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Wow, November already. The end of the boating season here in Boston. The weather’s been kind but for how much longer? An oddity–not a single hurricane came up the East Coast this year.
If you’re a regular visitor to the site you may have noticed the lack of posts this summer. Apologies. It was a frustrating season for me and my Wahoo!, although nothing to do with the hull itself. A series of engine problems coupled with a busy schedule kept the boat out of the water until August. The silver lining is that the extra time the boat spent sitting in the driveway let me tackle some maintenance tasks I’d been meaning to get to. Chief among those was finding and eliminating the leaks from the deck into the bilge. And I’m happy to say I got pretty damned close. So here’s a write-up.
Like many Wahoo! owners, I’ve been plagued by water–sometimes a lot of it–showing up in my bilge. The source of the water has been a mystery and a constant topic of speculation among Wahoo! owners. About the only things I knew for sure, because I keep my boat in a salt water slip and because the water in the bilge was always fresh, it that it was coming in from topside. Any time I hosed down the deck or we got a solid rain I could count on finding a few gallons of water below. Following a three day deluge several years back I must have pumped out at least 40 gallons…that’s 300 pounds of water!
As a quick fix, a couple years back I installed a small pump in the bilge. That gave me a way to get water out. But ultimately I wanted to stop it from getting down there in the first place. That meant a careful inspection to determine the possible sources of leaks, followed by a whole lot of patching and caulking.
Before getting on to the how-to part of the article, a few points about my Wahoo!. It’s a 1987 16.2 Striper. That’s a 16 foot (thereabouts) tri-hull center console. Several hings about it that may differ from your Wahoo! model:
Inspecting the boat, I didn’t see any single major source of water incursion. There wasn’t a big crack in the deck, a gaping hole, or anything like that. That suggested water was getting in from any number of smaller leaks: the decks drains, the rigging tube, access ports, screw holes, etc.. Going over the boat carefully and methodically and running some tests, here’s what I found:
Aside from visual inspection, here are some ideas on how to identify leaks:
- Start with a visual inspection of the flanges at the deck drain holes. Look for cracks, gaps, or a loose fit.
- To test the seal where the flange meets the deck: 1) I plugged the deck drain hole. 2) I poured about a gallon of water around it. 3) I observed it to see if the water went down.
- To test for a leak in the plumbing below deck: 1) I started with a dry bilge. 2) I pressed the end of a garden hose tight against the deck’s forward drain hole and then turned on the water and let it run for a minute or two. 3) I checked the bilge for water.
- An alternate way to test the plumbing below deck: 1) plug the outlet hole where the deck drain empties into the sump basin. 2) slowly pour water into the the deck drain end until it backs up, indicating the pipe is full. 3) Observe to see if the water in the pipe goes down.
- On one internet message board a poster suggested a test method that involved pumping smoke into the hull. It sounded too complicated to me, but it may be something you want to research.
Based on my inspection:
That was it. Leaving out the setting time for caulk and the fiberglass cloth, the entire project took maybe four to six hours spread over a couple of days. The only part that was a little bit hard was removing the rigging tube, since that required unhooking all of the cables and wires that run through it. Of course, if the tube had not needed repair but only recaulking I could have done that without taking it out. As it was, I used the opportunity to straighten out some of the wiring inside the console that had gotten messy over the years. If you do need to remove a rigging tube, take careful notes on all connections as you unhook them, what wire goes where. Taking pictures as you go is also a very good idea.
A good caulk tip…that I got from my friend Dave. When caulking a place where two surfaces meet (for example, where an access port meets the hull) let the caulk set awhile before tightening things down. That allows the caulk to form a better gasket, whereas tightening down immediately tends to just squeeze most of it out.
After finishing my repairs (and after all caulk had had a chance to set completely) it was time to test the results. Starting with a an empty bilge I hosed the deck and cockpit down for a solid five minutes. I sprayed in about 35 gallons of water, making sure I got it everywhere on the deck and sides. Prior to the repair work a hosing like that would have put at least two gallons of water in the bilge. And after? The results exceeded my wildest hopes.Turning on the bilge pump all that came out was about one cup.
In the months since then it’s rained a fair amount and I’ve hosed down the deck many times. Still no water below. The “mystery” of water in the bilge turned out to be a simple one with a simple solution. So if water below has been an issue for you, rest assured that it’s likely an easy fix, not to mention a great winter project for your Wahoo!
Pulled the boat from the water today and parked it in it’s winter slip (a.k.a., my driveway). I powerwashed the deck for a solid ten minutes and no water showed up in the bilge. Amazing.
Here’s some great info on where to get OEM replacement fuel tanks for Wahoo!s, passed along by site subscriber Dan Rhodes. Thanks Dan!
“I have a 1988 18.50 Offshore. I just got off the phone with RDS fabricators in Perry Florida and ordered my new 45 gallon aluminum tank! RDS is the same company who made the original tanks, formally AFP, Aluminum Fabricated Products. The tank I ordered is the exact spec tank for my model, down to the location of the fill inlet, vent tube, fuel gauge, and fuel suction. The model # for those of you who cannot read your original labels is 317-45A-AF.”
RDS’s web site is www.rdsaluminum.com
Wahoo! owner Tom Brennan recently discovered a leak in the fuel tank of his 1989 Wahoo! 1850 Offshore. He’s in the process of replacing it and graciously offered to share his experience. Fuel tank leaks are a common issue in the Offshores, due to their below-deck location and the lack of below-deck air circulation.
So here it is, with lots of great info. Thanks Tom!
(Note: As of this writing (3/17/13), Tom wasn’t completely done with the project (e.g., he hadn’t replaced the deck), so it’s possible this article will get updated with new info.)
Also, for more below-deck and cutaway shots of an 1850, see these great restoration project photos by Joe Bernard.
I live in southern New Hampshire. Prior to owning my Wahoo I had a 14 foot Mckee Craft (Whaler style) that I fished hard. But with three boys and big dreams, I needed a bigger boat. I happened to see an 18 foot Wahoo! Offshore. It was a mess but I knew the design would be perfect for me. So for over two months I hunted Craig’s List from Maine to Florida. Eventually I found a boat in West Virginia that looked promising, selling for just under six thousand dollars. I traveled solo non-stop to see it in person. It was in awesome shape, with a 2001 Yamaha Saltwater Series 150 that ran like new. The title identified it as a 1989 but contained no other information of note. I had it home by Sunday.
Not long after acquiring it I took it for a two week fishing trip on the Ottowa River in Canada. I ran it hard every day with no issues. Great trip–180 fish, 12 species. Wow (i reeled in 3). Returning home, I next took it out in Portsmouth Harbor where we banged around the ocean all day. Back home that evening as I was cleaning up my wife smelled gas. I opened the access ports and the smell was very strong. I knew right then I had a leak. I wouldn’t be taking my kids out in the boat until it was fixed. The tank had to come out.
Now when I bought the Wahoo! I knew it would need a new fuel tank eventually. I’ve changed tanks in a 33 Egg Harbor from that experience know that the constant to moisture over many years will eventually rot pin holes in aluminum (crevice corrosion). However, the way I replaced tanks in the Egg (the right way) is impossible in a Wahoo!.
To replace the tank meant cutting it out of the deck. And the challenge there was figuring out the dimensions of the tank and where to cut. Before doing any cutting, of course, I got every last drop of gas out of the tank. I did not want to remove the whole center console, so I lifted and blocked it as high as the cables/wires would allow.
Measuring through the access holes I was able to determine that the tank was 29 inches wide and the drain lines on the floor of the boat centered at 30 1/2 inches. So my first cut would be for width. I laid down tape on the deck and drew my cut lines on the tape. I decided to make the rear width cut first. I wanted it to be as far back as possible, about an inch short of the stringer. (I wanted it an inch shy of the stringer because I planned to later build a two inch ledge for the floor piece to sit back on.)
For the front width cut, I wanted to go as far forward as I could without cutting under the center console. That turned out to be 36 inches from my rear cut. So the dimensions of the opening would be 30.5 by 36 inches.
I made one plunge cut with a vibrating saw and did the rest of the cutting with a jigsaw. The cut didn’t need to be perfectly straight. I’d hoped that 36 inches would be a long enough hole to allow me to pull tank out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. In the end I had to cut a section off the back of the tank to get it to come out. To put in the new tank, I’d either have to cut out more of the deck or go with a shorter tank.
After removing the tank I inspected it but could not find a leak. In fact, 99% of the tank looked in great shape. So I took it to a local metal shop. At first the repairman there couldn’t find one either but on closer inspection he said, “There it is,” and pointed to a light white ring of haze, rough in the middle., towards the front on the port side.
Later when I got home I looked at the tank cavity and found a dip in the foam that had trapped moisture (possibly from normal condensation) against the tank. Lack of air circulation below deck would have made it difficult for this moisture to dry out. The leak was high enough in the tank that it wasn’t until I took the boat on the ocean that wave action sloshed the gas high enough to reach it. Considering the way the tank is laid in the belly of these boats, foamed all the way down each side and corner, I’d guess such leaks are common over time.
The old tank was 45 gallons but I was willing to live with less.I preferred that to cutting more deck. So I had a new one made a bit shorter and shallower (its capacity is 36 gallons). I kept the width of the new tank 29 inches so it would fit between the stringers. I sanded down the foam on the sides and dry fit it in. It fit by a hair. So I sanded more to create some breathing room on the sides.Prior to installing the new tank I sanded, chemical etched, and painted it with four coats of Rust Bullet Industrial Coating. I plan on locking it in place with rows of 3M 5200.
To support the deck piece, I plan on building a two inch ledge of mahogany/aluminum plate on all four sides for it to sit on. Then I’ll attach it with countersunk screws and cover the screws and seam with 5200.
Thanks to subscriber Tom M., the Downloads page now includes three full-page magazine reviews of the Wahoo! 1900 and 2100. Full of juicy specs, test results, comments on construction and performance. Really interesting reading, even if you don’t own those exact models. Thanks Tom! BTW, Tom says he has more that he’ll try to send along so check back.
Also…and how cool is this…I got an email from a friend of Ray Curry, founder of Wahoo! Ray got wind that there’s a Wahoo! owners group and while he’s not into the Internet himself, he’s offered to answer question through his friend via email. So stay tuned.
Doing some incidental searching I found another source for retro Wahoo! parts. UDP Plastics in Davie, Florida makes replacement windshields for Wahoo!s.
Their list of Wahoo! windshield molds includes:
For other years/models, their site says, “ Could not find your windshield in our stock mold search? No problem, we can make you a new one whether you have the old one or not!”
Here’s a link: http://www.updplastics.com/wahoo%20boats.htm
End of the season up here in Boston and I pulled my Wahoo! from the water yesterday. Although I would have hauled out anyway due to the lateness of the season, if I needed any other reason Hurricane Sandy, currently just south of Cuba’s southeast tip, looks like it will give the US East coast its first (and likely only) tropical storm of the year early next week.
2012 was my third year as a Wahoo! owner and the best so far. Lots of quality time on the water. Many problems solved, but still no shortage of tweaks I’d like to make to the boat next year. Thanks to the many Wahoo! owners who contribute to and read this blog. It’s been a lot of fun sharing experiences and learning from you guys. Boston Harbor, when the wind and chop are up, can be a pretty rough ride. So three years in I still feel like I’m getting to know this my 16.2′s capabilities, especially in big water. Once thing I know for sure though, when she planes on a flat surface, what an amazing ride! Like a magic carpet.
This past week my friend Gary C. of Philadelphia was here. Every year in the fall Gary comes up for a short week and we go striper fishing. This year winds gusting to 30 mph kept us off the water much of the time but we managed to have a few nice days and my son Ben (pictured) took his first stripers from my Wahoo!
Now the boat’s in the driveway. Time to get busy winterizing before the cold sets in.
Headed out in my Wahoo! this afternoon after work for an hour’s fishing. I was crossing the edge of a large salt water flat when I saw a few small fish (snapper blues, maybe) slashing at bait on the surface. I cut the engine, climbed up in the bow with my fly rod, and started tossing a Gartside Gurgler. As I worked it, about every minute or so something much bigger than the snappers would surge through the bait, scattering it. So I started working the fly with a little more pop and on about the dozenth cast hooked into a good fish. Fifteen minutes later, after a fight that took me well into my backing, I landed the biggest striper I’ve taken on a fly, just shy of 40 inches.
After a few pics and some time to revive her back in the water she went, hopefully next Spring to make a mess o’ baby bass.
Last year I replaced the ancient 1981 Evinrude 50 that came with my Wahoo! 16.2 with a more powerful and reliable 1995 3 cylinder Johnson 50. After the Evinrude, which was hard to start and tended to stall in idle, it was nice to have an engine that started first or second turn of the key every time. But even with the newer engine I still wasn’t happy with how long it took to get my Wahoo! up on a plane. It took too much throttle to get the nose down. And then once it did come down often the boat was going too fast for conditions (lotsa rocks in Boston Harbor).
So I wanted to be able to plane more quickly, with less throttle, and at lower speeds. And I wanted to do it without having to increase horsepower. Following the recommendation of a friend, this spring I looked into adding a hydrofoil to the engine. Researching online I found plenty of back and forth on message boards about the relative merits of hydrofoils.
And the qualified statements:
Shopping around I found quite a few makes/models to choose from, with prices ranging from $40 to $150. While most hydrofoils require drilling holes in the engine’s cavitation plate (so you can bolt it on), a few of the more expensive models advertised themselves as clamp on/no drilling required. That had some appeal until I read the customer reviews which were generally not favorable.
In the end I opted for Doel-fins, one of the earliest, simplest, and most affordable outboard hydrofoils. I didn’t even have to pay the $40 they cost since I was able to scavenge a set off a boat that that had washed ashore on a local beach and was abandoned by its owner. Installation was easy. It took less than half an hour and drilling holes in the cavitation plates was not the big deal I feared it might be.
Three months of boating later and the verdict is in: What a difference!!! I don’t have exact numbers but I would guess that with the Doel-fins my Wahoo! now achieves a plane at 40% less throttle than it took before. And it now planes at speeds as low as 10-12 mph. The ride and handling are smoother, with nice easy turns and a big reduction in porpoising. And my guess (though I don’t know for sure) is that with the faster planing I’m saving quite a bit of gas.
All in all, couldn’t be happier.
The question has come up more than once: “How do I choose the right size Bimini top for my Wahoo!?”
Well, it happens that iboats.net has a great online Bimini selection wizard that’ll guide you to the right size for your model, year, and trim line. Even if you choose to buy your Bimini somewhere else, it will at least give you the correct specs. You’ll find the wizard here.
One note: Different Wahoo!s came with different railing configurations. I’d bet my bippy that the Bimini selection wizard on iboats.net does not factor in your railing–likely it assumes there are no impediments as to where you can situate the Bimini’s mounting brackets. So make sure you measure and account for the presence of your railing when choosing a Bimini.
New Wahoo!s came with lots of different makes of motors: Mariners, Mercs, Hondas, Suzukis, Evinrudes, Johnsons…it doesn’t appear that Wahoo! had exclusive deals with specific manufacturers. Maybe it was the dealers who made the pairing of boat and motor. Or maybe in some instances the buyer made the choice. I don’t know.
Regardless, the motor that came on your Wahoo!, whether the original or one added by a subsequent owner, determines the wiring harness on your boat. And the wiring harness determines in part how the switches and gauges in your console are hooked up.
My 87 Striper 16.2 came with a 1981 50 horse Evinrude. This was obviously not the original motor since it predated the hull by six years. I wanted to replace it with something more recent but didn’t feel like replacing the wiring harness for this reason: Wahoo!s are a pain in the butt to change harnesses on. Maybe this can be said of most boats but it’s especially true of Wahoo!s because the sprayed-in foam below deck makes for really tight quarters when it comes to running wires and cables. (To illustrate the point, last summer I added a new Garmin Humminbird fishfinder to Seatoad. The plug for the transducer, which needed to pass under the deck and up through the wiring port in the console floor, was about the size and shape of a champagne bottle cork. I literally spent two weeks trying every way imaginable to fish that sucker through a chokepoint of cables running under the deck through a VERY narrow crevice in the foam. Wasn’t happening. I finally gave up and ran the transducer wire over the top of the deck, covering it with a protective hood of 3/4 inch PVC pipe I’d cut length-wise.)
So when I bought a “new” motor I went with a Johnson, one that could use the same OMC wiring harness already installed in my Wahoo!
Inside the console itself the wiring was spaghetti. Wires running every which way, some hooked up to nothing at all. The only working gauge on the dashboard was the tach and even on that the backlight didn’t work. It took awhile but I finally got most of it straightened out. First thing I did was install a fuse hub like this for all fused accessories. I also installed a bus bar for all the various ground wires that were spliced together all over the place like a tangle of mating eels. Where wires were just barely long enough to reach the post they were supposed to reach I lengthened them to relieve the strain on them. And every join I sheathed with heat shrink rap or electrical tape.
Really useful in getting things back together and ensuring everything was connected properly was this OMC wiring diagram from Continuous Wave. Continuous Wave has lots of other very useful reference material as well.
In the end, two of the existing non-working gauges I decided not to bother with. The tilt/trim gauge really doesn’t tell you anything you can’t see with your own eye. And the speedometer is superfluous these days–I can get my speed from my GPS. I left both gauges in place for now, they’re just not hooked up. Eventually I’d like to replace the tilt/trim gauge with a dash-mounted fuel gauge. The other I don’t know yet.
There are some still-unsolved mysteries in the wiring, such as the the engine alarm that won’t turn off and and a superfluous accessories ground ground wire. But I’ll save those for another post.