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Old 11-02-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
JeanneP's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,098

flusao sent me a question about our sv Watermelon, a Jeanneau Sun Fizz. I've chosen to answer his questions here and add a little more information about the Sun Fizz for others to find.

flusao wrote

I recently bought a 1984 Sun Fizz. The boat looks to be in great condition and the surveyor did not find any major issue. The boat has crossed the Atlantic twice and looks as if it was well taken care off.

However, on my web searching i have noticed a few people complain about balsa cored decks. Since you have sailed for so many years on the same boat, did you have to modify the deck or fix any major issues? On one of your replies you mentioned that the stringers might rot, did you have this problem. My boat has a leak around the mast which shows on drops by the tension post. do you now if that area is solid glass of if it does contain balsa.

Finally, my engine is salt water cooled. I do not know if it is the original, and it looks to be in good condition. Was yours also raw water cooled. If so, did you have zincs on it or any where other than the keel?

Balsa cored deck. We had a leak in our deck when we first got the boat, but finding the source of the leak stymied us. It only appeared after a wet offshore crossing, or after a heavy rain. Since we didn’t live on the boat yet, we usually discovered the water when we came to the boat for the weekend after the rain and the dripping had stopped. We weren’t able to find it by using a hose to soak the deck.

Finally, as we traveled down the US east coast in 1986, we got caught by a hurricane that started off the coast of Georgia. We were new to the worries of hurricanes and got caught at the dock in Beaufort, NC with no way to get inland because the bridge was closed because of the storm. Fortunately it was only a Category I hurricane, with lots and lots of rain. Because we were tied up at the dock we could remove the head liner to find the leak while the torrent of rain was falling. We already knew that where the water came out was rarely where it was coming in, so our unfortunate situation regarding being tied to a dock was a fortunate way to find a leak that hosing down the deck had not succeeded. Wet, we could see the extent of the core damage (minor) and where the leak started – under the sliding hatch cover – not easy on the boat to fix. We wound up pumping epoxy UP into the deck with significant pressure to force it into the leak itself.

Because of the location of the leak, possibly caused by something sharp abrading the deck under the hatch cover, the damage to the deck could not be seen from the deck because of the permanently fastened cover over the sliding hatch cover. The good thing is that our 1986 fix was a permanent fix, and we never had another deck leak over the next 20 years.

However, with regard to a leak near the mast. I don’t know if that section is solid GRP – it should be, and removing the head liner should make that clear. However, it’s possible that the gaskets are old and no longer watertight – I’m referring to the gaskets for the wires that pass through the deck from the mast, and the mast shoe itself. That should be examined carefully, with the head liner removed.

Raw water cooled engine.

I assume that it’s the original engine? Ours was a BMW marinized diesel, raw water cooled. The engine itself had “freeze plugs”, and all of them blew in 1987 (long story here, only pertinent comment here is that of course always at the most inopportune time) probably because we did not know that the engine had pencil zincs in it that had corroded away, and the freeze plugs became the next “zincs” to go.

Our boat had sat unused for about two years before we bought it, and little work was done on it during that time; all the zincs on the keel and prop were gone when it was hauled for our purchase survey. We had zincs on the keel, and also on the prop shaft (very important). When we went to a self-feathering prop there was another zinc on the prop itself.

A raw-water cooled engine has to be run cooler than a fresh-water cooled engine so that the salt in the water doesn’t salt up the engine. The lower temperature also retards the corrosion of the engine by the salt water. We don’t believe that it is as efficient an engine, though, because it is run so cool. And we were told by an Australian mechanic that he had worked on several of these engines because the engine wasn’t cooled adequately in warm tropical waters and ran too hot. This did not happen to ours, but we went to a Yanmar fresh-water cooled engine when we arrived in Australia in 1992. Not because we had had any difficulties with the BMW, but parts for the engine were difficult to get in the US, and we were concerned that once we left Australia and first-world (or new World) suppliers, we might be stranded somewhere in need of repairs. We got an excellent trade-in on the BMW because it looked almost new when we traded it in.

A few other issues we had with the Sun Fizz, which I can't attribute to either build quality or maintenance failures, they just happened.

One of the stringers for the engine mounts rotted. Glass-covered timber, I assume that the bolts into the stringer allowed bilge water to enter and sit and rot out the timber. But only one rotted. We rarely had any water in the main bilge - we vacuumed it out, and about once a year sloshed water in it to clean it more thoroughly.

The head was lined in cork. We thought that it was water-repellent, but when we arrived in Australia we discovered that the bulkhead between the head and the salon had rotted behind the cork on one side, and the mahogany veneer on the other side. The Boatmen at Lawrie's marina did a fantastic job of fixing it without removing the entire bulkhead by fabricating a fiberglass panel, removing all the wood behind the mahogany veneer and gluing the new panel to the veneer. From the salon there was no evidence of the work done. Loved it.

I loved that boat. We had many wonderful years sailing her, and most of the money we spent on her was more in the nature of Watermelon being an "indulged child" than a difficult one.

Enjoy your boat.

Fair winds,


In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

MV WATERMELON (New) | Cruiser's Dictionary, free ebook

= Cruiser's Dictionary, North America,
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Old 11-02-2010, 09:44 PM   #2
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Thanks for the repply. I am a bit woried about the balsa since I am not sure how long the leak has been there for. But I will look hard for it and try to get it fixed. The deck does not show any sign of damage, but i am sure that water flows through the wood.

Regardign the engine, i have a Perkins 4108, everyone i know has it watercooled but my is raw water. I seens that only a few engines run on raw water. It appears to be the original, but i am traking down the orignal(first) owner to find out if it was like that when he bought it. My main issue is to find whe the zincs go. I have just been unable to find them.

Again thanks for all the information.



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Old 11-02-2010, 11:44 PM   #3
JeanneP's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,098

You will need to remove the head liner in order to see if there is any damage to the balsa core. It will be relatively easy to see because the balsa will probably have turned black, compared to the light brown of the dry balsa underneath the resin. This should also enable you to estimate where the leak originates. As with roofs on houses, where the water enters is not necessarily where the leak will appear inside.

As I said, the area under the mast step and around the mast where the wiring enters the boat should be solid GRP. However, we've had a leak at the gasket/O-rings due to deterioration of the rubber over the years.

Good luck.
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

MV WATERMELON (New) | Cruiser's Dictionary, free ebook

= Cruiser's Dictionary, North America,
JeanneP is offline   Reply With Quote

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