What do I do about cracks in the deck?

We are planning to paint the deck and we were wondering if anyone can advise us regarding the paint, non-skid areas and the cracks. We want to sand the actual deck pattern and put normal anti-slip (it is already like this in the hatches area). Any advice, especially regarding the cracks on the deck? Thank you! Best regards, Cristina Mandras (#113, Sunrise).

a. Cristina, I can tell you what I did, but it did not really eliminate the cracks. I used a dental pick and acetone to clean and flush the cracks on the deck. I then filled them with penetrating epoxy, which, after the epoxy cured, did not quite bring them flush to the deck. As a cosmetic solution, it was a failure, although I felt like it improved the integrity of the deck. I then lightly sanded and painted the decks with a two part polyurethane paint. In the non-skid areas, I put one coat of paint, which gave them a nice appearance without significantly reducing the non-skid. In the smooth areas, I put two coats of polyurethane. When I was done, it looked pretty good, but after a couple of years, the cracks were clearly visible again. So, I guess I failed. I think your approach of sanding off the deck pattern and putting normal anti-slip is a good one. At least the cracks would be covered in those areas. I don’t know how you get them to totally go away in the smooth areas. Good luck! Bill Gifford (#078, Perpetua).

b. Respectfully and sight unseen, I would not sand the non-skid deck pattern ! I think the existing contrast between ” smooth & non skid ” gives the deck character ….. Why just not re paint over the non skid deck pattern ?? Cheers, Frank Bryant (#186, Visitant).

c. Hello Cristina. We are Harry and Jane aboard Cormorant, hull #144. We have been living aboard since 1997 and have been sailing west around, via the Panama and Suez canals, since then. We are now in Gibraltar (9/2011) and planning to cross the Atlantic this winter. We just had some other Corbin owners aboard (H2OBO, Branko and Maggie) last night and showed them our deck, so you might be able to get another opinion from them. We used a product that has been 100% satisfactory.
Our molded in non-skid was slippery and dangerous, but we didn’t want to spend all the serious money and time to remove all the deck hardware and paint. Not only was our deck slippery, it also looked “tired” and some areas, especially in the curves of the mold, had gelcoat cracks. We were in New Zealand at the time and saw the product,”KiwiGrip” on another boat. It looked good, they loved it, and we figured it was worth a try. This was in 2005. We bought two 4-liter tins of “cream” colored paint. It also comes standard in a light grey and a blue, but the cream is a perfect blend with the Corbin brownish decks.

To begin, we washed all the decks thoroughly, sanded all the areas we wanted to paint–very lightly! We spent only about 4 hours sanding. We did not grind down the old non-skid at all. After sanding, we washed again and then carefully taped all the areas where we wanted the non-skid. This took the longest time, because of all the curves, but it is important in getting a nice looking job done. In a couple of areas where there were cracks or where we had removed deck hardware and had unsightly patches, we just continued the paint without stopping it at the molded in edges. Then we were ready to apply. All this took less than one day.

Kiwi-Grip is a water-based paint, so it can be shipped and is easy to use and to clean up. It comes very thick, and it is put on thick. It is best to do with 2 people, one to glob the paint out of the can and spread it thickly with a brush. The other comes along behind with the texture roller (supplied with every can) to create the surface. There are clear directions on the can and they should be followed. It dries quickly, so they say to do smaller areas at a time. They also say to remove the tape right away and not to let the paint dry first. This is important.

We did our entire boat in two days, and the only reason it took 2 days instead of 1 is that we thought it would be nice to have half the boat to walk on while the other half was drying. It dries right away to walk on, but then it continues to dry and bond to the deck for about a week. We put ours on in 2005 in New Zealand, and since then we have sailed to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indian Ocean, up the Red Sea, and across the Med. Just a few months ago, we bought some in Italy (found it searching chandleries on-line. Probably the company could help if you contact them via the web) and re-did the cockpit seats and a deck area where we had removed an unused water fill deck plate. It goes on easily over the old paint and sticks well. We could only buy white in Italy, but going to the Kiwi-Grip website we contacted the owner and he told us how much of what tint to add for a match. Unless you look closely you can’t tell which is new and which is old. (Actually the old is now a little flatter, but it is still providing excellent grip–see the foredeck photo. One side is renewed, the other original). Not a single crack has come through after 6 years, and we put it right over the cracks without digging them out and re-filling them. None of the paint has peeled off, cracked, or blistered. See cockpitseatnew.jpg, foredeckoldandnew.jpg, pilothousetopold.jpg

We never expected such an inexpensive and easy job to be as attractive and long lasting as it has been. In another few years, we might put another coat on all the decks, but we’ll just wait until it needs it. We have attached a few photos so you can see what it looks like. It is hard to get good deck photos because of the color and the shadows, but you should get the idea. This is the worst it looks because we were leaving Almerimar Marina to head to Gibraltar, and the air there makes the decks very dirty. Harry and JaneHungate, (#144, Cormorant).

d. The reason for the cracks on the deck is that the gelcoat is thicker in the area of the antiskid due to the diamond pattern which tends to gather more gelcoat. Thick gelcoat tends to crack. The good thing is it is only surface cracks and is not structural. If you sand the gelcoat and refinish the surface with paint using sand as an antiskid, like it is usually done, it should solve the problem. I wish you good luck and a great trip. You bought yourself a great boat. Make sure the painter does not only fill the cracks and paint over them. The gelcoat has to be sanded down some. Not necessarily to the fibre, but down some. Have a wonderful day. Marius Corbin.

e. Hello Mr. Corbin, Everyone in the yard and in the marina admires our boat. But no one loves her like we do 🙂 I am supervising the painters every day; I will be careful for them to sand as much as necessary. We are in Valencia, Spain and the workers in Spain are not as good as we would want. Best regards, Cristina.