Bell 1-piece wood gunwales?

I’m buying a Bell solo in the “kevlar deluxe” configuration and it’s got unscuppered decks, 1-piece gunwales and gray foam flotation in the stems and a blue gel coat.

I’m not familiar with the “kevlar deluxe” construction/outfitting.

I didn’t know that 1-piece gunwales existed. Any pros or cons regarding them? The main potential negative that I noticed was the square edges on top, rather than the usual beveled edges. The outwale doesn’t have much overhang, but I don’t think that matters much for me, my portage yoke should still work ok.

It’s a 1993 Wildfire that weighed about 42 lbs when the guy weighed it on his bathroom scale while I was there. It doesn’t have the “tweed” inner layer.

Thanks for any input on this configuration/construction.

Old Bells
Kev Deluxe is roughly the same as the later White Gold laminate. The squared off, one piece rails didn’t work due to variable skittle thickness - thick in the ends and center, skinny in the quarters. The saw cut had to accommodate the thickest parts and tended to split where over stressed at the slender laminate areas.

I don’t remember when we started scuppering the decks, gonna say 94. Ted always preferred the glue in cork floatation, we did away with it in 95 I think, after a week when three CUs called with foam floating out of their hulls.

The rails looked good today when I
inspected the boat, though I wasn’t looking specifically for that splitting that you described.

Would you recommend staying away from a Wildfire with this gunwale construction, even if they look okay now, because of trouble likely down the line?

I was wondering how well those foam flotation chunks stayed glued in.


foam flotation
I could get the foam blocks to come unglued from my White Gold WildFire, but I had to push the boat way down into the water to do so. The glue was secure when the boat was floating at the surface, even during self-rescue practice. I never had a chance, thankfully, to test the glue against current pouring in after an accident in whitewater, but presumably it would not have held.

I bought the boat not later than spring 1995, and it had been sitting at the dealer for several months, so 1994 manufacture seems right.


Other experience with 1-piece gunwales?
Thanks for the information offered, so far. It’s got me a little concerned.

The gunwales on this boat look good now, but I’m not much into gunwale replacement, so any other input into how likely they are to split would be appreciated.


Can the 1-piece gunwales be replaced
with 2-piece if they should split?

If yes, could the average American male with some basic mechanical aptitude and some time on his hands likely do an adequate job of making the switch?


If they split, a little bit
… do what you would do with any other gunnel that split a little. You’d use a little epoxy, Gorilla, whatever you like. Doesn’t sound like a big deal to me. And if it hasn’t happened yet, why would it start? You’re not going to keep it outside, right?

It will be stored inside, but will spend
time on roof rack, maybe as much as a month at a time.

What’s to stop you from taking a
block plane to the corners of the gunnels and rounding them over a bit if they bother you? If any splits do develop, tighten the screws, fill the cracks, sand 'em, and refinish. I’d be more concerned about making sure accumulated water has a way out the ends.

Squared corners don’t seem to be an
issue. Didn’t seem to bother me on the maiden voyage.

Gap between gunwale and hull is my
greatest concern because water can easily get in between them. I plan to flood that gap with Watco at the 1st opportunity. I have to clean the excess wax from the previous owners hull wax job off of the gunwales before I can oil them. I’m not sure how I’ll clean the wax off the wood before oiling it.

VM&P naptha will take it off.

– Last Updated: Sep-12-11 8:10 AM EST –

Work outdoors, wear gloves, don't smoke, rub them down good with an old linen dish towel. If the boat's spent much time outdoors and seen a lot of use, those saw-kerfs will be full of grit and other material that will just soak up the oil and provide more food on which fungus will grow. Best to pop them off and scrape them out first.

What is VM?
The wood is quite clean, except for the wax - spend most of it’s time in indoor storage.

I probably won’t remove the gunwales for cleaning because of concern that I couldn’t get them back on correctly by myself.

Varnish maker’s and painter’s.
I’d try just tightening the screws anyplace there appears to be a gap and, if the top of the rail cracks a bit, fill it, sand it, and oil it.

Flexible sealant for the gap…
between wood & hull? I’d rather not tighten the gunwales to the point that they split in order to close the gap between the hull and gunwales.

Are there any sealants or caulks that would adhere to both gel coated hull and oiled wood gunwales and stay in place during seasonal temperature cycles of the midwest?

There are a few excellent marine calking

– Last Updated: Sep-22-11 11:21 AM EST –

compounds available. Boatlife Life Calk is one that I used between the undersides of the outwales and the hull on one of my boats. It's truly durable stuff, though I'm not sure I'd do it again. Nothing's gonna keep water out of there, and I think it may, in fact, only work to trap it and promote rot.

Thanks for that suggestion.
I’ll keep that as an option.

I really wouldn’t put that stuff
anywhere I thought I might ever need to remove it. Applied to clean, dry surfaces, it forms a tenacious bond.