Help, my gelcoat is flaking off! (Part 1: Self-inflicted)

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A few days ago we talked about gelcoats in general and their function on Coastal Boats. Today we’ll go a little further and look at problems with the gelcoat – The topic: Help, my gelcoat is flaking off (Part 1: Self-inflicted). How can I prevent the cracking and flaking of the outer layer of my boat? Why does the gelcoat flake off? There are a couple of things to consider here: Temperatures and impacts.

Reasons for self-inflicted damage to the gelcoat

The reasons for self-inflicted damage to the gelcoat can be manifold. They range from transport damage to temperature fluctuations and unnecessary impacts on the boat. Here are some of the reasons in detail.

Help, my gelcoat is flaking off! – Transportation damage

Transport damage is the most common reason why gelcoats crack or flake off. However, this can be easily prevented. Use roof racks or trailer racks that are rubberized. Load your boat properly and make sure the boat is well-adjusted on the roof or trailer. Use V-wedges to rest the bow – if necessary – and fasten the wedges well. If the boat is not properly placed on the struts, or if it is not tightly lashed, there will be constant vibrations. The boat will then bounce up and down while you drive. This can very easily damage the gelcoat.

Finer cracks in the gelcoat are often stress cracks. They are often due to overstressing of the material at certain points: We recommend that you always unrig the boat, unless they are folding riggers, when transporting the boat. Folding riggers should be lashed down with cable ties. During transport, vibrations occur and the bolted connections of the riggers are subjected to a lot of stress every time you hit a pothole. This puts constant stress on the bolts and nuts over a long period. The permanent pressure or tension there can lead to cracks and spalling in the gelcoat.

Help, my gelcoat is flaking off!
Delamination on your coastal boat

Help, my gelcoat is flaking off! – Sunshine, expansion, and contraction:

Avoid storing the boat in the blazing sun for several days. Gelcoats respond to repeated expansion and contraction with temperature changes. The back and forth of temperatures cause cracks, which then become spalls that are difficult to repair. A boat cover is available for most Coastal Singles for less than 80€.

Not so common with Coastal Boats: Osmosis

Check your boat after each trip and see if you find small cracks. It is possible that over time water may enter through these cracks and cause osmosis. Osmosis does not happen immediately and is only a problem after several months. However, it is a shame when something preventable happens.

Help, my gelcoat is flaking off! – Blows to the boat

Another reason for gelcoat cracking is short, blunt blows to the boat’s skin. So, in principle, similar to transport damage, only this time more direct and self-inflicted. Several examples come to mind – not that this has ever happened to me before… A tool falls on the boat, or the hull gets tangled with the trailer during unloading, or, especially annoying and possibly associated with swear words, one was inattentive for a small moment, and the boat fell off the boat trolley. What I’m saying is, that there are many reasons in which a blow to the boat’s skin can cause cracking and flaking of the gelcoat, and most of them are actually totally preventable.

A chipped gelcoat reveals the laminate structure underneath. Caution is advised against osmosis


Conclusion – You can’t really check for gelcoat damage too often

Our summary: Treat your Coastal boat well and do proactive maintenance. Check your boat once more than you’d think is necessary. And don’t forget to clean it. However, not all gelcoat failures are due to our actions. A lot of them come with the boat. We will blog about gelcoat problems of some Coastal boat manufacturers another time!


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