Old-Boat Nightmares #2

I was watching our surveyor friend Norm Leblanc inspecting a 1970s Pearson. He was tapping the topsides with his trusty rubber-tipped hammer, sounding for all the world like a giant woodpecker. Suddenly, the sharp rap-rap-rap of the hammer changed to a hollow thud-thud-thud. “Uh-oh,” said Norm.

He had been working along the bow sections, and when we looked closely, we could see a network of fine cracks in the gelcoat along a two-foot section of the hull, midway between the forward bulkhead and the bow. This expanse of relatively flat hull is usually unsupported and on some boats you can see it flexing, or panting as the pros call it, when the boat is beating into a seaway.

That’s not really a problem, at least in the short term. This, however, was. The dull sound made by the hammer suggested that the layers of fiberglass comprising the hull laminate had begun to delaminate, probably following an impact such as an encounter with a dock or piling. Or, as Norm pointed out, it could have been the result of decades of flexing.

Either way, it would have to be repaired. This would be a tedious process involving cutting out the affected area and replacing it with new laminate.

Most people would probably want to leave this to a professional, but it’s within the capabilities of a DIY owner. Don Casey has a section on repairing delaminated or otherwise damaged topsides in his book This Old Boat.

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