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pmoyer 10-20-2006 05:16 PM

Blisters, bottom jobs, epoxy, and barrier coats
Another series of questions on the road to buying my first boat....

I just finished reading "Things I wish I'd known before I started sailing" and figured that 32' is the maximum size for my first boat (as attractive as those Sabre 426s are....). So I've been reading a lot of ads on Yachtworld, trying to compare features, apply what I've learned by reading, and thinking about how, where, and with whom I'll be sailing.

One subject is causing me concern and confusion - hull integrity. Seifert's book "Offshore Sailing" generally makes light of blisters as a cosmetic problem. People on here say it's much more serious, and must be handled immediately. Other people on here side with Seifert.

At the risk of creating a flame war....

Let's say we're talking about a stable of late 70's Columbia 9.6 boats. We could talk about S2s, or Ericsons, or Pearsons. I don't think it really matters. Given the state of fiberglass production at that time, and the average build quality of that line of boats, how would you rank the following four categories, in terms of confidence in hull strength and the likelihood of future problems:

- Boats where the seller doesn't say anything about blistering. I assume this means original hull with only occasional bottom paint.

- Boats with blisters "professionally repaired" (or whatever terminology they use).

- Boats that have been barrier coated, but don't mention anything about blistering or other osmosis problems.

- Boats that have been stripped, epoxied (or vinylester resined, or whatever), and then barrier coated.

Engines I can learn to tinker. Rigging I can hire someone to replace. Electronics I can install. Interior improvements I can do. Soft decks and soggy hulls scare the heck out of me. Also, will a survey be able to find ongoing osmosis problems?


Faster 10-20-2006 05:52 PM

Others more qualified than I will surely chime in here, but for what its worth,

I tend to agree that most cases of blistering in single-skin hulls are largely cosmetic and do not threaten hull integrity (I'd be much more leery of deck delamination than average blisters - but naturally blister-free is better) In the case of cored hulls, it's a much greater concern due to the relative thinness of the skins.

I'd listen to your surveyor rather than the seller with regard to issues like this.

As to Blister repair jobs having been done, it depends on the methods used and the skills and knowledge of those who used them. There are a lot of practitioners of this, each with their own ideas and techniques and they can only be evaluated over time.

Here on the west coast we have had rashes of "Leaky Condos" (not floating ones), and when buying a condo you have to decide to either buy one that's been fixed and hope it was done right, or buy one that has never been fixed and hope it won't need to be..... It's kind of a similar situation wrt hull blisters and most boats in the 70s-80s vintage.

Parley 10-20-2006 07:21 PM

The 'ol blister ??. Well, I am by no means an expert and certainly not a professional. I did however sleep at a Comfort Inn last night. (Sorry, couldn't resist). I got into this question after the fact, so to speak. I found all my blisters post purchase. Like you, they and deck rot scare the daylights out of me. Mostly due to lack of complete understanding (and not wanting to recore a deck). Additionally, I found opinions, both professional and DIY'ers like myself, that varied in direct relation to the number of people asked. So, my take has been, correct it, all of it. Which I am at the tail end of currently. A survey should be able to address blisters and osmosis problems if surveyed while the boat has been hauled out of the water.

seabreeze_97 10-20-2006 07:28 PM

Dontcha mean Holiday Inn Express?

kd3pc 10-20-2006 08:22 PM


In this part of the country (Chesapeake Bay, VA) the prevailing wisdom and experts (surveyors and working boatyards, builders) is that all fiberglass boats will blister at some point. I recently bought a 1983 Sabre and she had a dozen or so "blisters" on one side, rear of the keel.

Blisters as defined here are small pockets containing moisture between the gelcoat and the fiberglass roving. One would even say smaller than a silver dollar. Our surveyor, and he is one of the best in the area, as well as the yard manager suggested that immediately upon hauling, power wash and as the water runs off, you will see the blisters. Mark them with a pencil (circle them) as being able to see them clearly will go away fairly quickly.

Then, using a sharp putty knife cut them and they should "bleed". Do NOT cut in to the fiberlglass. To do repairs correctly, it is suggested to let the blisters dry completely remove the "loose" gelcoat and repair. You may even have to recut them and let them dry for several weeks or a month or so.

Here they do not recommend "barrier coat or expoxy bottoms" as the feeling is that this just traps the moisture and will eventually lead to delamination.

Hope this helps.

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