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How To Repair a Hole in Your Hull

o the boat owner it may look like a hairline crack or a tiny hole in the hull.

The owner may just spread a little fiberglass or auto body filler in it and feel the hull is serviceable again…only later to discover water in the hull.

When I give a repair estimate, owners are often surprised when I describe the amount of time required to repair what appears to be a simple scratch but is actually a crack in the hull.

I often hear the remark, “that much to just put a little filler in a scratch?”

Scratch or Crack Boat Hull, Coachmaster, Redding
What appears to be a small scratch (see arrow) in a boat's hull can often be a crack. When underway or while under pressure, such cracks can widen allowing a great deal of water into the hull. Such "scratches" must be repaired properly to ensure integrity of the hull.

I had a personal experience with a “scratch” repair on a used bass boat I was interested in buying. I inspected the bottom and was impressed with the condition. It showed very little wear. I bought the boat, not knowing the owner had it repaired, because the paintwork blended well.

I took my newly purchased boat to Shasta Lake. I was very impressed with its performance. It skimmed across the lake to my favorite fishing area. I fished the points slowly. After several hours I decided to call it a day and head back to the launch site. As I accelerated I noticed it did not pop up on plane. It took full throttle to barely stay on top of the water. It was no longer fast and sat low in the water. I was lucky to have made it back to the launch site.

When I got back to the shop, I inspected the bottom and saw nothing but a small scratch about six inches long. I suspected the scratch was the cause of water inside the hull because there was nothing else visible. I took my pocketknife and scraped the scratch and discovered auto body filler. I scraped the filler away and discovered a similar appearing scratch in the fiberglass. I pressed with my hands on the scratch and water dribbled out. What appeared to be a scratch was actually a crack through the hull. I then drilled a hole into the hull at the end of the scratch and water began to flow out rapidly. I estimated the hull contained almost fifty gallons of water.

Hole in boat hull, Coachmaster, Redding
Even an ominously large hole in the hull can be misleading. In the case above, sanding revealed the full extent of the damage.

Cracks open wider with speed as water pressure is increased. A simple “fill the scratch repair” is doomed to fail. The required repair area was about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide for the 6-inch crack.

The boat in the picture above is an example of a similar situation. This boat had a hole in the lower front area about six inches in diameter. As you can see the repair area was much larger because the fiberglass shattered a total of several feet in many directions. The fiberglass had to be ground out until it was paper thin. Then the hull had to be re-laminated with several layers of new fiberglass to restore it to original strength. The finished hull came out looking like this.

The moral of this story is: Do not assume that hole in your hull is as small as it looks and when buying a used boat make sure the hull has not been repaired improperly.

Excessive water in the bilge is a sure sign there is a crack somewhere. That crack may look very small but under pressure it can widen and allow gallons of water to enter your hull very fast.

If you are concerned about the condition of your hull, please bring your boat into our shop for a thorough inspection.

Don Stec is the owner of Coachmaster of Redding. Coachmaster is a full service collision repair shop also specializing in the repair of recreational vehicles, trailers and boats. The company works with all the major insurance companies and has a great reputation in the North State. Coachmaster can be reached at 530-243-1310 or at the shop at 6851 Eastside Road in Redding.


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