For a very long time, leaking autobailers had been my nemesis as I battled to keep all 12 of our high school sailing team’s well used 420’s fully functional. This year, it was time to abandon our duct tape solution (actually better tape than duct tape, but just tape nonetheless) and move on to a real solution. Several ideas occurred to us, but each seemed both expensive and flawed in one way or another.
- Replacing the autobailers would be expensive ($62 each x 12), and they would quickly fail again with the boats exposed to our very sandy environment and the care left in the hands of multiple, careless, high school students.
- Fiberglass work to plug the holes after removing the autobailers would be tricky and time consuming, especially given the very thin hulls on 420’s. A quality fiberglass repair of a 3” by 5” hole also takes expertise I don’t have.
- A friend offered to weld the old autobailers shut, but after discovering the gaskets inside, he determined they would melt into a gooey mess that was not compatible with welding.
- A stainless steel plate bolted to the hull with the same bolts used by the removed autobailer would seem to work nicely. I couldn’t find anything like this sold commercially, and I worried that having them made would get almost as expensive as buying new autobailers. When I examined an old bailer I had removed, discovering that the bottom of the bailer was not flat, but a pan shape, I became totally discouraged about the cost of having such a piece custom made.
Here is what the process looks like:
First, we remove the autobailers and separate the three pieces, the two frames and the chute. They are fastened together with six copper rivets that need to be drilled out.
Drilling Out the Autobailer Rivits
Autobailer with Rivits and Lever Removed
After the pieces are separated, the chute and its gaskets are discarded.
Next, the top and bottom frames are tightly bolted together. Then, they are temporarily bolted to a piece of wood that will serve as the bottom form when we pour in the resin later. Wax paper must be inserted between the wood and the frames to prevent adhesion of resin to the wood.
Frames Ready to Receive Fluid Resin
The resin is two part West System epoxy with High Density 404 Adhesive Filler mixed to a thick, but pour-able, consistency. It is just poured into the frames, making sure all the corners are filled. (We waited 24 hours before removing the assembly, but the resin sets up in about an hour.)
The final step is removing the new pieces from the temporary molding board and inserting them into the boats to plug the holes where the autobailers were removed.