Even a small leak can be a big problem

Even a small leak in your hull can let in quite a bit of water and add a great deal of weight making it very hard to sail. If you're racing it will quickly handicap you. One good thing about the laser is it will still float even if the entire hull is filled with water thanks to some air bags located inside the hull. As a junior sailing instructor I learned this after rescuing an old laser with the top deck sitting at water level, I was able to sail it very slowly downwind to the launch ramp, the boat was soo heavy that it broke the dolly trying to get it out of the water just enough to start draining. It also took several people to move it at all, there was no way we could lift it out of the water. That boat did survive and The good news is that there are common areas where leaks occur and they can all be fixed!

What Do You Need for the Test?

  • A compressor or wet/dry vacuum for blowing low pressure air into the hull (For compressors you'll need the right fitting something like this Air Gun or Accessory Kit)
  • dish soap or car wash soap mixed with water to make test suds, a 5 gallon bucket filled up about 1/4 of the way with suds works great
  • 2 people, one to control the air and one to apply the suds.

How To Test Your Boat Hull For Leaks

  1. Setup a wet/dry vacuum or compressor on a low pressure setting to fill the hull with air. You can use the hull drain plug or an inspection port to fill the hull with air. You might have to get a little creative and having a perfect seal isn't important. It's critical that you don't expand the hull so if you see the hull expanding you're using too much pressure which can cause major damage. You probably won't have to continuously fill the hull unless you have a major leak. Filling the hull works best with 2 people one person to control the air and one person to carry out step 2
  2. Now that you've filled your hull with air wipe the soapy water around all the seams and fittings, if there's a leak you'll be able to clearly see it bubbling. Big leaks you can sometimes feel air leaking out.

Best Places to Check for Leaks

  1. Thru Hull Fittings such as autobailers, fairleads, cleats, hiking straps, inspection ports...
  2. Seams such as gunwales, centerboard trunk and any joints
  3. the mast step, the soap suds test can help locate where your mast step leak is, if you have a mast step leak you'll most likely need to reinforce the mast step or at least the mast step tube

Final Thoughts

Did you just put in a brand new inspection port and sealed it up nice with some 3M 5200? One season I found that my inspection port was leaking, the boat stayed dry unless there were waves or I capsized, so I replaced the inspection port with a new one. It was completely dry, then I sailed on a heavy air day with waves and I had less water but still a significant amount of water. I didn't suspect the new inspection port since it was freshly installed with a healthy amount of 5200, turns out the new inspection port had a leak as well, I was able to run 5200 around the edge of the port and wipe clean so it looked uniform. That did the trick! The boat was leak free from then on and wow was I ever sailing fast!

Make sure you check everywhere and double check your work for leaks, sometimes even brand new hulls leak! The builders at Laser Performance will take off all the fittings and hardware and reseal them, that usually does the trick on a new boat and if you don't feel like leak testing or you're stumped on where the leak is, you can always try the reseal all the fittings method. It's very likely it's one of these common areas.

Best of luck fixing your leak(s), see you on the water!