I'm sharing some time-saving and affordable ideas for people who enjoy boating more than they enjoy repairing boats. How to master the art of simple fiberglass maintenance.
I found improving the way the boat looks, adds to the enjoyment of owning my boat, and it has increased the value of an older model fiberglass boat as well. Most of these older boats (and some newer ones I might add) have many stress cracks that spoil the appearance. These cracks aren't usually structural, but they can reduce the value of the boat because you get only one chance at a first impression.
There are many gems of boats out there hiding under a rough exterior, just like my Sonata 6. So I went looking for answers to the problem.
Most fiberglass experts go down the track of grinding out the cracks with a Dremel. This is a painstaking job, requiring a fair bit of skill and patience. To be honest with you, my eyesight is not really up to it any more. Experts in fiberglass rightly recommend this technique because it removes all contamination and accumulated deposits and allows enough resin to penetrate the cracks and create a strong bond with raw surfaces. I am not a fiberglass expert, but I have built and renovated a few boats, timber and fiberglass, over the years.
Can we get a high quality reliable fix, at a lower cost and with half of the effort?
I made a short checklist of the main things we need to get right in order to achieve that goal. First, is there enough strength in the location being repaired? Can we completely remove any contaminants that will cause rejection and reduce bonding? Does the filler or resin have suitable gap-filling and flexibility when cured? And can we get the resin to fully penetrate the cracks and not just sit on the surface?
CAUTION Follow manufacturers guidelines carefully. Test all products for compatibility with the native materials on your boat. Fix any structural problems first. Cracking might recur under stress. No guarantees it will work, but I will be testing it over time and posting updates. The alcohol won't dissolve the salt or dust accumulations, although the pressure might physically dislodge some of these. A good thorough pressure spray right at the start, with warm soapy water will work wonders here, followed by just plain old water to remove any detergent.
I have been using some common hardware items, that don't have the high "marine" price tag, in a creative way to fix these ugly cracks. You can watch a short video, on how I went about the repairs on Mozart, my Sonata 6 trailer sailer by clicking here
I'm interested in people's thoughts and ideas on the methods and materials I used. So far, my repairs seem to be standing up well, but more time is needed before I can totally trust that the repairs are permanent. Of course, even the best repairs will probably reappear in time if the surface is weak, unstable or under a severe load.
When I started restoring Mozart, I had very little experience in fiberglass. I had built several kayaks as a child, simple canvas ones. My dad was a woodwork teacher and he gave me a love of Tasmanian timbers. One of my proudest achievements is the building of Moonlight, a 12 ft, gunter rigged clinker dinghy. Click here to discover the inspiration behind building her, and 40 years of Adventures in Moonlight.Here is a book you might like from one of the experts. Fiberglass Boat Building for Amateurs
"This is probably the only book you will need to build your own boat using composite materials. Although the book was written in 1982, the information is still completely valid, and I say it after reading a dozen books on composite materials. The book is very easy to read, the instructions are really clear and easy to follow. In addition, it provides a lot of technical information: what to do, why to do it, pros and cons of construction alternatives, etc. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in building a boat, a caravan, or any other project with composite materials." Alberto Acosta Rodríguez