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Return Of The Son Of Shut Up ‘N Fix Yer Kayak

Posted Aug 10 2006 12:00am
Evelyn, a dog, having undergone
Further modification
Pondered the significance of short-person behavior
In petal-depressed panchromatic resonance
And other highly ambient domains…

Arf she said – zappa

For some folks building and repair is artwork. Not for me. I’m all thumbs and too much worry and hurry. I can’t make an old masterwork look young again. And truth be told I don’t really want to. Our scars are notches in the gun or in the lipstick case as “where are they now” star, Pat Benitar once put it. So as it is I tend to put things like that off if I can since I don’t really want cock it up. But since my poor old warhorse has been spending a lot of time in dry-dock lately I figured I’d give it a try. So Late one night I said a prayer to Brian Nystrom and put a bit of sand paper under my pillow. . .

I’ve had these little bubbly bits in my Explorer’s hull for a about a year now. I knew I needed to fix them as I didn’t want water getting in there. But Gelcoat repair had me spooked. Everyone knows by now that you wouldn’t have me along on an expedition as the “repair guy”. On the other hand, like vaccinations sometimes you just have to get it done. Which reminds me of the sadistic nurse I had when I was getting a TB shot before I started work as an EMT. . but, as silb says. . . I digress. . .

So I reviewed Brian Nystrom’s post on kayak repair. Since his excelent gallery is there I won’t make this a “how to” guide. But I do have a couple “finer points for the untalented” such as myself. I ran down to Madison and picked up a very expensive can of finishing Gelcoat. Mark that. “Finishing Gelcoat”. This will air dry without all complications of covering the repair with cellophane. Then after a couple days of suffering intense Gelophbia I was finally outside with the Explorer up on the horses ready for a bit of surgery. I got out my Dremel and put a little rounded sanding wheel on it and went at boring out the ripples and flaring the edges as directed by Brian. Now since I was working on the side of the hull I did have to be careful not to dig into the fiberglass that sits just a coins width below the surface. It’s easy to see because of the change in color from chalky white to the yellowish fiberglass layer. As soon as I took back the “bubble” I was glad I was doing the repair. Below the bubble was an open split through the gelcoat right down to the glass. Be sure to get all the cracks dremeled out. Any cracking left in the gelcoat will continue to expand even if you rework the worst bits.

After getting everything sanded out, cleaned and ready for the repair I had to mix the gelcoat. Now here is the part that got a bit strange. Every website on Gel-coat out there seemed to talk about using the manufactures ratio for mixing hardener to the gelcoat. Thing is, for a small repair requiring less than an ounce of gelcoat you seem to have to mesure the hardener on an atomic scale. Like I wanted to review Atomic-Scale Measurements and Control in Chemistry 101. Yikes!! After a little searching on the net I found that most companies recommended a number of “drops” to an ounce. Not the can I have, but I had to do something. Well, they all averaged between 10 & 20 drops. A couple 2 or 3’s that I tossed out as sensless blips in the cosmos. I also knew that you didn’t want it to dry too fast or the repair would be weak. You also didn’t want it to start hardening off before you had the repair complete. So I basically guessed. Since I hate even numbers I chose 13 drops. (and me without a dart board)

Then using a small wide ended paint brush (The kind you use for models and craft work), I went about filling the holes I had made layer by layer. The gelcoat was thick enough that each layer could be done pretty quickly. I was also sure to build it up higher than the hull so I would be able to sand it back down to the correct level and smooth it out.

So there I was with my lumpy kayak. My reading at Atlantic Kayak Tours led me to understand that I wanted to start sanding when it dried, but not waiting to long. A couple hours. It would be dry enough when the gelcoat did not stick to the sand paper. The point being that over night was too long. So after a couple Corona with slightly dried out lime I came back to the hull with sand paper in hand. I did put masking tape around the repairs at that point so I wouldn’t scratch up the hull around the repair any more than I had to. Thing is, the masking tape peeled right up almost immediately when I’d hit it with sand paper. Oh well, nothing’s perfect.

If you stare long enough. . .

With some time and lots of eyeballs down the hull, I got it looking pretty nice other than the new bits were much whiter than my yellowing hull. Like I said, nothings perfect. I suppose I could have added a drop of yellow to the gelcoat, but I’m not that fussy. Next we go back over it with rubbing compound to get the repairs a bit shiny like the rest of the hull and call it a day.

So, now I feel pretty comfortable doing gelcoat repair on a white hull. I can see it would be almost impossible to repair the deck in a way that would look “natural”. Color matching would be a nightmare. I hear Nigel’s going to be here in the states this fall. Maybe he’d stop off at my place on the way and help me out with the deck?? Bring that light blue dye when you come!! I’ll fill the fridge with various libations. :) )

All in all I have to say, If I can do it, so can you. Read Brian’s post, take a valium and go for it. It isn’t so bad. . .

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