What's it really made of?

It's not always easy to figure out what a boat is made of. Aluminum is usually pretty obvious, as is traditional wood construction. But fibreglass is a different story- without cutting the hull open, there's no easy way to tell what's below that innermost layer of roving. Anyone who has read David Pascoe's article "Are they fiberglass boats anymore" is at least a little scared of the mysterious substances that take the place of proper hull structure in many production boats.

So I was rather pleased to find this display board proudly attached to the swim platform of a Regal runabout at a boat show a few years ago. In addition to the usual colour swatches, this one includes a core sample from this boat's transom (with the laminate schedule written right on it), samples of the materials used for backing blocks and hatches, the various foams used in the seats and cushions, an offcut of the boat's tinned copper wiring, and a chunk of the polyethylene honeycomb used to core the boat's deck, swim platform and topsides.

Materials display board from a Regal runabout

Without passing judgement on whether or not this is a good hull, I find it refreshing to see at least this dealer (Buckeye Marine in Bobcaygeon) having the confidence to put the real substance of his product on display. Especially when compared against several others at this show, some of whom didn't even know if their hulls were cored or not, this kind of openness was enough to make this boat one of the top contenders in that particular shopping trip.

Fibreglass construction techniques, with and without coring, have been well understood for decades.  There is nothing proprietary in a typical hull laminate, and no competitive advantage to be gained by hiding such information from competitors.  After all, they're all using mostly the same materials, from the same small number of major suppliers, built to similar scantling rules.  Right?

A note to those who build and sell fibreglass boats: If you have a good product, showing off your craftsmanship and engineering sense by publishing your laminate schedules and showing core samples is an excellent selling point. If you aren't willing to show what's really in your hulls, or can't answer questions about your construction methods, it doesn't matter how many backlit cup-holders you put in the thing: many potential customers will conclude that you have something to hide.



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