Water Taxi Belly Pan Repair Job

About eight years ago, I did a repair job for a company called Statue Cruises. They own a water taxi, which is used to ferry people back and forth between New Jersey and New York.

Running a water taxi on the Hudson River on a regular basis puts a lot of abuse on the boat. With waves constantly hitting the hull, to docking the boat at the New York piers where waves push it into the dock, the boat's fiberglass can get destroyed over time. And that's exactly what happened to Statue Cruises' water taxi. At some point, the belly pan separated from the hull, making it unfit for the water.

The company that built this particular water taxi is located in Florida. Sections of the hull where built using Nida-Core honeycomb and fiberglass reinforcement, which just didn't hold up in the good old Hudson River. In these photos, you will see how that material was destroyed, because it was not backed up and laid up with the proper fiberglass materials. You'll also see photos that show how the buider in Florida dummied it up, filling holes which where cut in the wrong spot, and stuffing them with fiberglass to "correct" the problem they carelessly created.

You will see how I took the water taxi apart, reconstructed the belly pan and made it a lot stronger and once again seaworthy, even under close inspection of Coast Guard, who was very impressed with my work.

I, along with one part-time helper, performed this job and I'm happy to say that after eight years since the repair, Statue Cruises' water taxi is holding up very well to this day, with not a single crack or leak. You'll see how I lifted a 10-foot by 12-foot section of fiberglass, weighing over 300-lbs, with a device I fabricated. Without that device, it would have taken at least six people to hold the boat in place, so I could shape the belly pan to fit the contour of the hull, and then finally attach the belly pan to the hull. This was a very challenging job and I have to say that I'm really proud of it.

Here, I'm building a wooden frame to enclose the boat to keep it warm and dry during the repair process.

Enclosed with shrink wrap.

Exhaust fan and door installed.

My supplies: 55 gallons of resin and 2 rolls of fiberglass.

Here, I'm cutting away the fiberglass belly pan to see what's hiding inside.

This is a main beam made out of Nida-Core. You can see the extent of the damage.

Notice one of the holes that was cut in the wrong spot. And what did the water taxi manufacturer do to "correct" their mistake -- they rolled up a ball of fiberglass and stuffed it into the hole. Not good!

This is a cross beam attached to the main beam. First, you can see that the builder did not prep the fiberglass surface, and then used mat fiberglass to connect all of the structural parts together. This was just all wrong.

Inside the belly pan. See how the fiberglass separated? What happened here is that the fiberglass was laid on top of resin that had wax on it. Companies put wax on the resin so that the resin will cure. But you have to remove the wax before you lay more fiberglass on the surface, because if you don't, you will see this. I've done hundreds of repairs like this, where the builder forgets, or neglects, to remove the wax.

Now you can see how the belly pan cover separated from the main beams.

These are the main beams, which were destroyed.

More sections cut out.

Now all cleaned up, I can start start with a clean base.

Port side clean.

Test fitting two support beams, put in place.

Fitting the two new main center beams. These replaced the beams in photo 11, that where laying up against the door.

Here, I locked in the beams and rounded out the corners with fiberglass paste, getting them ready for the fiberglass.

These are support panels, which I used to make a flange on the beams.

This is what it looks like when done the right way.

Here, you can see the flange and support beams fiberglassed together.

Flange beam and a floor fiberglass beam.

Support beam and main beam fiberglassed together (you can see the "before" in Photo 7).

Port side flanges done, hull marked for belly pan.

Starboard side flanges done, hull marked for belly pan.

Making a few fine adjustments, and setting up my lifting device.

Testing out my lifting device. Worked great!

Lining the boards up to the flanges.

Raising and lowering the arms to make sure it didn't get hung up on the sides of the hull.

Laying up the boat's new belly pan.

Here, I'm prepping the surface for fiberglass and adhesive, and marking out the areas where the flanges sit.

Test fitting the belly pan.

Making sure my marks line up with the flanges.

Port side, cutting belly pan to contour of hull -- a very nice fit.

Starboard side -- nice fit.

Belly pan up under pressure to make sure my device holds.

Belly pan taken down; adhesive added on marks.

Belly pan on device; raising it into position.

Belly pan locked into position and set to dry for a few days.

Support beams removed; inside areas where belly pan meets the flange, with fiberglass in place.

All seams with fiberglass in place, on the outside.

Fiberglass areas flaired off to contour of hull.

Repair areas sprayed with a barrier coat.

Bottom paint.

All done and still holding after 8 years. Customer very happy!