Are fiberglass / composite boats more easily damaged than plastic boats

e.g., when dragging across a rocky beach or playing around rock gardens and getting pushed around in surf, accidentally scraping over shallow oyster beds, or into barnacle encrusted pylons etc.

Or, is it just because they cost so much more and start off glossy, that the scratches and scrapes seem so much worse?

More easily damaged, yes. But not necessarily fragile, just that most plastic boats are very rugged).

Composite boats are also much easier to repair than plastic boats.

I am struggling with that same question. I was all set to take the plunge and get a light weight composite but the concern about durability has me on hold.
I always check the tides and wind before I head out but sometimes I still end up over shallow oyster beds or brushing up against an encrusted piling. My Royalex Camper takes the punishment.
I am concerned that with a less durable boat that I may hesitate to take it out on marginal low tide days or that I would avoid some of the more challenging mangrove tunnels.

Nothing wrong with having 2 canoes, eh?

By “plastic” do you mean rotomolded? When they came out (late 70’s?) we were all amazed at how tough they were. We called them Tupperware boats. On portages we emptied and carried our glass boats but the rotomold guys just picked theirs up and dragged them full of gear. I’ve never bought one due to the weight but worth considering if I had a trailer instead of a roof rack.

Yes. And pnet tells me my post needs to be more than 5 characters so I am typing this. But it is a really short answer. Yes, they are more easily damaged than plastic and more expensive to repair BUT they are very lightweight and usually faster and easier to lift and move around. As long as you don’t bash them into rocks and when approaching a beach jump out in a foot of water so they don’t scrape they are wonderful and will last a lifetime if treated well.

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My 22 year old Kevlar Mirage 580, and I know people have older kayaks and canoes on this page. This kayak weighs 48 lb and besides one soft spot that has been repaired, has nothing wrong with it besides cosmetics. I bought it to do the Everglades Challenge so I need to trust it in difficult conditions. A well built composite kayak should last almost forever.


Rotomolded kayaks are nearly indestructible unless you make a habit of doing something stupid like dragging then across paved parking lots or concrete boat ramps. They are better if you frequently run across oyster bars or run shallow rocky rivers. That will usually just result in cosmetic scrapes and scratches.

Composite boats are fairly tough but you can damage the gelcoat by running across things and can cause serious damage if you run into something hard enough. You can sink a fiberglass or carbon fiber boat if damaged badly enough…

By contrast, it you abrade through the hull of a rotomolded boat, they can be very hard to repair. Very little sticks to polyethylene. Composite boats are relatively easy to repair, but to get them back to showroom condition as opposed to seaworthy condition takes skill and patience.


Nicely said.

I think it’s natural to have fears about composite boat durability when it’s your first one. In my experience it takes time and experience to build your confidence. Outfitters all use the lightest (and least durable) kevlar lay-ups for rentals (Northstar Starlight, Swift Kevlar Fusion, Wenonah Ultralight Kevlar). Rental customers are not known for being gentle to their canoes, and all the other lay-ups offered by these manufacturers are more durable.

Even if you’re a teenager, you won’t live long enough to wear out a Bob Special in TuffStuff.

I think any composite is strong enough for you for impacts but if you plan to scrape against sharp things I’d recommend a lay-up with a gelcoat to take abrasion. Swift and Nova Craft have gelcoats on most of their lay-ups and Northstar will apply one for an extra charge if you order a boat (which unfortunately I can’t recommend based on my experience).