Fiberglass kayaks

I am looking at a fiberglass kayak, but my concern is will the keel and all of the bottom of the boat withstand the shell, sand, oyster shells, etc of putting in and taking out in such rough areas?

sand, oyster shells
1. sand is different than oyster shells, so while you may drag a plastic or fiberglass kayak a short distance on sand you sure wouldn’t do that on oyster shells. You’d pick it up,or install something like a strip of brass or ablative material on the stern.

Likewise when it comes to getting out on shore over oyster shells you learn to get out in a few inches of water and not land straight on oyster shells.

It’s inevitable for a fiberglass to lose gel coat in regular use.

Fiberglass has pretty good abrasion resistance, and can be easily repaired. Little nicks and scratches to the gel coat are especially repairable. Fiberglass is only less durable when it comes to impact.

I worked for an outfit that used fiberglass boats exclusively and they lasted an average of 8-10 years (paddled by beginners, about 100 days a year).

Thanks to both of you for the input.

Sea Kayaker Mag reader’s tip
A reader sent in a tip to SKM that I intend to use myself on solo camping trips:

Use a plastic bucket lid or similar expendible item as a kind of turntable/pivot for one end of your kayak. You put the lid below the stern, pick up the bow, swivel the boat around, then do the same for the other end.

While this method would allow your kayak to rest on the abrasive shore material, it would prevent actual sliding on it.


Keel Strip

For what it’s worth we put keel strips on our kayaks and I just don’t worry about it from there.

Here’s a good article:

All the best,

keel strip
Thanks for the input, and that is a great website.

It’s going to get scratched
I paddled white water for years before sea kayaking, so a few nicks and gouges never worried me. It’s going to happen. I don’t land on oyster bars unless there is no option, sand I drag my kevlar carbon on the sand. When it gets bad I can repair the gel coat, see Seakayaker this month. The boat is to be paddled not put on a shelf and admired. Having said that, don’t abuse it either.

Good points, thanks. I was not so worried about looks as I was the ability of the fiberglass-gel coat to last - durability.

good idea
As long as the user understands that the ends still get 100X the wear once the bow is lifted and the kayak is dragged on the other end any distance. If a person always slid the kayak along the centerline as you would onto a rack or deck that method of reinforcement is worthwhile. The problem is that in the wilds that stern 6" will get worn right through 9oz glass tape when dragged from the bow.

For the amount of resin and glass used in the middle 15’ of the kayak you could put in a thicker ablative material right on the ends using either a 12" strip of half oval brass, a replacable strip of UHMWPE(ultrahighmolecularweightpolyethelene), a concrete like epoxy putty, or an epoxied cord of ablative material set into a recess.

Plenty durable
I have a glass boat that has a lot of the Texas coast. Glass boats are a lot more durable than most folks thing. Most damage that you get from hitting oyster reefs is superficial, the sound is a lot worse than the actual damage. Are you up in Kingwood area?

No, I am in West Houston. So your boat has stood up well here in the Texas area?

It has some scratches and scrapes, but nothing needing repair, amd I have hit a few things at speed. If one is real careful, most things can be avoided, but there is always the odd barnacle encrusted stump or old piling that can hide in our murky water, just consider it a battle scar. What boat you looking at?

I am looking at several, mostly Current Designs

don’t worry
I know some people who never let their kayaks touch scratchy things, and some folks who paddle straight up onto low docks. The difference is like someone who never walks there bright white tennis shoes onto dirt paths and those that do. The shoes last the same either way.

Pool noodles
When I planned to paddle a rocky shore, I cut a pool noodle into 4 segments. My thought was to use them as cushions, but too my surprise they worked well as rollers on gravel beaches. Since then, they’ve become standard equipment for kayak camping, because they allow me to roll the fully loaded kayak entirely onto most landing areas. By myself, there’s no way I can do that without some kind of mechanical advantage. For example, my last trip, L launched and returned at a rough concrete boat ramp with bulkheads on both sides. Rolled the loaded yak in and, upon return, out. At the camping area, there was a grassy sloped landing, and I rolled in and out there as well.

Give noodles a try. They are ridiculously cheap, so you won’t be out much if it doesn’t work out for you.

Two pieces of noodle go beyond my feet in the cockpit, and two go under my knees, making a nice cushion while in storage. The latter are easy to reach when you go to land. The two down past my feet…not so easy…gotta stand on my head. One day I’ll get a string.

~~Chip Walsh

varying layups
First off, I want to second those who noted that glass boats are a lot sturdier than many think.

Secondly, the gel coat is there to take the abrasions and protect the fabric. A boat without gel coat sratches is an under used boat. It is only worth worrying about repairing the gel coat when it is so deeply sratched that you can read the weave of the cloth.

Thirdly, different boats have varying thicknesses of gel coat. The gel coat on my Valley Aquanaut is noticably thicker than most North American boats I’ve seen - it also weighs more. Current Designs used to have a number of options in layups, including heavier gel coat. They may still.

Don’t worry…
I have owned a few composite kayaks now. My last kayak was like new when I got it. It was pretty and without scratches so I was always overly careful with it because I did not want to hurt my pretty boat.

My latest boat was very, very used when I got it. It had been a demo and is pretty beaten up. As a result I no longer worry about babying my boat.

I have found that they are very durable. You just need to get over the feeling of needing to baby it. Let it get scratched up. It is only cosmetic.

I even had my boat fall off the roof of my truck when driving-----slid into the middle of an intersection and was fine. Didn’t matter either because it was already scratched up!


You might like this quote . . .
Over-valued possessions, we decided, were a burden, possessing their owners. We decided to own nothing that we couldn’t be comfortable with - reproductions not originals, cheap bindings not rare editions. The idea of the burden of possessions we held to - and years later when we got our first glossy new car, we hit it severely with a hammer to make it comfortably dented.

(Sheldon Vanauken)

I can relate becuase I protected my first canoe to the point of it being more backpack than boat.