There are lots of advantages to learning how to repair and customize fiberglass, and not just sea kayaks take a fair share of bumps and scrapes when paddled along rocky coastlines.
Let’s say you bash your boat in on the rocks or make a too-hard landing on the beach — or for that matter drop your boat off the roof of the car.
What next? Now you’re faced with the prospect of lugging your kayak to your local dealer for repair. Then you’ll need to wait for the repair to be completed. Then you’ll have to pay for the work and hope that you don’t have to go through the whole process all over again a month or year from now when you bash the boat in once more.
The time delays and hassles can be enough to make us overly cautious with our boats, to the extent that we avoid rocky coastlines, eschew tricky cobble or rocky landings, and stay out of rock gardens altogether.
This limits our sense of adventure on water. If we dependent upon our local dealer sfor repair, we turn overly fussy with hull made to take a beating. And we remain mystified by how sea kayaks are modified or repaired.
There’s another drawback to not learning how to repair our kayaks ourselves: our options for customizing our boats hull to meet our specific needs and wants are limited.
One might not consider that you can install a custom on-deck rescue/tow system — a matter of drilling a few holes.
And all that forward hatch space we lose to the cockpit’s forward bulkhead being too far forward: we don’t consider that we can increase cargo space for camping trips by removing the bulkhead and moving it further aft, closer to the footpegs.
And all those extra gallons of water that fill the cockpit after a wet exit, because bulkhead positioning renders the cockpit voluminous — we don’tt consider that moving the forward bulkhead aft, closer to our feet, reduces cockpit volume.
And come time to sell a kayak: we won’t consider that we can increase a boat’s resale value by repairing the cosmetic dings and scratches and chips ourselves.
By assuming that gelcoat and fiberglass work are the provenance of experts only, we give up a lot. Not only do we become too cautious with our boats by babying them near rocky areas, we fail to customize our kayaks with rescue gear, won’t move bulkheads should their position not be to our tastes…and so on.
The first step to learning how to customize and repair a kayak hull is a willingness to grind it, cut it, sand it – in short to treat the hull less as a precious commodity perfect from the factory, more as a basic outline for the hull you want.
If you’re interested in learning some of the basics of gel-coat and fiberglass repair, a multi-part series on fiberglass and gelcoat customization and repair follows.
I’ll follow up later with posts on how to rip out and finally replace that butt-cramping seat, and how to install a tow/rescue system.
Meanwhile, a couple of DVDs and books through Amazon on fiberglass repair and gelcoat repair.
Also, you’ll want a random orbital sander for any kind of fiberglass work. Porter-Cables’ are reasonably priced.