Bailer Fail

Here’s another poorly designed feature on Harpoons – the bailers. A bailer on a sailboat is designed to drain water from the cockpit of a moving boat when it is open and keep water out of the boat when it’s closed. I’ve also read that the bailers used in Harpoons can be left open while moored to limit the water in the cockpit. That I’ll want to try.

My boat came WITHOUT the masks (see item #23 on the exploded drawing). At first, I thought I needed to replace these but they’re impossible to find today. Without them, you can easily see the extent of damage that has been done by water penetrating the hull. I’m not sure if these were ever sealed in – so I would assume they’ve always leaked. In my case, water has penetrated the foam under the cockpit which has now become soft due to delamination and the foam breaking down.

After watching a YouTube video of a bailer repair job on a Harpoon 5.2, I decided to repair mine in a similar fashion by closing in the sides of the openings. I started by removing the bailers. I was surprised, the wood was pretty solid so I decided to just clean it up. I also wasn’t expecting to find a large gap between the wood and the cockpit floor.

Before starting, I used some JB Weld Wood Restore to seal the remaining good wood. I found this new insulating foam from Loctite and decided to give it a try. I filled the gap and squared off the sides of the holes. Next, I mixed up some TotalBoat 5:1 Epoxy and layered in some fiberglass on the sides. I then used TotalBoat’s TotalFair to smooth out the area and reshape the recessed openings in the hull. Instead of trying to gelcoat this area, I plan on painting the area inside the openings with the same Interlux Interprotect e2000 when I paint the hull in the spring.

For the bailers themselves, I completely disassembled, cleaned and replaced the gaskets before putting them back together. I ordered some 6 mm, self-adhesive neoprene on Amazon and cut out my own gaskets. Once the hull is painted, I plan on reinstalling the bailers with some slightly longer screws and lots of new silicone sealer.

I’ve seen where some people have used through bolts instead of screws, but that would make maintaining the bailers more difficult. AND, they will need maintained to work correctly.

Bottom Paint Prep

Here’s a good way to spend your weekend. On your back with a $10 Hitachi sander (found on Facebook Marketplace) trying not to breathe the bad stuff that I’m removing.

I have some Interlux Interprotect e2000 primer on its way. But before I actually paint, I need to finish repairing the keel joint, redesign the bailer openings so water doesn’t leak into the hull, and patch a few blisters.

Keel Repairs

When I bought the boat, it came with a “keel smile” right at the joint between the iron keel and the fiberglass hull. Fearing that water may have accumulated inside the hull, I drilled a hole into the starboard side. It was dry. That was a relief.

The first step was too grind out the cracks all the way down to the iron. I created a deep V and then slowly filled it with TotalBoat’s ThixoFlex Epoxy Adhesive, layer by layer. I then used TotalBoat’s TotalFair Epoxy Fairing to finish out the fill and smooth out the entire keel.

Water in the Hull

I’m certain that water has been draining into the hull over many years. Even though the boat has been covered, water could still be found under the keel bolts. Over a period of a week, I attempted to air out this area. DO NOT USE HIGH PRESSURE AIR! It is possible to force too much air into the hull. It will pop and the floor will be delaminated from the foam. 

Each hole had a plastic drywall anchor installed in an attempt to “fix” the stripped screw issue. It also appeared that the cover was sealed into place with silicone. After drilling all of the holes out to 1/2 inch and removing the silicone, I used a shop vac with a small hose to vacuum the water and blow it out. It appears that all of the water has now been removed.

My first thought was to plug all of these holes. But, for now I’m leaving them open in order to monitor for any future leaks. I’m going to replace the original fiberglass cover for the keel bolts with a piece of solid mahogany similar to the cooler cover that will just lay in place.

Midship Gunnel Scuppers

Here is another well-known problem with the Harpoon 6.2s. There are small holes located in the deck on each side of the cabin to drain any water that may collect inside the gunnels. I think these would work to drain rain off, but underway with heavy spray, I’m sure water would overflow and end up in the cockpit.

These holes discharge outboard about midship where the black one inch stripe is located below the rub rail. Looking at my boat, it appeared that someone had drilled a 3/8 inch hole angling up through the fiberglass hull, through about 3 inches of foam and then through the deck. I’m not sure what prevented the water from being absorbed through the foam. It was obvious that over time, this became a major source of water into the hull. I’m positive that’s how it was built. Really!

To solve the issue, I purchased a 3-pack of long drill bits from Harbor Freight and a short piece of 3/8 inch ID PVC pipe. I didn’t want to attempt to enlarge the holes freehand, so I made a small jig which allowed me to somewhat maintain alignment of the two existing holes in the hull and deck. It worked with the help of my daughter who had to hold the jig tightly against the hull while I carefully hogged out the holes. GO SLOW to prevent the gelcoat from chipping out. I cut the pipes long and stuck them in the holes to mark each one for the angles to make them fit flush. Then, using TotalBoat’s ThixoFlex Epoxy Adhesive, I glued them in place. When the weather warms back up, I plan on cleaning up the area with some matching gelcoat.


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