More Than I Bargained For

Boat projects tend to be that way.

What I had hoped was going to be a quick (if not so easy) drill-and-pot job is morphing into major surgery.  Actually, I had feared this would be the case, but optimistically hoped otherwise.

After significant excavations in the aft portion of the starboard engine bed, I discovered a seam of rot and wet that appears to go right through the lower portion of the bed.  The upper portion seems to be solid.

8 - 10 inches are dug out here.  The bow is towards the right, as indicated by the arrow.

8 – 10 inches are dug out here. The bow is towards the right, as indicated by the arrow.

I drilled a couple more test holes farther forward – one three inches forward, and then another five inches forward of that.  I got dry wood in the shallow part of the hole, and black, wet rotten wood in the deep part.  16 inches forward of the excavated section still has rot.  That’s half the engine bed on the starboard side.  I don’t know about the port side yet.

Here's a close-up of the wet and dry portions.

Here’s a close-up of the wet and dry portions.

As much as I’d like to just epoxy a new slab of wood in this hole and wait to see what happens with the rest of the engine bed in a few years. . .  I really don’t want to have this be a problem again either. There is no simple, easy fix for this one.  No Git-Rot product is going to fix this.  The bed material is too wet and rotten.

So I’m making plans to remove the engine onto the cabin sole, and then cut off the starboard side of the engine bed.  At least.  I’ll drill test holes on the port side as well.

A side benefit of doing this is that I’ll be able to run cabling and hoses to the right places in a way that makes sense.  Unlike the way it’s set up now.  I’m looking forward to having the engine compartment cleaned, organized and freshly painted.


  1. You are obviously very much correct. Nothing is going to displace the wet rot. Our boats are built well above the average for their time and it could be argued well above average for today. I think a boat built to this level today would coast well into the 100’s of thousands of dollars. Not what one might be willing pay for a 27 footer. I still feel lucky to have a Watkins. I have discovered more than one Watkins on Lake Superior! Closest thing you can get to an ocean here inland. And sometimes much more dangerous to sail than an ocean. Wish I could drive over and help you with the boat Rick!
    Alan W.

  2. Thanks for well-wishes, Alan! I just need to do it. You’re right about the value of a new boat this size – this boat would cost $85-$110k new – at least. Even new, though, it would have problems to work out! All new boats do. I would love to spend a season or two on the lakes. Maybe someday. . .

  3. Bruce Harang II said:

    That does not look fun. I am about to replace the two forward engine mounts and hope the bed is solid. When you pull your engine will you please take pictures of how you do it? I just bought a 1980 Watkins 27 and would like to know how this is done in sick a small space. I love the information you have on this site. Good luck with your project. Thank you, Bruce

    • Good luck on your project, Bruce. I will definitely photo document the process. I hope your engine beds are better shape than mine is/are.

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