Windows, windshields, hatches, and port light – What do all of these items have in common? They can leak!
Given that we’re off to one of the wettest years in recent history, you may have noticed evidence on board your vessel of water leaks. Do not let them go uncorrected!
Rain water leaks (that can also allow water intrusion during boat washes…) can wreak havoc on your interior, and greatly de-value your yacht, or cause seriously expensive interior repairs. Damage can happen quickly, and if it goes undetected can slowly expand the scope of damage to frightening levels. Water leaks can cause aesthetic damage in terms of water stains or discoloration on finished wood or other surfaces. They can also cause elevated humidity levels inside the boat that breed mold and mildew. Damage can get more severe and permanent from there. Eventually, everything from wood headliners, bulkheads, subfloors, etc. will rot. What causes water leaks at these areas? Typically one of two things – either the gasketing or weather stripping material is dirty, dry rotted, hardened, or otherwise deteriorated, or the caulking between glass, aluminum, stainless, or plastic frames and the hull or cabin top has failed. Neither caulking nor rubber products will last forever, especially after years of suffering through our Texas summers. Physical damage and broken hardware can also initiate leaks.
How do we identify leak points? This is typically a two person operation. One outside the vessel with a water hose, and one inside closely inspecting the interior for water entry. While this sounds labor intensive, the entire vessel can be efficiently inspected in a reasonable amount of time. It can sometimes be difficult to definitively diagnose the source of a leak on rainy days because water cannot be as easily concentrated in specific areas as it can on a dry day with a dock water hose. That said, rainy days are the best time to determine if the boat is water-tight! Sometimes where water finds a way in on the outside of the boat is not directly connected to where the leak ends up and is visible in the interior of the vessel. Many times we have tracked down root causes of water leaks that were many feet away from where there was actual visual evidence in the interior. Water can migrate long distances when there are multiple layers of construction materials in between!
Lasting repair methods can vary, and do typically require some expertise to accomplish. No doubt you’ve seen various methods of temporary repairs around the marine (blue tarps, tape, excessive silicone, etc.). Sometimes replacement gasket or weather stripping material is available. Sometimes a window or hatch can be removed and re-bedded without damaging it. Other times it may make more sense to replace the assembly entirely. Sourcing replacements can require significant industry and vendor knowledge, and can be time consuming, especially if exact replacement parts are no longer available. However, many times the full replacement option is a good investment in the boat, and can really improve outside and inside appearances.
Don’t forget! Opening port lights and hatches should have their gaskets cleaned and lubricated regularly, generally about 3-4 times per year. Some designs are prone to leakage when seals get dirty. Make sure cleaning and lubricating substances will not damage the rubber. Otherwise, non-opening port lights, windshields, and windows typically do not require any regular maintenance, except for normal cleanings.
The interior of your yacht should be inviting and a place you look forward to spending time. Don’t let water leaks destroy that by damaging your interior. At best these problems can be irritating – at worst they can progress to a point where the interior is unhealthy and uninhabitable due to mold and mildew issues!
While these problems can be expensive to repair, consider the ever-increasing cost of letting them go, and the value of dealing with a company that has extensive experience in this area!