Best Bowrider Boat Buying Tips, Bowrider Gelcoat Discolouration, Gel Coat Cracks and Osmosis

Looking to make a smart best bowrider purchase at The Toronto Boat Show?  Ontario Bowrider boat buyers can dramatically increase their bowrider boat purchase satisfaction plus get mountains of more value when they consider and understand the importance of outer gelcoat finishes.  Boring stuff perhaps….it looks so pretty….but it is all the same like car paint….no its not!  The selection by the boat builder of a polyester or vinyl ester based gelcoat system ( cost is so much of the decision) of a poor to great quality of gelcoat represents a top five boat buying tip by Boater’s Chat!  Don’t let anyone tell you that all gelcoats are the same or in the brochure a term like “Premium Gelcoat” does not mean squat!

Cosmetic discolouration of gelcoats, gelcoat cracking and osmosis are problems that come and go based on the build year and by the boat builders choices of what products are used in the lamination schedule of the hull and top deck.  I do realize that this can be a very dry subject and a detailed discussion could be used instead of an evening nightcap…but we are talking about a very significant outlay of cash to purchase a fine bowrider.  Considering to buy a bowrider for sale in Toronto perhaps a new bowrider at the Toronto Boat Show, and commit $35,000 or $50,000 or even $150,000 out of the families treasure chest, you and your family should carefully consider gelcoat composition as significant part of their bowrider purchase decision.  There is so much emphasis on visual appeal by builders as they know that visual queues are a strong buyer attachment point.  The salesperson is not going to discuss gelcoats or construction details with you unless you ask….here we give you the background information to know what to ask.  A good salesperson will notice how you react to the visual stimulus of the boat and react accordingly.

There are two main chemistry bases to gel coat systems….. Vinyl Ester and Polyester.  Poly Ester will be the more common as it is the less expensive and easier to work with from the builder’s standpoint.  In both chemical systems there are sub groups built on intention and cost.  Vinyl Ester generally will have the best resistance to osmosis, cracking, crazing and blistering.  If they are utilizing a Vinyl Ester gel coat they should be applying this over a Vinyl Ester barrier coat. Properly applied the dual Vinyl Ester system is a best buy.  As a compromise some builders such as Crownline Boats utilize a high value polyester gel coat system by Armourcoat and apply this over a high quality vinyl ester barrier coat with excellent results.

All of us have family budgets that we have to work within.  Vinyl Ester systems are significantly more expensive for the builder and that cost is going to be passed on to the purchaser.  A good alternative is Poly Ester gelcoat over a Vinyl Ester barrier coat.  For examples two companies that utilize the Poly Ester/Vinyl Ester lamination system are Crownline Boats  and Larson Boats.  Crownline utilizes ArmourCoat Gel Coats for many years with success from the standpoint of little to no gel coat cracking, good colour retention and few to no hull blistering or Osmosis.  Note that most boat builders will not tell you or do not have in their literature what gelcoat they have chosen.   The field of suppliers of gelcoats has narrowed since 2008 and many builders have had to change systems and suppliers.  An emerging problem in fiberglass boat building is VOC’s known as volatile organic compounds and there release into the atmosphere in open mold boat building.  VOC emissions are regulated in most states with some being more stringent than others.  Open mold systems release VOC’s to the atmosphere.

The VEC boat building system pioneered by Larson boats was an attempt to limit the release of VOC’s during lamination.  Early VEC construction did suffer from osmotic blistering as the process did not allow for barrier coating.  At Huntsville Marine we have not witnessed any significant osmotic blistering problems with VEC since 2009.   As a note one boat builder that I speak with frequently classifies Ontario waters as “Hot Waters” or in other words which are prone to osmotic problems due to acidic conditions and chemistry.  Interesting and we are drinking and bathing in this stuff!

In 2016 the EPA in the United States did a follow-up visit and audit of a number of American fiberglass boat builders particularly on the west coast.  The results with respects to VOC emission relative to the previous audit 5 years earlier were not good. There is considerable discussion right now among the US boat builders on what the EPA is going to do and mandate by legislation with respect to VOC emissions.  This has implications for both gelcoats and fiberglass laminating materials.  Interesting to note that Larson Boats with their very low emission VEC construction technology has stated that this process is being closed down due to costs ( too expensive and therefore non competitive) and for 2017 they are converting to the traditional open mold system of boat building.

Gel coat colour retention can be a hot topic.  Why do some boat builders colours remain truer to original longer that others.  In a word….. chemistry!   High quality Polyester and Vinyl ester lamination systems hold colour longer and have less fade problems related to sun exposure.  How do I know that I am getting the best?  Good question and the builders for the most part are not going to tell you what they are using plus 50% of the sales persons have no idea either….its pretty and good quality so buy it the line goes!  What is the best colour for a fiberglass boat…..white on white…..boring!  What is the two best-selling gel coat colours…black is number one closely followed by blue.  What colours seem to have the highest fading….yellows, greens and some reds or browns.

Remember and I have stated this many times in Boater’s Chat…you get what you pay for in boat buying.  It is less for a reason as in the material costs were less.  No boat builder has competitive advantage building in the United States over any other builder in the United States with respect to costs.

Confusing……yes it can be!  With the significant reduction in boat hull produced since 2008, builders have had to pass on their cost to the buyer as fixed costs do not change.  There is no such thing as more for less in the marine business.  That goes to boat building, power, service and boat storage.  If its cheaper…it is for a reason that frequently is not in your long term interest.

Then there is the elephant in the room!  A very high percentage of gel coat cracking is a result of use by the boat owner!  In many cases the cracking of gel coats occurs at or near the base of the windshield or mooring cleats and or wakeboard towers.  Why…..impact during docking maneuvers would be a leading cause with improper load reduction in docking lines…using too few and or not utilizing shock reduction techniques with mooring lines also being a concern.  A boat in the water tied up to a dock is not the same as a car parked in a driveway.  The boat receives continual stress on the hull and fittings due to waves, wind and wake.  It make only take one hard it against a dock surface to result in a gelcoat crack at that time or at some time period thereafter with an secondary  stress in that area.  Most boat manufacturers only offer a gel coat warranty for 12 months.