View Full Version : rain water accumulating in boats

06-19-2004, 08:48 PM
I have a 15' Whilly Boat; the hull is okuome plywood coated with epoxy and about 6 coats of varnish (interior). It resides on a trailer, and all the solid wood is Brazilian mahogony. Everything is bedded with Dolphinte. There is no drain plug, and as the cover isn't perfect it accumulates some water when it rains. Problem is, sometimes it sits like that for a few days before I can sponge it out. Should I be worried about rot/fungus building up? I haven't noticed any problems so far but I figured I'd ask.

06-19-2004, 08:58 PM
Perhaps a better cover? Elvstrom bailers at the low point to let water out? Pull the cover off on sunny days and ler her dry out real good. Maybe some of the water is condensation? Can you rig a ridge line between stem and stern post with a cover large enough to cover the boat but with ventilation openings fore and aft? Remove the floorboads to promote ventilation?

Happy to pay for dry storage in the Swamp. :D

[ 06-19-2004, 09:59 PM: Message edited by: Venchka ]

06-19-2004, 09:08 PM
Originally posted by Donn:
A good cover seems a cheap solution. You must have spent a bit on the boat, spend a bit on a hat for her.Amen! My cover is made of a coated material called Top Gun. When it's stretched tight, nothing gets through-but it is still new and the coating hasn't worn off. However, it is so tight that I take it off to let the boat air out. Then I have to get the pine needles and sassafras leaves out. GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! Aren't boats fun?

In the Swamp.

Bob Smalser
06-19-2004, 11:48 PM
Covers are to protect from the sun...and that's about the only thing they do reliably over the long term.

Add a drain plug.

Nicholas Carey
06-20-2004, 12:30 AM
Originally posted by Bob Smalser:
Add a drain plug.What Bob said.

Put the drains in the transom.

Then jack up the trailer tongue so the boat sits bow-high: water runs downhill.

You still want a cover to protect from the sun and keep tree leaves and other cr*p out of the boat as they'll clog up your limber and drain holes.

Just make the cover from Sunbrella — very breathable UV-resistant acrylic canvas.

Jack Heinlen
06-20-2004, 12:47 AM
Um, a little better cover. I kept my Drascombe Lugger under a tarp, on a trailer, during New England winters, for four years, and it let very little water in.

It meant making the frame so it shed the snow and such. Not hard. Had to replace the tarp once. Poly tarps, there's another topic. :rolleyes:

A drain is right too. Sometimes the boat is uncovered, or you want to hose it down after a wash and brush up, and a drain is good for those times.

06-20-2004, 05:48 AM
Back in the 1940s my Pappy bought a wood lapstrake open boat for fishing -- something like 15'. Came with a new fangled trailer -- the boat was suspended from hooks fore and aft. Pretty neat that--you just backed her into the water until she floated up off the hooks. Of course there was a drain in the transom. Then one day Pappy forgot about the drain and heavy rains came (it was south Florida), the boat filled up and the weight pulled on the hooks, then on the hull and POP went the lapstrakes.

Wooden Boat Fittings
06-20-2004, 06:11 AM
A good canvas cover will keep out the rain for at least several years provided that it's held up high with a ridge of some sort (preferably a spar rather than a line,) and is tied down firmly under the hull. What you're aiming for is to make sure that water can't puddle on it.

Have sufficient end-overhang that at each end (since she's a double-ender) you can use a spreader to keep the canvas sides apart for ventilation without allowing rain to blow in through the openings.

If you add a drain-plug and tilt the trailer as suggested, most of any internal water will be able to drain away. (It won't all drain out, but what's left will be shallow and will evaporate reasonably quickly.) But tilt the trailer before you drill for the drain-plug (and you may also need to tilt the boat sideways on the trailer a little too) so as to get a suitable location for the plug in as low a position as possible.

This is exactly how I store Aileen Louisa when I haul her, and it works fine.



Scott Rosen
06-20-2004, 06:26 AM
If the water only sits for a few days and the boat is dry the rest of the time, then you don't have much to worry about. Just keep an eye out for lifting varnish and other signs that the wood isn't drying out, and you should be okay.

I agree that a drain plug and good cover are important. But it sounds to me like your boat will survive without them.

06-20-2004, 06:58 AM
Yeah I really need to get a better cover made. In fact I had a thread about boat covers about 6 months ago but I'm still no closer to getting it done. I'm going to call Sailrite and order the fabric right now.

As for the drain plug, I just can't bring myself to drill a hole in the boat. I'll see how the cover works first.

06-20-2004, 08:17 AM
I am in agreement that boat covers are designed to keep the sun out, not water. I have covers on all of my boats and the rain always gets in. Then again, I live in one of the wettest areas in the U.S. (about 65 inches of rain a year. As much as 80 inches in a wet year.). I have several small electric pumps that I use to pump out the boats, and then I sponge them dry. Never really had any problems with any of the boats. I try not to let the water stand too long, but it's not like I have to dry them out immediately. The only boat that I ever had any rot on was one that sat in the garage for years and had some dry rot.

Since you don't want to put a plug hole in, if you build a ridge for your cover, as was shown above, to let the air flow well through the boat, then you should have a nice set-up. At least where I live, that airflow seems to be absolutely essential to keeping the boat 'healthy'. You have to assume that at least a little water is going to get through the cover. If some does, and your cover doesn't breathe, the mold spores just seem to thrive. A little air circulation helps.

06-20-2004, 09:18 AM
For my smaller boats, I simply turn 'em over, 'Guts down'. Two or three purloined milk cases make good stands for keeping the boat from ground contact.

For boats over 150 lbs., this is not the solution.

Jack Heinlen
06-20-2004, 09:30 AM
I'd reconsider a drain, Casem. Bronze plug under the floorboards. You'll never see it--except when the boat is full of rainwater. And you'll get to experience the traditional ignominy of forgetting to put it in, and having the boat fill with water when you launch it. tongue.gif :D

It is typical in an open boat of this size, a long tradition, if that makes you feel any better. I'm suprised Oughtred didn't draw one in. It makes a lot of sense.

Bob Smalser
06-20-2004, 02:24 PM
At some time in its life, that boat is gonna fill up with water while on the trailer...and even stay that way for months, with the additional likelyhood of that water freezing.

I care for my gear reasonably well....but more than once I've driven up muttering "Oops" as the boat came in sight with the cover floating, the trailer springs bottomed out and the tires flat.

If the above scenario don't destroy the boat outright...get a good hard freeze and it certainly can...it'll certainly shorten its life as the structure was not designed to hold a thousand or more pounds of water.

06-20-2004, 03:14 PM
I lay the mast down the centerline and use an ordinary tarp as a sort of boom tent over the entire boat. No water gets in. Occume doesn't have great rot resistance. I think it's overrated as a boat building wood. Also, the varnishes I'm aware of don't like prolonged submersion in water although the epoxy will be fine. You may notice the varnish starting to flake off the epoxy if you don't soon find a way to keep the water out.

06-20-2004, 05:24 PM
A while ago I saw a neat thing for a boat. The guy (gal? I don't know) had run a half-dozen 2x4 across the trailer, under the frame, with holes in the ends. These had PVC half-circle hoops stuck in them, and a tarp thrown over. Like a hoop greenhouse, only without the ends. I don't know if he left it on when trailering the boat down the road, or just in the backyard where he could move it about slowly while keeping the boat covered.

06-20-2004, 05:53 PM
I remember when I had part of the decks off my trimaran during some major repairs. We had a major downpour that put a couple of feet of water in the starboard ama by the time I got over to the boat.
Desperate situations call for desparate measures. I fitted a 25mm spade bit in my cordless drill and went in from the outside.

Have you ever tried to fit a spigot to a keg for the second attempt? What a gusher! I left the hole there until the job was finished and also drilled one in the port side ama. A good coat of epoxy once everything had dried out and before the repair saw everything ok in the end.

On a trailed boat, removable bungs and frequent observation to make sure there are no blockages are the way to go.

High C
06-21-2004, 04:04 PM
In swampy areas like Venchka's ;) , we have the extra concern of ventilation under a cover. Mildew will grow in a hurry under a cover that doesn't breathe well.

Sunbrella is great, and cheaper than an air conditioned garage. ;)

Frank E. Price
07-27-2004, 08:38 PM
Drain plug!

Gary E
07-27-2004, 09:01 PM
Over a month ago you asked this question, the answer is still the same.

You need a drain plug, and a .45 Colt makes one in a hury.

07-27-2004, 09:09 PM
I didn't know they made boats without drain holes in the transom, but I don't think that's gonna really solve your problem. If you haven't felt the need for one before now, I see no reason why you couldn't use a small bilge pump with a float, which will remove more or less the same amount of water a drain hole would.

I also never heard of any cover keeping a boat completely dry. If nothing else you'll get condensation. Everyone else seems to think an inch or two of water in the bilge will do no harm, which is nice to hear, because that's about what I've got pretty much all the time.

[ 07-27-2004, 10:10 PM: Message edited by: Victor ]

07-28-2004, 12:23 AM
Would it be prudent to sprinkle some salt in the bilge water if it is from a fresh water source?
I have to remove about a bucket every fortnight most of which enters through the masthead fittings etc.

07-28-2004, 09:00 AM
Originally posted by Victor:
I didn't know they made boats without drain holes in the transom,

He ain't got a transom. The only place for drain plugs is in the garboards. Trouble is, by the time you shim the garboards to accept a drain plug, you don't get complete draining.

Best to keep the water out in the first place. Or sponge it out frequently.

In the Swamp.

Carl Simmons
07-28-2004, 09:19 AM
I have a good cover and water still found its way in (down the mast). I added two Elvstrom bailers on either side of
the CB and the boat has been dry ever since. It also saves time when cleaning and draining after sailing in wet conditions.


07-28-2004, 09:50 AM
Originally posted by Carl Simmons:
...I added two Elvstrom bailers on either side of
the CB and the boat has been dry ever since.

Carl.Elvstrom bailers would be my next solution on my boat since the drain plugs don't drain all the water out. The garboards are 1/2" plywood. Will the Elvstrom bailers sit flush in the inside of the 1/2" garboards? Will they be flush on the outside as well when closed?

An enquiring mind in the Swamp. :D

07-28-2004, 10:37 AM
I think the suggestion of using Elvstom-type bailers is a good one. They work well in getting most of any water while the boat is on the trailer. I use a hand pump to get the leftovers. While underway they work like a fairly powerful vacuum. You can even hear the sucking. Experience is a wonderful reminder to close the bailers when you slow down. The bailers I used fit flush with 9mm garboards. It took a fair amount of self talk to cut those 2 holes in the hull to fit the bailers.

I found a suggestion on this forum to checkout the Sailrite plans for sailcovers. We found those plans useful (if a little too detailed). There is a wide variation of price for online purchase of Sunbrella. We found a Florida outfit to be the lowest cost.

07-28-2004, 10:59 AM
I've had more than one trailerboat out in the weather for over twenty years and here's what I have come to believe as the gospel.

Get a cover. Ridge pole, hoops whatever so it can be pulled down snug to the gunnels ( and below-my covers go to the waterline and keep it all out of the sun. You want to keep out mice, squirrels, cats. Use Sunbrella -nothing else. It breathes and will let the moisture/ water vapor out and completely eliminate mildew. Go super waterproof and you will have a perfect hothouse for creating rot.Waterproof holds water in better than it keeps it out. You have to refresh the waterproofing with 303 or Starbrite ever 3 years or so to keep it beading back rainwater.Looks like the waxed hood on a car. You'll have to restitch top seams every six years as the thread sun rots. The fabric keeps going, and going.... You can get over 18 years out of a cover this way, I'm still counting.

Do use a drainplug- two if you need to empty to both sides of a keelson or centerboard. Water will never accumulate. It will get through varnish interiors. Epoxy paint does much better. The idea is don't hold a tub full. Any little bit will evaporate right through the Sunbrella.

Counter intuitively, the dark Sunbrellacolors block more UV than the light colors reflect. That damn bright Artic blue you see everywhere doesn't ever fade. Not so the black, burgundy, forest green. Toast tan holds up well and looks traditional, but doesn't hold back as much light on the varnish.

I've tried the cotton duck, tan and the pearl stuff, and even with care it just doesn't last near as long. Pine sap rots it right through.

This is what works for me and I have never damaged a boat( if you don't count the squirrels getting through vents I used to put in and eating up a sail GRRRR) . Most of the learning curve was what made covers last.

I tell you truly.

07-28-2004, 01:43 PM
I'm surprised this thread came back up. Just so you know I'm in the process of making a nice Sunbrella cover with ridge poles that should shed the water almost entirely. I still plan on putting in the drain plug, but that's still in the design phase. If this cover does a decent job I'll wait until winter for that.