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Old 12-11-2019, 07:35   #1
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Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

I'm looking to purchase a 1983 Cape Dory 36 which has a lot of crazing and cracking of the gelcoat all over the deck, not just in a particular location as per the pictures below. Any ideas as to what would be causing this damage and can it be repaired. Is this boat worth pursuing. Thanks
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Old 12-11-2019, 08:02   #2
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

They're very "common", if not "normal".
“GELCOAT CRAZING and HAIRLINE STRESS CRACKS”
GELCOAT CRAZING (Part 1)
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Old 12-11-2019, 08:04   #3
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

My best guess would be gelcoat that was over-catalyzed and laid on too thick.
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Old 12-11-2019, 08:28   #4
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Not structural, but cosmetic. While some crazing is common, this appears to be at the far end. I would not call this normal. Assuming the mechanical attachment is good (eg no flakes of gel coat popping up), repair is a heavy sanding then several coats and sanding of hi-build primer prior to finish paint. It would look like new at the end, but would cost quite a bit. I'm having my 36-foot trawler painted in Ensenada Mexico (Niza Marine - nice folks to work with). About $23k. Would be double that north of the border.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:32   #5
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

So does it need to be sanded right down to the fiberglass primed and is that paint something like awl grip.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:34   #6
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Not structural, but cosmetic. While some crazing is common, this appears to be at the far end. I would not call this normal. Assuming the mechanical attachment is good (eg no flakes of gel coat popping up), repair is a heavy sanding then several coats and sanding of hi-build primer prior to finish paint. It would look like new at the end, but would cost quite a bit. I'm having my 36-foot trawler painted in Ensenada Mexico (Niza Marine - nice folks to work with). About $23k. Would be double that north of the border.
Mvweebles is right. I also have a mid 80’s boat and have the same problem. It is cosmetic. To fix, you can reapply gelcoat or prep the surface and preferably paint. You can roll and tip yourself or pay for someone to paint— It’s quite expensive! If you can negotiate it in the price, the cape dory is a nice boat and may be wort pursuing. It boils down to how palatable some cosmetic issues are to you....
Good luck!
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:42   #7
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Not structural, but cosmetic. While some crazing is common, this appears to be at the far end. I would not call this normal. Assuming the mechanical attachment is good (eg no flakes of gel coat popping up), repair is a heavy sanding then several coats and sanding of hi-build primer prior to finish paint. It would look like new at the end, but would cost quite a bit. I'm having my 36-foot trawler painted in Ensenada Mexico (Niza Marine - nice folks to work with). About $23k. Would be double that north of the border.
When you say HI BUILD PRIMER...can you be more specific? Ive got some crazing on my cockpit seats that Id like to repair..
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:42   #8
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

But is it only the deck or does it also affect the hull - and maybe is hidden by paint etc.
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Old 12-11-2019, 10:22   #9
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Gelcoat cracking pretty common this vintage and typically not a structural issue. Fix is grind/sand off the gelcoat and apply high build (or epoxy or polyesther) primer and then paint and/or nonskid. Very labor intensive to do.



I would check the stemhead fitting and chain plate reinforcements before even making an offer and getting a survey. Both are common problems and a bitch to fix.



CD36 is a nice boat and has a good owner's association.
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Old 12-11-2019, 10:30   #10
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Cape Dory is famous for this problem, and it's the result of overly thick gelcoat, which is not that flexible. Temperature swings with the seasons expand and contract the gelcoat and eventually it cracks. Happens faster in colder climes with decks that are not protected from ice.

It is cosmetic, but gelcoat does provide something of a protective layer for the underlying glass laminate. If you don't care how it looks, buff it and wax it and keep it waxed as best you can to keep water out/off.

Fixing it is a LOT of work, and I know from first hand experience redoing the deck on my Valiant. It was the third boat built in Texas and in a conversation with Valiant they did admit that they may have laid it on a bit too thick on the first few boats.

The issue is that 90% of the cracks, even if they look like simple crazing, go down into the first schedule of laminate. While this is not a structural issue, any attempt to repair without also repairing the laminate will almost always result in the cracks coming back...either through a gelcoat repair or paint. If you grind off the gelcoat it may look fine until you wipe the bare fiberglass down with acetone. You'll see a fine hairline crack in the glass if you look closely before the acetone flashes completely off.

I had extensive crazing around my cock pit and the deck hatches. I had to grind it all down and repair the laminate with a fresh layer, then fair, in preparation for paint. It was a long hard job.

As for whether you should walk away...if you don't care how it looks, and would be content to clean and wax it on a regular basis...it'll be fine probably for as long as you own the boat. At some point the gelcoat is going to start chipping up but that could be a long way off in the future.

EDIT: I just actually looked at the photos. That's pretty extensive and all over. I don't know that I'd be comfortable with that unless I just wanted a boat to sail and not worry about the future.

In particular, in the second to last photo, under the block that looks like a stress crack and what is concerning is it's not just a fracture, it's actually pushing up, which is from water getting in and freezing. While it may only be under the gelcoat, it's more severe than your general "crazing".
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Old 12-11-2019, 10:59   #11
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

I'd guess it is only cosmetic. An angle sander with some 20 grit discs to proved some tooth and get rid of any wax and such. Epoxy primer and some anti skid paint. Probably better than new since you wouldn't be slipping and sliding. They made a nice boat, probably among the best of those produced for the general consumer market.
Not a weekend job but not major.
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Old 12-11-2019, 12:41   #12
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Epoxy primer needs to be forced into the cracks with a roller or squeegee. Then sand the primer smooth and paint. Don't try to sand them out or you'll create a huge fairing job.
On the textured deck, roll the primer evenly, sprinkle sand on, then paint. Not a huge job but the price had better reflect what a project boat it is otherwise find a boat that someone has already done all the projects.
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Old 12-11-2019, 13:22   #13
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Thanks everyone for the advice. I really can't live with all those cracks etc and there were far more than in the pictures so I expect I'll likely move on. Thanks again and also about the chain plate reinforcements and stem head fitting.
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Old 12-11-2019, 13:53   #14
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Quote:
Originally Posted by dennismenace111 View Post
When you say HI BUILD PRIMER...can you be more specific? Ive got some crazing on my cockpit seats that Id like to repair..
AlexSeal and AwlGrip have hi-build epoxy primer that is easy to sand. It takes a lot of sanding between to get the surface fair. I am doing my boat in AlexSeal vs Awlgrip as AlexSeal has a reputation for being easier to repair as the texture is consistent through the thickness of the paint (Awlgrip has a surface layer that rises so incorporating a repair is difficult, though Awlgrip does make a product similar to AlexSeal. They are good paints - comes down to flip of coin).

To the OP - I looked closer at the pics on my PC vs phone. Some of the edges are curling-up which means this is indeed a pretty major job. Each major crack will need repair or the cracks will reappear due to failure of the old gelcoat substrate. This is really labor intensive so the only practical repair given the age of the boat is to take it to a low-cost place such as Mexico. The boat would look brand new from the outside. My guess is this type of repair just doesn't make financial sense (I know it doesn't for my boat, but I did it anyway as I've had the boat for so long and found a good group in Mexico to do the work affordably - big plug for Niza Marine in Ensenada). Given you're in Ontario, chances are that isn't really an option.

Years ago, there was a rash of boats with topsides blisters (including Valiants). They were very difficult to resell and when they do, they go for rock-bottom prices. I bumped into a fisherman who had a badly blistered Uniflite sport fisher that he got for a song. He didn't care - said the fish can't tell the difference. As someone else said, whoever buys the boat will probably need to just live with the gelcoat.

Good luck!
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Old 12-11-2019, 14:01   #15
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Re: Extensive Gelcoat cracking and grazing

Some time ago I had a 23ft power boat that had a lot of 'crazing' that I fixed/hid a different way than a lot are advising here.
I broke an 1/8" drill off so I had a square sharp end, put it in a drill & just laid it at a 30 degree angle to the surface and chased all the cracks down to the cloth.
After a quick wipe with acetone cloth I filled all the cracks with a fine sign writers brush with gelcoat till slightly over filled.
Wet & dry to rub down flush finishing with VERY fine one.
A good wax & polish & you couldn't see where I'd fixed it.
No painting at all.
Give the whole topsides a good cut, wax & polish .........
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