Canoe Maintenance

Just acquired a new addition to the fleet – a used Bell Wildfire in white gold.

This will be a bit of a project boat.

It’s in need of gunwale maintenance – cleaning, sanding, oiling.

The gel coat has got a few minor scratches, nothing big or deep. It would probably paddle just fine as it is, but I’d like to clean it up a bit. Any suggestions regarding gel coat repair kits, or other methods to fill-in narrow scratches.

Also regarding cleaning, what works for cleaning grime (perhaps varnish residue) on gel coat just below the gunwales, without hurting gel coat or the woodwork?



not worth it
Sounds like the Bell is terminal. I’ll be glad to save you endless hours of toil and take it off your hands. Seriously.

If you decide to keep the boat, this might help the varnish problem… The first few times I oiled my rails I got a little sloppy with the Watco. After getting tired of looking at stained glass (it took a year or so) I went to work with a little barkeeper’s friend and some elbow grease. It worked fine for Watco.

sounds like fun
what good is a canoe if you can’t spend time working on the canoe? I replaced the wood on 3 canoes last year.

Mathias, good idea on the barkeepers friend. I have a boat where a previous owner got sloppy with some dark polyurethane.

BLK - I like to use a tiny bit of Murphys Oil soap and steel wool on dirty wood, just make sure you let it dry before doing anything to it. If you are trying to remove varnish you will need to sand.

First…what color is it?
Almond is easy, green and red are harder to clean up.

Cleaning gel. This will start the experts arguing but this is how I do it. Pick up a quart of acetone. Acetone will deep clean the gel and remove any stains,wax, oil or varnish. It goes on cleans and dries so fast that it will not harm the gel.

It’s not worth sanding or filling scratches. Gelcoat is nothing but a protective cover for the fabric and also privides color. Some boats don’t even use gel (I’m sure you are about to hear about it) So…

Go the West Marine and order a quart of Marine Penatrol by FLOOD it’s about 17.00 bucks. On a nice warm day use a soft cloth and apply an even coat to the whole boat and don’t touch it untill completely dry. Your canoe will look almost new…trust me. Scratches will still be there but they will be filled and the color restored. light colored boats will look almost new, darker boats will look 90% better.

It cleans off easy with mineral spirits. On badly scratched boats I do this once a year to restore the boat to new looking.

Unvarnished woodwork, sand as needed (fine sandpaper) and apply Watco oil using a synthetic scotch pad.

Varnished woodwork, remove all the brightwork (wood) strip all the varnish and lightly sand. Apply Watco oil and reinstall the woodwork for a new factory look.

Any questions email me.

Color is almond.

Thanks for the tips NT!
I’ve got the Flood Marine Penetrol on order at West Marine.


OK, remember
clean it good first and apply an even thin coat, don’t worry about swirl marks when it’s wet just don’t leave any runs and it will dry clean and shiny. Apply it in the shade, direct sunlight will make it set up before you can get from one end to the other.

Good luck.

This is a good product and has other uses for preping wood or as an additive to varnish.

I put it on
and am watching it dry/cure. From about 5-6 feet away, the gel coat looks shiny and brand new.

Seat and thwarts have two new coats of marine varnish, with a bit of stain added to the thwarts.

When the penetrol dries, I will re-oil the gunwales.

Thank You !!!
Thanks for the help all.

Project is done. I’ll try to post before and after pictures of the Bell Wildfire soon.

It’ll be in the water this weekend.