Gel Coat Woes

I’ve been trying to find some colored gel coat to match my Sand (tan) colored Mad River Canoe. I have a LOT of repairs to make. I probably need about a pint.

I know about color-matching repair kits and am not interested because they have to be color-matched each time you make a new batch and they cost too much - especially since I’ve only seen them in packaging measured in ounces.

Before I head up to Hamilton Marine in Portland ME on my way to Mt. Katahdin next week, does anyone have a good on-line source?

Likely the color has faded or changed
over time. I got some gel coat from Swift to match my then five year old canoe. It was the same color.

It did not match…

Maybe its time to invest in a new color and sand the old almost all off.

The gallons of gel cost around $100 at Hamilton Marine. Looked it up online on their website.

Use your search engine to look for Gel Coat, or Fiberglass products and you’ll find a number of them. One problem I have found is that polyester gel coat is readily available in smaller quantities, but so far I haven’t been able to find vinyl ester (what I need) in less than a quart. And I was told by someone at one of the distributors that vinyl ester has a much shorter shelf life than polyester. So my plan is to go to the boat manufacturer and see if they will sell me a small amount; it’s just a couple of hours away.

I also tried boat dealers and boat repair places and none of them had vinyl ester, but they were willing to sell me a small amount of polyester that had been on the shelf for awhile.

One reason is that vinyl ester is
usually made for high end applications where shelf life is not an issue.

Polyester offerings have adapted to the consumer’s “need” to keep the stuff around for a while. The difference should be in how much promoter has been mixed in. The promoter is not the catalyst that we mix in.

I once used vinylester for boat repairs, on a vinylester hull with no gelcoat. On the provider’s suggestion, I kept the vinylester in a clean glass bottle, in a cool place. It kept a few months, and then started to go off. That’s why I avoid gelcoated boats, and use epoxy for repairs.

Polyester gelcoat should bond fine to a vinylester layup. At least there’s no general reason why it shouldn’t. I would use epoxy for gelcoat dings, but it won’t look pretty.

That’s easy to say…
…but sanding off the gelcoat and recoating an entire hull is a huge job! It’s certainly something that an average DIYer is going to want to attempt.

Chemicals/ process
Mad River Canoe used[s] polyester gel. I have a protocol I’ll gladly share on gel repairs.

Surely OP is not intending to sand the entire surface and re-gel that would require a spray gun/cup gun, and a small fortune in sand paper.

The simple solution to color match is to come as close as possible, then either accept the result or mask off the bottom and spray paint a waterline patch, probably in a lighter color, but I’ve seen darker that was stunning even if scratches show. I’ve a protocol on that I’ll share too, email for the file[s].

But it’ll take a few days, I’m off to make the world a better place by selling portable boats to dedicated paddlers, taken their funds so they can’t afford guns.

Support the right to keep and bear

Call Mad River
They may have some if it’s a stock color that’s still used. It won’t match (nothing will) but might be close enough to spruce the boat up a bit after some repairs.

The other cheap option is do the repairs, sand it smooth and spray paint it with hardware store enamel (spray cans). They have loads of colors. Then for any future repairs you do the same.

Sand. Paint. Repeat in a few years.

Jamestown Distributors
Jamestown Distributors has a few colors, but the smallest size is a quart.

Gel Coat Design
I made some white on white repairs that don’t match-up. Next time, I may use a contrasting color and try to carve a design, incorporating the repairs.

If the new gelcoat is whiter…
…it will probably blend over time as it becomes stained, scratched and yellowed. Lightly wet sanding the old gelcoat around it will typically blend it, but be careful if your boat has thin gelcoat. If you want to see what’s possible on a boat with thick gelcoat, check this out:

Bell’s Almond gel was a precise match for a readily available spray paint color. One could patch with Bondo, sand smooth, then spray to match.

Swift Canoe "Champagne"
I use Swift Champagne colored

gel goat.