Hull Repair

Whatever hull material you choose for your cruising boat, you should be capable of repairing a holed hull in a remote location. This may sound rather extreme, being how boat yards are available in every major port of call.  The problem is if you find yourself stuck with a problem in a non-major port of call.

Say you have a carbon fiber yacht, and find yourself on an island with a small fishing village and you bumped into a coral head. Now you have a hole and you can't get your yacht to a major port of call where skilled labor to repair your problem can be fixed. This is why you should be skilled in repairing your own hull and carry the materials and tools you need to repair a holed hull.

If you choose a wooden boat, you will need to carry along the minimum tools you need to repair a hole. You should have the tools needed to scarf in a repair plank and enough wood to carry out a repair to the bottom planking. This is where the biggest problem comes into to play for wooden boats: Where can you store enough wood for a planking repair in a small cruising boat where the wood won't get moist and rot?

The space and rot problems are severe enough that most choose to only carry the tools they need and plan to simply purchase the wood wherever they find themselves should the problem arise. This is fine as long as you have a hull made from woods commonly found in the area you will be cruising. If your hull is made form an exotic wood, you will be faced with two choices should the problem arise:

  • Use a different wood that is readily available where you find yourself.
  • Have your specialty wood shipped in to where you find yourself.

Wood is wood, what difference does it make if you mix and match? A lot! Each wood will shrink and swell at its own rate. If you mix species, you can create problems when the woods begin to swell at different rates and this can create irregular stresses on the fasteners and frames.

Shipping your specialty wood in can prove to be very difficult. Not only will you be unable to hand select the quality of wood that you want in person because you are stuck on an island and nowhere near the lumber yard you are ordering from, but you will also have to pay for shipping and then wait for its arrival.

This is where FRP hulls shine! FRP stands for Fiber Reinforced Plastic, and this means that the hull is made of plastic and reinforced by fibers. Glass fibers (fiberglass) are the most common at the moment, but newer fibers are coming into the market all the time. Kevlar and Carbon fibers are becoming very common on high level racing/cruising yachts because they offer greater strength to weight, allowing the hulls to be built lighter while still being just as strong.

If you find yourself stranded on an island with a holed hull, finding the exact fibers that your hull needs may be a challenge. Luckily, you can carry your fibers folded up in a bag stored in the bottom of a locker. The fibers won't rot and they won't take up much space at all! Looking at your hull, I'm sure you know that your yacht is not made of a giant woven tapestry, there is a hard shell that holds it all in place. This hard shell can easily be carried in metal cans in their liquid form. Should a problem arise, all you need to do is mix up the liquid and wet the cloth to fix the hole in your hull. 

This might sound so much easier than working with a wooden hull, but there is a caveat. The liquids in the can are very toxic to the environment and old cans can rust out and leak. If a chemical leaks out of the can, you now have a mess in your hull and a lack of a required component in your hull repair plan. This is why it is a very good idea to store your cans individually inside a plastic container. Should the can leak out, it will still be contained inside the plastic container and can still be used with no mess to the inside of your locker.

Each hull material has its pros and cons for stranded island repairs, but the most important thing is that you know how to work with the material of your hull. If you don't know how to work with your hull material, no tools will help you complete the repairs. If your yacht is new, simply practice working with the materials on a different project (or create a new project that uses the materials). If you have an old boat, you have had plenty of experience with fixing everything as you rebuild the boat to get ready for cruising. Either way, make sure that you are proficient in repairing your own hull that way you can always fix your boat with the materials you carry, anywhere in the world.