When is fiberglass done for?

Discussion in 'Fiberglass and Composite Boat Building' started by JustinT, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. JustinT
    Joined: Jul 2013
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    Location: Michigan, USA

    JustinT Junior Member

    I picked up a Prindle 18 catamaran for a cheap trade. The previous owner says that it was used and abused and put away wet. When I picked the boat up it was filled with water and had not been moved in years. This is located Michigan so it definitely went through numerous cold winters with water inside hull. There is obvious delamination from PO jumping on hull after a capsize, and extensive blisters all over the bottom of both hulls. I was thinking about rehabbing this old girl but wonder if the acid in the blisters, neglect and abuse have weakened the hull to a point where the time, effort and money to bring it back to life is hardly worth it. If it was just a few pox or just the delamination I could do it but if the fiberglass is totally shot then I will part it out and move on. Is there a way to tell if the fiberglass is beyond rehab? Color change etc.

    Thanks for your time. Justin
     
  2. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome the to the forum Justin. You've raised a difficult question, which is about assessment of any project. It's difficult to balance the value (perceived or other wise) against the amount of work, material costs and bother in the repairs. If you post some pictures, we'd be better able to access the condition, but in a nut shell, anything can be fixed, particularly with 'glass boats. I've repaired and restored boats where all that remained of the original, was a small length of keel, essentially building a new version, of what it once was. Of course, this is done on something with a pedigree, but your boat's issues could be addressed, it's just that you have to decide if it's worth it. For a novice, this can be hard, mostly because you don't know what's involved with costs and effort yet.

    I say go for it, as you'll learn a lot and in the end, you'll know exactly what you have.
     
  3. JustinT
    Joined: Jul 2013
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    JustinT Junior Member

    Cheers Par

    Thanks for the reply. I will attempt some photos tomorrow. Not sure if I can get the blisters to show up on film. They are not fresh. What pics would help? I feel comfortable addressing gouges, dings, holes, delamination and blisters. Not sure if I feel cutting off the deck spending the cash laying up numerous layers of roving or cloth inside and out to rehab this boat. I have not passed it along because I felt the boat could be unsafe and don't want some chump to inject a little epoxy here or there and with a few pieces of class tape and thinking they have a great fun cat to play with. I am currently focused (spending) on a different project which I will be posting pics and needing input on soon. I guess what I am asking is what extent of a repair is necessary for a safe boat. If we are talking about cutting the deck off and roving or cloth inside and out then I will part it out. If I could just fix up the dings, grind down/sand the outer layer and lay some light cloth and epoxy. Then throw some good paint on it and I have a safe boat then hay why not add another boat to the barn or pass it along to someone who wants and is capable of the project. By the way Par I have found many of your post extremely helpful while trolling this site for info. Thanks Justin
     
  4. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    I think the question was more directed at fiberglass itself. Like if a fiberglass panel is abused for years, even though the panel looks ok, has the resin or glass deteriorated to where the panel has nowhere near the strength or properties it had when made.
     
  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    It's likely you don't have to remove the deck cap and reinforce the inside of the hull with fabrics, so save this idea until you hit the lottery.

    Odds are, you just need to make repairs to the divots, dings and other stuff. The centerline of each hull might need a layer of reinforcement, to account for the laminate worn away from 100's of beach draggings, etc., but this can be done on the out side. A good photo of the overall extent of the blistering would be nice. Maybe some close ups of the worst places too.

    Repairs to the scratches and dings are as simple as grinding back the damaged laminate, until you see good stuff (you can tell by the color), then laying in reinforcing fabrics and goo if necessary (deep) or just a fairing putty if fairly shallow. Blisters are about the same thing, except they need to be dry, after they've been ground back a bit. The last bit is paint. You can re-gelcoat, but this is difficult for the novice to do well in their back yard, so paint is the usual option.
     
  6. JustinT
    Joined: Jul 2013
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    JustinT Junior Member

    Par if I hit the lottery I will spend the cash on something way more beautiful and covered made of wood. I might even call you up for a few designs.

    I will get some pics tomorrow in better light. The boat has been in my barn cleaned up and drying since April so it should be dry at this point. I don't think the core was wet.

    Samsam I supposed I wondered if the phthalic acid and butyl alcohol had too much time to eat away at the resin and intern stop supporting the abuse fibers. At what point do you call it dead?
     
  7. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Each and every blister should be opened and permitted to drain. There's no time limit involved here. If the blister is opened, and dried, you can then grind it back to undamaged laminate and begin repairs. I usually give them a pressurized acetone wash (spray), to expedite the drying process. It helps wash out the resulting chemical concoction in each blister and suck out the moisture too.
     
  8. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    Fiberglass has a working life. After enough mechanical cycles it gets flexible and fails. Lightweight race boats lose thier stiffness, competitiveness. On the race course your boat is dead.

    Certainly you can clean up an old race boat and use it for day sailing.

    All you need is money and time, plus this handy book http://www.westsystem.com/ss/assets/HowTo-Publications/GougeonBook 061205.pdf

    If the components...mast , rudders, are usable the boat is probably worth repairing.
     
  9. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    That's a good term - working life. So this boat is like a lot of them sitting around under trees. Probably a chop gun laminate, and has been full of rotten water for years. Freeze thaw cycles that worked on the original delaminations or any absorbed water. U/V exposure.

    The laminate can't be as good as when brand new, but for all purposes it probably looks and feels sturdy enough. How do you tell when the laminate has reached the end of it's useful life? If you replace all the original structure-stringers, frames etc,-how do you tell if the unsupported panel areas are up to the task they were originally designed for?
     
  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Sam, you can tell if 'glass is done, both by looking at the laminate and flexing it. The same boat you describe under a tree, may or may not be done, but you can tell with an exam.

    If seen 50 year old hulls that were still quite serviceable and others only a few years old, that were completely spent. Everything has a duty cycle, especially if you get drafted.
     
  11. gggGuest
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    gggGuest ...

    With anything as major as this, its an extremely good bet you won't get the money you put into it back, let alone any value in the time and effort you put into it.

    So if you are doing it with the view of any kind of return - forget it.

    If on the other hand you fancy doing the work as a hobby in itself - for satisfaction of seeing something appearing from nothing and all the rest of it- carry on. Its amazing what can be put into some kind of usable order if someone is committed to putting the time and effort in and is enjoying the process of doing it.

    Reading the description though I do wonder whether there might be less time effort and money involved in building two new hulls...
     
  12. El_Guero

    El_Guero Previous Member

    Like ggg, I think you might have more fun, and return on your investment replacing the hulls with two hulls made from plywood.

    16'? Done in either of the three major forms, sharp v shape, rounded bottom, or flat bottom. You would basically build two larger decked canoes ..... in place of the problems you already have.

    And if you went for a narrower hull (beam) you could go a little longer, and probably get more speed with the same rig ....

    You have some great designers on this forum who could whip up that advice quick and easy for you.
     
  13. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    In most cases these types of projects haven't any resale value, but is just an exploration to the owner's desires and skill set development. I see no reason to discourage this thinking. We all have to learn, so let him. In the end, if he's diligent and carries through, he'll have a boat to be proud of, even if he put more into it than it's worth. Most of us have boats that we've put more into then it's worth, especially if we pay ourselves a reasonable living wage for the efforts.

    Go for it Justin, have fun and post some pictures of it underway, to help piss off the naysayers (my favorite past time).
     
  14. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    And boats are fun. A free boat that needs a little putty and paint to make her look like what she aint will give many hours of enjoyment. No need to always be throwing things out.

    Look careful to make sure shes not a shipwreck then break out the putty and paint.

    The equipment...mast rudders...are important. if they are trashed you should give up and find a better candidate.
     

  15. JustinT
    Joined: Jul 2013
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    JustinT Junior Member

    Sorry I got unexpectedly busy and had some data issues so couldn't up load any pics. Though you all have had a very interesting discussion talk with out them. I think I downloaded pics onto my profile but can not seem to get them connected to the page. Maybe they still need to be approved. Check my profile album for the Prindle and Sirocco pics discussed below. Cheers

    Micheal I basically agree with your post about working life, and race boats retiring to a life as a day sailor. I wonder if proper placement of light well designed stringers, replacing some materials etc could get you towards the front of the pack for many weekend one design races. If you got the knowledge and skills to race it. I am talking less then 20 foot boats where forces are usually much lower. Your point is valid and I have surely noticed that a lot of the winning boats are newer with higher quality components.

    The Prindles rudders, mast, rigging etc are pretty good except a few lines of running rigging and a few other reasonable priced fixes. The mast is straight, with new standing rigging, and was stored inside. The tramp is serviceable but the sails were rolled on the boom and laying on the trampoline and totally blown out before the unimaginable neglect. Pretty colors though.

    The West System book on Boat building rehab etc is absolutely amazing. If everyone read it there would be a lot less post on this forum. It answers many many questions. West Systems news letter is also quite excellent but only comes seasonally. I feel an obligation to stick to Gougeons products because all they have done for boat building. Yes there are some cheaper epoxies that will do the jobs you need but with out the Gougeons and all the hard working geeks at West their methodical attention to detail and concise explanation, and distribution they wouldn't even be selling that cheap epoxy and I wouldn't think about building or rebuilding boats. Plus they are a Michigan Company and I say support local. Though they are about 3-4 hours away. Local for epoxy.

    gggGuest After looking at the Prindle I remembered how cool her asymmetrical shape the amas or technically Wa'a are quite pretty. Each hull is foil shape. They really just copied the shape from some of the south pacific shunting proa. Islander culture, and Pacific life created a shaped foil hull through selection occurring during bloody and ruthless navel battles with many thousand proas. Talk about motivation to be the best. The proa were like jets in relation to anything invented at the time. The tribes with the fastest proa design, and best skills not only survived the battle among tribes through superior technology but also survive and navigate the pacific ocean while fishing and trading for a living. I find the cultural evolution of the region rather fascinating.

    When I took photos on Wednesday of the amas I felt the fiberglass was in better condition then I remember. I could not get the blisters to show up well in the photos. It was obvious when it was out in the sun, cleaned up while looking down the line I could see all the little raise spots left over from drained blisters. I figure I could grind back the area that has all the blisters with most being small. I would probably scrub with TSP and water, followed by the acetone spray bath. Once assured fiberglass is dry, re-clean and use epoxy and fillers, fairing, and then glass any larger holes and fair, lay necessary layers of tape on keel throw on some PU paint. Do I add something to assure strength of hull? Laminated solid wood tapered well shaped stringer glassed on each ama? Seems heavy plus excessive. Weight is not really good in any way but strength is and somewhere there needs to be a compromise. I really wish those hulls were divided up. The compromise between weight and strength is what I suppose I am looking for on this boat and another one. It all depends on use. I don't want a boat I have to nurse along, because that is not what I will want this boat or, at this point, any boat I need to nurse. Unless I win that lotto and start collecting classics. I like small boats, and all the adventure, and challenges that can be had in them. I am not talking Frank Dye, adventures but still challenging week long adventures on the Great Lakes. No motor just oars or yuloh is more my speed. So the Prindle is not my ideal candidate for my intended purposes. I will build a boat at some point but I want to rehab a couple old plastics that will fill some of what I want and will utilize. Then I will actually know which design I really want to build and how I want to set it up. Yes I have started collecting boat plans. They are so pretty but I want a boat in 6 months not 2 years. When I have that figured out the Prindle will move up the list. Though there are some smaller builds that might be in the running for time, money, and effort. I love the process of learning about boats, designs, use, construction etc. I love building things and love adventures in small boats. My first focus is a Sirocco 15. Though I am now pretty positive fiberglass use, abuse, and construction method are a major problem in the sirocco. She was built in 1968 when people needed to be more gentle with the glass cloth. I can see folded 180 degree glass cloth, and bondo in places. Therefore I am sure the quality is not there. The boat had wet rotten foam, with thin roving tabbing, Some rotten bulk heads, beefy glass cloth in hull, few stringers but remarkably dry stringers. I was thinking I would add a sealed hatch on the cabin, with larger bulkhead, and better placed flotation, that is accessible and sealed along with accessible floatation tanks. I will also add more storage, seal able boxes in the stern, ash gunnels, hiking straps and other cool touches with wood, epoxy, varnish, paint etc. I was thinking rowing, beaching, gunk holing, for two people for 2-30 day trips who do understand and appreciate the small size.

    I removed the foam, rotten bulk heads, dried everything wet. (I think) I cut out the floor in cubby to get a better look, create sitting head room, and add better bulk heads, stringers and new lower floor. It looks pretty bad under there lots of flex and skin feels really thin and flexible in a few spots. How thin is too thin? There is thin mat over some wide wood stringers more like wider plywood core tabbed with thin layer of mat filled with black mold but actually dry. Is there a place where I can find the effect on strength of puncture resistance , tensile strength etc per xx ounce of cloth with epoxy?
    I feel like the hull could start getting heavy fast. She was built light and poorly. So for her age and my intended use, cost and effort. I don't want a shiny, heavy, slow (relatively speaking) piece of junk. She weighs less then 500 and has 147 ft^2 sail area, and planning hull. Am I really ever going to be able to get her on a plane with day sail weight or even exceed hull speed with the weight I am throwing on? I have only spent as much as the nice galvanized trailer was worth and a little elbow grease so feel free to tell me to run. I am not blindly invested yet.

    I thought the Prindle was probably shot due to the acid involved with blistering. The Prindle was not stored in water so had time to dry between acid baths. Plus the foam cored hull with lots of cloth still appears stiff and strong. I have searched this forum and many others and few can explain what to look for in fiberglass that has reached its useful working life. Parr you said that you can tell by looks and flex. Can you or anyone else concisely explain a few test that can give someone a 90% chance of knowing fiberglass is done for. Of course construction methods and material apply but if they are vinyl, poly, and epoxy resin with glass fibers there must be some simple test that can tell most of the time if we should add to it, replace it, or junk it. etc. I am not talking cost and effort of a project but assessment of just the glass reinforce plastic quality. When should we know?
     
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