The Hole, Hull and Huli Truth - Testing Carbon Fiber Repairs

I did a very lazy huli (boat flip) on the Hudson River without thinking through that I had cut an 8" hole in the Puakea Kaku just behind the seat. This was patched in with a deck plate and white silicone. It wasn't until I had righted the craft and paddled back to shore that I realized I should have not only checked the canoe for leaks when it was right side up in the pool but also when it was upside down. About twenty years ago I caulked a 26 story hotel as an apprentice, so I guess you can say it paid off!

Picture Perfect Portal into the Carbon Hull
 It was time to epoxy the top of the bow back into place. There was concern it might not quite fit the same way, and there did prove to be a minor snarl in the top where the major puncture had contracted during repair. Nothing some fairing compound couldn't cover up later.

Black epoxy used to join carbon seams
 It is critical to mate the seams and not get too ambitious with laying carbon on the exterior. If anything budges during curing, you have to cut the nose and start all over.
Black seam epoxy sanded smooth and surface of gelcoat sanded down
 Twenty four hours after the seam cured I sanded with a heavy grit (80 and 100) to smooth the epoxy at the seams and also to take down the surface of the gelcoat. At this stage we are only repairing the section above the waterline. NOTE: all critical structural repairs were done from the inside and not the outside. Blue tape was set to mark out 3" for carbon tape.
Carbon Fiber Taped Seams
 Clear West System epoxy was laid in the marked out area and the carbon tape (which had been precut and dry-fit) was run across joints. Wax paper was taped around the repair and a few sand bags set in place to hold some key areas down.
Wax Paper and Sand Bagged Repair
 The next day, after successful curing, West System fairing was mixed into the epoxy to peanut butter consistency and troweled over the exposed carbon.
Fairing Compound
 The following day, it was time to sand. Always wear a respirator!
Darth Paddler
The OC1 was then spot checked across the hull for its numerous gelcoat cracks, which were chased open with a flat razor knife and then also hit with fairing compound. Below is an image of where there were structural fractures which were repaired on the inside with carbon fiber through the 8" hole behind the seat.
Cracks chased open in gelcoat after structural repair
 You do not want the gelcoat flaking off, so its imperative you chase the crack until it stops flaking off, then lightly sand the edges of the remaining gelcoat at the perimeter. Take your time.
The following day I hit the fairing compound with some 120 and 240 on an orbital sander with a soft backer pad. I hand sanded with 240 and 320 to feather but decided to leave everything a touch high and spray the repair spots with a plastics paint (Krylon Fusion) and give the craft a test spin. This way if anything did not quite work out, I would not have finished the project in remorse.
Three Weeks After First Receiving the Damaged Outrigger Canoe: SEA WORTHY!
In upcoming posts I will cover the headaches associated with understanding gelcoat, the difference between non-laminating and laminating gelcoat, tuning up the steering, rudder mounting and making your own rudder - as well as how to mount a GoPro to your outrigger. STAY TUNED!

Hudson River Cup & Maiden Voyage

We interrupt this repair blog to give kudos to the Ke Aloha outrigger canoe club of Hoboken, New Jersey, which hosted the first OC6 sprint races on the Hudson River along with OC1 and OC2 races to the Statue of Liberty and back. In addition there was a SUP and kayak race.
Hoboken Cove, Ke Aloha Hudson River Cup
Many thanks to the club for a fantastic blast of a day - and for mother nature who, after cutting loose with torrential rain throughout the morning, whisked the dark clouds away and replaced them with an astonishingly blue sky. Downright cerulean, if you ask me.
Sprinters Returning from Finals
This event was also an opportunity to give the OC1 I've been repairing a maiden voyage launch, after the recent swimming pool venture baptism. Let's just say I got first place in the Staten Island Swimming Pool Cup and was guaranteed a dead last if not a DNF in the Hudson Cup in case the repairs catastrophically failed. So, I skipped the race and dallied around on the Hudson, soon forgetting the invasive surgery to the craft. 'Cause this boat, which I've named GhostHope, floats! This narrative will soon return to what you're really hungry for: tips on rebuilding a hull, epoxy, gel coats, color matching, etc. In the meantime enjoy the fruits of my labor. If you likewise are faced with major repairs, have faith, buoyancy is right around the bend of bay and swerve of shore to where the river runs! (To paraphrase James Joyce).
First Place Swimming Pool Cup

In closing, here's a glimpse of the GhostHope, named for all of the waters she's seen and the waters to come! (The New York City skyline might be a bit more attractive than my stroke! So, don't mistake this for an instruction video. Especially if you are Johnny Puakea!)

Foam Foam Foam your Boat

After laying new carbon fiber cloth on both interior sides of the bow, which stiffened the hull and gave it integrity again, it was time to follow through with setting the blue XPS foam. I had tried cutting the foam with a razor knife, a hand saw and even a kitchen knife. Of those three the kitchen knife was easiest to work with to get a clean cut. However, I spent $20 on a hot foam cutter through Amazon and got my best results. None of those little blue styrofoam balls and relatively easy to cut complex curves. You definitely want to wear a respirator. The fumes are nasty.

All in all, I figure I added about 2 ounces of foam to the weight. I left a little gap on other side to ensure I was not spreading the hull and ensure the top would fit.

Hot Foam Cutter
Dry Fitting Foam

Foam Inset by Repaired Crack

Phase 1 of Returning the Top Nose

Since I also needed to repair cracks in the hull under the seat, it was decided to simply add a deck plate with access cover instead of returning the carbon patch. The deck plate cost $15 from West Marine and the hatch will be utilized to attach a small storage bag. The plate is made from ABS plastic, heavier and stiffer than carbon, so I think it will actually stiffen the area of the hole, though it added a few ounces as well.

Since I've lost 4 pounds, we're in good shape!

Stay tuned as we prepare for the Swimming Pool Test.


Planet Ocean and Boat Floating

This post will serve as an introduction to the greater topic of paddling and allow me to meander to thoughts about water, especially salt water, without which there would be no need for outrigger paddling. These thoughts about our planet ocean tie into the repair thread in that I am taking into consideration the force of the collision between the hull and the standing waves of water. I discussed this with my repair mentor Gil, and while it is certainly impossible to calculate where the bow bounces against wave peaks the most, the last thing I want is the hull to crack like an egg against waves or any flotsam.

I am guilty of salvaging a 1966 Chevy Chevelle that had a tree fall on it, but it's hard to sink in an old Chevy. If I get my boat repair wrong and hit a reef, so to speak, this could be life threatening. This hull repair must be brought to 110% integrity. Okay, how?

While it was decided that the top of the canoe should be cut open to fix it from the inside, there was concern about the possibility of new damage to the location brought on by new surf stress, which could lead to "catastrophic failure." Yikes. I decided it might be best to insert some XPS insulation in the area to provide strength, and came up with this initial design:
Just how hard is water in motion, and what kind of stress can a boat handle? I don't know, but after I came across this post on a craft marooned on a reef, once again, I felt a little better about my prospects.

Much better to add 4 ounces of XPS (fancy name for foam) with a compressive strength of 25 psi (pounds per square inch) to take any future blows than risk cracking the hull. While the foam might add 4 ounces to the canoe, I'll just have to go on a diet to offset it!

The foam brings one more aspect to the hull: it is buoyant.
If things didn't float on our ocean, there would be no paddling. So, why do boats float? The answer is buoyancy, which is actually a physics term. It means an object will float if it is less dense than the liquid under it. The pressure from the ocean is "upthrust" and is pressure against the object trying to displace it. The shape of a boat, or in this case, canoe, lends itself to buoyancy. This canoe is like a carbon fiber bubble where the length provides even greater stability.

The hull was cut open, and we took a peek under the "hood."

A Dremel was used to make the first incision, but I decided I'd get a smoother continuous cut from a jigsaw and ordered the Bosch carbon fiber blades online.

The XPS insulation discovered inside the hull seemed to be original to the canoe's creation and likely was meant either to hold things in place while the top was originally glued on or did serve some purpose for cushioning bounce. 4" holes are cut into it like Swiss cheese, presumably to cut down on unnecessary ounces.


Puakea OC1 Rescue

What kind of OC1 costs $175? Well, who knows? But that was the price tag the night I randomly googled for used outrigger canoes. 1: usually the hits are scarce. 2: usually the listings are for OC's almost as expensive as new. 3: usually these OC's are in California or Hawaii.

They are never in Lousiana and certainly not on a Louisiana Air Force Base. But there it was, $175 on eBay. It was listed as a fixer upper missing a rudder. Well, since I've thrown away a couple hundred dollar bills on much more foolish things, I gambled and bought it.

The seller was kind enough to wrap it in its case and bubble wrap the ama and i'aku's as well as the seat. Federal Express was dumb enough to lose the X-shaped PVC cradles it was sitting on.

The Fedex guys who carried it out marveled at how light it was, but I was concerned that the boat had parted ways with the cradles and been rolling around in transit  There is no way to insure a used craft like this, so it was all part of the gamble. (*Fedex freight cost $425 to bring it to New York City, where it was retrieved at the Elizabeth Port distribution center in New Jersey.)

By the time my friend and I picked it up and unwrapped it there was bonus damage: a good hit to the left side of the bow. However this exposed a weakness, for exactly in that location someone else had done a pretty sloppy repair. Naturally the most damaged area was exposed last, and I have to say it made me very nervous. But after my friend ran his hands up and down the hull and itemized each flaw he said cheerfully, "Nothing we can't fix!"

He handed me a sander and 15 minutes later it looked like this:

Should I say I was actually comforted by the fact my friend had crashed his marathon canoe 40 miles into the General Clinton Memorial Day race just a few days prior, which ripped it in half, and he expected to fix even that. So, this was nothing. Or so I hoped!