Help Restoring A Romany Explorer

While stocking Craigslist I found an add for a “heavily used” sea kayak (with minimal pictures) that needed to go because the owner was moving soon. Despite dings, scratches and obvious neglect, I bought the boat for $50.

A 1997 Romany Explorer (After cleaning the exterior)

It is my first fiberglass boat, and I could use some help in evaluating it’s condition and figuring out what to do with it.

It has an area of obvious damage that was epoxied over.

Numerous scratches and countless scuff marks

But most concerningly the explorer has the pox.

I have soo many questions…
Does the blistering (like 1/3 of the boat) mean it needs a new gelcoat?
Which of the scratches are major and which can be ignored?
How do I evaluate the fiberglass in suspect (damaged or heavily pocked) areas?
Is it even a good idea to attempt this project?

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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Depends on how much work you want to put in and your expectations of the end result. How handy are you? Basically you got the hull for nothing so your willing to spend how much?

I’d sand it all down and apply a two part epoxy from Interlux Perfection. Roll and tip method works good. Use their two part epoxy primer first. Look for damage that goes through the hull. Hatches need replaced or do you even have them? Seat, foot braces, are good? Skeg work properly? Do you have a garage to work on it?

I’d paddle it as is and see if you like it first even with no hatches just put in some flotation and try it in shallow calm water.

Or call Turning point boat works and it will be returned like new.


Definitely check the layup to see if any of the big scratches and chips have gone into the layup like PaddleDog52 said. Look on the inside and see if the fiberglass has white spots or cracks where the exterior damage is. If it does, a layer of fiberglass tape epoxied over and around the interior cracks or pops will be all you’d need to do 90% of the time. Easy job.

If there is no obvious damage to the layup on the inside, the damage is likely cosmetic, and can be sanded, filled with gelcoat, sanded flush, and buffed. I’d definitely check the layup under set of scratches that look like a bird’s wings - that might be an impact. Still an easy fix with some glass and gelcoat.

If it were my boat, I’d pick a small section that’s blistered, and sand it lightly with some fine or ultra fine sandpaper until the blisters are gone. If they’ve gone completely through the gelcoat, then I’d consider repairing it. If not, I would just sand and buff the gelcoat where it is blistered and open and call it a day. But that’s your call. And for the scratches on the bottom, if they’re only cosmetic and don’t go all the way through the gelcoat, then they are badges of honor, IMO.

Looks like you got a good deal on it, though.


Blister’s won’t sink the boat if you just want to use it. Paddle it then decide if you like it or not. Gauge effort and money you want to use against that.

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Yep, true. I have a sizeable blister on the deck of one of my boats that has been there for about 15 years. Hasn’t cracked, so I don’t mess with it.

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It’s definitely a classic kayak, rolls easily, good in rough water - worth repairing by someone, maybe you. It looks like a rope skeg - at least that part is easy to repair if it’s all there. The end result may end up on the heavy side.

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Doubt it would gain two pounds if anything.

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Paddle it. If you like it.
Inspect it and make repairs with marine epoxy and fiberglass cloth. Use a thin coat of epoxy on rough spots. Forget gelcoat. Sand it and paint it.
It is a great looking boat already.


I consider myself handy and am strongly considering making this a project, provided it is not over my head. The hull of the boat is my main concern as everything else is surprisingly in okay condition:

  • Thankfully it has the full set of hatches and they work (although they are stiff).
  • It included what looks to be a custom made foam seat.

I do not have a garage to work in, but do have a porch so I can protect it from rain, but can’t control wind, humidity, or temperature.

I want to take the kayak out on a test paddle but am concerned that salt water may harm the leaky skeg box. It is a slow leak, but am wary about introducing moisture into the damaged fiberglass.

Paddling it the way it is now won’t damage it to try it. Unlike many boats kayaks don’t remain in the water. It will dry out if left in a dry place. You can pick your days on a porch but you need some temp, no wind and proper humidity.

100 per quart. Two colors 2 quarts. One color one quart.

Need epoxy primer also a qt. It will seal up small scratches and hairline cracks.

Black seam you can use brightside small can one part paint. Cheaper and you can touch it up easy if required. Palm sander and few sanding blocks and sandpaper. Epoxy rollers and thinner. Good two inch brush to tip paint if required. Real good masking tape because paint is made to flow. Crappy tape and job it will flow under tape.

To summarize you (PaddleDog52) suggest restoring the boat by:

  • sanding down the entire boat until blisters/scratches are gone
  • Priming the boat with Interlux Primekote
  • Painting with Interlux Perfection

I am assuming you have had positive experiences with Interlux Perfection. From everything I have read a good quality marine paint seems much easier to apply for a DIYer than gelcoat, although it is not as durable.

Thanks for allaying my paddling fear. I am going to take the boat on a trip or two to see how much I like it, before I commit to a course of action.

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Seat looks like it might be a Redfish seat.

The Kayak seems structurally sound everywhere, except by the skeg. The skeg box has damage that allows water to slowly leak in. Also the fiberglass is visible on the keel just behind the skeg, probably caused by dragging. The idea of simply sanding down the blisters on the gelcoat, provided they are not to deep is a tempting solution, since it would mean less time working on the boat and more time on the water. Looks like its time for some exploratory sanding (after cleaning the area with acetone).

I’ve built and repaired boats in our living room. May as well get some use out of that mostly dead space, if you have one.

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Small scratches will be filled and bonded with primekote. I did a boat 12+ years ago it still shines. It’s so much more durable than marine paint. It’s very hard and durable. It’s very hard even to sand off. It all about end result and time and money you want to put in.

Not sure if I worded it right, but I would do an area of the blisters that have cracked and see what’s up. The ones that haven’t might as well be left alone for now. Adding a keel strip behind the skeg is an easy fix for exposed glass. I have a full length one on my #1 kayak, which allows me to drag the boat, and run it up onto a beach without any consequences.

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Always nice to see an old Explorer in worse shape than mine. But she’s got a lot of miles left in her, fix it up! Personally I wouldn’t mess with any of the cosmetics, that boat has great character. It already weighs too much so what’s a couple more pounds…


You might be able to stop the slow leak at the skeg box with some epoxy putty, applied on the inside, if you can reach the leak, or from the outside. As long as the surface is free of dust, the putty will adhere well, but don’t get it also on the skeg. Warning: Mask up before sanding any of this stuff.

These gentlemen have shared their experience providing you with some great info to fix your boat up. $50 are you kidding. That’s an amazing deal for such a great craft.
Let me add a few more helpful tips. Get West epoxy. It is the most common one and really the only brand most people use. You can get the slow or fast hardening hardener. The fast will give you maybe 10 minutes to mix and apply it. It will get very hot and smoke in the container as it hardens but it will not melt plastic. Without thickener it will have the consistency of honey and run. You will need thickener, I think West calls it something like micro-balloon. It is finally chopped fiberglass, and makes working with this stuff much easier. Make it the thickness of peanut butter and apply it all over that craft. Caution, any unevenness will have to be sanded smooth.
Second, the bottomkote primer is what boaters call barrier coat. The manufacturer (Interlux) recommends four+ coats to achieve a layer that is water impentrable. You do not need all that but you can add more than one layer to fill in the scratches. So, sand the bottom to prep it but not to get rid of the scratches. I was, as I think most folks are, impressed by the hard coat that is achieved.
I had bought some topside paint called Brightside with silicone in it that worked great. I am unsure if this is available. Happy paddling.

Kayaks are not left in the water unlike many boats. Barrier coating is not what you need to worry about. Putting thickened epoxy all over the hull you could be sanding for a long time and miss a season. :joy:

West is the best system because if you need a little more it’s just one pump from each container. You never waste any epoxy.

They make different thickening agents for different purposes. You can make fairing compound to structural adhesives
Some is very difficult to sand and the wetter you apply it the harder it gets to sand.

It will melt some containers with the right conditions and containers. Thin plastic measuring mixing cups melt.

I’ve used it doing auto body it’s just great no Bondo which is not waterproof and can fail.

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