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Threadbare Gelcoat

2644 Views 15 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  christian.hess
OK, so it looks unlikely that there will be any sailing this weekend.
I'm trying not to stress about cosmetic issues, but reading online I hear all these horror stories of compromised gelcoat and water damage.

Figured I'd share a couple of pics and get some opinions.

Is this anything to worry about this season? It's not soft and doesn't feel wet. I have four small spots like this on the boat. What's the proper way to repair? Most of what I see has to do with cracked or scratched surfaces, not broader areas where it's sort of just worn away.

If this has already been exhaustively covered, links to old threads or elsewhere on the interweb are fine.



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Ignore it, it'll go away. You might consider coating it with some white epoxy primer like WR155.
My 1981 S2 chalks so bad that being near it when it rains is embarassing but I have no plans to deal with it.
If the epoxy is a quick fix that lets me move on to higher priorities... awesome.
If I were to want to do a better job of it next season, will gelcoat bond to epoxy, or am I better off biting the bullet now?
It's the gelcoat worn away, mine has several spots like that, some previous owner must have had a very abrasive rear end. Only fix really is to repaint the deck, and I'll get around to that at some point, but it's just cosmetic so it can wait.
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If the epoxy is a quick fix that lets me move on to higher priorities... awesome.
If I were to want to do a better job of it next season, will gelcoat bond to epoxy, or am I better off biting the bullet now?
The Gougeons (West Epoxy) state that gelcoat can be applied over epoxy but it is commonly thought that it will not adhere properly. I have never tried it myself. I wouldn't count on it working.
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If you havent done this before, I suggest "Professional Gelcoat repair without a mess" by John Gabriel (video/CD).
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Someone needs to be relieved of their buffer....

This is an EASY fix. The hardest part will be matching the old gelcoat. Given that the abraded sections don't match the old gelcoat either, it seems to be a no loose proposition.

Jamestown Distributors sells gelcoat WITH WAX in many colors. I suspect that white would be most appropriate for this.
  1. Tape off the area around where you need to make the repair.
  2. Sand the area including and immediately around the repair with 400 grit sand paper.
  3. Thoroughly clean the area with dewaxer. Wipe with a clean rag from the center out.
  4. Measure and pour some of the gelcoat into to a piece of clear plastic, like the stuff that they use to cover a cake or pie in the supermarket. Compare it to the surrounding gelcoat.
  5. If you like, add tint to the gelcoat (you can buy this at the local WM). Or, you can live with "close enough." This is the hardest part of the process for me. I am not good at matching colors. Note that gelcoat does not change color (at all) when it hardens.
  6. Add the correct amount of hardener (remember that you measured in step 4?). I believe that it is 10 drops per ounce of gelcoat.
  7. Apply the gelcoat with a foam brush, a sprayer, heck I've used a rolled up paper towel and had great results. Put the gelcoat on heavy. The new gelcoat needs to cover the area that you are trying to fix, and be feathered over the old gelcoat, so that they will blend together.
  8. Let the gelcoat harden for a day - it is best if it is exposed to direct sun, or you could use a heatlamp.
  9. After it has completely hardened, sand the gelcoat smooth with 400, then 800 grit sandpaper. Again, you want to feather it into the old gelcoat.
  10. Peel off the masking tape.
  11. Polish the area with a buffer, and compound to give it gloss.
  12. Apply a coat of wax. Done!

It seems much worse than it is.
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I think you're spot on with your buffer hypothesis eherlily. It wasn't me :mad:

The boat is 40 yo.. I guess PO couldn't stand her looking a little weathered and botched the plastic surgery.

I can tell where it's thin when standing in the cabin on a sunny day. It shines through in certain places and corresponds nicely to the worn areas.

The repair you're describing is pretty similar to what I've seen online so far, so that's comforting. Sand it, clean it, thicken, apply, wait, sand & compound.

I really wasn't sure if the cabin sides were gelcoat, or at least if it was the same as the hull's freeboard.

Thanks for the link RichH.
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sometimes its just dependant on where the sun sets on the boat...I bought a boat once that clearly had the sun damage the port side more than the stbd side simply because the boat was at that same dock for like 20 years...

so it might not be a bad previous owner or extreme buffer

the fix is just like mentioned above untill you want to the whole decks....
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Here's a 'trailer' for the John Gabriel video/DVD: Michigan Fiberglass Gelcoat Repair with John Gabriel

Youtube also has a vast storehouse of excellent mini-videos on such repair. Go to youtube and enter "gelcoat" in the youtube search box.

If you want a perfection repair, remove a 3/4" 'plug' of hull side, etc. and send it out for color-computer analysis for precise color matching. Then consider to purchase your gelcoat in 'paste' form to cover the dings and deep gouges, etc. .... and also in 'ready to spray' form for the final layers.
Spraying the final coat of gel (using the small Preval aerosol sprayers, or even one of the small, fairly inexpensive 'pro' gel spray guns ... even with disposable fluid cups) will usually produce 'pro' results ... on your first attempt.
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those preval sprayers are awesome...did a 2 part job on some hatches on same boat and the results were fantastic...
Thanks again guys.

The boat is old, so it's due to have the entire deck and cockpit's gelly redone. Of course, that's after I remove and rebed all deck hardware. Got a feeling I'm in for a mast step rebuild as well. Safety first.

My concern really is if these bare patches present a problem in terms of water damage in the near term. If they do, I don't want my repair to complicate an eventual total redo. Knowing that I'll someday be doing the whole deck though, I'm not that worried about an exact color match on the patch.

I'd be surprised if I get to all that this offseason. I'm getting married this year, and as fiance will remind me from time to time... "This is NOT the year of the sailboat!"

She's a little sensitive since my NY's eve resolution was to learn to sail and maintain a boat. I guess it wasn't what she had in mind, but the DJ was kind of leading us on asking "What new, exciting challenges will you take on this year?" I blurted out the WRONG answer.. lol.

Any harm in just hitting them with a water repellant, flat white marine paint? Seems like it would sand off a lot easier than epoxy.
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Polyester resin, most likely what the hull is made from, will yellow if exposed to direct sunlight. Other than that, I don't know (perhaps someone else does?) of any structural issue that would result from these two small patches of your hull.

I would leave it alone, and not further contaminate the surface with paint.
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I redid the gel coat on a previous boat used a high gloss additive to the gelcoat and roller with a dry brush to finish mirror gloss finish the biggest issue is to dewax the surface well and sand fair etc surface prep make all the difference
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K, I'm convinced. Leave it alone for now, do it all in one fell swoop when I'm ready to worry about how she looks.
I would paint it with a cheap epoxy paint from the auto shop...if you do leave the bare resin exposed and you keep rubbing on it its common to get a littly itchy if your bare skin touched it too much

just a little spray that can be easily sanded before redoing decks is good in my book

but you dont HAVE to do anything really now...
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