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Bulkhead Separation Redux

Some may recall my post from several years ago concerning a bulkhead separation issue on my Cape Dory 25. Last week I received an email from a reader with the same problem.

Paul,

Thank you for covering this Bulkhead separation thread so well with your photos and description. I too am having a similar experience on my CD25 hull # 505.

Questions:

  • Do I need to replace the bulkhead or simply push back into place?
  • Is this "flexing" of the vessel caused by mast compression issue?
  • What else should I consider in finding the cause of this separation?

A Reader

Hi Reader

I'm glad that you found my pictures and article of use. Sorry to hear you are running into the same problem, but it seems to be endemic among CD25s. This is my take on the issue:

> Do I need to replace the bulkhead or simply push back into place?

Replacing the bulkhead seems to me to be unnecessary, and probably overkill on these old boats. I would try to jack it back into place and then find a way to secure it so it doesn't slip back out. Look at it carefully and you will see that it fits into a groove in the liner. The bulkhead needs to be pushed back into its groove. If you feel ambitious, you might want to cut away the liner and properly tab the bulkhead into the hull. A simpler fix would be to epoxy the liner to the hull and then put a spacer between the port and starboard bulkheads, across the top of the door leading to the forward part of the boat.

> Is this "flexing" of the vessel caused by mast compression issue?

I'm sure mast compression doesn't help things, but the root cause is poor design and construction. The bulkhead should have been tabbed into the hull rather than just riding in a groove.

> What else should I consider in finding the cause of this separation?

I think that the design and construction flaw makes this kind of issue inevitable, but you might also want to check the bedding of the deck fixtures, since water ingress might have caused the adhesive in the slot where the bulkhead fits into the hull to weaken.

Just a few musings about these old boats. I have heard that people have had similar separation issues with the aft bulkhead as well, so it is worth checking it. Our Cape Dories are wonderful boats, tough, weatherly and easy to sail, but they are 40 years old now. They were some of the first "big" boats to come out of the Cape Dory yard, and they were still grappling with design and construction issues. I don't think they really expected these boats to still be sailing 40 years later, and they didn't build them to the very highest standards. The boats were meant to be big daysailers or weekenders. I know I drove mine hard, probably harder than it was meant to be, and that undoubtedly made some of the boat's inherent problems worse. By the time I sold mine, I had the bulkhead separation problem, major deck softness, leaky portlights, damaged coaming around the fore hatch, deteriorated external woodwork, cracked and faded gelcoat, and a host of other minor problems.

My take on the CD25 is they are so cheap for such a nice sailing boat that the thing to do is just to get in as much sailing time as possible, and when the boat starts getting unsafe to let it go for scrap. That said, I have seen some gorgeous restorations, and for somebody wanting to learn the boat restoration process and able to put the time into it, doing the full job would be fun and rewarding. No way would I pay somebody to do the job. You'd end up with $15,000 in a boat you might be able to sell for $4,000. Better to find one that had already been restored and buy it. Haha, this coming from a man who is trying to bring an Alberg 35 back from the grave. Maybe I should follow my own advice for a change.

fair winds

pmc

Posted 1/24/19.

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