Subject: (old wood sailboat)
Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998

Hey Doc,
Forgive such a fundamental question but I'm just getting started.

I have an old wooden sail boat (16' Johnson x boat) It's been sitting out for several years. I would like to restore it and I was thinking I would fiberglass it. Then I was told that the glass would not hold (swelling wood problem). Then I read this book about stapling the glass to the hull ?!?!? Another source told me that he had good success by simply putting a flexible epoxy resin on, no glass.

What should I do?

I would like to be able to keep it in the water for extensive periods of time, sometimes not watched for several weeks.

I was also thinking of putting a thin coat of glass on deck in order to get a more durable and more maintenance free surface. Will this add too much weight or cause other problems?

Thanks for your help,

John L.


I would not fiberglass the hull. The old boats were constructed in a way that allowed them to *flex* and rarely will the glass stay on the wood. It breaks free and water gets underneath, and then you get rot. On deck it's okay, because you've only got one plane flexing and the glass will adhere better. I would suggest that on the deck that you use an epoxy resin rather than polyester. Stronger and more flexible. It will add very little weight.

As you have observed from your reading, there are various schools of thought on the matter, but I have rarely seen it work -- and only then when epoxy resin was used and all the seams between the planks were *splined* with thin wood wedges epoxy-glued in place. That's a big job!

I'd suggest that you consider coating the exterior of the hull with Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES). This will consolidate any bad wood you might have and give the hull some protection from future rot. Because it's so thin, it does not enclose the wood, which can still flex and *breathe*.. You'd still need paint and seam compounds (3-M 5200) to finish things off. We sell the CPES in up to 2-gallon units, and it would probably take at least one of these units to coat your hull -- maybe more, depending on how porous the wood is.

Keeping it in the water is fine. You just need to prepare the hull for immersion in the traditional fashion -- caulked seams and paint.