Judge the hull to deck from the inside, not by how it looks with the rub rail.

With the dawn of show season upon us, the opportunity is here to look at all the boats you could ever hope to buy in one giant cavernous showroom. If you’re lucky the show will have models to test drive, but if you’re stuck on the floor don’t just stand and gawk. Get under the hatche

s for some compare and contrast activity.

The hull-to-deck joint is an easy way to get a quick judge of the quality of a boat’s build. Usually you can take a look under a hatch and run your fingers along it.

The best boats are joined at the hull and deck with a sealant such as 3M 5200 and with through-bolts backed with locking nuts. Even better is when the bolts go through a wood or composite backing strip. Even better is when the whole joint is glassed in on the inside.

Down the list is screwed and bonded, pop-riveted and bonded, or simply bonded. Pop rivets are suitable for light duty vessels and should be avoided if you have offshore aspirations.

Also take a look at how well it’s all put together. If you notice gaps in the joint, or screws running askew,  that’s a sign of careless workmanship. If any bolts, screws, or rivets go through the deck cap but not the hull, that’s a weak spot subject to shear stress. Look for gaps or uneven application of the bonding agent, too.

If the hull is joined to the deck in shoddy fashion, walk away from that boat on the spot, because if this integral structural aspect isn’t good, what else is subpar?