I was writing another post when I mentioned this product in passing, but it is such an important thing to have in your tool box going to do this post first.
I honestly think this stuff is just as important a safety item as life jackets and flares. It’s an epoxy stick.
It’s comes in a variety of different forms…
And is made, or at least marketed by, a slew of different companies…Locktite, Superglue, Sika…way too many to try and list. But you’ll find epoxy sticks in just about every hardware store you enter. Both the epoxy and the hardener are combined in a Tootsie Roll-like stick. When you need to use it you cut off, I simply grab the stuff and rip off how much I think I’m going to need, and the you knead it until the two colors blend into a single shade and then apply it where it’s needed.
One of the neat features of the stuff is that it cures underwater. I was a bit doubtful of this claim when I read it on the packaging but decided to give it a try. When I bought my Kaiser-26 I found that the fitting for the paddle-wheel speedometer, located under the starboard saloon seat was weeping a good deal of water. The previous owner had tried to stop it by slathering what must have been several tubes of silicon over and around the unit. I’m sure it slowed the leak down, but it didn’t stop it. I spent an hour or so removing all that gunk. It was leaking enough that the bilge pump would cycle every few minutes. Fortunately I was in a boat yard at the time so if things became critical I could get myself hoisted out of the water long enough to effect a repair. I tore off about a quarter of the tube, kneaded it as directed, and started packing it around the offending part. It seemed to be doing the job so I tore off another chunk and repeated the process making sure to press the putty-like material down into the slight gap between the hull and the sending unit. When I finished not a drop of water was weeping into the boat, and it was STILL dry as a bone when I sold the boat seven years later!
An even more impressive testimony of the remarkable underwater qualities of epoxy sticks happened a few years later. My good friend Stef and I were contracted to do the maintenance work for vessels arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Service in southeast Florida. One day one of those 80-foot wooden Haitian freighters was scooped up off the coast between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. There were HUNDREDS of persons on board, and the boat was literally sinking beneath them. After everyone was taken off the boat and it was towed to the Marshall’s Service dock at Marina Bay up on the New River in Fort Lauderdale, Stef and I went to work trying to prevent a catastrophe. The only thing that was keeping the keel from kissing the bottom was the three, four-inch gasoline-powered pumps the Coast Guard had put on board.
At first we tried the old trick of attaching coffee cans to a long stick, punching holes in the top and filling the cans with sawdust from our shop across the little lane from the docks. In theory you lower the cans into the water and shake them so that the sawdust comes out. Supposedly the water leaking into the boat will pick up the sawdust and it will fill the gaps where the water is leaking into the hull. Then the wet sawdust will swell up and the leak will end.
But there’s a great deal of simple good luck with that approach. The gaps were too wide and the pressure of the water flooding the hull were too great and the sawdust too fine so it simply was sucked into the hull with no effect. I suggested trying to give the epoxy sticks a go. We went to a nearby hardware store and bought a case of them. The cashier thought we were nuts.
So, with a friend of ours, who was a diver, in the water, Stef and I kneaded up a half stick at a time and dropped them down to Danny who would go under the boat and cram the stuff into the open seams of the boat. After using up the case we could easily tell that the leakage where the stuff had been used was nearly stopped. We then rushed out to hardware stores and marine suppliers all over Fort Lauderdale and bought up every stick we could lay our hands on. We got a second person down in the water and another on deck with me and Stef and we went to work. By the end of the day a single 4-inch pump handled what was coming in, and we only had to crank it up every couple of hours to keep the boat afloat.
As an epilogue, we had the divers fasten sheets of 1/4″ plywood over the bottom. With that done, two 24-volt bilge pumps with float switches were capable of handling the job and they’d only cycle three or four times a day!
On my own boat, when I was off cruising down in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala during the rainy season, I used a tube of the stuff to construct a dam between the cabin and the toe rail just behind the water tank fill. I left a gap, though, so that when it started to rain the water could run free to the scuppers cleaning off the deck and coach roof. After five minutes or so, I’d remover the fill cap, block the gap and the rain water would fill the tank quite nicely, thank you.
Where the stuff actually helped me out of a bind was when I was still in Guatemala. A chintzy plastic connecting piece on my Navik windvane self-steering broke…
I took a lima bean-sized piece of putty, wrapped it around where the plastic had broken and voilà, as we used to say over in Antibes, problem solved. It got me all the way back to Fort Lauderdale without a hitch. I would have been screwed, chained to the tiller for hours if it wasn’t for this stuff.
EVERYONE needs to have two or three tubes of the stuff in their tool box and not leave the dock without it. Oh, the stuff you don’t use is stored in a plastic tube ready for the next emergency.