How should I repair cracks in my deck?

I need advice regarding cracks on deck and how best to repair them. I fear water has soaked into the encased wood – plywood. I hope it will dry out while in Tunisia during the coming months. I have opened these cracks, which range from hair lines to almost 1/32″ in width, and have sealed the worst of them temporarily using silicone. This should help the drying process and allow for a more permanent repair. I would appreciate help. Thank you very much. Peter Voges (s/v #099, Escapade)

a. Hi Peter, My name is Bob Cox. I have owned Dorisea, (Hull #070) for 12 years. I think I have finally succeeded where others have failed, to fix the thousands of ugly gelcoat cracks in the deck that, although cosmetic, de-valued the boat. None of these cracks intruded into the fiber glass, so unless your situation is different from mine, I do not feel you have the threat of water intruding into the plywood core of the deck. The problem stems from the fact that the gelcoat is far too thick. When I bought the boat, the deck had been painted with a very hard non-skid paint. There was also several coats of more paint on top of that, as well as a flexible primer under it. The cracks migrated through all of it. I was convinced that all the paint needed was to be flexible in order to prevent the cracks from re-appearing. One day I was working with some roof paint called Snow Roof. It is a water-base, elastomeric paint. Little bells went off in my head, and a web address on the can led me to their site and a listing of all their products. This included a product called Kote-A-Deck. The site also listed many applications which included Boat Decks. I called the company, and they were very helpful. They explained that the products would not be suitable for application on gelcoat unless the surface was sanded firs with 40 grit paper, to insure adhesion. They then recommended two products. Prime-A-Deck and Kote-A-Deck, both elastomerics. Company contact info. follows: Snow Roof Systems 1499 Enterprise Parkway Twinsburg, OH 44087 Phone: (888)-321-5665 FAX: (888)-296-5665 E-mail: customerservice@kstcoatings.com Web: http://www.thoroproducts.com

I began the long, hard job of removing all the crap that was already on the deck. That was the worst part and hopefully one that you will not have to do. Then I sanded the deck with a belt sander and 36 grit paper. I sanded the gelcoat until all the original molded non-skid surface was gone. Then I scrubbed the deck with bleach to kill anything living in the millions of cracks. Then I cleaned out all the cracks with a high-pressure-washer. It was now ready to apply the primer.

I began by forcing primer into all the cracks with a squeegee. As the product dried, it shrunk into the cracks, so I did it again until the cracks were filled flush to the deck. Then I brushed on 3 coats of Prime-A-Deck. Then I applied 3 coats of Kote-A-Deck. (The non-skid grit is mixed into the paint at the factory-just stir and apply) My deck now looks beautiful. I have pictures, before & after, if you are interested. The other part of the project was the water-channels and trim parts of the deck. They had many cracks too. Here I used a high-speed drill and tiny router bit to open the cracks down to the glass. I found spots where the gelcoat was 1/4 inch thick. I used Marine Tex to fill the trenches I cut. At first, I attempted to color the Marine Tex to match the color of my boat. I got close, but never satisfied. I resolved myself to the fact that I would have to paint the repaired areas. I had shied away from that idea because West Marine (and others) couldn’t or wouldn’t match the color. This would leave the repaired areas standing in contrast to the rest of the boat. Then another light went off in my mind. These marine supply places don’t make the products they sell. They just triple the price and put them on the shelf. I went to a few places in search of a single part polyurethane paint tough enough to walk on. At a True Value hardware store I found a product from “General Paint & Manufacturing Company”. It’s for interior and exterior floor and trim. I solicited the help of their paint man. He said if I can bring him a piece of the boat, he can scan it and match the color exactly. That’s what I did and that’s what he did. The paint went on beautifully with a brush (which they gave me as a thank you for doing business with them) and now looks like it was sprayed on. Just like BrightSide, except I got a perfect color match and $24 per gallon instead of $30 per quart. By the way, if you’re a “Cetol” man for your topside teak, Sikens sells through their dealers a product called Natural 078. Same stuff as Cetol Marine with one exception. Cetol Marine is $30 per quart. Natural 078 is $30 per gallon. I’ve had it on my wood for 5 years. Not as beautiful as varnish, but a fraction of the work to keep it looking pretty darn good.] Well Peter, that’s what I did with the deck of my Corbin. I’m extremely pleased with the result. I just recently completed it, although I did a few test places 5 months ago. I’ve had no problems in those areas. Time will tell, and at the very worst, it’s real easy to repair. Just slop on a little paint. Actually one slight problem has emerged. It didn’t use to bother me so much when it got dirty and the birds crapped on it. It looked lousy anyway. Now I find myself washing the deck every few days. Gotta keep it looking pretty. I wonder if those Marine Stores sell a bird repellent? Best from Bob Cox (s/v #070, Dorisea)