Crack in vinyl gunwale

Apology for the repeat question. I’m sure it has been posted here before, but I am unable to dig it up.

For certain uses, I am fond of the freebie 15’ OT Chipewyan a friend sent my way. The Chipewyan is a flat-bottomed boat, and that makes it ideal for shallow-water duty, like my local tree clogged river. Another thing I like about the flat bottom is there are lots of times I can push a couple feet of the bow up onto a river-wide strainer. The flat bottom helps the boat stay stable while I walk up to the bow and step out on the log. It is much more delicate to try that in a boat with a vee or arched hull. And speaking of walking around in the boat, the boat came to me absent twharts. The boat’s molded fiberglass seats are the only things that keep the hull from flopping around. When I am standing and poling, the walk-around space is much appreciated.

Sunday, when I was out in the Chipewyan, I had flattened myself into the hull to just barely pass under a limbo log. Technically, laying in the hull, I guess it wasn’t a limbo move. Anyway, I grabbed the gunwales to push myself back into standing position, and heard a sharp report. The noise was the sound of the vinyl gunwale cracking. It took close inspection to see the crack, which on the top of the gunwale runs from inside, not quite all the way to the outside. I didn’t notice any affect of the cracked gunwale as I made my way another mile upstream to my take-out.

I suppose ignoring the crack will eventually lead to further and perhaps more serious damage. I’m not sure I want to do a lot of work on this 35-yr old boat. I have some g-flex on hand. I think I will try to glue the crack. (g2d, I see yours from 5-28-2011 indicating g-flex will stick vinyl)

Is there more to these gunwales than the vinyl we see? Anything underneath?


My OT Tripper had a cracked gunwale
and it was an early one with no aluminum insert. The previous owner had slapped some epoxy on the crack, but I don’t think it was doing anything.

The G-flex will certainly stick well. You’ll want to “V” out the crack a bit, and if the outer part of the gunwale isn’t totally cracked yet, is there room to drill a hole in the end of the crack?

I would be inclined to include some reinforcement over the crack. Two or three layers of glass or glass over Kevlar maybe. Separate layers for the three surfaces. Or you could glue small reinforcing plates over one or all of the surfaces.

I imagine that the break may have started, maybe a long time in the past, with an inward poke against the gunwale and the side of the boat, in the vicinity of the crack. Thus you would have a crack forming under tension on the inner aspect of the gunwale.

Anyway, let us know what you think.

Chip, Without it being broken through it’s tough to say how to fix that. I know on Scottb’s Bell the inside of the gunwale had a wide open area due to them being a little bit wide. Maybe a layer of glass on the gunwale with G-Flex above and below it to hold it in? Hard to tell without it being broken clear through. Keep us posted on how proceed with this if you even do! Good luck.


G-Flex works well
I have repaired a number of vinyl plastic gunwales using it including one which had been cut nearly completely through when someone got a bit careless with a chainsaw while clearing a log jam, and some others in which overtightened machine screws securing seats had caused the head of the screw and the finish washer to completely break through the gunwale top.

I have mixed graphite powder in the epoxy as a coloring agent which actually yields a pretty decent cosmetic result on black vinyl gunwales.

You can probably unbolt a thwart and take a good look at the machine screw hole to determine if there is or is not an aluminum insert under the vinyl.

I would probably be inclined to just gutter the crack a bit and fill the void with epoxy without reinforcement. The repairs I have done without cloth have held up fine so far. You could always redo it with cloth if it cracked again.

Ancient OT white vinyl gunwales
I had a telephone consult with he-who-doesn’t-post-here-anymore. His first question was, are they the white gunwales? Yes, they are. Based on experience with other old Old Towns having white vinyl gunwales, he feels these gunwales are prone to becoming brittle, and while cracked gunwales can be fixed, this crack is probably a sign that the gunwales are toast.

I’m not up for total gunwale replacement. I think I will try the quick and easy g-flex in the crack fix. Use the boat again to see what happens, and possibly try to find a new home for the boat in the not too far future.

This hull is in far better shape than the '74, 16-foot Chipewyan I fixed up in 2008. And that (regunwaled) boat was going strong when it left the fleet last year. So, kind of a shame. But, no need to get ahead of myself here. I’ll fix the crack and see what happens.


White, huh?
If you mix colloidal silica powder in with the G-Flex it will thicken the epoxy and make it lighter in color. Unthickened G-Flex is honey-colored when cured, as you may know. The silica powder won’t make it white, but it will make it whiter.

WEST sells kits with 4 oz of G-Flex resin, 4 oz of hardener, and silica powder if you don’t already have the materials.

you could put a plug inside …
… in the hollow sections .

You’d have to finish the crack all the way through to do that though .

Devcon Plastic Weld
Dremel out a little trough, most of the way through the gunwale. Fill with Plastic Weld, cure, finish. Bomber.

You’re kidding, aren’t you? Devcon
and other hardware store epoxies can’t touch G-flex, can’t even touch West’s standard 105/205. If Devcon were any good, why is G-flex being marketed and widely adopted?

They also sell white pigment, but they
warn that pigment does weaken the result a bit.

My philosophy is, don’t make repairs invisible. Ugly repairs make boats less likely to get stolen.