull other stuff would need something else for it involved some of the built up ares of the hull where they encapsulated plywood in glass to get the thickness they wanted at the factory. The hull itself was good for it was over an inch of solid glass but the engine set on a plywood bed between the stringers mentioned before and it was somewhat rotted. Where I had to leave things in place I used the West system of epoxy per their advice using a filler and a big syringe to inject the epoxy into the “core”. Holes had to be one per every square half inch square so it was a lot of drilling. Other places I used treated lumber for the new wood and epoxy again. After a couple of years of work I had the engine bed rebuilt, the port side rebuilt and was more than half done with the starboard side. I took breaks from doing all this cramped space work by making changes in the galley area to prepare for a frig-freezer instead of the front opening 1976 icebox which could only cool drinks but not store food. Having that would be a great improvement over having ice chests for food in the boat. The deck work was finished except for another coat of paint. Then on September 24th 2005 we had a bad storm including a tornado that passed over our home in the air to touch down about 2 blocks away. All kinds of damage but I trusted the boat to be ok. The storm had so bounced around 6500 lbs of boat plus 1500 lbs of trailer that it was left bow high without a fore hatch. Over 2 feet of rain in those weeks then a roofer asked “is your boat supposed to look like that?”. Over 1000 gallons of water, well some ice by then, inside ruining all the bulkheads that had not needed work ending that project. However the areas that were epoxy soaked into the wood which had been deep under the water and ice were fine! The engine was rust! So I really trust West System for repairs in inaccessible areas were wood needs to be stabilized and filled. Yes it did take more than 6 gallons of the stuff but it worked well! I just thought I would share our story of S/V Dreamboat Annie. Now that the W33 I miss that shallow draft 28!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow – quite a story, Alan. A lot of work restoring the boat – only to have it wrecked by a storm. Epoxy is amazing stuff. When I install the new section of engine bed, it will be thoroughly coated with epoxy and covered with structural glass, tied into the glass comprising the hull structure of the boat. Whole lot o’ grinding going on to get the surfaces prepped and clean enough to put resin on. I think the engine compartment is going to need a thorough scrubbing before any glass gets laid down. After that, some bilgecoat grey will make it stay looking clean.

  3. Yeah it was a lot of work. I just tried to post on Yahoo only to write a good message and have it fail! It’s been happening more and more lately! What I wrote about was specifically the engine rebuild for the 28 from ’92 to ’94. The engine had a water pump problem at the beginning of the ’92 sailing season so I undertook the rebuild myself since more was wrong than a water pump. Thats when i found serious problems with it’s engine bed. This was a 1980 OMC “Zephyr Saildrive” which was a hybrid outboard motor installed through a rather large hole in the hull behind the keel. Had about a dozen bolts through the hull around that hole and the tech would had worked on it in ’90 had not sealed the area with correct underwater sealant. They used 3M silicone which is not rated to be 15 inches under water. So I had to replace all the core which was not structural to the hull but just there to give the builders some wood for setting screws. Did I mention that it was a rather cheap boat? So an area many feet square around the big hole had to be rebuilt. I used pressure treated plywood for the “core” and the same for the dimensional wood some of which were 2 x 12’s! The long stringers were rotted from the bottom up of course and went toward the stern within 3-6 inches of the cockpit floor above. The use of West system was a real good idea due to it’s ability to be absorbed by most common woods. I also did some unusual things for the screws and through bolts. I drilled out the locations, filled with epoxy, then drilled the holes to the right pilot hold size for the wood screw. Through bolts not going through the hull got the same treatment. The through hull bolts I went really nuts over by using a stainless tubing piece in an oversized hole. The hole was first filled with epoxy with a center hole kept open by a thin wall brass tube. Wait 2 weeks and I removed the brass tube and used 5200 to seal in the smaller diameter stainless tube. The engine had a mounting plate that had nothing to do with in the hull engine but filled that big hole so it could be set with 5200. I did this with the bolts in place around the plate which went through the core, hull, and outer backing plates, about 4 inches total. After the power head was installed and the lower unit mated to it I needed to fill and seal that big hole. The 5200 was used directly against the hull and the hole areas but I needed something less permanent at this point so I used Life Caulk. That was all finished before the ’94 season in the fall of ’93. I initially had some cable adjustment problems for the engine controls in the spring of ’94 but the boat was launched in June of ’94. We sailed her and vacationed aboard till ’01 when I started the major refit of the boat. I saw the boat again after ’08 and met the new owner of the salvaged boat. I worked with him to help him understand the engine and what needed doing to repair the water damage. I went out with them in ’09 and last saw the boat in ’11. None of my repairs had failed. He had pulled the engine to clean it up and just did a complete rebuild of the interior forward of the engine spaces to the V berth which was the only part supported by wood that was not damaged. So my rebuild lasted 18 years of the worst that Minnesota can do with no problem. The previous tech repairs never lasted over 2 years! We owned and enjoyed the boat(I enjoy the rebuilds as much as the sailing) from 1988 to 2005 and we were happy that someone else was able to enjoy the boat after us.

  4. Interesting story. I like doing the boat work too. Who made the 28-footer?

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