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Old 12-17-2000
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road
Cracking Gelcoat

I recently bought a 1980 C&C 34. The only "major" problem with the boat is pervasive gelcoat cracking under the stanchions. This cracking is due to thermal cycling and stress placed on the rails when folks board and where the headsail applies force when taught. There are no backing plates on the underside of the stanchions and the surface is irregular. So two questions:

1) How would you recommend I back the underside of the deck to prevent overstressing in the future?

2) What is the best (easiest) way to repair hairline cracks in gelcoat. Appearance is important, but not paramount.

Dan Dickison responds:

You're facing a situation that is common for owners of boats that are 15 to 20 years old or more. It's likely that your crazing problem would exist even if you did have backing plates under the deck, but it's a good idea to have them there nonetheless, especially for something like stanchion bases that are subject to a lot of side loading. I'd recommend using a high-density material that will distribute the load evenly. Some sailors choose aluminum plates, but I prefer a less-conductive material like solid fiberglass or G-10, which is available from most boatbuilders. Make sure that you use large fender washers on each fastener to distribute the load.

As to your gelcoat, you'll find that you can easily come across gelcoat touch-up kits at most marine stores. You might want to bone up on this if it's your first time by looking at the Fiberglass Repair and Gelcoat Damage video that's available in the SailNet Store ( Or you might want to pick up a copy of Don Casey's Sailboat Hull & Deck Repair (also in the SailNet Store). Best of luck with all of this.

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