Space-age composites, new construction techniques, and design improvements all contribute to better boats and boating experiences. But constantly changing methods and materials also contribute to increased confusion on the part of the buying public. Here are some of the latest definitions as well as some of the tried-and-true standbys you're likely to encounter to help you navigate as you consider, shop and/or buy.
AMTICO: A vinyl product that simulates wood and stone, and is used as flooring. It has become extremely popular on even the most expensive yachts, is easy to maintain and repair, and is remarkably durable.
BIAXIAL CLOTH: Fiberglass cloth made from fibers woven in two directions.
CARBON FIBER: A lightweight, black fiber used in place of or in addition to fiberglass for an increased strength-to-weight ratio; also known as graphite.
COLD MOLDED: A boat-building process that uses strips of wood attached to the hull in alternating directions and saturated with resin or epoxy to make a strong, lightweight laminated hull.
COMPOSITE: A composite is any natural or synthetic material, other than fiberglass or resin, that is sandwiched into a laminate. Common composites used in today's boats include closed-cell foam, paper, balsa, marine plywood and aluminum.
EPOXY RESIN: The most expensive and best-performing resin when it comes to durability, adhesiveness and water resistance.
FRAME BOAT: The style of vessel that has been built since the time of the Phoenicians. A skeletal frame is built, then the hull is built from the keel up, and the outer hull and fiberglass are applied as the last step.
FRP: Fiberglass-reinforced plastic, the final laminate produced when fiberglass is mixed with resins and the combination hardens.
GRAPHITE: A mineral-based fiber, also called carbon fiber, and related to coal - lightweight and strong.
JIG BUILT: A fiberglass or cold-molded boat built on a framework from the inside out, with the gelcoat (or paint) applied as the final step.
MOLDED BOAT: A boat built from the outside in, inside a mold with the gelcoat going into the mold first.
POLYESTER RESIN: A synthetic, thermosetting resin with good water-impermeability properties. It represents the least expensive and most widely used resin in boat building.
RESIN INFUSION (Vacuum Bagging): A construction method that involves laying all the dry laminate ingredients into the mold, covering it with plastic, and then sucking the resin through the materials with a vacuum. This adds a very controlled amount of resin and leaves no air voids in the laminate. It's also "greener," as the enclosed molding process doesn't give off as many volatile organic compounds.
TRIAXIAL CLOTH: Fiberglass cloth made of fibers woven in three directions for increased strength on several biases.
VINYLESTER RESIN: Similar to polyester, vinylester is more expensive and more resistant to water penetration.