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Old 01-06-2015, 16:36   #1
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Fiberglass questions

Hey guys,

I've been searching around for some time now. I've seen mixed results on fiberglass.

I have an opportunity to get a 30ft sailboat that has been left, unattended, on a gentlemen's property for about 10 years. Its covered in moss/growth surrounding the boat.

Ofcourse it would be an INCREDIBLE amount of work and funds to get her sailable again, however I was curious to know more about the fiberglass aspect of things.

I know the gel-coat would need to be restored, however I was curious if the glass would be "brittle" or have a potential boat-sinking issue? My dad, who i dont talk much with, has always said that once the glass has sat in the open environment for years with rain, sun and other weather aspects, it is no longer usable and not "safe". I've never believed this, however i've never restored a boat in "****" condition.

Anyone have any insight on it?
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Old 01-06-2015, 16:59   #2
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Re: Fiberglass questions

My 42 year old Fiberglas boat would disagree with your dad.
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Old 01-06-2015, 17:09   #3
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Dear old dad; what do you know? Maybe an open boat with both sides exposed and made with a chopper gun would be junk. Otherwise, lots of boats are that old and still float.
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Old 01-06-2015, 17:20   #4
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Hi
I have sailed in and restored several fibreglass (GRP) yachts from small 18 footers to a 43 footer. The age and time in the sun can cause damage as you said to the gelcoat or coating but rarely have I seen substantial damage or weakening of the structure.
There are two items in the construction you need to understand. The glass or fibreglass which is relatively inert and will not break down because of UV or salt water contact. Then the resin which bonds it all together.
Resins vary in their ability to withstand both salt water and UV. Polyester resins used by most production boats manufacturers vary from Orthophthalic resins to Iso and Vinyl ester resins. Ortho resins were used in the 60's and 70's a lot because they were cheap but they are susceptible to osmosis.
Iso and Vinyl Ester resins are much better at withstanding osmosis and UV attack.
ALmost impossible to know what a builder has used with out expensive testing.
Epoxy resins are used by one off builders and some race yacht builders. High bond strength and used when glassing over plywood. Some are susceptible to heat distortion in climates with high temperatures.
Best way to determine what condition the fibreglass is in on a boat is to visually inspect it and use a small ball peen hammer and tap the hull litening for any hollow spots. This indicates delamination or osmosis. A solid hull should have a sharp solid sound.
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Old 01-06-2015, 17:31   #5
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by chowdan View Post
Hey guys,

I've been searching around for some time now. I've seen mixed results on fiberglass.

I have an opportunity to get a 30ft sailboat that has been left, unattended, on a gentlemen's property for about 10 years. Its covered in moss/growth surrounding the boat.

Ofcourse it would be an INCREDIBLE amount of work and funds to get her sailable again, however I was curious to know more about the fiberglass aspect of things.

I know the gel-coat would need to be restored, however I was curious if the glass would be "brittle" or have a potential boat-sinking issue? My dad, who i dont talk much with, has always said that once the glass has sat in the open environment for years with rain, sun and other weather aspects, it is no longer usable and not "safe". I've never believed this, however i've never restored a boat in "****" condition.

Anyone have any insight on it?
You can see degradation in the lab of composite degradation. But detectability without destructive testing is much harder.

In the field many older vessels are sufficiently overbuilt such that this may not be an issue. Many of the current crop of cost optimised for manufacturing sailboats may not be so durable over time. The low stiffness of many of the modern hulls (oil canning of unsupported sections) may pose issues in the future.

Moisture absorption and etching of the surface occurs in certain solutions. Sea water and fresh water are rarely acidic or basic enough to have much impact.

Epoxy of course suffers from UV exposure. So if you had an epoxy layup with worn away gelcoat then this may be an issue.

Note that fibreglass tanks are used extensively to contain numerous chemicals. They are typically epoxy based of course.

How many fibreglass sailboats have failed due to long term exposure alone? Not many. There are many more structural failures from poor designs , poor maintenance and overloading.

Picking the hull up and transporting it are probably the greatest stress the hull will see.

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Old 01-06-2015, 18:38   #6
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Scrubbing, soap and bleach followed by polish and a buff and the exterior will probably be like new. The interior will probably be the major problem if it's mildewed with the wood and fabric surfaces. Don't worry about the strength of the hull. There are a lot of 50 year old FRP boats still going strong and maybe even 60 year old ones. Older than that they are very rare because there were so few made and usually with cotton cloth as the matrix.
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Old 05-06-2015, 08:10   #7
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Thank you everyone! That was incredibly helpful.

I know that there are many boats out there that are VERY old and still going strong. I had doubted myself, when i shouldn't have. Unfortunately they gave it away to someone else

Although a 50ft Hudson Ketch, center console has come on the market in my area for $12k. I'm probably going to go check it out this weekend to get a feel for her state and what needs to be done(will be a total refit, but the engine is in running condition).

Not sure if i'm ready to take on the project, but I do have that itch continuously bugging me.
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Old 05-06-2015, 10:16   #8
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Plastic boats stored on dry can be in better condition than boats stored in the marina ... not like wooden boats.

Make a deal with the owner: you clean the boat very, very well with brush, soap and maybe some help from Mr. Karscher. Then you let her dry and then you inspect. And then you decide.

Just make sure you pre-agree the price before you clean her because the owner may ask 50% more once she is fresh and clean.

If you think the boat will take heaps of money to restore, avoid (unless you are a restoration freak)

Take care, have fun, let us know,
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Old 05-06-2015, 22:26   #9
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Surface appearance and the underlying wood support frames (rotting if water gets in) can be an issue.

I've never heard of the fiberglass on a production boat failing due to age.
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Old 26-09-2016, 13:52   #10
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Re: Fiberglass questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by leftbrainstuff View Post
You can see degradation in the lab of composite degradation. But detectability without destructive testing is much harder.

In the field many older vessels are sufficiently overbuilt such that this may not be an issue. Many of the current crop of cost optimised for manufacturing sailboats may not be so durable over time. The low stiffness of many of the modern hulls (oil canning of unsupported sections) may pose issues in the future.

Moisture absorption and etching of the surface occurs in certain solutions. Sea water and fresh water are rarely acidic or basic enough to have much impact.

Epoxy of course suffers from UV exposure. So if you had an epoxy layup with worn away gelcoat then this may be an issue.

Note that fibreglass tanks are used extensively to contain numerous chemicals. They are typically epoxy based of course.

How many fibreglass sailboats have failed due to long term exposure alone? Not many. There are many more structural failures from poor designs , poor maintenance and overloading.

Picking the hull up and transporting it are probably the greatest stress the hull will see.

Sent from my SM-N900T using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
One note about claim above that most chemical storage tabks are manufactured using epoxy resins. In fact most concentrated chemical storage tanks use vinyl ester resins for Hydrochloric acid, dilute Sulphuric Acid and Caustic. Special care is taken to ensure good post cure of the surface and the molded surface is used against the chemical.
Most underground fuel storage tanks in the world are now fibreglass and use teraphthalic or isophthalic polyester resins. Again post cure is very important. Owens Corning developed the technology for the underground tanks in the 1950s and the oldest tanks are now well over 50 years old.

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