Osmosis…The Creeping Enemy!

Boater's Chat Boat Buying Information Muskoka

Osmosis on or in fiberglass boats continues today as a major hull problem in Ontario….. it still lurks and not just in the shadows.  Looking for a deal on a fiberglass bowrider or  a best Muskoka bowrider…what is a best buy fiberglass bowrider at the Toronto Boat Show?  Or perhaps you will be actively bowrider shopping for a Muskoka bowrider this summer.  If you have read the previous material on lamination and resins…Osmosis The Creeping Enemy…will continue the discussion on just what is a best Toronto Boat show bowrider deal or buy and how your should seriously consider that bowrider boat deal before making that buying decision.

Osmosis…The Creeping Enemy!

Just what is Osmosis?  Osmosis is best described as skin cancer on and in a fiberglass laminated boat hull.  Yes it can be thought of as a significant medical challenge for your marine investment and it can significantly affect the longevity of your bowrider purchase and the medical bills can be significant.  What is Osmosis and what does it look?  Osmosis is the result of water ingression through the outer gel coat barrier and into the laminate layers that make up the hull integrity.  Osmosis looks like water blisters….the kind your get on your hands and feet from over exertion on your hands and usually bad fitting shoes on your feet.  Osmotic blisters can show on any part of the fiberglass structure at or below the waterline tending mostly towards the stern area as well as lifting strakes.

What is the Significance of Osmosis?

A fiberglass hull laminate is a complex weave of resins and woven fiberglass cloth called Roving ( large filament weave) and small fiberglass weave and/or fiberglass strand (individual filaments of fiberglass or chopper gun fiberglass also called gun roving) placed in layers in varying geometric patterns and bonded together with resins normally either Polyester or Vinyl Ester.  In the article on resins we discussed that polyester resins can be as much as 100% more prone to osmotic pressure and water ingression.   Ingression of water into the fiberglass laminate layers results in localized pockets of water between the laminate layers.  Think of your hull structure being similar to plywood and its layers that make up the board.  The water pockets break down the resin bonding holding the layers together and result in localized water pocket swelling.  That is itself is a very significant loss in structural rigidity but it gets worse here in OntarioThe winter temperatures cause the water pockets to freeze and further expand and like a water blister.  The increasing pressure from the expansion of now frozen water inside the pocket pushes outwards towards the hull surface and it pops open.  The end game of osmosis can be premature hull failure and a boat that most dealers will not take on trade.

Can Osmosis be Repaired? 

In a word…..No!  Many fiberglass repair shops will not even attempt to repair osmosis blistering as they know once the blisters start…they are going to haunt you again.  Once osmosis has been detected on the hull the best case situation in a draw were the occurrence of new blisters is controlled and the existing blisters in terms of additional damage are controlled.  The treatment of coarse is normally the use of an additional barrier coat in the hull surfaces below the waterline by means of an antifoulant paint or similar compound.

How do I or Does The Boat Builder Combat Osmosis?  

It is as simple as making the right decisions to limit any chance of Osmosis in Ontario.  All boat builders have the same access to the same building materials or can choose to develop their own proprietary resins and lamination systems.  It involves a choice or a series of choices on cost of materials and in doing so what period of time will elapse before a potential problem may exist….warranty costs!  Money…..the higher the build cost of the boat…the higher in the buying matrix that bowrider will show and we all realize how important price is these days!   As I mentioned before most the ugly truth is that boat builders are not even placing a paragraph on construction in their brochures as boat buyers are too focused on price.

As a boat buyer doing your homework you need to consider what materials the builder has decided to use as it is a direct reflection of the delivered quality and the expected longevity of the product.  In a conversation with a boat builder….Ontario is considered a problem area for osmosis and our waters were referred to as “hot waters” meaning the composition of our lakes may promote osmosis.  Many of the water bodies in Muskoka could be considered acidic which is not an ideal situation for a cheap or poor planned boat hull lamination.

What is the Best Protection System From Osmosis?

It comes down to your choice and of coarse…..money!  Here it is:

Choose a Vinyl Ester or Vinyl Ester/epoxy resin system,  protect the laminate further through the use of a product called “Spray Core” then protect it further by choosing the right outer water barrier gelcoat and do not cheap out on the thickness.  In real terms at the manufacturing level we are talking about a difference in builders cost on a 20′ bowrider of some $1000.00 or about 2 to 3% per unit.  When you add to this a superior stringer system, upgraded upholstery materials, upgraded windshields, radios and gauge and what material and how thick it is for canvas and now you can see a 10 % or more difference in price.  Read the warranty books…there is information in there on how to protect your boating investment.  As added protection have the bottom of your boat waxed annually and take the boat out of the water if possible several times during the season and leave it on the trailer for several days to dry. 

In the boat business and at The Toronto Boat Show…you get what you are willing to pay for but make sure you know what you are paying for!  Dealers know and place the lowest price on all boats at The Toronto Boat Show because if they do not….interested buyers will not even stop and take a look.  The problem I have with that is that is the car business…bait and switch….but maybe those who are selling a high quality high value boat have to do this.

Want a great deal or a best buy on a bowrider at The Toronto Boat Show…get away from the builder marketing spin, the smiling salesperson and do your won homework…dig deep than those glossy brochures or websites!