Best Face Forward

Best Face Forward - Fiberglass Maintenance
Maintenance April 2002 By Diane M. Byrne

Best Face Forward
Fiberglass may be low-maintenance, but don’t confuse that with no-maintenance. Take care to avoid these problems.

 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Fiberglass
• Part 2: Fiberglass
• Part 3: Fiberglass

 Related Resources
• Maintenance Index

Sure, you check your boat’s engines and other mechanical systems on a regular basis to make sure everything is running properly, but have you ever inspected her hull and superstructure? Just because you have a fiberglass boat doesn’t mean you can wet her and forget her. Whether solid or cored, fiberglass needs attention.

One of the best ways to fend off problems is to take a good look at your boat every time you haul her out. Get up close, and make sure you inspect her from a variety of angles, since the way light reflects on different areas may reveal or camouflage problems. While it’s easy to check above the waterline throughout the cruising season because that area is exposed, experts stress taking an extra careful look at and below the waterline when the boat is hauled because problems could have cropped up during the season without you knowing it.

Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter and how to address them.

Most of the time stress cracks in gelcoat result from an impact–say, backing into a piling or running over a submerged object–even if other parts of your boat, like props and shafts, aren’t damaged. Other causes are extreme temperature changes, improper hardware mounting, improper design of a molded part, an overly thick gelcoat application, and parts that flex and bend, either normally or excessively.

When it comes to repairing stress cracks, advice varies according to the specific location and degree of damage. Some surveyors and repair yards recommend putting up with hairline cracks on your boat’s superstructure because it’s nearly impossible to match the color of the repaired area to that of the older gelcoat. Better to tolerate nearly invisible cracks–most of which are cosmetic only–they say, than chance ruining the appearance of your boat.

Next page > Fiberglass, Part 2 > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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