You probably don’t run your boat wide open, regardless of sea conditions, for hours on end, as a Volvo Penta test driver does — and probably wouldn’t like it if you did, since Crocker said he has to pull the pros out of the rotation periodically due to the mental and physical stress. But remember that he also explained how most things don’t come loose and break all of a sudden. So don’t expect a lowquality boat to show its true colors right after delivery. The test boat’s week is equal to your season. It’s a proving ground for long-term durability. These boats just reach long-term sooner than those in recreational service. One result is that accessories break loose aboard some of the boats in his fleet, Crocker said. But it doesn’t happen aboard all of them.
“We don’t screw accessories in unless we have to,” says Carolina Classic’s Privott. “We use bolts. If we have to screw, we use enough fasteners and apply ’glass tabs strong enough to hold the accessory.”
Tiara’s Eggerding says, “After 35 years of testing, of trying to find ways to make them break loose, once we find a system that works, we stick with it.”
Bolts and beef — I smell a trend, one that Formula’s Laux corroborates: “Lots of builders build cabinets with pine cleats and staples. We use 90-degree aluminum brackets, through-bolted with nylock nuts. We attach them to stainless hull brackets, bolt them to the bulkheads and Plexus-glue the bases to the stringers.” Moo.
Building in aluminum, Degel’s solution for keeping accessories put is identical in philosophy, though it’s different in execution. His boats are plated with heavy-gauge 5086 alloy plating supported by welded-in-place stringers. They don’t flex. That’s the good-foundation thing we kept hearing. This allows EagleCraft to secure accessories by drilling and tapping threads into item-specific, custom-welded brackets — or even the structure of the boat itself.
You’d think, since the boats in Crocker’s charge are run daily, stored in the water and hauled frequently so teams of wrench-turning technicians can install new engines and drives, that they’d appear a bit beaten up. Some of them were, displaying the heavy gelcoat chalking and stress cracking that results from weather and wear.But the cream of the crop looked fine. Oh, they looked used. But the cosmetics of the toughest boats would earn them at least “good” condition by any surveyor I know. With a little detailing, they’d be the pride of any boat owner who had put five years under the keel. And when I question the builders, they reiterate the same basic message, summed up succinctly by Privott of Carolina Classic: “In a nutshell, if you’re going to beat a boat to death, you have to build it so it can take it. When the whole boat gets ’glassed together, it all tends to move together rather than flexing and pulling itself apart.”
To the point, Privott explains that cracking results when the ’glass under the gel flexes. That’s why he builds his boats stiff enough so they don’t flex. More-serious gel peeling can be prevented by adhering to a strict bonding schedule.
Tiara’s Eggerding reiterates Privott’s statement, claiming a stiff overall structure prevents the flexing that causes cracking, and crediting the use of higher-quality gelcoat applied to just the right thickness (20 to 22 mils) by an experienced applicator.
“You have to engineer your skin coat,” maintains Formula’s Pat Laux, referring to the layer of chopped ’glass backing the gelcoat, “to be compatible with your gelcoat.” Both need to have the same flexural properties, he says, citing Formula’s process of “filamentizing” the chopped strand with a special roller called a bubble buster. “This must be done by experienced hands or you’ll be left with puddles of resin that are brittle. We don’t pay anywhere near minimum wage.”
As to fading and chalking, Formula boats are painted with Imron over the gelcoat. Paint better resists the ravages of sun and water and is easier to maintain, requiring no waxing. A simple wash and rinse keep the finish lustrous.
EagleCraft boats don’t have stress-cracking problems, being aluminum. These boats can be ordered unpainted, like those at the Volvo Penta facility, and will maintain a dull luster thanks to the self-protecting properties of oxidized aluminum. Others are painted, and with the same advantages listed for the Imron-coated Formula boats: deep gloss, high shine and easier maintenance compared with gelcoat.
So there you have it. If beef, bolting and chemical bonding — or welding — stand up to the rigors of life at Volvo Penta’s engine test center, they should serve you in fine style.