Gel coat repair: how do know when it's urgent?

I recently got myself a new-to-me 18year old fiberglass sea kayak, and I LOVE it. I was hesitant to get fiberglass because of maintenance needs and knowing next to nothing about how to do them, but I’ve been reading a lot about it, and this kayak is fabulous for me, so here I am :grinning:

I took it camping recently and it got a couple of gouges in the gel coat, but because the scratches/gouges are narrow, it is hard to tell if it reached all the way to the fiberglass.

My questions are these: 1) how can I tell if the gouges did indeed reach the fibreglass? The bottom the these ones look grey compared to all the other scratches, so I think yes?
2) If the gouges didn’t gouge the fibreglass and only exposed it, is it important that fill that gel coat in asap to prevent water seeping into the fiberglass?
Thanks for your advice!

Nothing to panic about. It’s not in the water 24 x 7 like a boat. Patch them once or twice a season.

Maintenance? Wash & wax. Keep out of sun when not using.


The composite material (fibers) was saturated with resin in the building process, giving it structural stiffness/shape. Unless I see massive exposure of the underlying FG, where additional hits/scapes can result in cracking and or puncture, I tend not to worry about “repair”. How much FG exposure one is willing to accept is somewhat subjective.


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Excellent, that makes a lot of sense compared to a motor boat.
Thanks for the maintenance tip! Do you recommend a particular wax?

Great to know. The resin side of things makes a lot of sense. Thank you!!!

It’s not urgent. Minor gelcoat repair is fairly easy if you are not doing color matching, which can be an art. West Marine has some good videos and this one covers your situation. Part one of this series covers more than you need to know about tools and materials used in gelcoat repair.

I’m of the boat vs fine piece of furniture school of kayaking and generally do gelcoat touchup every couple of years unless it’s major. I rarely bother with sanding. Be aware that with a white hull, white gelcoat will probably not exactly match color wise. It will probably be a brighter white unless fiddled with. This doesn’t bother me but YMMV.

Many manufacturers recommend 303® for UV protection after washing. Quick and easy to apply. There are a number of marine wax or wash/wax products that provide UV protection as well. All should be reapplied periodically.

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If you buy gelcoat keep it in the refrigerator. I’ve had some over 4 years and it still worked fine although most claim it won’t.

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I use turtle wax ceramic hybrid spray. Do whole boat in two minutes. Deck lines straps everything. No white wax residue on lines or straps. Use it on my boat deck too. Sheds dirt better than wax.


Thanks, PD52, I’ll give that a shot.


It only took me 10 years to get around to repairing this exposed fiberglass (road rash from kayak and rack flying off car on Marble Mountain Rd, along the Bras d’Or Lake). The exposed fiberglass was in excellent condition and right at the stern, I kept on forgetting about it. All repaired now, lovely white patch on cream gelcoat.

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Well, clearly you valued your “paddling” time over your “repair” time… I happen to agree with your priority. :wink:


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Thanks Sing. :smile:

I should have attended to that damage years ago, but didn’t. I used a gelcoat paste to repair the area, which worked really well, being a paste it stayed put. Spectrum patch paste I think it was called, expensive but worked well.

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This is all very helpful. I also feel that my boat is to be used, not (just) look pretty, so matching white to white is not a skill I care about :slight_smile: Learning what’s urgent and what’s not is key to me just having fun with this kayak, and learning how to do those tough ups will be as well!
Thanks for those links and the reassurance!

Wow!!! That is a super helpful tale and picture! So you left that open like that for 10 years and had no issues with it when you got to fixing it? I love it!!

I definitely agree! If I can safely leave a problem to deal with in some downtime, I am all about that…it’s why I thought I’d never move away from a plastic boat!!! This could radically change how I view my fibreglass kayak!!! Hurray!

I don’t have anything against plastic boats but I tell people the composite boats are not fragile, they can take a beating and be repaired and they do flex.

My kayak spent years in the Atlantic ocean, landing on all types of ‘beaches’ and I have only repaired the gelcoat three times, and one being the road rash shown above. I have gone down rivers with swifts and have glanced off rocks with no damage, aside from the occasional hairline crack in the gelcoat, some of which came about early in ownership (25 years ago) when I tightened down the boat in its cradles too tight too many times. Captain Tolley’s creeping crack cure seems to work well on hairline gelcoat cracks.

I try to be careful with my kayak, but I do not baby it either.

The great thing about gelcoat is that it is repairable. My wife’s kevlar kayak had a couple poor repair jobs when we bought it, part of the reason for the low purchase price. I’ve had to go back and re-repair both spots and add new gelcoat.

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Thank you so much for all of these details @mowog73! They are super helpful for a fiberglass newbie!
I took my kayak down the French River to the mouth at Gerogian Bay last week, and while the river is wide and deep with few rocks to contend with, there was a portage around a rapid we decided to avoid by lining the boats up it; of course, this is where my deep scratches happened. I don’t mind having to repair occasionally, I just would rather not have to do it frequently and in the middle of high paddle season!!

Thank you all so much for your awesome advice, as always!!!

Hi mogeton,

I hope my wife and I make it to Georgian Bay next summer, I haven’t done a serious multi-day kayaking adventure in too many years, darn SW Ont.

Normally gelcoat repairs take a couple hours, even the ones I showed pictures of.

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Georgian Bay is indeed beautiful! I’m hoping to head there more myself! At least there’s lots of water in SW On! :slight_smile: Happy paddling!

Collinite Fleetwax Wax #885. Follow instructions to the letter, and for a wax I couldn’t be happier.