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Thread: Filling boat with water?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Jacksonville, OR
    Posts
    81

    Question

    I'm new to the world of boat ownership. I understand that I have a new relationship to learn about with my wooden sloop.

    I just bought this a 17 ft funky old wooden daysailer (mahogany clinker strip planked) at a garage sail a month ago. The people who sold it to me said that I should fill it with water to swell the wood and reduce the leakage. I've done that and indeed the leakage has slowed down and now the boat only takes on a manageable amount of water that we can pump out as we sail.

    I'm wondering what my concerns should be about this practice of filling our boat with water. The previous owners suggested that I put some vinegar in the water which I do. I notice the floor boards are a bit slimey after the water has been siffoned out.

    This is a boat I 've been hauling weekly to the lake on a trailer for a Sunday sail and we live in Southern Oregon where it tends to be hot and dry in the summer.

    Something tells me I should be more cautious that I am about this water filling practice. Is this a legitimate practice? If so, are there any guidlines for this practice?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Provincetown, MA
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    4,548

    Post

    Welcome to the forum! Your instinct is right. Boats are designed to resist water pressure from the OUTSIDE, not from the inside. Kind of like an egg made out of strips of wood. If you fill it up with water while supported by a few, isolated hard spots such as when on a trailer or in cradle, you WILL eventually, if not imediately, strain the structure to the point that your leaking problem will get catastrophicly worse. Pick up a gallon jug of water sometime. Now imagine how much enough "jug fulls" to fill your whole boat weighs! Even just a few inches in the bottom is a bad idea...

    The "traditional" method for swelling a small boat would be to pull the plug in a protected moorage somewhere and let her fill up for a few tides while she rests on the bottom. No unnatural stresses that way. Failing that, try just running one of those garden "soaking" hoses up around under the deck edge with just a trickle of water seeping down for a few days. A few heavy sheets or burlap bags drapped around to soak up, and "hold" the water, helps too. Don't forget to pull that plug that somebody hopefully installed in the lowest part of your bilge to keep the water from collecting in there while she's out of the water... And enjoy your new boat!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Wilmington, NC, USA
    Posts
    640

    Post

    An alternative I used on a lapstrake surfboat that had opened up like acsieve in storage in a shed at the Cape Fear Museum here was to spraythe inside of the boat with a garden sprayer filled with ethylene glycol auto antifreeze. After about three treatments over a couple of weeks, it closed up tight and stayed that way kept in outside open storage. Glycol is "Nonvolatile water" in its effect on wood.
    Born June 14, 1921
    Died April 28, 2011

  4. #4
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    Jan 2001
    Location
    St. Simon\'s Island, GA, USA
    Posts
    3,987

    Post

    A digression; Several years ago at the Mystic annual show-and-tell one of the attendees told about building a round bottom skiff about 18 feet long. I don't remember its details. It ended up with a very straight keel, perhaps even hogged a little. It was a pig to row and didn't turn well.

    His solution was to support it by the ends and fill it with water for several weeks. At the end of that time it aquired a bit of a rocker and rowed like a dream.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Jacksonville, OR
    Posts
    81

    Smile

    Thanks for the replies. I'm so glad
    you all are here to help me out.
    I have lots more questions to ask
    and look forward to this path of
    education and devotion.

    Using antifreeze to seal her up appeals
    to me as we solar live in the woods
    and prefer not to have to keep hoses
    running for longer than an hour.

    Should we have any concerns about spraying
    the anti-freeze inside the boat?

    Thanks,

    Anastasia ( I'm the girl waving in the photo)

    P.S. Can any of you ID the make of this 17 ft boat?



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Portland, Maine
    Posts
    2,215

    Post

    I don't know what the design is but what a beauty!

    Steven

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Wilmington, NC, USA
    Posts
    640

    Post

    Just don't leave puddles of antifreeze around where kids or pets can get at it. It is very sweet and toxic. No problem once it has soaked into the wood.
    Born June 14, 1921
    Died April 28, 2011

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Location
    N 78 13 E 15 39
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    1,161

    Post

    Soaking with antifreeze will also help protect your boat against rot.
    Bundin er bįtleysur mašur

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Paris, Ky USA
    Posts
    24

    Post

    Questions on the swelling and rot protection with anti freeze. My boat has big gaps from being dry. And is a cruiser to SLEEP IN.
    1. Will antifreeze be a hazard in an enclosed space for a short or long time? Safe if left in bilge? How do you know how much to use for rot protection?
    2. How much swelling should you have before calking? How tight should the planks be?
    3. Any time lag needed till you calk for adhesian problems. Any pre calk/paint prep with antifreeze?
    4. Materials to use for calking and painting after antifreeze? I have mahogany over oak with cotton between.
    5. Can you use CEPS on problem spots thought to be softer than you like after antifreeze and or use CEPS to seal before paint?
    6. Since the boat is out of the water now and won't be in the water till spring, how do I keep it swelled till spring, or should I wait till spring to swell? I have time now.
    7. Last. How dangerous is antifreeze from the point of a taste/or more, to pets/people? Is it fatal instantly or a period of time to treat. What symtoms to look out for, and after effects if injested. Once it hits the ground without puddles is the danger over?

    Thanks
    Bill Poole

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Wilmington, NC, USA
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    640

    Post

    This is work I did in 1985:
    A 26' reproduction surfboat at New Hanover County Museum was taken out of the water and put in dry inside storage. Within
    two months all of the lapstrake planking joints had opened, as shown by the broken paint film on the outside. The curator agreed to
    my suggestion that I treat it with antifreeze. The boat had an oil finish inside and oil-based enamel outside. I loaded a garden
    sprayer with antifreeze and wet down the inside. Every plank joint dripped on the floor. After three more treatments 1-2 weeks
    apart, not a joint leaked and all of the breaks in the outside paint had disappeared as the juniper boards swelled back together. I
    was surprised that less than two gallons of antifreeze were needed for the successful treatment. The boat has stayed tight for over
    two years. If we put the boat back in the water, the glycol will probably leach out fairly rapidly and we would have to retreat the
    boat. After I reported this at the Small Craft Curators Conference in 1986, George Surgent at Calvert Maritime Museum reported
    that he had used antifreeze to swell hull planking.
    Later I discovered the rot killing and preventing properties of ethylene glycol antifreeze that Oyvind confirms.
    Every case has to be treated on an individual basis. I was unable to swell the oak top of a Victorian English silver chest to its original dimensions, probably because it had been shrunk for too many years and was set.
    After treatment you can glue with epoxy or finish as you desire once the surface is dry to the touch.
    For an adult the lethal dose by ingestion is about 8oz. For small children and pets it is much less, but they have to be able to drink it up; there is no hazard from treated wood. There is no hazard from vapors or skin absorption.
    You can treat a hull with really wide cracks by lining with newspapers or cloth and wetting that. If you don't mind paying a fiortune for so much solvent and so little epoxy you can use CPES after the glycol treatment. Gougeon and System Three recommend no more than 10-20% solvent dilution.
    Born June 14, 1921
    Died April 28, 2011

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 1999
    Location
    Saltspring Is. BC
    Posts
    130

    Post

    I experienced a problem when the heater core in my car leaked antifreeze into the system. I developed a hard cough that lasted all winter. Went away in the summer, but came back the next winter.

    I finally made the connection and checked the MSDS for ethylene gycol, and found that it can cause upper respiratory irritation when the vapor is breathed in a closed space. Of course the heater exacerbated the problem. It might not be a problem on an unheated ventilated boat though.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Wilmington, NC, USA
    Posts
    640

    Post

    Hot glycol is a different matter; my comments apply to room temperature glycol. Here are some anecdotal items from my looking at glycol for stabilizing wood's dimensions:
    Going from boats to archaeology, Leslie Bright at the North Carolina Underwater Archeology Unit gave me a musket butt recovered from a Civil War blockade runner. The century-plus old piece had been stored in a tank of fresh water since it came out of
    the sea. I soaked it in antifreeze for three months and then let it air dry. Without treatment it would have fallen apart on drying, but my piece was in the same condition as when I got it; even the tool marks where a metal plate had benn inlet were still intact.
    My dining room chair squeaked with every fork motion. My wife said I should fix all of the chairs. I took them out to the shop, set them upside down and used a dropper to put antifreeze in every joint. By the next morning they were tight. Some time later a syndicated newspaper columnist (Bruce Johnson, "Knock on Wood") wrote that products advertised to tighten chair joints do not work because they are mostly water. I wrote him and suggested he try antifreeze. A later column reported that my suggestion worked.
    Recently a local lumber company had a sale to clear out their leftover half whiskey barrel planters. I brought three home which had dried out so that the staves were rattling. I sprayed the insides and the end grain exposed on the tops with antifreeze.
    The next morning they were all tight enough so that they no longer rattled and in a couple of days you could not get a knife blade through any of the joints. They could have held Jack Daniels again.
    In the fall of 1986, I had some yellow pine plywood sheets that had been used outside for lofting a boat; they had two coats
    of white latex house paint on them and had checked badly. I cut two adjacent pieces and treated one by painting it with antifreeze a couple of times; all of its checks closed up and are still tight.
    I have collected experiences with antifreeze from others. Bob Pickett, Flounder Bay Boat Lumber, Anacortes, WA, wrote me that they use antifreeze to prevent checking on the flat grain surfaces of large fir timbers. James Marsh, Marblehead, MA, wrote in Small Boat Journal that he carved a large dugout canoe from a cottonwood log and used antifreeze to prevent cracking. I asked him for details and he also told me he had heard of elm slabs in Maine kept from cracking with antifreeze and walnut baulks for gunstocks treated with antifreeze in Massachusetts during World War II. In Haines, AK, in 1987 I asked an Indian carver of totem poles if he had ever considered using antifreeze to prevent cracking; he told me he knew it would work, but preferred to let his work crack naturally. When I told the boatbuilder who built the surfboat mentioned above what I had done to his creation, he said that explained why he had seen large redwood slabs being soaked in a tank of antifreeze in California in the 1960s.
    Born June 14, 1921
    Died April 28, 2011

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