Once you’ve reached the point in your paddling journey where you’ve invested in a quality kayak or surf ski, recognizing the benefits of a light, stiff, well-designed boat, you naturally want to ensure your investment stays pristine a long as possible. To that end I have a few suggestions:
- Protection from handling marks and UV fade: Undoubtedly the best way to guard against handling rash and sun faded gelcoat is to store your boat inside, typically in a garage, and inside a boat cover (keeping it in the cover helps protect against those little bumps against all that stuff you have stored in your garage…) And keep your boat inside the cover whenever you’re carrying it somewhere, especially if it will be sitting outside in the sun for long periods of time. It protects your boat against bugs and road debris while traveling, as well as against UV. A boat cover is a cheap investment in protecting your kayak or surf ski; it will absorb the wear and tear that would otherwise be absorbed by your boat. Simply replace it when it wears out. I believe in covers enough that I automatically include a cover with every boat I sell at no extra cost. For even more protection, Stellar offers padded covers. Or for a little more style, bright neon colors (helps to ensure your boat is seen on top of your vehicle as well). But the basic gray nylon cover does a dandy job of protecting your boat, with the added bonus of a flag on the back so you don’t have to attach a separate flag when transporting your boat. If your boat gets rain-soaked while in the cover, be sure to removed the cover and air it out when you get home so you don’t build up mold.
- Hard water deposits and “slime:” Depending on where you paddle, you may notice that your boat often comes out of the water with a slime line around the hull, like a bathtub ring at home. And you may notice water droplets leaving spots on your deck that are hard to remove. My recommendation is first to immediately clean off your boat as soon as you’re done paddling. A set of Stellar collapsible boat slings makes easy work of supporting your boat while you clean it off (and they can double as chairs for those outdoor events where you need to bring your own seat). Keep an extra towel or two with you, and some fresh water, and clean off that slime ring before it has a chance to “set” and become a lot tougher to remove. If you start to see hard water deposits forming, get some white vinegar and a soft rag, and you can usually remove the deposits pretty easily (I typically rinse off the boat afterwards with fresh water, although I haven’t seen any issues with the vinegar). If the deposits are too tough, hit it with something like Maguire’s Marine & RV Color Restorer or a fine automotive polish. Then wash and wax your boat to keep it looking good and to give it additional resistance to slime and water spots.
- Paddle Strikes: If you’re at all like me, I tend to bring the paddle in close to the hull, with the resultant periodic hull strike. It doesn’t take the edge of a carbon wing paddle hitting the side too many times before the beautiful gel coat color is scraped and marred. I discovered early on that before I even take a boat out for the first time, I need to apply some kind of protectant to the deck edges around the cockpit where the paddle is likely to strike; typically between the front edge of the cockpit and the rear of the foot plate guide, and from the inside edge of the cockpit down to the seam line. Electrical tape does a pretty good job of this, and it’s inexpensive, but section of black tape on the side of your boat probably won’t accent the cool look and color of your boat. I know people who use skateboard tape, and others use grip tape, but the best suggestion I’ve found came recommended from a number of paddlers: Helicopter-OG Surface Guard tape. Available from Amazon.com in multiple widths (1″, 2″, 3″, 4″, & 6″), it’s a fairly thick, transparent polyurethane film with an acrylic adhesive that sticks well (but removes easily), wraps around the boat contours easily, protects the boat, and allows the color of the gelcoat to show through. It’s not cheap, but you should only have to apply it once – and it’s a lot cheaper and less hassle than reworking your gelcoat! I found a single 1″ x 30′ roll ($27.50) was sufficient for three surf skis (SEL, SR, and S16S).
Hopefully these tips help you maintain your boat finish in top shape. If you have other suggestions or questions, drop me a line.