Patching up Shenanigans with Fiberglass

By Ray McCarthy

A friend gave me his well-used 1980 Sunfish sailboat, Stinkin’ Tuna. He and his brother had learned how to turn the boat (tacking) by ricocheting off rocks on Long Island Sound. Over the years they had kept the wreckage floatable with the application of non-hydrodynamic fiberglass patches. Though they made the boat functional, they hindered the boat’s performance. Time to get to work.

Grinding Away

I ground down their patch attempts with a right-angle grinder fitted with a 60-grit flap wheel, so they were more or less flush with the hull. Some of the more poorly patched areas required extra material to be removed to get down to a good solid surface. One of the damaged areas on the chine was so deep that I needed to reinforce the inside of the hull before patching.  I applied a layer of 10 oz. fiberglass cloth to the inside, using WEST SYSTEM® 105 Epoxy Resin® and 206 Slow Hardener® to back this hole.

Patching the Holes

Then it was time to tackle patching the holes from the outside, using 4 oz. fiberglass. On each hole I built up three increasingly larger layers of the 4 oz. fiberglass. Once that had cured, I went back and sanded everything fair and smooth.

Patching Up Shenanigans, by Ray McCarthy. Featured in Epoxyworks #58.
Patching Up Shenanigans, by Ray McCarthy. Featured in Epoxyworks #58.

Previous patch attempts were rough. They needed to be reinforced and ground fair with the hull.

I attached a five-foot piece of Sunfish Aluminum Trim (from Sun Fish Direct) to replace the damaged rail, bending the rail as I went.

The top deck and hull surface needed to be refreshed. I painted them with Rust-Oleum® 207000 Marine Coatings Topside Semi-Gloss White paint. Being an Irish American lad, I added the Irish flag stripes and christened the like-new vessel “Shenanigans” according to my wife’s suggestion.

Patching Up Shenanigans, by Ray McCarthy. Featured in Epoxyworks #58.

Top deck and hull surface before being painted.

I used the damaged original sail as a pattern to cut and sew the new Dacron® sail.

Finding a Trailer

Now that I had a boat, I needed a trailer. I got a free Seadoo® trailer from my niece and stretched it with a piece of three-inch square steel tubing to hold a 14′ boat. Holding one boat was not enough. I dreamed of sharing boating fun with my grandkids, nieces, and nephews. I bolted heavy-duty conduit to the trailer creating racks to hold a total of three boats—the Sunfish, a Lincoln canoe, and a Nutshell Pram we made with WEST SYSTEM back in 1998.

The pram made the trailer too tippy for highway speeds on its first voyage, so I traveled the 150 miles to Cape Cod with only the Sunfish and the canoe. Hours of fun ensued, especially after my 13-year-old grandson got the sailing bug. I cannot wait till my 4-year-old nephew is ready to sail.

For more details on fiberglassing with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy, click here.

Patching Up Shenanigans, by Ray McCarthy. Featured in Epoxyworks #58.

The 1980 Sunfish, Shenanigans, fully repaired with a fresh coat of paint and new sail.