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Gelcoat Repair

Over a year later, I finally got on some gelcoat work for my boat.

The background is that last year, my boat took a couple of bonks on the nose, cracking the gelcoat. I had a local shop put some fiberglass bandages on it, and those have held well. I shouldn’t have to do anything more, but it’s a cosmetic issue that’s been bugging me.

Here is what it looked like before, with just the bandages, with a similar, but longer wound up front, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Cockpit Area Bandage.

I started by masking the area off, with masking tape and then blue painter’s tape.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Masking the Area.

After cleaning the area with acetone (formerly classified as a neurotoxin, according to one friend), I started sanding away with 220 grit sandpaper – a tad shy of the 300 someone had recommended.

Eventually I got it mostly smoothed out.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Masking Closeup.

I would end up doing the same for the bow wounds – similar, but a little more awkward given their proximity to the front hatch (which, I should add, has been bone dry this whole time). I also had to unfasten the deck line grommets.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Forward Area Masking.

I filed that down as well. Then I got to the gel coat part.

Here is where I was very fortunate, and my patience paid off. I had actually contacted the manufacturer of my boat, Valley Canoe Products, about matching the color. Valley is based in the UK, and there are regulations against shipping gelcoat by mail or in luggage. However, the pigment is OK. As it happened, I had a friend living in Scotland last year, and I was able to get a sample of the gel pigment shipped to her for free – and she brought it back in her luggage!

This is a major win. If you research gel coat repair at all, color matching is the hard part. People will mix different proportions of standard colors to get just the right shade of yellow, or red, or even “off white” as can be had. Here I had the same pigment used by the manufacturer to color my boat. The only concern I would have would be the saturation of the color.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
They’re not Tools, they’re Instruments.

I won’t go into the details of gel repair – there are better videos and articles than I have time to write. Suffice it to say, I had clear gel that I mixed with pigment. Once satisfied with the amount and color, I added hardener and applied using a brush.

If I ever do this again, I will use foam brushes, not hair brushes. I found myself picking hairs out of the applied gel, and then having to smooth that out.

Once applied, I taped plastic wrap over it. I ought to have done a better job smoothing it out: the gel hardens in the form it takes. I’ll have a lot of sanding to do.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Gelcoat Applied.

So the next day I came back after the gel had cured. I am mostly pleased with the results. The blue is a bit stronger than the rest of my boat, but at this point I think that may just be because the rest of the boat has over twelve years of weathering (and a recent muddy trip to Piermont Marsh).

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Curing.

With the masking removed, the patched areas look pretty good.

Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Post-Curing (Cockpit).
Argonaut Gelcoat Repair.
Post-Curing (Forward)

I spent an hour or so sanding, with progressively finer grain paper – 400 and 600. I think it will take quite a bit more work, and I’m considering buying or borrowing an orbital sander to get it sorted. I’ll post more pictures when it’s done, but for now, I’m reasonably pleased with the results.

Published in 2013 Backpaddle Inwood Inwood Canoe Club Repairs

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