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Old 01-25-2016, 08:41 AM   #1
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Fiberglass putty boat?

Disclaimer: I am completely new to boating and am in the process of getting the basic knowledge. I don't, never own any boats.

I have been watching boattester.com for a while, initially it was pretty exciting, Woo, these boats are great! The reviewers almost always praise the boats! Great this, great that, everything great. But after a while I grew suspicious, Really? There's no drawbacks at all? Every single boat is the best boat in the entire world! Go jump on it!

Yesterday while reading a cruising book. I found something deeply concerns me. The issue is with fiberglass. According to the book, a lot of new boats being built are labelled as "fiberglass", while in fact they are so called "core material", basically just junk material covered with a thin layer of fiber. Also according to the book, boats built before 1986 mostly are solid fiberglass. But most newer boats are not. Then I came upon this article: Are They Fiberglass Boats Anymore? by David Pascoe, Marine Surveyor

I got to say these are really discouraging news for newbies like me, If these are true, then count me out! Forget it, A boat is not a small investment, I am not paying that much money for a piece of junk!

I'd like to hear your opinion, are these true? The article is fairly old, dates back in 2000. Have things been improving? Or getting even worse? Is there any brand today still use solid fiberglass? Is there any reliable boat review that I can trust?
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Old 01-25-2016, 09:20 AM   #2
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Cored hulls just because they are cored are not bad.

The Bayliner 45/4788 hull for example has never experienced an issue with around a thousand units produced, and a production history starting in the 80's. It is solid fiberglass followed by structural foam, then another layer of fiberglass.

History is the proof. If a boat hull has a problem, it will fairly quickly become a issue and those boats will quickly become boat yard relics.

If it were me starting over I'd read less and go out and actually see boats,, old and new more. Go hang out at the dock. See what ages gracefully.
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Old 01-25-2016, 09:58 AM   #3
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As KSanders said, there is nothing wrong with a cored hull if it is done well. The reasons for building a cored hull are:

1. A cored hull is lighter than an equivalent solid glass hull.

2. Cored panels can be made very stiff compared to conventional solid fiberglass. This is important for large flat panels that don't have shape stiffness.

Most if not all builders of the highest quality fiberglass boats use coring at some point in the build. There are lots of core materials including end-grain balsa, marine plywood, closed cell structural foam, aluminum and paper honey comb, etc. For most marine applications closed cell foam core is the best choice. The exception being where the core would be under highly loaded things. In that case marine plywood is often used or the core is left out and that part of the boat is made from solid fiberglass.

There are two primary concerns with cored panels. They are water intrusion and delamination. Water intrusion only occurs if the outer fiberglass skin is penetrated (either by attaching things to the cored panel and not adequately bedding those fittings or by damage - i.e., hitting something). Delamination can occur if the panel is damaged or if the core was poorly bonded to the glass skins. As a rule, early cored boats were more susceptible to delamination than newer boats because of poorer fabrication methods. Modern methods (vacuum bagging, resin infusion) generally produce panels that are not prone to delamination.

The fact that a cored panel is stiffer than an uncored panel of the same dimensions is important for boat building. Often hulls are not cored below the waterline (the fiberglass is simply made thicker to increase strength) because weight below the waterline increases stability. Cored panels are most often used above the waterline in the hull, decks, and cabin house to reduce weight without sacrificing stiffness. This helps to keep the center of gravity of the boat low which is a good thing.

As far as saying that a cored hull is not a fiberglass hull, that only matters to definition purists. If you want to be 100% correct in terms of nomenclature, a boat with cored fiberglass is a "composite" boat, but as I said, that is a distinction only important to purists.

I would not worry about a boat with cored panels as long as there is not any significant moisture intrusion into the core - a good surveyor can determine this.

Now, why should you take my comments seriously. 1. I have been in the marine industry since 1999 and have built both solid fiberglass and cored fiberglass boats. 2. I have an extensive background in materials science.
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:08 AM   #4
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Like everything else, the technology has evolved.

Fiberglass is not really what it is anyways, that's a generic term. Early boats were fiberglass reinforced polyester. Nowadays there are many other fibers and resins: Epoxy, vinylester to name two resins, carbon fiber to name a high tech fiber. There are improved techniques for making weaves and mats other than just chopped strand.

There's vacuum bagging.

Modern foam core materials are very high tech: impervious to moisture and stronger than the original, balsa.

You get a stronger boat for less weight, and weight is not your friend.

There are boats made with balsa that have issues. Like cars, get to know your specific model of interest and learn all about the strengths and weaknesses.

If you want bullet proof solid and like wire brushes and paint go steel.

If you want solid, like scrapers, paint, caulking irons and are VERY good with wood, well, go wood.

Did you know they made boats out of concrete? Called ferro-cement. Google that. Don't get one.

Lots to learn. It's not that simple.
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:44 AM   #5
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My charter boat has a balsa cored hull. There are better materials to core with, but that boat is now 40 years old with no core issues. I prefer no coring below the waterline. Coring done properly is perfectly safe for what most of us do with our boats. Now if you're planning to cross oceans, I might choose something different.

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Old 01-25-2016, 11:46 AM   #6
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We live near a haul out and enjoy an evening's walk to view the various repairs to the boat hulls, cored new and old, solid glass, wood and metal. One of the new high end cored hull boats hit a wood 2X4 which penetrated and was stuck in boat. Perhaps Pascoe has seen similar damage and this is the reason for his comments. I would not own a boat that is cored below the water line. Pascoe has a life time of knowledge and has surveyed boats for purchase, insurance, and repair. I am thankful that he has shared his knowledge.
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:08 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by chicagoq View Post
Disclaimer: I am completely new to boating and am in the process of getting the basic knowledge. I don't, never own any boats.

I have been watching boattester.com for a while, initially it was pretty exciting, Woo, these boats are great! The reviewers almost always praise the boats! Great this, great that, everything great. But after a while I grew suspicious, Really? There's no drawbacks at all? Every single boat is the best boat in the entire world! Go jump on it!

Yesterday while reading a cruising book. I found something deeply concerns me. The issue is with fiberglass. According to the book, a lot of new boats being built are labelled as "fiberglass", while in fact they are so called "core material", basically just junk material covered with a thin layer of fiber. Also according to the book, boats built before 1986 mostly are solid fiberglass. But most newer boats are not. Then I came upon this article: Are They Fiberglass Boats Anymore? by David Pascoe, Marine Surveyor

I got to say these are really discouraging news for newbies like me, If these are true, then count me out! Forget it, A boat is not a small investment, I am not paying that much money for a piece of junk!

I'd like to hear your opinion, are these true? The article is fairly old, dates back in 2000. Have things been improving? Or getting even worse? Is there any brand today still use solid fiberglass? Is there any reliable boat review that I can trust?
You need to throw those books away, you are getting some bad information (or interpreting it incorrectly). Core material is not "junk" by any means. A cored boat is engineered to have greater strength and less weight than a solid piece of fiberglass.

Most boats today are solid fiberglass below the waterline and cored above.
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:25 PM   #8
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Well...are we talking cored or putty?


There is a difference... Sea Rays and others I believe used a slather of putty between layers of solid galls to build certain areas up to a huge thickness...for some models it didn't work out too well and they usually had issues that surveys did catch in my working for a Sea Ray dealership. Can't remember..but I believe a few other manufacturers experimented with "putty" in their hulls. Heck, Shamrocks had some kind of sand, resin slurry in their keels that chewed up reciprocating saw blades in seconds when we tried to cut them off. So who knows what is in all the boats and models.


Then there were cored hulls like OC Diver's dive boat and early Kady Krogen 42s that were more "true" cored hulls.


All have good points and bad. The trick is to know which ones were done well and the others.
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Old 01-25-2016, 01:33 PM   #9
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Here is another scary article:
Cored Hull Bottoms

How do you even tell whether a boat is soild fiberglass bottom or cored? Take the dealer's word for it?

The funny thing is, I thought I just want to buy a boat for pleasure(They are called pleasure trawlers, aren't they?). Now i found I need to be a boat building material expert.
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Old 01-25-2016, 02:24 PM   #10
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You are getting way ahead of yourself. The tail is wagging the dog. You need casual knowledge; when the time comes a surveyor gets paid to determine condition. Reputation of a design and your own wish list will get you to that point. If you were buying a used house you would not have intimate facts on how it was assembled.

Make a list of what you think you like. Go look at some boats with those characteristics. Have a manageable realistic list then ask for some brief opinions on what you have found. There are a lot of variables; a Mercedes can be a piece of c--p if it is not maintained.
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Old 01-25-2016, 05:04 PM   #11
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Chic, I strongly believe that you are approaching the boat buying research correctly. I understand that some think that you are acting in an over the top way, but they do not have any skin in the game. It is easy for folks on a forum like this to write a check with their fingers that you can not cash.
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Old 01-25-2016, 05:17 PM   #12
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Actually there are two main ways to understand/afford boating with the middle seemingly filled by very few.


Either you learn everything including how to repair everything (except maybe an engine rebuild)...or you break out the checkbook/credit card and just have someone else worry about it.


But to a point...both groups have to know whether they are buying well or poorly. Buying a cored boat is either or, just like any other boat.


My boat was supposedly solid glass...big deal...there was a 6X6 area that had delaminated at least half way through the total thickness and so many blisters the moon looked smooth next to it.


Previous owner said nothing, surveyor said nothing to worry about, builder had a better rep than most.


Nothing in life is guaranteed so learn the pitfalls and watch out for them...but CORED by itself is not a bad thing as some have said already.


My philosophy was buy old and cheap, rebuild the way I wanted it and hope the boat lasted the 20 years I needed it as a liveaboard. If bought fo approx. 50-60 thousand and another 40 thousand spent on repairs and upgrades thoughout it's life....that is about $5,000 per year assuming I can unload it for nothing. Let's say I have to pay $20,000 to dumster it...that's $6,000 per year or about half of the taxes I would pay where I live with a much better view from the boat.


Plus it is my vacation home in Florida for 20 years...no real extra cost depending how you do it.


But as you can see...all boats of the same model and vintage cost about the same....cheap and fix or great and turn key...but the bottom line isn't a whole lot different except the boat is more like you want it earlier and cheaper if it's a project boat.
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Old 01-25-2016, 06:21 PM   #13
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Usally the better boat cost more. If your worried about cored hulls go look at some earlier yellowfin center console boats. These things were cored with balsa wood and are fast and huge. I would give my left nut to have a 42' "cored" hull yellowfin.
Back to your query, like someone said, the track record of any particular boat should be enough info when buying.
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Old 01-25-2016, 06:41 PM   #14
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chicagoq, congratulations for involving yourself in research and asking questions. Throw nothing away at this stage. Start looking at boats too. You have an inquiring mind, I think you are already testing the opinions you read. Do not buy a boat until you believe you have a good understanding, but note, we don`t know what we don`t know (apologies to Donald Rumsfeld),what you think is correct now may turn out not to be, as your knowledge expands. At some point you will buy a boat, rely on a good surveyor to help you, you can always ask here for surveyor recommendations for the appropriate location.
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Old 01-25-2016, 06:44 PM   #15
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The enemy of coring is water. Find bad core and you will usually find unsealed holes that let water in. There are dozens of ways to do that, from SS sheet metal screws used to hold canvas snaps to thru-hull fittings. I've seen coring on a 40+' Hatteras fail so builder reputation is no guarantee.
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Old 01-25-2016, 07:17 PM   #16
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Thank you all for your reply! Whether you think I am a complete idiot or just not suitable for boating I still thank you for your words. Yeah, I guess right now I should just shut up and read books and online posts, I should be able to ask better questions next time.

psneeld: Would you mind share with us what did you end up doing with that boat? Do you still have those blisters all over that you have to wear thick boots when boarding? ^_^
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Old 01-25-2016, 07:36 PM   #17
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Thank you all for your reply! Whether you think I am a complete idiot or just not suitable for boating I still thank you for your words. Yeah, I guess right now I should just shut up and read books and online posts, I should be able to ask better questions next time.

psneeld: Would you mind share with us what did you end up doing with that boat? Do you still have those blisters all over that you have to wear thick boots when boarding? ^_^
Repaired the bottom...not a blister in 5 years since... and put 10000 miles/2000 hrs on the engine and 4 round trips to Florida on her.

But don't tell anyone ....the boat originally made it without incident from Florida to NJ...in March/April with no shakedown despite major questions on systems....someone might tell you I am irresponsible....
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Old 01-25-2016, 08:37 PM   #18
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Get an aluminum or steel boat if you are worried about plastics.
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Old 01-25-2016, 09:11 PM   #19
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Chicagoq. Right now concerning boats you are as dumb as a stump. But, you are in better shape than a lot of folks that just jump right in and buy the first POS that there wife likes, at least you are asking ?????
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Old 01-25-2016, 09:34 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by chicagoq View Post
Thank you all for your reply! Whether you think I am a complete idiot or just not suitable for boating I still thank you for your words. Yeah, I guess right now I should just shut up and read books and online posts, I should be able to ask better questions next time.

psneeld: Would you mind share with us what did you end up doing with that boat? Do you still have those blisters all over that you have to wear thick boots when boarding? ^_^
No, you are not an idiot, or not suitable for boating! You are just a guy trying to learn.

The problem is that some here have very strong, uninformed opinions regarding coring and hulls. They think they know something about the subject when in fact they have no more information at their disposal, or knowledge than the rest of us.

Like any other boat building technique there are good and bad hulls that are cored. Just like there are good and bad hulls that are not cored. So for some to make blanket statements to you, just a guy trying to learn, just shows their lack of knowledge of the subject.

Before I would dismiss, or buy a boat, I would learn all I can about that particular model. That way you can be aware of any issues with it. Some models have had challenges with their hulls, some have not.

I'll again bring up the Bayliner/Meridian 45, 47, 490 series of boats. These boats have a structural marine coring system that has never experienced a delamation, or hull failure over a period of almost 35 years. It's pretty hard to support a claim that this is an inferior hull based on that history. In terms of numbers produced I think you'll find that series of boats the most most popular boat ever produced in that size by any manufacturer.
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