If you are restoring a boat with a mind toward selling it, there are some important issues to consider:
There are basically four stages that boat restorers go through when addressing rot. First is realization of the problem, then denial, finally acceptance and then repair. It is easy to go into a restoration thinking that the rot problems are not very bad, because they often don’t look too bad superficially. But when you get down into it, you often discover that a little problem tends to be much worse than you think! Once water makes an intrusion into the wooden portion of your boat, it is bad. It will keep going and festering until it is fixed.
Sometimes rot will happen from inside the boat. Water will sit in a low spot on the deck, get under the carpet and start the rot from there, but that is actually not very common. Usually the deck is fully fiberglassed so the water will simply evaporate with no problem.
The most difficult kind of rot to deal with, and unfortunately, the most common is rot from underneath where water penetrates through the hull. The moisture tends to condense under the deck. The underside of the deck is usually just bare wood so it is very easy for rot to begin from there.
Restoring Fiberglass Gel Coat
No matter what kind of boat you own, whether it be an old classic or a new runabout, you want the fiberglass to look new and shiny. The key to doing that is getting rid of oxidation. Oxidation is the chalky dull color that the fiberglass surface gets.
It takes a lot of elbow-grease to get off the oxidation so you will almost certainly want to use a power buffer. When you use a power buffer, it is important to first tape off the rub rail and any fittings that you don’t want damaged or scuffed up. After you apply the liquid wax or buffing solution, be sure to push the buffer up against the side of the boat before you start or it will fly everywhere!
Fishing boats tend to get a lot of blood and chum on them so they need an extra coat of protection compared to other vessels. It’s a good idea to use a paste wax so that the debris can easily be removed.
To finish off, use a marine polish or carnauba based wax.
Last summer my wife damaged one of the seats in our Glastron boat so I pulled it out to fix it. When I took it to the upholsterers to fix the tear in the vinyl, they unstitched it and discovered that the inside of the seat was starting to rot.
The problem was that it is a rounded corner seat and the wood inside was originally steam bent at the factory. I don’t have the kind of equipment required to do steam bending in my garage! So we kicked around a few ideas until we settled on a solution. This may not be the way it would be done in a factory, but I think it worked out fine.
We ended up recreating the bent wood with a series of thin strips of plywood lined up next to each other and taped into position. I’m really happy with the way it came out!