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Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk


Questions about modifying a design

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15 posts Page 1 of 1

Iggy

Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote


PostMon Dec 12, 2011 1:48 pm

Hi builders!

I think pretty much every outboard boat builder has, at one point or another, wondered:

"Do I modify/reinforce my transom?"

I bet even the most novice of boat builders can recognize that the transom is a place where a lot of
weight and stress gets transfered to the boat from the engine. Its not hard to imagine your
outboard motor shaking the seams apart or even getting ripped off the boat if the motor leg hits a
rock or sunken log.

I've heard (or read) it several times that "There is no such thing as 'too much' reinforcement on a
transom.". It makes sense, as the last thing any builder wants is to deal with a failed transom
during operation.

However, it does beg the question "How much?" If there is no such thing as too much, then where do
you draw the line between 'effective' reinforcement and 'overkill'? I actually don't have that answer,
and I am betting that answer is very conditional like:

Is the boat designed properly in the first place?

Are you making design modifications to the original plans?

Are you using the MAX recommended engine size/weight (or something larger)?

What materials are you using to build your transom?

What kind of water conditions are you expecting to operate under?

I am betting there are a lot of first-time boat builders out there, with limited (or no) boat building
or even boat-operating/ownership experience. In my case, the first boat I've built will be the first
boat I've ever owned and the first 'big' outboard I've ever operated. Others like me simply don't
have the experience to know what works, what doesn't, and what we should do, if anything, to
prevent bad things from happening.

In my case, I've done my best to pick a reliable boat designer (Glen-L of course), and build very
close to 'spec', particularly on the transom and based on some of the design articles listed here.

Designer's Notebook: Transom Reinforcement


TRANSOM MOTORWELL, DIMENSIONS & DETAILS
In the case of a Glen-L designed boat, boat-builders like myself also have the advantage of seeing
how other builders have made their transoms and, depending on the boat design chosen, even see
photos of a handful or a dozen or more sucessful boat builds. In my case (Malahini Design), there are
over a dozen customer submitted photo's of other builds that show a variety of engines and transom
reinforcements.

There is also the Glen-L forum, where you can search the history and ask questions about what
others have done or experienced. However, just like every other forum, its a good idea to know the
specifics about any sucesses or failures before assuming they might apply to your boat build.

One thing that boat builders can probably learn from the most is the experience of other boat
operators. Something I cannot offer as I am a novice builder and operator. However, there are
members of the boating community with pearls of wisdom to offer in regards to transom design.

If you are such a person, and so inclined as to share your experience with the rest of us, then I
encourage you to spend a few moments and post your reply here.

Replies can include success stories or failure issues. Try to include:

What design/model did you use?

What modifications did you make to the overall boat?

What modifications did you make to the boat transom?

Was your engine larger or smaller than MAX design?

Did your transom ever fail?

If yes, how did the transom fail and in what way?

If yes, how did you repair it, and did the repair work?

Any suggestions you might have in regards to transom design

Also, if any boat designers / naval architects are out there reading this, and can shed some light on
the process of transom design, I am sure we would all benefit from knowing what is 'already
covered' in the original plans and what is not.

Ideally, this post is to serve as a resource for future outboard boat builders seeking answers.
Last edited by Iggy on Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ian (aka Iggy)
My Malahini Build
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thudpucker

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostMon Dec 12, 2011 2:12 pm

I cant tell you all that stuff Iggy.


It's been too many years under the transom.
Make it all replaceable! That's a good watch word.

The wood comes apart if you tow the boat with the outboard mounted on the transom.
The Wood comes apart if you cant keep the edges dry.
The Wood get's soft (comes apart) if it's not braced well enough to keep the Outboard from
whipping to & fro as you navigate over rough water.

Plywood plies work good. You just have to keep an eye on that stuff. Solid planks work good too. I
put a 'skin' of Aluminum over the top of my Transom where the outboard goes.
The Clamps have a better hold that way, and the outboard don't make scraps outta the top of the
transom as you remove/replace it.
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gdcarpenter

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote


PostMon Dec 12, 2011 6:49 pm

It's an interesting question Iggy - one most of us 'conciencious' builders have in the back of our head
- but seems a difficult question to answer 'quantitatively'. Perhaps if enough folks reply we can
formulate some 'consensus' as to what's more likely to work and/or more likely to fail, so I'll kick it
off.

I'm a bit of a heretic here because I built my transom out of solid 1 3/4" thick white oak, which I
know has it's downsides. (FYI I'm building a ZIP.) Being a carpenter by trade and a long time boat
user I've seen more than a few rotten transoms, and most seem to be from water intrusion, and
most of the worst damage was is ply constructed transoms. This is my own personal experience. My
theory is that solid wood is more resistant to water seepage, and the more 'plys' or 'layers' you have
the more the risk of 'opportunistic' water intrusion.

I used two transom knees instead of one, each knee was a tad shorter than the specs, and obviously
not mid ship - but my thought was with the 'stiffer' slab transom there would less 'flex' than a ply
transom, and yes the blade of grass can give while the might oak may fail analogy has not been lost
on me. On the other hand 'gluing' ply to a frame then perhaps gluing a veneer over the ply to cove
the knee bolts seems too many 'invitations' for water seepage or separation. My knee bolts are my
transom eye/u-bolts so no concealing required, and there are the two 'shanks' or 'legs' of the u-bolts
to double the knee bolt thingie.

My understanding is that a ZIP with a 20" transom height would arguably be rated for a 40 hp max.
I'll be starting off with a 17" tranasom height on a '59 Mark 35A 35 hp so will be at or near
theoretical max rating for the lower tansom height.

My thoughts on reinforcing the transom has been mostly my motor/splash well construction. The
GlenL motor well plans are simple but I do not think they add any strength to the transom and are
kind of bulky. I used blind sliding dovetail joints to connect the back ends of the motor well sides to
the transom so they are 'intimately cojoined' and literally cannot be pulled apart. My theory is that
once the front of my fully assembled motor well is secured to a crossmember it will form a sort of
'box' section and stiffen and add support to the transom. That's my story, time will tell. Then again,
I built my transom/motor well assembly before the frames were mounted on the jig!
ATTACHMENTS
This is my first, last and only boat build.

http://www.gdzipbuild.blogspot.com
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Iggy

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostTue Dec 13, 2011 3:50 pm

Lots of views, but just 2 replies so far. Even if your reply is 'followed spec', its good to know what
has been working for others instead of making assumptions on our own.

Has this been discussed too many times before?


Ian (aka Iggy)
My Malahini Build
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vupilot

WebsiteAOL

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostTue Dec 13, 2011 7:39 pm

As I got closer to finishing I was very nervous about mounting the heavy motor and trailering the
boat for miles and miles of pot-hole laden roads. I had nightmares and about the entire transom
seperating so I understand your concerns but I feel these concerns are just us overthinking
ourselves. When equiped and built as designed I feel you have nothing to worry about. I think its
the ones that experiment, overpower, put on too heavy a motor or think they are smarter than the
designer that give the rest of us worry.

Built mine as spec in the plans and not even with the updated transom sides that join to the
battens at the floor, just the basic closed in motorwell. I did use pieces of 1" square stock to beef
up the corners in the joints of the deck framework and transom to sheer/chine joints. My motor is
max that was originally recommended/designed for.

Its only been 2 years but I've got about 2,500 trailer miles on mine and one huge pot-hole that sent
the entire trailer, boat and motor a foot completely in the air at 65mph and no sign of any wear
yet. I do use a transom saver to support the motor when tilted for trailering and I feel that helps
take a bit of load off the transom and transfer it to the trailer.
Zip build
http://www.vupilot.blogspot.com
http://picasaweb.google.com/vupilot/Chr ... O0x7SvsQE#
GlenL Utility
https://plus.google.com/photos/11285674 ... banner=pwa
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upspirate

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostWed Dec 14, 2011 8:43 am

My first build was a TNT rated by Glen-L at 15HP on the web site.

On the plans it states "Under BIA regulations the maximum power for this boat is 25 HP.We (Glen-L)
feel this could be safely exceeded by at least 10 HP without problem".

I built mine using lumberyard pine and a-b exterior plywood,resorcinol glue,no epoxy or cloth. The
only mods I made to the planed design was to double the twin knees from 1/4" plywood as drawn to
1/2" plywood.

the TNT uses two 1/4" plywood knees on either side of a cleat on the transom and underside of the
motorwell as well as the sides of the keel....I doubled these to 1/2"....probably not necessary,but I
did.

On mine, I ran a Mercury Mark 35 and Mark 55 with no problems.I later ran an old 4 cyl Mercury
80HP for a couple of runs with no structural problems.(Yes,alcohol was involved in THAT decision as
I had the motor, hull, and beer all laying around,and No I don't advise it as I never could get it
sorted out and it wasn't safe!)

My second TNT was built as designed,with mahogany frames,marine fir ply,and epoxy glue and
saturation (no cloth....I don't recommend this,use cloth! ). this one was powered with mostly a
10HP 4 stroke Honda,a 25 Johnson for a while, and a 35 HP Mercury for a while.

No structural problems here either.


I changed my skiff transom from an inside motor board to a full frame to frame doubled transom as
it was easier than cutting notches in the cross brace for the motor board and I figured on using
18HP that I owned instead of the recommended 15 HP

Anyway my point is that Glen-L's designs are strong enough as designed when powered and used in
the intended manor (In my opinion and experience)
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ttownshaw

Website

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostWed Dec 14, 2011 9:14 am

The transom knee does its job but I think we often overlook how much strength the motor well adds
to the design. Built to spec it adds more vertical stability (IMHO) to the transom than does the
knee. The athwartship member adds horizontal strength. When the decking is added it locks the
upper edge of the transom in place. Proof is in the pudding, so to speak, you don't hear about
transoms failing when built and powered within spec. The only issues I've heard about came about
as a result of poor construction, removal of specified members (like the knee), and bad trailering
practices (not using a transom saver).

Just my opinion.

Here's a detail of the motor well to review: http://www.glen-l.com/designs/outboard/motorwell.html


Bill

I told my wife we needed a three-car garage for my projects...she told me to ask her for permission next
time before I buy a house.
http://www.unitybuild.net
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upspirate

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostWed Dec 14, 2011 9:17 am

ttownshaw wrote:The transom knee does its job but I think we often overlook how much strength the
motor well adds to the design. Built to spec it adds more vertical stability (IMHO) to the transom than
does the knee. The athwartship member adds horizontal strength. When the decking is added it locks the
upper edge of the transom in place. Proof is in the pudding, so to speak, you don't hear about transoms
failing when built and powered within spec. The only issues I've heard about came about as a result of
poor construction, removal of specified members (like the knee), and bad trailering practices (not using
a transom saver).

Just my opinion.

Here's a detail of the motor well to review: http://www.glen-l.com/designs/outboard/motorwell.html

You bet a motorwell adds to the strength!

The TNT design also has coaming/carlings that tie the sides of the transom to every frame up to the
very forward one,and also a motorwell.
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jeffh

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostWed Dec 14, 2011 9:55 am


I think most of us know the story: My boat is rated for 85HP. I bought a 90HP E-TEC which weighs
320-lbs. The transom is 1.75" thick. My motor well was built a little narrow to accommodate two
rear hatches. The motor well sides are 1" thick but did not extend down to the battens. The center
knee was oversized and connected to the first frame. In order to make it stronger, I built two of
these (2" thick) which are epoxied and fiberglassed to the transom and the bottom. They also have
4 bolts (2 in the bottom and 2 in the transom) and extend to the first frame:

steering tube with motor well side mount

2011 MALAHINI - KICKED IN THE HEAD

I wake up with a 16ft woody every morning


Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=534DBtp1Cnc
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/2011malahini/
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upspirate

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostWed Dec 14, 2011 2:19 pm

This is the TNT knee design:

download/file.php?id=5935&t=1

download/file.php?id=5885&t=1
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goatram

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk


Quote

PostFri Nov 30, 2012 6:50 pm

Iggy wrote:Hi builders!


"Do I modify/reinforce my transom?"

I will be installing a couple of 1/4" aluminum braces to what is already there


Engines will be twin Yamaha F250
Aluminum already engineered and built by a professional Boat builder Dale Bean from Clarkston WA
What kind of water conditions are you expecting to operate under?

Up to 5 to 6' wind max wind wave Pacific ocean off the Washington coastal waters 10' to 12' combined
seas.

What design/model did you use?

Coronado
What modifications did you make to the overall boat?

Raised Cuddy Roof and a 8' Pilothouse


What modifications did you make to the boat transom?

The Original Hull was cut out from just fwd of the #2 Rib and then new plate was welded in to extend
the Hull for a Offshore Bracket/Swimstep. The Transom has no motor well cutout
Was your engine larger or smaller than MAX design?

Did your transom ever fail?

not yet nor am I expecting it to


If yes, how did the transom fail and in what way?

If yes, how did you repair it, and did the repair work?

Any suggestions you might have in regards to transom design

I am new and since Iggy asked the Question I thought I might chime in even if it is a year old.
My Coronado hull was modified to run twin Motors. It is a hull extension with added floatation by
enclosing the swimstep. Motors will be the new Yamaha 4.3L F250 fly by wire. Each engine weighs
600lbs wet. The 120 gallon fuel tank will be replaced by 2 ea. 104 gls tanks ste 20" fwd of the #2 rib
running fwd 8'. The Fishbox is 48" X 63" wide and is placed 12" fwd of the #2 Rib running aft.

I extended my original 21' Northriver Seahawk hull by cutting away the small 18" X 24" extension
and welding on a new full width by 30" Long extension. This gave me more floatation at rest and
calmed down the porpoising that I experienced with this 2004 year Design. Northriver in 2006
redesigned the hull to include a longer and wider hull extension. They also made the bottom with
less curve from front to back.

My Cornado with the hull extension and enclosed swimstep.


ATTACHMENTS

the internals of the supports that are now covered


This is my NR stern. Motor is removed. I had increased the original hull extension by 7". This was removed to

install second mod


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darthplywood

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostSat Dec 01, 2012 7:15 am

Personally, I doubled the thickness of my entire transom. THe plans called for 3/4 inch Marine
plywood with another layer of 3/4 inch plywood around where the motor is mounted. Rather then
just doing the extra thickness where the motor is mounted i doubled the entire thing.

Furthermore, i have a heavy aluminum motorwell (see picture) whith a thick aluminum plate where
the motor through-bolts go to spread the weight of the motor.

To clarify,the main reason i did this is "Grandpas advice". My grandfather always did this when he
built boats.....but also, motors are heavier now then they were. For instance, the 75 HP evinrude
weighed only 250 lbs or so in the 60's but my new 2012 90 Evinrude weighs 320 lbs.
ATTACHMENTS

Built the 17' Glen-L "Sea Knight"


yet to come...11' Glen-L "Utility"
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Andy Garrett

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostSat Dec 01, 2012 12:13 pm

I dont remember this thread when it was posted, but it still has merit, so I'll add my two bits.

I am one of those who had a donor boat very early on. I didn't seek to install an oversized engine,
but it's what was available when I needed it. So my Zip was getting a long shaft 50 when it was
designed for a short shaft 40. Knowing this was going to impart more wieght to the transom, I
ordered extra bronze bolts with the intention of building horizontal knees where the sheer meets
the transom. I thought that this was the point of greatest stress, so why not? Those bolts and knees
never found there way into my boat.

I made the standard knee and a transom closer to minimum thickness (mine is 1.5") than maximum.
I didn't want a boat that sat heavy at the rear while in the water, so I kept the wieght down. My
motorwell is fairly standard, but anchors to the vertical rienforcement I installed on my battens--I
got a bit more surface area for glue that way.

Once the decking is in place, mine will be a boat built pretty close to minimum spec while carrying
a bit more wieght than it was designed for. That scares me a bit. To add to that, I installed to ski
pulls on the transom in areas where it is only 3/4" thick (between the motorboard and frames). At
first, this scared me a lot, but then I figured that the motor is pushing the transom while a tube or
skier is pulling on the transom. No undue stress will be attempting to pull the transom away from
the boat.

I have a transom saver and will not be trying to push the envelope of performance, so hopefully, my
boat will survive. I will trust the design and my own careful attention to detail.
Andy Garrett

Perhaps the slowest Zip build in Glen-L history...


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Trackhappy

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostSun Dec 02, 2012 3:47 pm

You Guys need not worry with Glen-L designs... I have just had the (mis)pleasure of replacing the
transom in a 16 ft Haines Hunter plastic fantastic. Rated at 114HP, and the transom is just two bits
of 1/2" ply with about 8 layers of fibreglass over it and two 1/2" ply 8" x 8" knees. I REALLY had to
stop myself from redesigning it.
By the time I have built a boat, I'll be ready to build a boat....
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Iggy

Re: Outboard Transoms - Let's Talk

Quote

PostMon Dec 03, 2012 12:02 pm

So far, my 90HP Mariner hasn't done any damage to my 2" thick transom on my Malahini.

My transom is made of the outer 3/4" Meranti Ply, then I added 1/2" douglas fir and another 3/4"
Meranti to the interior, everything epoxied together, to form the 2" transom. I extended the width
of the reinforcement up to the sides of the splash well box.

I epoxied a 1/8" thick solid Sapelly lumber veneer ontop of the edge of the plywood to help protect
it from wear & tear & water damage.

I have the standard 3x 3/4" built-up knee bolted to the keel & transom, plus the standard motor
splash-well shown on the Malahini plans.

I've pulled a tube with it, and strapped down to it for shipping. I'll keep an eye on it, as I have yet
to hid anything with my motor skeg or so anything violent to my boat that could add a lot of stress
to the transom.
Ian (aka Iggy)
My Malahini Build
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Transom Reinforcement

I have a 16 ft Aquaforce, that I recently purchased used, the Hull # indicates its a 95.
Well I purchased the boat knowing it had some slight cracking where the mercury 90hp
two stroke outboard mounts on the interior of the transom next to the lag bolts the
longest being on the left side if standing behind the motor and a slight crack on the
right. So I purchased a fiberglass kit and filled in the cracks and added 8-9 heavily
saturated sheets to these cracks. It cured just find since then Ive taken the boat out
several times running way too fast across rough water, blasting across waves around
St. Simons Island Georgia. The fiberglass has since started to peel away from the
edges, I thought maybe this was because I did not prep the area first and applied the
fiberglass in the 4 6 inch crack and put sheets of glass over the black and white
splash looking paint. Now Im thinking the transom needs to be reinforced to help
support the motor also when trailing the boat I have to go across quit a bit of train
tracks which are really bumpy.

teel27
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#2
06-11-2006, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Rep: 2008 Posts: 4,127
marshmat Location: Ontario
Senior Member

As far as the trailering goes, a "transom-saver" bar that braces the OB's lower unit
against your trailer's frame, works wonders on this problem.
Your repair probably would have held had the surface been properly prepared. I'd pull it
off and start fresh.
The paint must be removed in that area. Then the surface has to be sanded- if there's
gelcoat then sand it off, if it's just glass then sand until you are close to the individual
fibres of glass (but don't sand through them). Now clean it with a solvent like Interlux
Fibreglass Solvent Wash (some just use acetone), that will remove all the wax and
grime. Clean it according to the directions, test if water beads, then repeat. When you
think you're done, repeat twice more.
Now you can mix up a filler of epoxy and microballoons (or whatever), fill the bigger
cracks with it and fillet the joints to a nice round radius. (Definitely use epoxy for
everything here, polyester is not nearly as good a choice for repairs like this.) Then you
can lay up the repair. Strength comes from being smart in the layup of the cloth, not
from using lots of resin- use only enough resin to wet out the cloth without bubbles
forming, and stagger the sheets of cloth. Put some at 45 degrees, etc. Let it set for
several days, preferably a week, before using it.
__________________
Matt Marsh
M. B. Marsh Design
The Marsh Fleet: Small-craft cruising on the waterways of Ontario and beyond

marshmat
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#3
06-11-2006, 11:56 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
teel27 Rep: 10 Posts: 2
Location: Ga
Thanks do you think a stainless steel plate across the back of the interior transom will
help ensure its strength. I was thinking of maybe attaching the motor mounts through
it so the weight will be well distributed across the back with two additional lag bolts
spaced evenly outside the motor mount.

I attached a simple sketch


Attached Thumbnails

teel27
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#4
07-02-2006, 01:05 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
MadMallard Rep: 10 Posts: 6
Junior Member Location: Port Alice, BC
Using the steel plate will help but listen to what marshmat has to say - he is absolutely
bang on. I did the same sort of repair to my transom due to wood rot where the swim
grid mounting bolts came through. Chiselled all rot out to bare transom and to good
wood on the sides; made a bevelled plywood plug made from 2 3/4" pieces laminated
together with West System and high density filler and sealed with epoxy; after wetting
out and letting it cure, I rewetted the transom female side and then buttered it with a
thick mix of epoxy and filler, placed the plug in and buttered the edges and let cure;
used another cover plate of epoxy sealed 3/4" plywood much larger than the inset plug
and then poured epoxy behind this plate to gap fill; I used fiberglass tape on the
outside edges of the outside plate to lock it to the hull and transom; I then used a good
quality 1/16' stainless plate to act as a backer for the through hull bolts to mount the
kicker bracket (got rid of the swim grid on that side). A lot of hard, confined space,
bent over and cramped up work but it received the "Grandchildren are Safe" Seal of
Approval from my Boat Builder Father-in-Law. Overkill, perhaps but I sleep better about
it.

MadMallard
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#5
07-08-2006, 07:05 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Rep: 2008 Posts: 4,127
marshmat Location: Ontario
Senior Member

My own boat has a steel motor mount similar to your idea; I added it a couple of years
ago when upgrading to a Johnson J30. The transom on this boat is also braced with a
beefy wood-and-glass knee running from the motor mount, down to the keel, and
forward to the first bulkhead.
For the metal bar to work, it would also have to have a flange extending lower on the
transom, and be bolted there too. An outboard doesn't just create a linear force- it also
creates an enormous moment about the mounting bolts, since the prop thrust is so far
off the mounting axis. If the mount is reinforced only in the horizontal direction, the
mount will twist (viewed from the port side, it will twist clockwise) and fail. It needs to
be strong in the vertical direction as well. Mine extends a foot below the bracket hook,
and has eight through-bolts and three lags holding it in place.
Keep in mind that metal reinforcements will help to spread the stresses around, but
what is actually holding that part of the boat together is the glass laminates and joints.
It is here that the most careful attention is warranted.
__________________
Matt Marsh
M. B. Marsh Design
The Marsh Fleet: Small-craft cruising on the waterways of Ontario and beyond
old jon boat transom reinforcement

May 7th, 2010, 10:47 PM

Hi everyone,
I have an old jon boat 12 footer that I recently overhauled.. rhino lined it inside and out.. put a
carpeted casting deck, floor etc I went all out! I bought a nice little 4hp johnson for it.. its
perfect for it pushes it well. my problem is.. it seems the transom definetly could use some
reinforcement theres a dent starting to form on the back, the aluminum on this is thin so I'd
like to fix it before it becomes a tare!

I put a peice of plywood there the other day it enforced it pretty good but water was coming up
and squirting over due to how the plywood was acting in the water I guess... how should I do
this? sheet metal, or? I'd rather not put any bolt holes below the water line..

-Mike

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Home Cookin'

Fleet Admiral
o Join Date: May 2009

o Posts: 9721

#2

May 8th, 2010, 12:19 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

two pieces of 3/4" marine plywood INSIDE the transom

A man of constant boat tinkering.

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Mizzie

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#3

May 8th, 2010, 12:46 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

thanks for your reply.. there actually already is a piece of wood inside the transom it looks
"stock" but in good strong shape, the problem is outside the transom, it looks like someone at
one time had a motor that was too heavy and it dented/folded the transom a tad.. so it seems
that putting it outside would better distribute the weight and take it off the dent.. i hope i
explained this good enough to understand. im not much of a computer person haha

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5150abf

Vice Admiral

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#4

May 8th, 2010, 05:44 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

You might get by with a peice of steel or thicker aluminum there if you can find it, you really
don't want wood on the outside of the boat.

Check your transom, it may need rebuilt, it should hold a good bit of weight without moving at
all, 1/8'' tops, if it goes more than that I would redo it with 2 peices of 3/4'' ply.

GO IRISH!!!!

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lckstckn2smknbrls

Senior Chief Petty Officer

o Join Date: Sep 2008

o Posts: 789

#5

May 8th, 2010, 09:12 PM


Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

A piece of 1/2" plywood would be a good idea. Use stainless steel nuts,bolts and washers to
mount it to the boat. Remember that Pressure Treated wood is bad on an aluminum boat.

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Mizzie

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o Join Date: May 2010

o Posts: 17

#6

May 10th, 2010, 06:11 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Thanks for the replies guys... I'm a little afraid to drill any holes into the boat but I guess i'm
going to have to! it's an old boat! I'm unsure of the year but the registration sticker on it when I
bought it said 1975! so it's older than that.. but still looks pretty good!

The transom can hold weight without moving, its the little dent in the middle, when I
accelerate with my 4hp I can see the dent forming,,it's not major movement but i still don't like
it!

why is pressure treated wood bad on a jon boat? is it because of weight issues or?? I just built
a marine carpeted floor and casting deck on the boat with plywood that I used deck sealer on
and painted over. it seemed to add weight but when it's just me by myself on the boat it rides
okay in the water... still a little scary even with nothing in the boat..

new topic but does anyone have any tips on making the boat safer? the top of my transom is
only about 3" from the water line with the motor on and me in the back!!(i'm only 165lbs) ,, I
was thinking adding 2x4s or 2x2's all the way around to raise the gunwale height but thought
the added weight would defeat the purpose...

thanks for the replies guys,

Tight lines,
Mike

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ezmobee

Supreme Mariner

o Join Date: Mar 2007


o Posts: 22772

#7

May 11th, 2010, 08:35 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

The new pressure treated eats aluminum.

1976 18' Starcraft SuperSport 90HP Evinrude


Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=357767
1966 16' Starcraft Jupiter 85HP Johnson
Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=338633 sold

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lncoop

Rear Admiral

o Join Date: Apr 2010

o Posts: 4999

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#8

May 11th, 2010, 10:39 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Hi Mizzie. I've been doing the jon boat thing for a long time because they make a lot of sense
down here. I hate to say it, and someone overrule me if I'm wrong, but your boat sits so low in
the water because it's overloaded. All the rhino lining, treated plywood, etc. adds up to quite a
bit of weight. By the time you add yourself, your gear and your outboard you've got a pretty
good load on a twelve footer. Don't think they're really meant to have a floor and deck. You
might try adding some styrofoam under the additions you've made, but I suspect you'll still find
yourself low in the water. As for the transom, they just do that over time. You can probably
have a welder fix that for not too much denaro. If you do go that route make sure he
specializes in aluminum welding. If he doesn't know what he's doing he'll destroy your rig .
Tight lines!

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
21' Suntracker(for my girls), 16' Polarkraft MV w/ 25 HP Merc(for me), 14' Odyssey bucket
raft, 16' Purple Mad River Explorer; vice-admiral's boat, but she lets me use it as long as I
don't forget it's hers. Esquif Vertige

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ezmobee

Supreme Mariner
o Join Date: Mar 2007

o Posts: 22772

#9

May 11th, 2010, 11:39 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Originally posted by lncoop View Post

You might try adding some styrofoam under the additions you've made, but I suspect you'll
still find yourself low in the water.

Foam does not add buoyancy. Only displacement of water does. So all that adding foam
would do is add even more weight.

1976 18' Starcraft SuperSport 90HP Evinrude


Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=357767
1966 16' Starcraft Jupiter 85HP Johnson
Restoration thread http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=338633 sold

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tdrudd87
Petty Officer 1st Class

o Join Date: May 2009

o Posts: 284

#10

May 11th, 2010, 11:43 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Originally posted by lncoop View Post

You might try adding some styrofoam under the additions you've made, but I suspect you'll
still find yourself low in the water.

Adding foam will make it safer if it swamps but will NOT add floatation under normal
circumstances. You have to actually increase displacement to make the boat float higher.

Terry

My Resto Thread: http://forums.iboats.com/showthread....34#post2311534

Experience- what you got when you didn't get what you wanted.

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tdrudd87

Petty Officer 1st Class

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#11

May 11th, 2010, 11:44 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

EZ, you beat me to it!

My Resto Thread: http://forums.iboats.com/showthread....34#post2311534

Experience- what you got when you didn't get what you wanted.

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CATransplant

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#12

May 11th, 2010, 12:57 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Hmm...I'm betting that this is one of those narrow 12' jon boats that seem to be everywhere.
The 3" of freeboard you mention is a sure indication that your little jonboat is way overloaded.
Those little boats were never intended to have a floor put in them, or much of anything but
you, your outboard, your gas tank, and maybe your dog and a little fishing tackle.

The crimp in the transom, too, is probably due to the thin, lightweight construction common in
those inexpensive little jons.

You're probably not in the mood to rip out that decking, I suppose. But your boat would be in
much better shape, safety-wise if you did. In any case, get as much weight out of the stern as
you can. Put your gas tank, tackle box, and anything else you can as far forward as you can.
If you have a trolling motor hanging on the transom, get that 40-50 lb battery move forward,
too. That'll raise the stern a couple of inches.

Your little boat was designed to be very lightly loaded, and it'll do a lot better if it stays that
way. You can stand plenty tall in a jonboat to cast for any fish that swims. The extra 8" won't
make any difference. If you put pedestal seats in the boat, that's just more weight. Put a
cushion on the original benches.

Right at the center of the transom, inside, should be a brace angling from the middle of the
transom to the floor. Is that still there? If not, that's why your transom got a bend in it.

Be safe.

Sure...go ahead and laugh at my old aluminum boat. It's paid for!
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lncoop

Rear Admiral

o Join Date: Apr 2010

o Posts: 4999

#13

May 11th, 2010, 01:04 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Thanks for straightening me out regarding the styrofoam. That's the great thing about Iboats;
no matter how much you've learned there's always someone available to teach you more .

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
21' Suntracker(for my girls), 16' Polarkraft MV w/ 25 HP Merc(for me), 14' Odyssey bucket
raft, 16' Purple Mad River Explorer; vice-admiral's boat, but she lets me use it as long as I
don't forget it's hers. Esquif Vertige
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12guns

Petty Officer 2nd Class

o Join Date: Oct 2006

o Posts: 123

#14

May 11th, 2010, 04:26 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

I'll throw in my opinion for what it's worth.


I rebuilt my 14" Duracrap "Fisherman" that was my grandpa's from 1977. I had a local welding
shop reweld the cracked corners first, then ripped out all the transom wood including the
brace. I rebuilt w/ painted treated (i know, don't say it) 3/4" plywood. after it was all bolted in
brace and all, I realized that I had a piece of scrap angle iron that fit PERFECTLY! I bolted it
through accross the top of the wood just under the top of the transom. Talk about stout! Only
problem is that the weak point is still the corners, but w/ my souped up 9.9 I don't have to
worry too much. I also keep the weight down to a minimum as it makes a HUGE difference in
these little boats. Good luck w/ your project.
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Mizzie

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#15

May 13th, 2010, 02:15 AM


Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Thanks for the replies guys! Great forum!

Originally posted by CATransplant View Post

Hmm...I'm betting that this is one of those narrow 12' jon boats that seem to be everywhere.
The 3" of freeboard you mention is a sure indication that your little jonboat is way overloaded.
Those little boats were never intended to have a floor put in them, or much of anything but
you, your outboard, your gas tank, and maybe your dog and a little fishing tackle.

Cat, well haha you're correct it's a little 12' jon boat, it's not as narrow beam wise as some I
have seen, which is the reason I picked it up regardless of it's age.. It's still a pretty narrow
boat i've seen wider jon boats but I can stand on it and fish and feel pretty stable (nothing
compaired to a true bass boat, but it's what I could afford haha). To answer your questions, I
took your advice and moved my 6gallon fuel tank forward more. I don't have a trolling
motor/battery so that works. My dog, well my dog would probably sink the poor boat (Very
food happy 6 year old chocolate lab lol) so he's usualy not aloud!

When I go out 90% of the time it's myself, on occasion i'll bring a buddy of similar weight. I
may have exagerated the water to gunwale level in my earlier post (see pictures below)
However, when I was on the boat it did feel like 3" haha,, I'm assuming moving the tank
forward more helped a bit too thats a good amout of heavy gas! Thanks for the advice!

Originally posted by lncoop View Post

Hi Mizzie. I've been doing the jon boat thing for a long time because they make a lot of sense
down here. I hate to say it, and someone overrule me if I'm wrong, but your boat sits so low in
the water because it's overloaded. All the rhino lining, treated plywood, etc. adds up to quite a
bit of weight. By the time you add yourself, your gear and your outboard you've got a pretty
good load on a twelve footer. Don't think they're really meant to have a floor and deck. You
might try adding some styrofoam under the additions you've made

Hey thanks for your reply! Jon boats are definetly good fun! I appreciate your advice about the
weight,, The rhino liner spread out over 12' feet I don't believe is the cause of my problems
though, I agree it adds weight! I used about half a 20lb can inside and out. My plywood is the
ligher grade plywood, I sealed it with a good quality deck sealer, which definetly did weigh the
wood down a tad but spread along the whole boat I have about 40 pounds of decking, all
which is removable for easier transport.

I agree there are a lot of yahoos who will add things to boats without thinking about weight! I
did a lot of 'math' in the building of my deck, I tried to cut down weight as much as possible.. I
believe my original post may have made it sound heavier than it actually is haha.. It sits low in
the water but I did a run without all the decking and it was maybe if lucky a half an inch
differance.
Here's what the boat looks like fully loaded, full 6gallon tank, tackle, small tool box up front
with (screw driver/sockets needed for engine repairs on the go) a couple other random doo-
dads, don't mind the blanket and water board, I was 'delivering' that to a buddys boat accross
the pond! (I know, The boat.. it's not too pretty haha It was my project while my fiancee is
pregnant! couldn't afford much more than that!) I'm happy how it came out but after spending
all the money I do realize "we're gonna need a bigger boat!" let me know what you guys think,
I will reply after this about the transom issue, I don't want to make this one post too long!

A 40' Hatteras it is not! haha but she sure catches me some fish!

-Mike

P.S. I like the styrofoam idea for under the front decking.. definetly going to look into picking
some of that up I believe the extra added couple of pounds would be worth it in a case of
swamping or leak.

Don't mind the peice of plywood under the hatch, I wasn't finished making the center hatch
cross support so I slid that in place. Also, I measured correctly, haha One hatch IS larger than
the other by angle, I felt it would be easier to fit my cooler baitwell up front if one of the
hatches were a tad bid larger!

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

I went out yesterday by myself without any decking and I couldn't go past half throttle because
my transom was bending slightly if I went any faster! I believe it's time for a rebuild before my
engine comes flying off.. anyone have any links to a how to on this? I can't lie i'm VERY iffy
about drilling any holes below the water line! I believe it will be difficult to seal with gluvix or
any other sealent due to the existing rhino liner.. I definetly should have tested the transom
before rhino lining, but honestly when you put your own weight on it it doesn't move, when the
motor is pushing it from the center, thats when you notice the bending.. I will take a picture of
what I mean tomorrow evening so you guys can better understand what I mean.

Also any advice on makingsome sort of sheet metal L brackets to brace to the top of the
transom and the rear side gunwales of the boat in place of the original corner supports to
better secure?
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lckstckn2smknbrls

Senior Chief Petty Officer

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o Posts: 789

#17

May 13th, 2010, 12:01 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

If you seal the bolts below the waterline with 3M 5200 you will be fine.
You should take a look at www.tinboats.net lots of good info.

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lncoop

Rear Admiral

o Join Date: Apr 2010

o Posts: 4999

#18

May 13th, 2010, 12:29 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

[QUOTE=Mizzie;2648874] . I agree there are a lot of yahoos who will add things to boats
without thinking about weight!

Yep. One of those yahoos might even be one posting in this thread LOL! Been there done that
as referenced in my posting on CATransplant's "first boat" thread.
http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=394397 As long as you're happy with how the
boat performs in the water and believe it's safe that's all that matters. It does sound like you
need that brace between the floor and transom though. That will help it remain rigid as
intended. It also makes a very handy plug retention device .

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
21' Suntracker(for my girls), 16' Polarkraft MV w/ 25 HP Merc(for me), 14' Odyssey bucket
raft, 16' Purple Mad River Explorer; vice-admiral's boat, but she lets me use it as long as I
don't forget it's hers. Esquif Vertige
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Mizzie

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o Posts: 17

#19

May 13th, 2010, 07:22 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

[QUOTE=lncoop;2649467]

Originally posted by Mizzie View Post

. I agree there are a lot of yahoos who will add things to boats without thinking about weight!

Yep. One of those yahoos might even be one posting in this thread LOL! Been there done that
as referenced in my posting on CATransplant's "first boat" thread.
http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=394397 As long as you're happy with how the
boat performs in the water and believe it's safe that's all that matters. It does sound like you
need that brace between the floor and transom though. That will help it remain rigid as
intended. It also makes a very handy plug retention device .

Haha I hear ya I've had a lot of yahoo experiences when I first got my old 22' searay! Let's just
say, The recent addition of the boater safety class that is mandatory in Rhode Island for
anyone operating a vessel with a 9.9hp and up engine or PWC is definetly a good thing! I've
had to pluck alot of boaters out of the bay, There is always a boater missing or worse.. That's
why I moved my operations to fresh water. I've heard one too many distress calls on channel
16 that used to hurt my feelings knowing I couldn't assist.

About the boat,Thanks I believe it performs well for what it is... the weight is evenly distributed
and since it's cap rated for 3 persons/gear and I usualy go out solo, it makes sense to me with
the added weight. I'd never put 3 people on this boat, I wonder who thought up the numbers
on that capacity plate! 2 people is almost overkill on these small boats!

My jon boat seems to be of 1960s era.. there is no brace from the floor to the transom nor are
there any signs of one ever existing in that area.. (no rivit holes, or patches) It boggles me
why it wouldn't have one because for a jon boat it's pretty ridgid otherwise! I'm wondering
exactly how I should make one...

I'm thinking, and please correct me in any wrong sense of what i'm about to type!

Removing current transom wood.. cut to size 2 peices of 3/4" ply as suggested, I'll treat it with
deck wood sealer or a sealing paint (any suggestions on which?) I'd also like to make 2 "L"
braces alone the gunwale to transom. and for the center transom support I'm thinking either
one center or 2 off center pieces of 2x4 or 2x2 screwed together in a L shape, coated in
sealer. bolted through the hull twice on the bottom, and twice through the transom.. sort of like
an old wooden sailboat, or row boat..

any suggestions on this, or should I go a differant route? I'm a home/garage renovater by


trade so the wood working doesn't bother me, It's the fact of sealing the bottom of the boat
that scares me! any suggestions on bolt sizes, O-rings, washers?

I greatly appreciate the help thus far, It's so nice out and the lake is calling my name but looks
like i'm fishing from shore untill this is fixed, I'm not taking any chances!

Tight lines..
-Mike

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Mizzie

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o Posts: 17

#20

May 13th, 2010, 07:45 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Originally posted by lckstckn2smknbrls View Post

If you seal the bolts below the waterline with 3M 5200 you will be fine.
You should take a look at www.tinboats.net lots of good info.

I'm going to check lowes for this stuff right now, thanks for the tip!

and i'll definetly check out that website... seems very jon boat friendly haha.

-Mike

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lncoop

Rear Admiral

o Join Date: Apr 2010

o Posts: 4999

#21

May 13th, 2010, 11:06 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Your transom brace needs to look something like this (scoll down a little bit to see it).
http://www.myjonboat.com/transom.htm
You may have to have one fabricated as it probably needs to be aluminum and most likely
should be welded to the bottom of your boat and to the transom. Plus, I don't think wood
would provide quite enough rigidity. Anyone?

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
21' Suntracker(for my girls), 16' Polarkraft MV w/ 25 HP Merc(for me), 14' Odyssey bucket
raft, 16' Purple Mad River Explorer; vice-admiral's boat, but she lets me use it as long as I
don't forget it's hers. Esquif Vertige

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Mizzie

Cadet

o Join Date: May 2010

o Posts: 17

#22

May 19th, 2010, 10:20 PM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

Originally posted by lckstckn2smknbrls View Post

If you seal the bolts below the waterline with 3M 5200 you will be fine.
You should take a look at www.tinboats.net lots of good info.

I picked a tube up at home depot, Big question before I apply it and possibly waste a good
tube of the stuff... The package says its good for thru-hull fittings which is perfect..
HOWEVER! It states its uses for wood, fiberglass.. No where does it say aluminum or metal..
Should I still use the stuff ? I already cut some nice transom supports that seem like they'll do
perfect.. I just want to make sure I'm not going to have any uninvited leaks!

Another question of mine has to do with what everyone mentioned about wood on the outter
transom as bad.. I was at bass pro shops the other day picking up some things for my RV and
checked out the new 10-12-14 foot jon boats on display.. I was impressed, very sturdy! they
had about a 10x10 piece of painted plywood centered on the outter transom that ended about
an inch above the drain plug hole.

should I re-consider putting something similar on the outside of my transom for more
insurance of stability? or is it a total no no for an old jon boat? (I realize the new ones are
better built)

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ezmobee

Supreme Mariner

o Join Date: Mar 2007

o Posts: 22772

#23

May 20th, 2010, 07:57 AM

Re: old jon boat transom reinforcement

5200 is fine for aluminum. Lots of it on my project. Nothing wrong with a wood transom
plate.....as long as it isn't pressure treated.
The quest for greater speed and more power is on the minds of many boaters these days but it is
important to remember that there are potential issues that could result from greater power.

Bigger doesnt always mean better.


Many boat owners are considering repowering boats they own or used boats they are thinking of
buying. Adding a higher horsepower motor can be an option but there are certain things that need to
be considered prior to doing so.

All boats are required to have a maximum HP rating and this can usually be found on a plaque
located on the vessel. If you plan on going to a larger than stated maximum horsepower you will be
doing so at your own risk and should proceed with caution. The manufacturer has determined this
rating based on the engineering of the craft, the handling characteristics and the weight and balance
of the vessel.

When the boat was designed the transom and structure such as stringers and bulkheads were all
designed with a certain power limit applied to them. If one were to put a larger than rated motor on
the boat there would be pressure and stresses applied that may be over the acceptable range
for the boat and serious damage could occur. Just minimal increases in horsepower of an
outboard can create tremendous pressure and torque on the transom, resulting in potentially
catastrophic damage to the hull.

If a higher than rated horsepower is installed, reinforcing the transom and hull structure may also be
required. Pressure on the steering system and others could also be a factor so make sure all of your
boats systems can handle the extra power.

It used to be true that if you went with a higher horsepower motor you were also adding weight to the
transom that could affect the balance of the boat. This is not necessarily true with newer and lighter
outboards where weight has gone down and horsepower has gone up. However, it is important to
ensure that weight is considered as a heavier motor could render self-draining cockpits
useless and create wet cockpits as water enters scuppers from a sagging transom.

Going from a single motor to multiples also creates potential weight issues along with other issues so
check with the manufacture.

One often-overlooked potential issue with overpowering is that your insurance company may
not cover your vessel should you need to file a claim. Most companies will use the boats
maximum rating as its limit for coverage and you could find yourself in a bad situation should they
discover that the engine is bigger than recommended by the manufacturer. Some insurance
companies may make exceptions (for an additional premium) so you should check first.

You may also want to check your local and state laws as in some areas overpowering may be
illegal. Even if its not, should an accident occur you may be found as negligent and open yourself to
a law suit in the event of damages.

No matter what outboard you end up with, it is important to consider all factors before exceeding the
maximum power recommendations of the boats manufacturer. More power could translate to more
problems so proceed with caution.

Hull Design Defects


Part I

by David Pascoe
This series of articles is written exclusively for marine surveyors to help identify
the wide range of structural defects that can be found in boats and yachts.
Because there is such a diversity in types of hulls, design styles and an ever-
expanding array of new construction materials, it is difficult for surveyors to
keep up to date on cause-and-effect evaluations.
Related Reading:
Hull Design Defects Part II

Whether the surveyor deals exclusively with prepurchase surveys, insurance claims or
marine expert related matters, learning how to locate, detect and evaluate is a critical
factor in the surveyor's work. This essay deals with basic principles of hull design,
along with cause and effect analysis of hull failures. It will set the necessary
foundation for this continuing series of essays.
Improper design and the improper selection and use of materials is the primary cause
of most non-damage related structural failures. Contrary to common belief, actual
manufacturing defects only rarely figure into structural failures. It should come as no
surprise to any surveyor that the boat building industry, much like the automotive
industry which, after more than 70 years of mass production, backed up with their
enormous financial resources, is still fraught with frequent design defects. But unlike
the automotive industry, boats are not manufactured in units numbering millions,
rather 10's and 100's at best.
Because of this, design faults are spread over a very wide array of different builders
and tens of thousands different models over the years so that rarely do major design
errors ever become widely documented. To make matters worse, there are very few
avenues for dissemination of information, and virtually no one who maintains any
kind of database on hull failures. This essay will attempt to illustrate the most
common defects, the cause and the visible effects that the surveyor can use as a basis
for conducting a thorough structural survey.
Structural Principles
Before we go directly into reviewing problems, its important that we first review the
major principles of hull design. From and engineering standpoint, fiberglass boats
have similarities to both bridges and aircraft airframes. A discussion of these
similarities will help us to better understand the forces that act on a boat hull, and the
structural principles required to build one.
Boats are similar to bridges in that the hull must have a framing system to support it
because the hull itself, like a bridge, spans a fluid substance. Whereas a bridge spans
air, a hull spans water, and while water is more dense, it is still a fluid and offers lesser
means of support that solid ground. Further, when a boat is hauled out and set on
blocks, often only one at each end of the hull, that hull then literally becomes a bridge
spanning open air. Unless the hull has an adequate system of framing and girders to
span the unsupported sections, like a bridge it will buckle and collapse.
We can add to this the fact that boats are dynamic objects; they often travel at high
speeds over rough water and even occasionally, if not frequently, become airborne.
Thus, the stresses on a boat hull are far more than a matter of just gravity and mass,
but are multiplied by velocity and compounded by slamming. And as anyone who has
ever done a belly-flopper off a diving board knows, water becomes hard as a rock
when a wide, flat object falls upon it squarely.
Most bridges do not consist of a flat deck supported by girders underneath. Rather,
most bridges are either in the form of a truss, or they are suspended from above by a
combination of rigid and flexible supports. A boat is also similar to this principle since
the hull bottom and sides do not alone constitute the entire structural framework.
Boats that lack weather decks and superstructures, for example, are far weaker than
their cousins who do have these additional structures. Thus, decks and superstructures
also constitute major structural elements of most boats and ships.
And here it is that fiberglass boats develop similarities to modern jet aircraft. Aircraft
utilize the principle of monocoque construction. That is, the body of the aircraft does
not have a frame but essentially is the frame. The skin of the aircraft and the framing
system are so closely integrated that they essentially become one structure and its hard
to tell where one ends and the other begins. Modern jet aircraft are essentially flying
pipes with wings, and it is from this engineering principle that they gain their strength,
despite the extremely light construction.
Modern fiberglass boats make use of this principle of monocoque construction and in
this way are more closely related to aircraft than they are to their wooden-boat
ancestors from which they evolved. A wood boat is the sum of its many parts while a
fiberglass boat hull is essentially one component. The combination of molded hull and
deck joined together creates a unified whole that is much stronger than the sum of its
parts. But boats are proportionately far heavier than aircraft and are subjected to
different stresses. Aircraft don't fly off the tops of waves; boats do. While the bottoms
of hulls take the major brunt of stresses, and must be designed to withstand them, the
monocoque construction still plays a major role in providing strength to the overall
structure.
There is no better illustration of this than the offshore racer type boat, a long skinny
hull equipped with tremendous horsepower. In the so-called "cigarette" type boat, the
deck provides a major part of the hull strength that, lacking a strong deck, the hull
would buckle. These decks are not "hull covers" but designed as structural elements.
These race boats are true monocoque structures because the hull and deck structures
are not screwed or bolted together, but literally bonded together to become one piece.
Here's a good example of poor design and construction detail. Utilizing a glass over
plywood framing system, there are no fillets under the frames or stringers which are
butted hard against the hull. This creates hardspots with the propensity for stress
cracking. In addition, the length-to-height ratio of the tall stringers creates instability
where the stringers are likely to buckle under inpact loading. Additional framing
between the stringers is needed to stabilize them. Also note that there are only two hull
side stiffeners so that flexing of the sides is likely to cause hull/deck joint breakage. In
the forward section, a dog leg in the stringer profile can be seen.
Dynamics of Hull Stress
Power boat hulls are essentially modified rectangles with a shallow vee on the bottom.
When a boat falls off, or slams down off a wave, the bottom impacts the water and
suddenly stops its downward movement. This sudden stop sends shock waves up the
hull sides that are then transmitted to the deck and any upper structures that may exist.
In the meantime, while the hull suddenly stops its downward movement, everything
inside the hull wants to continue on downward, creating even more stress.
When the hull impacts the water, the resultant stresses work to cause the hull to want
to buckle transversely and longitudinally. The impact with the water is never uniform
along the length of the hull so that one end, or one side, of the hull is more stressed
than the other. One effect is to try to break the boat in half like snapping a stick in half.
The other effect is to bow the hull sides inward or outward, the effect of bending along
the horizontal plane. Yet another is twisting or torsional stress along the entire length
of the hull.
In actual operation under heavy conditions, the hull sides of most boats will deflect to
greater or lesser degrees depending on how well it is designed. This is the result of
impact loading, bending and torsional loading on the hull caused by high velocity over
waves, porpoising and so on. If you've ever wondered why so many boats have rub
rails falling off and weak and damaged hull/deck joints, you probably thought that this
was primarily due to hitting up against dock pilings. But the real reason is that many
boats have poorly designed hull/deck joints that are simply lap joints screwed
together. It is the stress transferred from the hull bottom to the hull sides and thence to
hull/deck join that causes the screws that join these parts together to break loose.
Putting screws into fiberglass is a terrible means of making connections. Screw joins
are simply too weak to work effectively.
So it is that the deck - and the superstructure that is often integral with the deck, i.e.,
are molded as one piece - are not only part of a unified structure, but also absorb much
of the load initially induced on the hull. This also accounts for much of the damage
and cracking found in and around deck structures, and why on many boats windows,
doors and hatches and portholes just never seem to stop leaking. The whole structure
is working so that no amount of caulking, bedding and gasketing can ever stop the
leaks because they just open up again
These are the effects of stress on the exterior boat hull and structure. But the stress
doesn't end there for we've not yet considered the hull framing system. The framing
system consists of stringers, bulkheads and frames in more conventional construction.
Yet increasingly builders are seeking to reduce costs and streamline production by
eliminating much of the detail work involved in the framing system. They are doing
this by again utilizing the principle of monocoque construction which takes the form
of premolded "liners" or so-called 'grid liners," a premolded combination internal
framing system and accommodation components. And rather than bonding these parts
together with conventional tabbing or taping, instead they are being glued together
with some sort of adhesive putty.
Although the use of liners has been around for a long time, the combining of a
framing system with a liner is new. And as any experienced surveyor can see, it poses
some obvious problems, but that's a subject I'll deal with in Part II. In the meantime,
the conventional stringer, bulkhead and frame system is the method used by about
98% of all boats over 30 feet.
Stringers
In power boats, stringers provide the majority of the longitudinal hull resistance to
bending in the vertical plane. The apex of the vee at the bottom or keel adds additional
strenght. This is qualified by whether the deck is also designed to give the hull
longitudinal rigidity. Depending on design, some decks, particularly on motor yachts
with very short decks and lots of windows, are so small as to add very little additional
strength. On the other hand, the typical flybridge sport fisherman with its long
foredeck, relatively small windows and strong house sides, adds a great deal of
rigidity to a hull. So it is that we can now understand why there is a lot more to the
strength of hull than just the framing system. In monocoque, or semi-monocoque
construction, the whole structure must be considered. And it is precisely here that so
many untrained "designers" who lack a solid background in engineering, make their
mistakes.
Mistakes involving stringer design and installation are legion, about which a whole
book could be written. And yet the principles for creating an effective stringer system
are very simple and easy to achieve. Surely there are not many designers or builders
who do not understand this. Or are there? Problems usually arise as a result of other
design and marketing considerations. Typical examples are when a designer wants to
create a small boat with 6'6" headroom or wants to install unusually large engines. The
machinery spaces, which are not subject to appearance and marketing considerations,
are usually sacrificed.
In order to get the 6'6" head room or make high profile engines or other equipment fit,
the principles of proper stringer design are often sacrificed. In other words, the
principles of sound hull design get sacrificed for marketing considerations and the
surveyor needs to be constantly aware of this fact. Its the primary reason why, in this
day when all is known how to build a good boat, bad boats are still being built. Give
the customer what he wants, even if the product is going to fall apart.
The principles of good stringer design are simple. They must run uninterrupted from
one end of the hull to the other. They must be of adequate height to width ratio, i.e.,
structural modulus, to resist impact loading on the hull skin, be of sufficient strength
to carry the engine load, be stabilized against lateral movement if high profile, and be
securely attached to the hull so that they don't break loose. The profile, or top of the
stringer, should run in a straight line. If there are any changes in the profile, then
special design reinforcements must be added.

Dog leg in stringer which was cut down to make the engine fit. The stringer proved to
be so weak that the engine bounced every time the hull hit a wave, ultimately bending
the shaft and wrecking the transmission. Also notice the hard spots created by the fuel
tank mounting pads at top of photo that caused stress cracks in the hull.
These principles are often compromised by designs that utilized dog-legs, step downs,
step ups (meaning an inconsistent profile along their length), perforations with large
and ill-placed holes, inadequate section modulus and numerous other faults. In nearly
all the cases that I have seen, there is no compelling reason why these faults should
have occurred. What these design faults unfortunately suggests is that the designers
really don't understand the basic engineering principles. Yet in most cases of failure
that I have seen, the builder could have had his cake and eat it too by giving a little
more thought to the problem. What is compromised in one way can always be built up
in another. There's always an alternative solution. The builder just didn't take the time
to consider it.
Bulkheads
serve two very distinct functions. First, bulkheads act as transverse frames. More
importantly, the bulkhead is the structural element that prevents torsional stress or
twisting of the hull. Unified with a stringer system, they form a structural web and a
truss. Remove the bulkheads and its rather like removing the trusses from a bridge or a
roof. The overall strength can be reduced to the point of structural failure. And
because of the efforts of interior designers to produce small boats with the appearance
of wide open interior spaces by the elimination of full, and even partial bulkheads, that
hull structures begin to fall apart.

Here's what often happens when a large cut out is made in a structural bulkhead. In
this case, the 3/4" plywood was fractured in three places.
One builder that produced a 34 footer which had only one partial internal bulkhead -
an engine room bulkhead that was only slightly more than half the height of the
freeboard of the hull - resulted in severe structural failures in much of the model line.
You probably know the boat, the 34 Wellcraft Grand Sport. In this model line, not
only did major hull skin and stringer failures occur, but in many cases the single
plywood bulkheads fractured from side to side.
Even companies with reputations for building very rugged hulls occasionally make
silly mistakes. In a nearby photo you will see the result when Bertram decided to
make very large cut outs in the centers of plywood bulkheads to save weight. They
unthinkingly removed all the strength from the plywood bulkhead with predictable
results; the bulkheads fractured.
And we know how engine room fore and aft bulkheads constitute one of the foremost
structural elements of medium size yachts, and we've witnessed what happens the
builder unthinkingly decides to cut a big hole in the bulkhead and install a door. For
whatever reason, it did not occur to the builder or designer that he was destroying the
structural integrity of the bulkhead.

This is another good example of the structural integrity of a bulkhead being defeated
by cutting it full of holes. It is perforated like a postage stamp and is destined to fail.
To do their job, bulkheads must be adequately secured to the hull bottom, sides and
underside of the deck. Judging by 30 years of inspecting fiberglass boats, its a fair
statement to say that many builders don't think that this is very important considering
the large number of bulkheads that surveyors find to be broken loose. Probably at least
half of all boat builders don't tie the bulkhead to the deck, and often for good reason.
The bottoms of their boats are so flexible that the bulkhead will telegraph the
deflection of the hull into the deck, causing damage to the deck. Therefore, if they
leave a gap at the top, at least it won't tear the deck apart, just everything else that the
bulkhead is attached to, or is attached to it.
While we've been talking so far about structural bulkheads, bulkheads come in several
varieties, including full, partial and nonstructural partitions. While I know of no
published rules on the subject, my own rule is that to be classified as a full bulkhead
(1) it must span the width of the hull, (2) span no less than 75% of the depth of the
hull and be attached to the bottom, (3) have no openings larger than 50% of the height
of the bulkhead, and (4) such openings must be centered in the vertical plane and be
adequately strengthened to compensate for the cut out. An opening that effectively
cuts the bulkhead in half is not a full bulkhead but a partial. For maximum
effectiveness, the bulkhead must be attached to all four sides of the hull.

Floor frames under main mast of large sail boat. Properly designed by the designer,
the builder apparently saw nothing wrong with drilling the frames full of holes. Here
you can follow the fracture along the perforated effect of the holes at right and left
sides. Frame was so weakened that ply separation also occurred. A marine surveyor
got sued because he either did not find or report this condition, which was far more
extensive than this photo shows.
Partial bulkheads are really nothing more than frames and do not serve any greater
function than frames. It is a mistake to call a hull partition with two doors in it a
bulkhead, for it is really only a partition, or a partial bulkhead at best. Surveyors often
mistake partitions for bulkheads. Remember that to be classified as such, a bulkhead
must be serving the purpose of tying the four sides of the hull together (bottom, deck
and sides). If its shot full of holes and openings, its not achieving that purpose.
Partitions simply serve the function of separating one space from another while
providing little, if any major structural strength. Builders often make the mistake of
thinking that partitions are structural bulkheads and this is because they don't have any
trained engineers or designers on staff. And just because a partition may be taped into
the hull does not mean that its structural; the taping is usually there just to hold the
partition in place, not the partition to hold the hull together. Sail boats and some
smaller power boats often have plywood partitions that are screwed to bosses on an
inner liner. Again, these should not be mistaken for bulkheads.
Frames
Frames serve the purpose of stiffening panels between bulkheads and stringers.
Fiberglass boats often lack frames where they are needed. Obviously, if a panel is
flexing too much, additional framing would prevent that condition. Some builders
scrimp on frames because frames create additional detail work and adds more to labor
cost. Fortunately, where excessive panel weakness is discovered, adding frames after
the fact is usually fairly easy to accomplish. So long as there is accessibility,
correcting panel weakness is usually not difficult or costly.
Rigid or Flexible Hulls
Aluminum and steel boats are examples of vessels built to be completely rigid. By the
nature of the material, these hulls will not tolerate flexing. Fiberglass boats, however,
are another story. Fiberglass boats can be designed to be either flexible or rigid. For
example, if you examine Bertram hulls built over the years one can see a very abrupt
change in hull design philosophy. Somewhere in the mid 1980's, Bertram made a
transition from very rigid hulls to fairly flexible hulls. And as the Bertram engineers
have proved from years of extensive R&D (they were one of the few boat builders that
took R&D seriously) you can build light, floppy hulls without danger of them falling
apart. Moreover, there is a legitimate need to attempt to reduce costs by reducing the
weight of the most costly materials. All you have to do to see how this is possible is to
look at the aircraft industry which has invested billions in R&D.
In recent years, boat builders have been observing and borrowing some of the fruits of
this technology. Unfortunately, aircraft and marine design principles, while having
similarities, are not the same. Equally unfortunate is the fact that some boat builders
attempt to incorporate this new technology directly into their products without any
R&D of their own. And herein lies the problem.
It is entirely possible to take just about any hull and reduce its glass/resin content by
25-35%. In fact, back in 1985 I undertook such a project by taking the plans for a 55'
Hatteras with a design weight of 72,000 lbs and redesigned to come in at 42,000
pounds, including a huge 50% reduction in the weight of the basic hull structure. This
was done by applying basic airframe design with modifications for marine. The end
result had two serious problems that were anticipated. First, the hull weight was
reduced by means of an intricate framing system. The problem with that was that
anything that was saved on materials cost was more than offset by increased labor
costs of achieving the detail work.
Even less did I anticipate the effect on how the hull would handle with a 41% overall
weight reduction. Scale model testing revealed the boat to be so light that it would
pitch and roll so violently that it would be uninhabitable to human beings. It
developed a whip-snap roll in a 3' sea that would literally throw people off the deck.
Or when pitching, launch them like a trampoline! So much as for ultra light boats.
Weight is a factor that provides stability.
But the project did prove the viability of ultralite, flexible hull construction. Rather
like the old Cleveland Browns Rubber Band Defense, designed to bend but not break.
The point here is that builders can get away with a lot of shortcuts if they know how to
do it right, and if the increased labor costs don't make it impractical. Its easy to design
a flexible hull that flexes without breaking. What do I mean by flexible? Well, if on a
sea trial you run a tape measure between the top of the engine stringer and the
underside of the deck, you'll probably be surprised to see the stringers flexing by as
much as 1/2" even on what you consider to be a well made boat. If you were to string
diagonal measures from one corner of a large compartment to another, in the manner
used to measure squareness of square or rectangular structures, you will find that
when you put a boat into a hard turn, one of those measures is going to go very slack.
That's because the hull is being twisted by the torsion of the turn.
The early models of the 60' Hatteras Convertible were a prime example of a large hull
that was inadequately bulkheaded. These hulls would twist so badly that when you put
it into a hard, full speed turn, the propeller shafts would bind up in the bearings. And
you can just imagine the effects on shafts, engines and transmissions! This was not so
much a matter of a boat with not enough bulkheads, but rather the bulkheads that it
did have were poorly designed and executed.
Design-wise, rigid hulls are easier to design and build. With a flexible hull, very rigid
attachments of internal components becomes a problem because the flexing starts to
tear everything loose. The designer overcomes this by making the interior sort of "free
floating." For example, in designing a flexible hull, you do not use the hull or framing
system (stringers and structural bulkheads) as a foundation for the interior components
such as the sole and cabinetry work. Instead, you build a shelf on the upper hull sides
and literally suspend the interior from the shelf. That way when the bottom flexes and
the hull sides pant, it doesn't work so hard to tear the interior apart.
Conversely, if the designer is confidant that the hull is rigid, he can go ahead and place
the soles on top of stringers (although this is never a really good idea) and attach
components to bulkheads or hull sides. For slow speed boats that don't skip across the
tops of waves, this is the way its usually done. The hull isn't going to flex that much
that its going to rip the interior apart. Whereas the slow boat builder can get away with
all sorts of haphazard design, the fast boat builder cannot.
There are limits, of course, to just how far a designer can go with flexibility. In terms
of rigidity, we're talking about the difference of the bottom flexing 1/4 to 1/2" or not at
all. With the increasing lust for speed and advent of high performance diesels,
flexibility causes serious problems. Flexibility is okay for slow or moderate speed
vessels, but becomes disastrous to high speed yachts. The reason is not so much
inherent in the hull structure itself, but rather in the drive train. Delivering a thousand
or more horsepower through a long and large diameter shaft demands higher
tolerances of the drive system, and therefore mandates more rigid hulls, not less.
Along the length of a 30' drive train, the hull must be absolutely rigid; it cannot deflect
or twist lest the whole drive system be thrown out of alignment.
To gain an appreciation for the significance of this, just look at the massive structural
system found in high performance Hatteras or Vikings, shown below. When you're
dealing with a quarter million dollars or more worth of engines and transmissions, it
doesn't pay to fool around. Mistakes are just too costly. On recent survey of a high
performance 48 Hatteras and I was absolutely astounded at the massive stringer
system in this boat. Although I had seen it before, I didn't really appreciated how large
it was. The width of the top hat bottom supports actually covered nearly 50% of the
bottom panel area.

Stringer system of a 48' Hatteras Hi Performance Convertible. Note that the width of
the top hats are about the same as the width of the bottom panel spans. This is a good
example of structural overkill, yet demonstates the builder's concern with strength.
Also note the webs between stringers under the engine mounts that provide extra
stability. Despite the appearance, these top hats are actually quite thin. When
slamming occurs, the thin sections will absorb much of the impact, hence the web
sections to increase stability and insure that the engine beds do not move.
Now, did it cost the builder more to do it this way than in the usual way? Not likely,
they just had to spend some extra time thinking about what to do. The actual execution
and materials cost was probably no higher than any other design. The point here
should be painfully obvious; ultimately it costs more to do it wrong that to do it right.
The bottom line is that whether a hull is successfully flexible or rigid is dependent on
design and function. In a high speed vessel, everything else about a hull can be
flexible, but the foundation of the drive system must be absolutely rigid. Another point
to remember is that the smaller the diameter of the shaft, the more bending it can
tolerate. Shafts from 1" to 1-1/2" can tolerate a heck of a lot of bending caused by a
flexing hull. But when you get up to 2" diameter, these powerful systems will not
tolerate movement of the foundation and the systems will begin to self-destruct.
The importance of stringer stability is revealed by this stabilizing strut, in addition to
the mounting frame above it. Yacht: 56' Magnum, 2600 HP. With this kind of
horsepower, the mounting system and shafts will not tolerate movement.
Material Trends
If you read industry magazines like Composites and Professional Boat Builder, its
hard not to be impressed by these advertising vehicles efforts to influence the use of
aerospace composites and techniques into boat building. Every issue of these two
magazines devotes a major part of its space to promote the use of exotic materials and
very complex technology for building pleasure craft. In an industry known for its trial
and error, seat of the pants methods of development, one could effectively argue that
high technology is probably the last thing this business needs to become involved
with.
In my estimation, what they are attempting to do, is to promote and transfer these high
tech materials from the aerospace industry, which was backed up by the bounteous
source of federal tax dollars, to an industry well known for its critical capitalization
problems. They are promoting the very same technology utilized in the production of
military war planes such as the F117 and B2 bombers (the later of which has a $2
billion per copy price tag) to the construction of pleasure craft. Viewed in this light,
the economics of this trend don't look very promising.
Currently the experimentation with these materials is largely confined to custom boats
with very wealthy patrons who are willing to foot the bill in order to posses the latest
and greatest. However, there has been some extension into production building,
mainly so-called niche markets such as race boats, both power and sail. And to the
extent that it is clear that the production boat building industry does not possess the
necessary capital resources, nor the profit margins to sustain them, their incorporation
of this technology into production building is very likely to continue along the lines of
trial and error. What this portends for the surveyor are the risks of failing to locate
design failures during surveys, failures involving design, materials and construction
techniques that fall into the realm of the experimental. Make no mistake about it,
experimentation with new materials directly into a product is the norm, not the
exception.
With this basis understanding of the principles of good hull design, we can now begin
to study the effects of what happens when these principles are violated.
Related Reading: Hull Design Defects Part II
Hull Design Defects
Part II

by David Pascoe
Anyone who has ever seen airframe construction, particularly jet aircraft,
understands why aircraft can be built with skins that are extremely thin. And
while an aircraft isn't subjected to the same type of forces as a boat hull, the
fuselage is the hull and must be strong in different ways. Rather than being
framed, one could correctly say that an airframe is corrugated, for that's exactly
what it is. The skin can be extremely thin because the frames are so close
together.
Related Reading:
Hull Design Defects Part I

Boat hulls, of course, are not built that way, although they could be. Wooden canoes or
clinker construction is similar. Instead, modern fiberglass boat hulls relay on a limited
number of major girders and frames. Girders, or stringers as they're called in yacht
construction, serve a dual purpose of both supporting the bottom and providing
longitudinal rigidity to the hull. Frames provide lateral support but very limited
transverse stability so that they have only one purpose and that is to support the
bottom.
It is very helpful to think of a boat bottom as an upside down bridge. The main
difference is that bridges are not subjected to any force from the under side. But boat
hulls are subjected to forces from both sides. It is also helpful to think of a boat hull
not as a continuous, single skin, but as being made of panels that span the stringers
and frames. In hull design terms, the span between supports are referred to as panels.
These are the unsupported distances between supports.
When designing a hull, it is the thickness and strength of the unsupported panel to
resist bending forces that is of critical importance, precisely because the panel is not
supported. Our previous discussion talked about the differences between flexible and
rigid hulls. The amount of flexibility of the hull panel is dependent on frame spacing
and strength. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll assume that the framing system
is completely rigid.
There are very few pleasure yachts built in which the framing is so close and the
panels so thick that some bending does not take place under heavy load conditions. In
fact, flat fiberglass panels have a high modulus of elasticity, meaning that they can
bend a lot without damage to the panel. This is one of the features of reinforced plastic
that makes it so forgiving. But that forgivingness induces the tendency for designers to
stretch things a little too far in terms of what they can get away with. If that weren't
true, we wouldn't have so many boat hulls with structural failures.
Fiberglass laminates, because they're not a rigidly controlled, machine made
substance, are subject to human error and variance in their uniformity. Neither the
thickness nor the quality of the lamination are subject to much control. This means
that while the same laminating schedule may be maintained throughout a model line,
the resultant strength of fiberglass hulls can vary widely from boat to boat. Tests have
shown that laminate strength on nominally "good" laminates can easily vary by +/-
33%. By "good" it is meant that the laminate has no major defects, but rather simply
variance in resin/glass ratios. This also explains why one of an apparently same series
of hulls fails while others don't. All surveyors who are serious students of hull failures
have encountered this anomaly that often seems to defy explanation.

Example of hard spot caused by improper stringer design and installation. Bottom
hinges around hard edge of stringer wood core. At right (or bottom), wood core is
elevated by a soft material so that it does not touch the hull skin and the load is bourn
by the more flexible tabbing.
When investigating bottom panel failure, it is economically unfeasible to attempt to
evaluate the strength of a large panel, particularly one without a uniform shape. To do
so, every square inch of the panel would have to be analyzed. However, if we could,
there can be no doubt but that we'd find all sorts of imperfections and defects. To
illustrate an extreme example, in one case I found two candy bar wrappers laminated
into a hull. Accumulated saw dust caused by the lay-up shop being located near the
carpenter shop is yet another, not to mention the fact that lamination is a sloppy,
dangerous job that often entails a very high turnover rate in workers that makes
training very difficult and costly.
The point here is that final product values usually end up considerably below design
strength unless the designer leaves a healthy margin of error. Assuming of course, that
a degreed engineer is involved which, in many cases there isn't. So what we end up
with is many builders who utilize trial and error and experience as a means of
determining the lay-up schedule. The conscientious builder will usually slightly over
build, while the profit-minded builder will skimp where ever possible. And here is
where the problems begin.
Panel or Laminate Failure
There are three primary causes of panel failure: inadequate design strength or
thickness, design shape error, and lay-up faults. These can be stand alone problems, or
may appear in any combination of the three, including all together.
Assuming that a hull is properly framed out, and that the laminate does not have
serious imperfections, panel damage and failure can occur when the panel is too thin.
While fiberglass is flexible, there are limits on how much it can bend before structural
deformation causes the plastic to start disbonding or shattering. Bending, as we know,
causes tension on one side of the laminate and compression on the other. Compression
causes the plastic to crumble around the glass fibers. Tension causes interlaminar
sheer that works to separate the plastic from the fibers, or ply from ply.
Now, in a typical laminate, particularly one using weaves, we have fibers running in
all directions. On the tension side, the fibers prevent the plastic from deforming up to
the limit of the strength of the fibers. When the stress exceeds the strength of the bond
of the plastic to fibers, these fibers then pull loose. When the bending is repeated
hundreds or thousands of cycles, this process then results in significant weakening of
the panel. You can't see this damage, but it is there. This weakening becomes
progressive and so the panel starts bending more and more. Eventually, stress cracks
begin to appear, usually first on the exterior, but also on the interior particularly, if the
inside of the hull is gelcoated or painted so as to show up the cracks.
Hard Spots or Hinge Effect
If this condition continues long enough unchecked, it can eventually result in fatigue
failure of the panel. In the real world, this description of factors is rarely this simple.
All sorts of design defects and other faults may exist to compound the situation.
Simple panel failure caused by inadequate thickness is both common and easy to
detect. Panel failure unrelated to any other factors always occur near the center of the
panel, or the periphery of the dimple caused by deflection. That is because the center
is the area least supported by frames.
Panel failures that occur close to, or exactly at the intersect of a frame (here a frame is
meant to be any structural member), then there is a contributory cause. This is known
as the "hard spot" or "hinge effect." Obviously, were the panel thick enough, no
hinging would take place, so hinging is always compounded by other faults.
When a panel bends, at some point near a frame that bending is going to be resisted by
the frame. If the bending occurs exactly at the intersect of the panel and frame, there
exists at this point an abrupt resistance to bending. This sudden resistance causes a
bend to occur with a very short radius, and it is the radius of the bend that has
everything to do with how much bending can occur without damage or failure.
The shorter the radius of the bend, the greater the compression and tension load, the
sooner structural deformation begins. This is why frames and bulkheads should never
make sharp intersects with either bottom or side panels. Short radius bends are
prevented by adding bosses or fillets in way of the panel/frame intersect. This spreads
out the load over a wider area, increases the radius and reduces compression/tension
loading. As previously mentioned, panel defection in itself is not a bad thing.

Stress cracking is one of the visible effects of panel deflection. In this case, the panel
was dimpled or "oil canning" as the eliptical array of the stress cracks indicate. The
number of cracks tends to indicate the severity of the deflection or bending.
This short radius or sudden change in direction is what is referred to as hard spots or
hinge effect. It means the panel is bending sharply around the frame or anything else
inside the hull that is rigid such as a deck support post or a fuel tank bed in contact
with the hull.
Stress Cracks
Stress cracks are the warning signal that a panel is bending beyond the limits of its
strength. Stress cracks can appear either as a result of a one-time event such as
slamming hard off of a wave, or it can be the result of repetitive stress cycles. This is
one of the things that makes the evaluation of stress cracking so difficult. My 30 years
of experience suggests that fairly large numbers of boats sustain single incident stress
cracking with no evidence that the damage becomes progressive. On the other hand,
this can be extremely hard to know with any certainty because no one has the ability
to follow the life history of a boat. Yet, because the surveyor encounters so many boats
with stress cracks on the bottom, it is the surveyor's task to make that evaluation.
Natural hinge points such as chine flats and other angular surfaces require the build up
of extra laminations called fillets which add extra strength. Lacking these, bending
and stress cracking is likely to occur.
Most stress cracking occurs as a result of repetitive panel bending or hard spots caused
by improper design of internal components, combined with inadequate panel
thickness. This type of stress cracking is usually progressive because the bending is
not intermittent, but occurs nearly every time the vessel is used. The great difficulty,
and therefore the great danger to surveyors, is that most boats get used more often in
calm water conditions so that a potentially dangerous condition can exist for years
without ever resulting in a failure. It can happen that a boat with a weak bottom is
used only in protected waters where pounding almost never occurs. Then, suddenly,
the boat is moved to another location where the conditions are different, and now the
hull is subject to frequent slamming and stressing.

The hinge effect, or stress cracking initiated by hinging off of an internal structural
such as a stringer, produces parallel cracks such as these. The deposits made by
weepage of styrene based fluids indicates that the cracks penetrate well beyond the
gelcoat.
Evaluating stress cracks is very difficult and there are no clear-cut rules. Every case
has to be evaluated independently. Yet hard spots are easy to identify because the area
of cracking is usually small. It may show as a star burst pattern, as concentric circles
of cracks, or a short series of parallel, arcing cracks. These are easily evaluated simply
by going to that exact point on the interior to see what is causing it, and then to
recommend a method of eliminating the hard spot. Moreover, reinforcing an
apparently weakened panel is usually not difficult to accomplish.
Cracking due to overall panel deflection
Cracking due to overall panel deflection is also easy to detect, but much more difficult
to evaluate. On bottoms painted with anti-fouling paint, remember that the paint is
very brittle and does an excellent job in magnifying cracks. Cracks will usually appear
in the paint long before they will show up in gelcoat which is usually a bit more
pliable. By removing the bottom paint, we can usually find out if the cracks also show
up in the gelcoat. Be careful not to obliterate cracks in gelcoat by scraping as this is
easy to do. If cracks don't show up in the gelcoat, I'll use my finger and try to rub dirt
over the surface to try to get invisible cracks to show up, then wipe clean with a rag. If
the cracks are serious or old, they'll stand out. If nothing shows up under the paint, it
would be a fair assessment to assume that the weakening is not serious.
The age of the boat
The age of the boat plays a very important role in evaluating the significance of stress
cracking. This is because older boats have been subjected vastly greater number of
stress cycles than newer boats. If cracks show up in the paint on an older boat, but
don't appear visible in the gelcoat, or are only faintly visible, I usually dismiss them. If
the condition has existed for a long time and there's no evidence that it is highly
progressive, I feel safe with that judgment.
The prominence of cracks
The prominence of cracks is another indicator of their significance. When cracks
initiate, they usually start out as a very fine fissure. As cracks age, the very sharp
edges of the crack will erode over time. That means that the appearance of the crack
will be wider or more prominent. Cracks that stand out prominently should be
regarded as a red flag. Cracks that are old and progressive will stand out clearly, even
after you've scraped bottom paint away. At this point, the cracks will appear as a clear
black lines. If bad enough, they will clearly reveal a fissure. Remember that stress
cracks that appear on the exterior bottom are the result of the tension side of the bend
since compression loading tends not to produce cracks.
Examining the same area on the interior is likely to tell us much more about the
significance because the tension loading may appear on this side also, depending on
how the panel is bending. However, this is only true if the interior is coated with
gelcoat or paint. If it is a raw laminate surface, stress cracking may or may not show
up, especially if the surface is very dirty and permanently stained. Dirt and oil may
work its way into the stress cracks and completely obscure them, even if you wipe the
surface clean.
The number of parallel cracks
The number of parallel cracks is another indicator of how serious the condition is.
When there are 4 or more parallel cracks, there is good reason to believe that panel
bending is going beyond load limits. But, again, we have to evaluate in terms of age.
If its a fairly new boat with a three or more parallel cracks, odds are that this is a
progressive condition that could ultimately lead to panel failure.
Sail and power boats tend to exhibit different cracking patterns. This is because sail
boat bottoms are usually curved while power boat panels tend to be flat. Flexing
convex curves result in the condition known as oil-canning which produces large
dimples that can reveal circular patterns of cracking, or cracking that appears in a
parallel series of arcs. This condition should be considered as dangerous with a high
potential for ultimate failure.
Power boat panel defection tends to parallel either hull stringers, bottom strakes or
bulkheads. It will only show up as curving arcs if the panel defection is severe in
conjunction with oil-canning. This happens rarely, so when it does, beware that the
problem is very serious indeed. The most common cracking is found inside the
concave curve of a strake. This is because the strake forms a natural hinge point, or a
hard spot. Strakes that are not filled and filleted almost invariably end up causing
stress cracking. This is easy to determine by looking to see if there is a strake
depression on the interior of the hull. If there is, the strake has not been filled and
filleted and is the cause of the cracking.

Stress cracking appearing transversely across a bottom strake. In this case, it was
caused by a 27' boat having only one structural bulkhead, located in the wrong place
and no transverse framing. Torsional twisting of the hull caused the cracking which is
on the verge catestrophic failure.
Improperly installed stringers often cause hard spots, particularly in smaller boats, that
results in cracking and possible ultimate long term failure. This is usually very easy to
detect by sounding the bottom and locating the stringers. Again, it is the age of the
boat and the severity of the cracking that determines its significance.
These stress crack appearing on the interior bottom under an engine were nicely
shown up by black diesel oil via the capillary effect. The 11 parallel cracks indicate
that the degree of panel bending is severe and the possibility of failure must be
considered. In this case, there were an insufficient number of transverse frames.
Delamination
Delamination, contrary to what one might expect, is not a common occurrence in
conjunction with panel deflection and stress cracking on solid laminates. In fact, it is
very rare. Out of 3600 surveys, I can't ever recall having found any. Panel bending
does not produce enough interlaminar shear to cause ply separation unless the panel
contains defects and the bending is very serve. Still, its a good idea to tap around a bit
when cracks are visible. However, delamination is often found after complete panel
failure occurs - i.e. the panel splits open - but this happens as a result of the final
fracturing and stress initiated during the final failure mode, so it is not wise to use the
absence of delamination as a positive evaluation factor.
Cored Bottoms
Cored bottoms are an altogether different story. But then a cored bottom is a problem
just waiting to happen anyway. Coring a hull bottom is just plain foolish, no matter
what any builder or the glowing reports in the magazines may tell you. Remember that
these people get their income from advertising revenue derived from the people who
advance these materials. In other words, they are biased. Core materials are simply too
weak and hull bottoms take too much of a beating for cores to survive. When we find
cored bottoms, the presence of stress cracking should be regarded with the same
reaction as to skin cancer. Horror! Here, stress cracking raises the potential for water
ingress into the core, with all the attendant problems that poses, including the potential
for delamination. When cores are involved, ply separation or delamination is highly
likely. Consider the hull guilty until proven innocent.
We should be especially wary of sailboats with cored bottoms. If you get sued after a
sailboat core fills with water or its keel falls off, take your lumps because you deserve
to get sued for not finding the problem. There is only one safe way to handle a cored
sailboat bottom, and that is to declaim all knowledge of what is going on inside that
core. You can't see it, test it or know what is happening inside unless a failure is
already well advanced. Failures involving cored bottoms are legion. Even worse, it
can happen that there are no visible, outward signs of trouble before failure occur.
Failures can occur suddenly, and without warning. Disavow all responsibility, in
writing, in detail, and all ability to determine the condition of the hull.

To determine whether a hull is cored or not, look for those areas on the interior hull
where the core terminates. In this photo, the core can clearly be seen standing out
around the bow of this yacht.
Hull Sides
Stress cracking on hull sides is something that generally did not happen until the mid
1980's when builders began skimping on hull side laminate. Hull sides have gotten so
flimsy in the last decade that its almost laughable if the construction of some of these
boats wasn't so pathetic. Hull side cracking is a problem that shows up almost
exclusively in low to mid price range boats. The cheaper the boat, the more likely
you'll find it.
This is rarely a problem to the hull side itself. The cracking usually occurs as a result
of severe panting because the sides are thin and unsupported. The sides themselves
don't fail because the panels are so large and the flexing occurs over such a large area
that the radius of bend is too large to cause damage to the laminate strictly as a result
of panting. However, because the stress is transmitted vertically up the hull side, the
forces of interlaminar shear are very high. Therefore, delamination becomes a distinct
possibility. Nowhere is this more true that in vessels that have been repowered with
more powerful engines. In this case, total hull side failures have been known to occur
even with high quality boats.
Hull side panting can be a problem because there are other things attached to the hull
sides. Panting of the sides can cause disturbance not only to internal components, but
also to the hull/deck joint. A boat with floppy hull sides is not very likely to have the
deck bonded to the hull, but rather just be screwed on. Panting hull sides almost
invariably results in shearing of the hull/deck joint and complete loosening of the
fasteners. This is why we find so many boats with the rub rails falling off. The screws
holding the rub rails on are set into the hull/deck joint and the shearing load applied to
these screws breaks them loose. See Also SCREW IT!
Hull sides should be generally sounded (cored or solid) and closely examined for
stress cracking. Stress cracking is most easily telegraphed through painted on boot
stripes because the paint is more brittle, so look for it there. Because side failures are
rare, the cracking needs to be evaluated in terms of the whole structure. The cracking
is more likely to be a sign of other problems. Suspect bad deck joins and look for
broken bulkhead tabbing. Also watch out for through hull fittings that may be
loosened or damaged as a result of panting.
Liners
Builders are always searching for ways to reduce labor costs, and one of these is the
use of interior liners. Experienced surveyors are all too familiar with the problems that
liners present. First is that a liner tends to obscure all internal structural members so
that the surveyor cannot make an evaluation of the hull structure. Secondly, liners tend
to preclude the use of proper bulkheads and frames because a liner can't be placed
where a structural bulkhead exists. Thirdly, the design of the liner needs to substitute
for the structural members is has displaced. Fourth, the liner usually affords no access
to examine its structure and how it is attached.
Liners are most commonly used in boats up to about 32' but have been found in boats
up to 42'. The larger the boat, the greater the potential for trouble because of this
tendency of liners to displace or eliminate traditional framing methods. Boats with
liners over 30' are known to have a disproportionately larger number of structural
problems, a situation that is entirely predictable.
When liners displace bulkheads and frames, several things happen. First, the hull
becomes highly prone to twisting or wracking. When bulkheads are eliminated,
unsupported panel size naturally increases. And when that happens, panel deflection
and failures increase. Because the liner usually covers up so much of the interior, this
makes the surveyors job doubly difficult and exposes him to more risk of failure to
locate serious problems.
Grid/Liners
Grid/liners are a new development in which the designer attempts to include all of the
vessel's framing system into a full, complete hull liner. So far, the use of grid liners is
limited to only a few builders of small boats, but the idea is likely to spread because it
presents the possibility of eliminating all the difficult laminating detail work of
bulkheads and stringers inside the mold. With a grid liner, the detail work can be
transferred to a low profile mold on the shop floor that is more accessible and easier to
work.
While this may streamline production, this method has a number of problems. One is
that the liner has to be bonded to the hull, and obviously the builder cannot laminate it
to the hull once it is set into place. The only solution, of course, is to glue the liner into
the hull. The problem with adhesives is that they only work perfectly under perfect
conditions, something we don't see much of in boat building.
The only things that glue together well are parts with identically uniform surfaces. For
example, gluing two pieces of wood together that are perfectly flat makes for a very
strong joint. But allow the slightest surface irregularity and the joint becomes very
weak. That's not just true of wood but any material. Unfortunately, the interiors of
laminated hulls can hardly be called uniform. Will the grid/liners remain bonded to the
hull? Only time will tell. Our experience with bonding putty in cored hulls tells us that
there's not likely to be any better level of success in this application than for foam
cores. See related article Hi Tech Materials.
Essentially what they are doing is spreading the glue on the interior of the hull, and
then dropping the liner in and hoping that a complete bond takes place. The builder
will never know because he can't see the results. The bonding surface is just as likely,
indeed, probably more so, to be full of voids or gaps where the two parts are not
bonded together. And a void in a glue joint or laminate is a stress initiator that
propagates delamination.
Sail boats utilize grid/liners more frequently. Fortunately, a sailboat hull is
considerable more amenable to this design, both by its shape and the fact that they are
not subjected to the forces of high speed. Even so, one of the largest boats built with a
full grid/liner was a Hunter 60 that experienced total liner disbonding and failure. Yet
even their smaller models were widely known for liner failures.
If this method gains wider acceptance, its going to pose a whole new range of
problems for surveyors.
Interior Effects of Weak Hulls
When liners are used, they either have to sit on top of stringers, the bottom, or be
suspended from the hull sides. In either case, the liner is not completely isolated from
the hull, and if the hull is experiencing problems with excessive panel deflection or
panting, that deflection is most likely going to be transmitted to the liner in one way or
another.
In sailboats, liners are either tabbed, glued to the hull or both. In powerboats, liners
usually rest on top of stringers and are usually joined to the hull at the deck, whether
by bonding or mechanical fasteners. Flexing of the hull is usually transmitted to the
liner. Linered boats usually have a number of wood components inside such as
cabinets, trim seating and the like. These components are usually fastened to the liner
with screws. If both the hull and liner are flexing, then it is common to find evidence
of this. Look for screws backing out, misaligned parts, cracked moldings and little
piles of wood dust that indicates friction against the wood. Unusually large gaps
between parts or things like built-in refrigerators backing out of their holes are often
indicators of trouble.
Extensive stress cracking in liners is another indicator. Theoretically, the liner should
not be subjected to much stress, so when cracks appear the condition requires careful
evaluation. Be particularly alert to stress cracks around companionway doors and at
the bottom corners of the sole or foot well. Serious cracks in these areas are a strong
indicator of serious working. Another critical area in power boats is the coaming
around the windshield area where the fore deck terminates into the cockpit. Cracks in
all three locations indicate serious trouble. If that's the case, also examine the
hull/deck joint. If the screws are loose at the mid section, the hull is probably bending
excessively and may indicate a serious structural design flaw.
The Effects of Speed
The faster a boat goes, the more stress it is subjected to. It follows, then, that high
speed boats are considerably more vulnerable to design defects. This also means that
that any evidence of stress cracking or other problems needs to be evaluated relative to
the vessel's speed, as well as it's age.
Unless you've had experience with high speed vessels in rough water conditions, its
hard to appreciate the extreme forces involved. Considering how hard it is on the
human body, its a little easier to imagine the stress on the hull. High performance
boats, those which are intended to give the impression that they're capable of being
operated fast and hard, are those that are most susceptible to problems simply because
they are used harder. And because of that, they are substantially less tolerant of design
flaws.
A good example of this is a 41' Cigarette race-style boat which was really a tripple
engine, 1400 HP, luxury go-fast boat. This boat was designed with stringers that steps
in them. That is, that the stringers had different heights at different locations in the
hull. At the only full bulkhead in the vessel - the cockpit/cabin bulkhead, the stringers
stepped down from 24" high to 12" high. This created a serious stress initiator point
which caused the stringers to fracture at this point. Not only that, but the bulkhead had
broken loose because the hull was bending longitudinally so bad that the hull sides
were bowing outward and the hull/deck joint popped open.
This boat had a full interior liner and no part of the hull other than the aft engine room
was visible. The failures were foretold by serious cracks in the cabin liner, around the
companionway door, as well as the very loose guard rails. These cracks were
sufficiently severe that it was clear that they were not the result of normal stress or
improperly designed curves or a generally weak liner. The combination of all these
indicators pointed to a hull that was starting to break in half.
In another case, also a Cigarette, the builder had tried a three, rather than four stringer
arrangement, with one stringer on the centerline. Apparently the designer did not
know that no stringer was needed at the vee of the bilge because this was a natural
strong point. Yet stringers were needed outboard on the bottom panels where there
was now only one on each side instead of two. The stringers on both sides fractured
and the bottom split open.
Yet another was the case of a Wellcraft 40 footer which had only one transverse
bulkhead, and in which the transverse frames were not bonded to the stringers. These
stringers were very tall, glass over plywood, and when pounding occurred, the
stringers buckled because, lacking any bonding to transverse members, they had no
lateral stability because they were too thin.. This hull began to self-destruct during the
delivery from builder to the owner in less than 30 hours operating time.
Another builder designed and built perfectly good stringers, but then proceeded to
drill them full of three inch diameter holes for reasons known only to the builder. The
degree of ignorance displayed by these builders was truly astonishing.
Examples like this should lay to rest forever any assumption that boat builders always
know what they're doing. All too often they don't. Surveyors should be mindful of the
fact that, more often than not, boats are designed not by naval architects, but by people
with no formal training whatsoever. This is not to say that unschooled designers are
not qualified. Many are if only by experience of trial and error. Unfortunately, too
many people from the marketing department are actively involved with structural
design when they shouldn't be.
These issues are raised, not to be gratuitously critical, but to point out how easy it is
for a surveyor to take structural design for granted, and to fall into the trap of not
looking closely. Luxury and high speed are rather like trying to mix water and oil. The
mix is not easy to achieve. The effects of speed multiply relative to the mass or weight
of the vessel. To create a high speed yacht that does not start to fall apart when abused
- as they are likely to be - requires some serious engineering, engineering that as often
as not is lacking. Paying close attention to these warning signs will go a long way
toward keeping the surveyor out of trouble.
Related Reading: Hull Design Defects Part I