Glassfibre boats get damaged, it’s a well-known fact in university sailing. Whether it’s from a team racing manoeuvre gone wrong, an unfortunate collision from beginner training or general wear and tear in older boats, avoiding damage is a virtually impossible task. However, getting it repaired doesn’t always have to be an expensive job requiring a professional. Many hull repairs are easily to carried out for a lower cost. A large part of maintaining a boat is making sure it doesn’t get damaged in the first place. This is best done by regular monitoring of you boats, checking all the major failure points. This can be done through the use of maintenance schedules. An example of a maintenance schedule is shown here. This guide is important hopes to help after damage has happened.
Every repair requires a carefully thought out plan, and time. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
The first step is to assess the damage you have, thinking about these questions when you do it:
An easier issue to fix compared to a more severe fix needing time, planning and facilities to fix.
You’ve decided to repair the damage. This is the time in which a little planning goes a long way. Before you start, ask yourself the following questions:
The first work you need to do is to grind out the area that is damaged.
Safety: sanding or grinding should be done wearing appropriate safety goggles and dust mask.
Taper (gradually slope) out your grinding around 100mm away from the damage. The area around the damage should be smoothed out to a gentle depression.
Clean away the dust and dirt from the area and make sure the surface is dry. Acetone is often used to clean these areas, use a little on a paper towel in a well ventilated area and avoid getting any on your hands.
Tape a section around the damage. This will help protect the rest of the boat and give you a clear area to work in. Masking tape is your best bet, duct tape of insulating tape often leave sticky residue after you remove it in later steps.The earlier damage prepared for further work
There are a number options for glassfibre repairs as there are several different types of matting and two different types of resin.
Polyester resin: Cheaper and what your boat is probably currently made out of (only very high performance boats tend to use epoxy as a resin system).
Epoxy resin: More expensive, stronger, harder and lighter. If you want a high quality repair this might be a better choice.
Chopped strand: Short strands of glassfibre, which form a loose powder. These can be mixed with your resin to the desired consistency and provide structural repairs to small areas.
Chopped strand mat: a sheet of glassfibre which can be purchased in varying thicknesses. The thicker the sheet, the stronger the repair. Fibres are onmi-directional to it provides some structural support in all directions, but not as much as biaxial mat. Often best to use several layers of this mat, rather than one thicker piece.
Biaxial mat: This has glassfibre strands laid in two directions at 90 degrees to each other. This makes it thicker and more structurally solid than either of the other forms of glassfibre, so better to repair areas which need more structural support, such as bows for example.
There are also glassfibre tapes and structural supports available depending upon your supplier, so it is worth having a conversation with them about more complex repairs, if you are doing it yourself.
Start by making up your glassfibre and resin mix to build up the area with chopped strand.
Safety: wear gloves and a dust/fume mask while you work with glassfibre.
When sufficiently mixed, layer the mixture over the repair. Press the mixture generously over the repair and leave to dry.
Once dried, flatten back the area using your sandpaper or angle grinder.
More severe or larger damage will now require glass matting as reinforcement.
Once your final layer of glass has finished drying, it’s time to sand the area again.
Now you need to build the repair out to the same level as the hull using filler. Make up according to the manufacturers instructions and apply smoothly to the area.
Fairing is a time-consuming process. Once dried, sand again and add more filler as necessary to match the shape of the repair to the surrounding area.Re-glassed and filler up to the appropriate level
Once the area is fully faired, there are a couple of ways to get the repair back to the original colour.
A lick of paint or gelcoat can make all the difference to the appearance
Polishing is one of those really easy things to do, but if you want it to look perfect will take a long time.
Begin with 320 grit wet and dry paper and work up to 2000 grit. Finally finishing off the area with course and fine polish. By doing this carefully and methodically it will give you a professional finish.
Be careful not to work the area too much, you might go through the paint or gelcoat and then have to start the process again, which will only make you feel a little annoyed and not gain boat speed.