Boatbuilding is one of those fields of art and science. There is such a wide range of everything in boatbuilding.

Boats range in:

  • size – small, large, johnboat, aircraft carrier
  • displacement – related to size, but not always directly
  • hull design – full displacement, partial displacement, planing boats, hovercraft
  • construction material – metal (steel, aluminum, etc.), wood, fiberglass, leading edge composites, etc.
  • construction method – stitch and glue, traditional layup, epoxy coated plywood, pre-cut CNC parts, welded, riveted
  • coatings – resin, epoxy, tar, you name it, with a whole different but overlapping set for metal
  • viewpoint – everybody has their own opinion… and they are all probably right, at one time or another 🙂

This has really come to light to me in doing some research and having some discussions with various builders concerning composite panel construction.

Many builders use composites and various foam core type layups in hull and superstructure building. Others are more traditionalists, either just because they like it, because it may be cheaper (in their area), it may be what they know, whatever. Personally, although I find the traditional boats beautiful and I wish I could have those skills, I think some of the newer composites hold a lot of promise as a material that would be fitting for me.

The ability to work with wood tools and many woodworking skills, but having a material that doesn’t require coatings, sealings, etc. and that is pretty much impermeable to water. Of course this sounds like fiberglass before the days of osmotic blisters, doesn’t it 🙂

I found the Hoverclub of America forum had a very interesting thread concerning Coosa board. The product has been mentioned several times on the BoatDesign.net forums, but nearly always as a non-structural panel. The Hoverclub thread is discussing more structural use. If these types of panels are anywhere similar in strength/weight to plywood, and as the costs become more comparable, they look to me to be an interesting alternative to explore. They may weigh somewhat more, although I would want to examine closely the difference in a good plywood sheet after its been epoxy encapsulated and fiberglassed. The cost differences are also offset somewhat by epoxy/glass and labor costs.

The flip side of using a "non-traditional" material with the inherent risks involved is significant.

Another product that Kurt Peterson of Atlas Hovercraft, Inc. mentions to me is "Space Board" produced by Space Age Synthetics. Anybody have interesting thoughts or opinions?