Wednesday, December 9, 2015

To Skid or Not To Skid

On Monday I was able to go to a local boat supply store and pick up the extra gelcoat that I needed.  I don't know if I mentioned this already, but I'm actually using waxed gelcoat for this.  The reason...economics.  The gelcoat I started with, ClearCote, I purchased from the marina.  It didn't make sense to get waxed gelcoat since both were the same price.  Then someone pointed out that Kings Marine (a few minutes down the road) sells the same gelcoat for about $15 less, but they only stock the waxed version.

For the non-skid it doesn't really matter which one I use.  Normally, the purpose of the wax is that it makes its way to the surface to seal the surface from air and allow the gelcoat to fully cure. The technique for creating the non-skid texture requires that PVA be used to seal the surface because the non-skid breaks the wax film and could prevent a full cure.  But the waxed version can be used and, given the price difference, it was an easy decision.

Now the weather forecast on Monday was that rain could be in the area but was likely to miss the northern half of Hampton Roads.  Yeah, right.  It rained off and on most of the day.  I didn't want to risk water contamination on the top, so we held off.  Instead, we decided to run another test in creating the non-skid texture since we have found that the gelocat we are using is different from the one I did the test with and the temperatures now seem to have an impact on how the stuff acts. We were able to determine that at around 60 degrees we could add one heaping plastic spoon full of fumed silica (about 2 tablespoons or so) to 2 ounces of gelcoat to get a reasonable result.

Yesterday the weather improved.  It wasn't very warm (I think the high was around 55 degrees F.) but the sky was clear with little chance of rain.  Inside our work "tent" we can somewhat control the temperature with the heater, so we did the application.  We prepped three mixing cups with 16 ounces of gelcoat, adding the 8 heaping spoons of silica and mixing it in well.  We then confirmed the temperature was about the same as it was during our test and catalyzed the first cup of the white goo.

I applied the same thick layer of gelcoat that we did during the test using a 1/4 inch nap roller.  We then catalyzed the second cup and repeated the process.  Then we used the loop texture roller to roll over the first section we applied gelcoat on.  To create the texture, you take this roller and roll the gelcoat as starts to thicken up during the curing process.  The first section wasn't quite ready so it created more of an orange peel look.  We catalyzed the 3rd cup and applied it.

After getting the 3rd cup on the top, we went back again and ran the texture roller over the first section. It was thick enough to make a texture, but the texture wasn't the same as it was the day before.  I just don't get it, gelcoat seems to behave differently every day we use it even when we pay very close attention to the temperatures and amount of catalyst used.  While it was different, it was "good enough" and so we kept going.

It was a difficult process to complete the top.  My wife would mix up the gelcoat and help with the texture rolling, and I would apply the gelcoat and work the texture roller.  Getting the timing right is a trick.  If you wait too long to try creating the texture, the gelcoat cures and you can't impart any texture.  If you don't wait long enough, the gelcoat flows back together into an orange peel look. Getting the timing right and getting each section to look like the last is quite a tedious trick.

In the end, we had one section we re-coated and re-textured because we missed the timing window and the surface was far too smooth.  It doesn't look perfect, I said before...good enough.  After getting all the gelcoat on and textured, we quickly went around and removed the tape from the edges (before the gelcoat permanently made the tape part of the top).  I then applied the PVA to our work and cranked the heater up to help everything cure.

Non-skid applied and coated with the green PVA to cure.

The texture didn't hide the imperfections in the surface as well as we had hoped, but the top should be perfectly functional, looks "good enough", and means we are done with the fiberglass and gelcoat phase of this process...I hope.

Now I need to convince the boatyard to help me get it to the boat in a timely fashion so we can temporarily brace it up, mount it to the arch, let the welder get accurate measurements for the front supports, and get the window installed.

We are getting closer to getting out of here...yay!


  1. Looks good Mike, only you will notice the imperfections. Quite the project!

    1. Thanks! While it doesn't look as good as I would like, I do think it is more than good enough. It will keep the cockpit dry and I'll be able to walk on it and access the boom, so it is a win.

  2. Hi Mike,
    Looks very good, every artist or craftsman/woman can find the "imperfections" in their own work, but hardly anyone else can. Besides, a lot of this top may one day have solar panels sitting on it.
    Good luck with the install.
    Doug in VT

    1. Hey Doug,
      The imperfections are more noticeable than you can see in the pictures, but it is good enough. And you are right, the solar panels will help hide a lot of it.

      Thanks! Looks like we may be able to get it to the boat next week.

  3. Yes yes yes. You're so close now.

    1. Yep, getting closer. Can't wait to get headed south.

  4. Nice job! I see some cruising in your future :)

    S/V Kintala