Caring for Composite Kayaks????

The other question on the board about whether to use Armor-all on plastic boats made start to wonder if there is something you should do to care for fiberglass boats.

Is there something that you should periodically put on the gel coat to protect it? I would not imagine that 303 would be the right choice.

Does putting a light coat of wax on teh bottom help at all in terms of protection and perhaps in terms of ever so slightlty reducing friction in the water?



Nothing is necessary, but…
…if you feel like waxing the boat - and it doesn’t take away from your paddling time - it won’t hurt it and may protect the gelcoat to some degree. Don’t expect it to improve performance at all. Using 303 on the rubber parts (hatch covers) is a good idea.

Personally, I apply 303 once or twice a season, keep skeg cables lubed and that’s about it. Storing fiberglass boats out of direct sunlight is far more important to their long term appearance than anything you can do maintenance-wise.

If you want to get something that is made as a wax for boats, you can go to a marine supply store and find any number of products. The wax you’d usually find would be a little extra protection against UV damage etc beyond 303. I’ve found the stuff is fairly easy to apply and buff up - my arm wasn’t falling off after doing half the boat.

You can also find (go for fine) polish that will buff out some degree of deck scratches, whihc will have increasing success as you move towards lighter colors like yellow and orange. No need to do it - depends on whether you regard them as bothersome or badges of honor.


yeah, just cosmetics. The whole concept of polish is removing all the material (read gel-coat) around a scratch till the scratch disappears. yep, along with a buttload of gelcoat.

Wax definitely helps. like on a car it rehydrates the paint/gelcoat and provides a good UV inhibator. Most waxes also buff off any oxidation. gelcoat oxidizes easily.

washing the gunk and salt off is good as well, tho again, cosmetically speaking.

steve (scratched yet clean)

Celia, why do you think a wax would
protect better than 303? I doubt it.

And Flatpick, what is this mysterious rehydrating process provided by wax? Chemically, the best thing for gelcoat, or skincoat, boats, is to use whatever has the LEAST effect on the resin.

I use 303 on both poly and composite boats. I was just out swabbing 303 on one of each.

It may be superstition on my part, but the areas that I have waxes seem to have a little better resistance to light surface scratches than I found with just 303 on the gel coat. Had a chance to test it out in pool practice this week, and aside from a mercifully short, shallow and very fine scratch from a guy who showed up with an ancient whitewater paddle that had metal edging I definately did not end up with as many scratches from it being whacked with pool edge, other paddles as in prior sessions.

I also had a MUCH better night on rolling than I’d expected and had put some electric tape around the shaft of my own paddle where I was tending to put long shallow marks, so I must admit to the possibility that it simply got hit less. But I am pretty sure that I ran over the deck fairly hard with one roll and a couple of braces that were pretty ugly, and there isn’t even any residue from the electrician’s tape.

On a vanity point - a decent wax sure makes it look pretty!

I asked this at the local power boat …
…I asked this question at the local power boat shop. I went to the counter and asked for the best Polish/Wax they had for a fiberglass hull. I bought a bottle, and think it is the greatest thing since kayaks themselves!

… The guy handed to me a bottle of “Starbright Boat Polish with Teflon”. He said this is what he uses for his boat. It has UV protectors in it, and it makes the hull so smoth that water runs off of it. I am told that a WAX adds drag to a fiberglass hull, but a polish does not add drag. The teflon it in makes it super easy to clean off the hull after paddling too. The instructions say to apply two coats within 30 day. I tried to add a 3rd coat, just to try to make it better, and the surface was so smooth I couldn’t wipe it on.

… I tried 303 on fiberglass, but I am not as impressed with it on Fiberglass, as I am with it on poly boats, But it is great on Poly Boats, tires, and any other plastic or rubber outside in the elements.

… I reccommend the Starbright Boat Polish with Teflon" on Fiberglass. I did a review on it on P-Net. Check it out! :slight_smile:

Navy uses

it’s gotta be great!



Nigel Dennis kayak care guidelines
Nigel Dennis lists some general advice for kayak care on his Web site:
Wax seems to be the only practical way to protect your boat’s gelcoat from ultraviolet light. Virtually every expert recommends applying wax, although none of them say specifically how much protection it affords. All that can be said for certain is that the gelcoats of boats protected by wax tend to retain their original color and lustre longer than boats that have not been waxed.

Most fiberglass boat waxes are based on a blend of old- fashioned carnauba wax and modern silicones. Many also contain chemicals designed to absorb some of the ultraviolet rays. Also available on the market are pure chemical polishes. These, too, depend upon silicones to protect the gelcoat.

Dirt and mild stains can be removed with one of the many fiberglass cleaners available on boat store shelves. Most of these preparations depend upon chemical action combined with very gentle abrasives to do the work. Some cleaners leave wax protection behind. Others are designed as the first in a two-step cleaning and waxing procedure.

You should have waxed or polished the hull and topsides of your boat last spring during fitting out. They may still look great, but August is a good month to think about applying a new coat. If the gelcoat is in good condition, it will continue to shine long after the last wax has worn off. There’s no really way of telling whether your boat has enough protection other than applying another coat.

and how much does this superstuff cost?

Well, yes, wax does provide better
mechanical protection than does 303.

What evidence is there that wax doesn’t
just pass the UV rays right through to the resin?

It’s easy to be fooled by the effect of repeated waxing. It always keeps the surface glossy, but that doesn’t mean the resin underneath isn’t degrading.

I would love to find that some waxes really do protect epoxy and vinylester, because waxes have better mechanical resistance to abrasion, and they probably resist washing off better than 303. But I haven’t seen any “expert” claiming that wax is an effective protection against UV.

what do you put on the wax to protect it?

"Starbright Boat Polish with Teflon"
I have tried this also and find it is easy to apply, does have some mechanical protection, and not being a chemist don’t know about the rest. However, two marinas around the area like it too.

Keep An Eye On Anything Metal
I don’t even wash my boats. I don’t care much about the cosmetics.

But keep an eye on anything metal if you paddle in saltwater. Including the screws for hatches. Raise with fresh water and keep lubricated.