Applying gelcoat is the final step in repairing a damaged fiberglass sea kayak.
Gelcoat serves numerous functions. A tough and durable coating which can be tinted any color you can imagine, colors a sea kayak and provides the hull’s first layer of abrasion protection.
Gelcoat is pretty rugged stuff. More subtle yet equally important, gelcoat protects your sea kayak’s fiberglass, epoxy and resin against the degrading effects of sunlight which would otherwise first yellow epoxy, then make it flake and chip.
Here’s Brian Nystrom applying gelcoat to a sea kayak repair he made in the five previous posts. Note gloves. Gelcoat is goopy. It comes in numerous mixtures and forms. But in essence you buy base gelcoat, tint it with a color that matches your sea kayak’s, apply the stuff, then sand and buff.
Brian masked off the repair area so he won’t drip excess gelcoat onto the rest of the hull. If he skidded drips, he’d have to sand them, adding an unnecessary extra step:
Below, gelcoat after it cures. It’s still lumpy – inevitable, as the stuff is so sticky it pulls up and forms lumps with each brush stroke. But, no matter. Brian will sand the gelcoat smooth with varying grades of sandpaper. Then he will wet-sand it. Finally he will buff it. When he’s finished the gelcoat will be as smooth as the original gelcoat applied in the manufacturer’s vacuum-bagged mold:
Finally below, the before and after photo. Obviously the before is on the left. In five steps Brian has transformed serious damage into a repair that is structurally sound, UV-protective, and as smooth and glossy as the undamaged hull around it:
Make a repair like this yourself just once and you’ll return to the original point of this series of posts: if you regard your sea kayak less as a perfect form put together by mysterious processes on a factory floor, more as a simple template you can alter at will, you’re that much closer to customizing your hull for increased safety, comfort and ease of use.
You can move bulkheads to increase cargo space and reduce cockpit volume – making more room for camping gear in the hatches, and making rescues less involved by reducing cockpit volume (less water to pump out). Similarly you can add custom rescue gear.
But perhaps more important, you can approach rocky shores with confidence and boldness, assured that though you may irreparably damage yourself, you can at least repair your boat!