PS Advisor March 2007 Issue

PS Advisor

What are the effects of keeping your sailboat in the water year-round?

Wet-storing a boat over the winter has its pros and cons. Blistering is always more prevalent on boats that remain wet-stored year-round. If left unattended, these blisters usually increase in depth and diameter. Hauling a vessel does lessen the contact with water, but in winter climates that are below freezing, the issue of expansion-caused micro cracking becomes a factor to consider. One answer is barrier coating, which at least lessens the porosity of the surface and slows, if not stops, moisture intrusion.

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What are the effects of keeping your sailboat in the water year-round? In

Sailboat
Reader Bill Caversí Ted Hood/Deiter Empacher designed Bristol plies the waters near Darien, Conn.
Connecticut, itís cheaper to store a boat in the water than to have it hauled all winter long. Is this constant contact with the water bad for the fiberglass (blisters, water-logging, etc.)? Does "barrier coating" (applying a special protective coat under the bottom paint, after you have stripped it all off) prevent any of the damage? How long does a barrier coating last? What barrier coating would you recommend?

Bill Cavers
Saquish, 1984 Bristol 31.1

Darien, Conn.

The climate in many parts of the world allows boats to remain in the water year-round, and composite FRP structures hold up pretty well to year-round immersion. The benchmark would be early 1960s hulls, most of which are still going strong. Itís important to note, however, that these were not cored hulls, and more often than not, were built with thicker hull skins than vessels made today.

So despite the fact that many older wet-stored boats are still blister-free, water the universal solvent can hydrolyze seemingly impervious resins. Many other variables affect this process, but, yes, blister problems are more prevalent on boats that remain wet stored year-round. If left unattended, these blisters usually increase in depth and diameter, and prevention efforts, as well as prompt repair, make sense.

Hauling a vessel does lessen the contact with water, but in winter climates that are below freezing, the issue of expansion-caused micro cracking becomes a factor to consider. One answer is barrier coating, which at least lessens the porosity of the surface and slows, if not stops, moisture intrusion.

If the bottom is blister-free, try the Interlux approach, using a coat of Epiglass Epoxy resin and several follow-up coats of Interprotect 2000/2001-E. Such barrier coat systems seem to have a life span of about 10 years. If the bottom is badly blistered, a professional removal and laminate replacement using epoxy or vinylester resin is a costly but proven fix. Care must be taken during prep work because adhesion quality is directly correlated with surface prep.

If you consider wet storing in Connecticut, make sure that the marina has adequate ice abatement capability and their electrical system is reliable. Careful and thorough winterization includes keeping the cockpit and deck drains from freezing up and if electric lights or heat tape are used in the bilge, care must be taken to prevent shock or fire hazard. Whenever thereís an extreme winter, New England marinas suffer damage from moving ice as it clears in the spring. This said, wet storing can be cost effective and certainly has you primed for an early-season sail.

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