Sailboat Hull Re-Finish

A while back I sustained a substantial amount of hull damage to the starboard side of the hull on my own 36 foot sailboat. It was docked and tied secure with 3 fenders between the boat and the dock. On this day there were strong winds out of the south with gusts to 35 kph and more. The bracket securing one of the fenders broke and the fender slid down into the water leaving only two to protect the hull from the dock. Apparently this wasn’t enough and the boat came into contact with a metal strip on the dock and this resulted in severe damage to the hull on the starboard side. It had also dislodged a mooring cleat which added to an already bad situation.  Pictures of the damage are shown below.


The pictures really don’t show the extent of the damage and a close inspection showed that in spots the gel coat was completely worn away exposing the outer fiberglass laminate layers.

At this point I was faced with a repair and I considered the available options:

1-Spot repairs to the damaged areas. This would suffice in a pinch but due to the age of the boat a perfect color match probably would not be possible and the repaired areas would always be visible.

2-Complete hull re-finish either by paint or a by a sprayed application of gel coat to the entire hull topside surface. Much more expensive but overall the best option and the method that I chose.

The next question that I was faced with was to paint or re gel coat. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages and I considered both extensively. Painting involves the use of catalysed polyurethane products such as Awlgrip, Interlux Perfection and Dupont Imron. All are similar and advantages are a high gloss and they dry to a hard surface finish. Disadvantages are, extremely toxic to spray, difficult to repair and can fade after 10 years or so. The products are also very expensive.

Sprayed application of gel coat has the distinct disadvantage of being much more labor intensive (the gel coat dries to a rough “orange peel” surface texture and must be wet sanded and polished to a gloss finish). Advantages are easier to repair, can be polished if fading occurs after time, longer lasting and the required products are less expensive. I would like to point out that a cost comparison shows that overall the 2 methods to be similar when you factor the additional product cost verses the additional labor. It was for these reasons that I chose to go with the gel coat re-application.

One observation that I’ve made over the years regarding sailors is that if you put 5 of us in a room and ask what is the proper way to toast a piece of bread you’ll get 5 different answers. In that vein I suspect that some will disagree with my decision but in the long run I feel that it was the correct one for me.

A local repair shop was contracted to do the job and the boat was delivered to them without mast or exterior canvas. It was hauled and installed on the cradle inside their  shop. The exterior surfaces were cleaned, the deck hermetically sealed with plastic and a walk way encompassing the entire boat was erected to facilitate easy access to the surface. Much better than working off of ladders.




The above pictures show the hull with the walkway surrounding it and after cleaning and sanding.

I’ll have more on the process in the next post.


Surveying Fiberglass Boats During the Winter Months

Surveying fiberglass boats during the winter months poses some difficult issues. When the ambient temperatures are below freezing any moisture contained in fiberglass structures, such as boat hulls and decks freezes as well. During the freezing process crystallization of the substance occurs adding small air pockets which make electronic moisture detection virtually impossible. Also because the substance is frozen it becomes very hard rendering percussive sounding tests useless as well. It is for these reasons that I do not recommend surveying of fiberglass boats when the ambient temperatures are below freezing. Any surveyor who claims that their inspections are valid under these circumstances is in my opinion simply not being truthful and should be seriously questioned.

Prepare Your Boat for a Survey Inspection

In preparing for a marine survey inspection be sure that your boat is clean and in shipshape condition. All cabinets, lockers and storage areas should be clean and cleared of all  gear. Consider the general appearance of the vessel. It is important to give the surveyor the impression that you are proud of your vessel and have taken good care of it.

    Have all paperwork and relevant documentation ready to present to the surveyor. This includes all ship’s registration papers and owner’s manuals for the vessel and all included equipment. Also be prepared to present to the surveyor any maintenance records which describe previous repairs and servicing with the dates in which these were performed. This can assist in inspiring a buyer’s confidence

     The vessel will have to be hauled for bottom inspection so be sure to pre-arrange this with your marina or yacht club.

    All gear and equipment included with the vessel should be made available to the surveyor for inspection and inventory. Any items not included should be removed.

    Written authorization will be required if the surveyor is required to dismantle the vessel in any way for access to components or systems.

Boat Buying Part 6 The Marine Survey

Boat on Lift for SurveyIn our continuing discussion on used boat buying I’ll assume that you’ve found that next potential boat, you’ve negotiated with the broker or seller and have contracted the services of a marine surveyor. Now the next step is the actual survey itself.

If the boat is on the hard things are somewhat simplified meaning that a haul out does not need to be scheduled and that the boat has likely been out of the water for some time, meaning that all below waterline areas have had time to dry out. This will make the taking of moisture readings much easier for the surveyor.

If the boat in at the dock then a haul out needs to be scheduled and co-ordinated with the surveyor. If it’s in a busy season, the yard will probably not want the lift tied up so an hour or so is all that you may get. This means that if the boat’s bottom has multiple layers of bottom paint the moisture readings will no doubt be in the elevated ranges. This can sometimes be a bit misleading but any competent surveyor should be able to easily get a read on the condition of the hull as it dries out. If there’s a breeze this should happen fairly quickly.Dirty Transom

If the bottom has any amount of bottom growth (which it probably has) then it will need to be pressure washed. It needs to be clean for the inspection. All yards do this routinely as part of the fall haul out process so it should not be an issue. There will be an extra charge however. Bear in mind that that only the below waterline areas and equipment, hull topsides and transom require an out of water inspection and the remainder is easily performed in the water so an hour or so on the lift should suffice.

The next question is should the mast be up or down. Of course down is always better but not always possible. Surveyors such as myself will not usually climb masts so a “from the deck inspection” is in many cases the best that can be accomplished. Binoculars can help but are not really a substitute for a thorough inspection that is possible with the mast de-stepped and on a rack.

Next up are the decks, cabin superstructure and cockpit. Again dry surfaces are the key so any standing water (from recent rain) needs to be removed and the surface dried.          Inside the cabin should be cleared of all non-essential gear. This makes access for easier to lockers which is essential for inspection of the hull interior structure and components. All on-board systems should get power up tests so battery and shore power should be made available.

Any included but not installed equipment such as tenders, outboard motors etc. should be made available for inspection.

Sails are another item that may prove difficult to inspect. I myself usually require that the owner open and re-flake the sails themselves as I will not spread sails out in wet or dirty environments due to possible damage. Bear in mind that in many cases even this will only show that the sails are in one piece and a sea trial on a windy day is usually necessary for a proper evaluation.

Engine evaluations can also sometimes be an issue. Some surveyors can handle this aspect of the process themselves but many will refer you to an experienced service technician. Inspections can be difficult if the boat is in the hard because in order to run the engine for any length of time cooling water will need to be supplied to the engine or damage can occur. This is another aspect of the process that is more easily performed in the water in conjunction with a sea trial.

As for the aforementioned sea trial this is part of the survey and vessel evaluation process that is often overlooked. Remember that a considerable amount of your hard earned cash is on the line here and this is not the place to skimp. In many cases systems and components can only be evaluated while under actual operating conditions. I recommend that if at all possible a proper sea trial be included in the overall evaluation process.

As you can see proper a vessel evaluation and survey can be a complex process and with all the scheduling involved it can take some time. I get calls each year from buyers that have an accepted offer and need the survey completed “by the end of the week”. This can make things very difficult and sometimes impossible. Most surveyors have a turnaround time of 2-4 days for report completion alone. I always recommend to allow for at least 2 weeks to complete a proper evaluation. Remember it’s your money so be patient.

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