Longevity of natural skin kevlar canoes

Currently in the process of purchasing an ultralight kevlar tandem canoe for flatwater paddling and short, 2-3 day leisure tripping (paddle to destination, pitch camp, relax, enjoy day paddles in surrounding water.)

Never having owned this type of canoe before, would appreciate anyone who owns, has owned, or is familiar with these type of boats commenting on:

  • the longevity of this type of lay-up
  • the durability of " "
  • maintenance
  • ease of minor repairs - scratches, etc.
  • comparison of clear coat to gelcoat in terms of ease of repair
  • anything else one might want to know about these
1 Like

For your intended uses, you do not
need an ultralight layup. Get a flexcore, or get a Bluewater like mine. It’s 48 pounds and not fragile like an ultralight. And if 48 pounds is too heavy for you to load, get out of the sport.

Wanker Advice
You may want to get out of giving advice.

storing it out of UV goes a long way
Storing the canoe away from UV light goes a long way toward keeping it like new for decades to come.

Repairs are fairly easy to do.

Maintenance isn’t much different than any other composite canoe other than treating any ‘fuzz’ of Kevlar cloth that may become exposed.

I know many people who paddle several days a week in the summer with ultralight skin coat canoes from the early 1980’s that still look great (nearly new looking).

For my own garage I put plywood over the windows in the garage for security as much as anything, but also to keep UV light from prematurely aging the contents (canoes at the top of the list).

don’t know much about canoes but
I know a bit about clear coated kevlar cloth.

If the clearcoat is in vinylester (most likely) then be prepared to baby your canoe.

Vinylester is soft. Abrades in no time.

I have modified hulls that were clear coated with an additional flash coat of UV stabilized epoxy.

If I was you, gel coat. Easier to repair. And if seriously damaged you can repair it to a cosmetically perfectly finish, just like new.


Yes, go for it and get one !
And leave the gel coat off which will only cause a pound or two of weight and not gain you anything else.

Right now I have three different ultralight kevlar models.

Two of them get used all summer long in races, and the oldest, (my Jensen 17) not only gets used in rec races, but gets used year round in rivers, lakes, the Everglades, the Adirondacks, marshes and every other place in between.

That Jensen 17 weighs in at 39 pounds, and is my favorite tandem.

I have never worried about the UV rays with them, but “the bride” uses 303 on them and they are stored in doors except for in the winter when the Jensen is on the vehilcle roof from Jan till March in the Florida sun.

Repairs are very easy.

-scratches: If it is just a surface scratch, don’t worry about it. it just adds character.

  • A deep scratch into the kevlar cloth: It’s a snap. Sand the area around the scratch and clean it and then squeegee or dab on some epoxy. While the epoxy is still wet, lay a piece of plastic film over it, (like a 3 ring note book devider or any old thin film) and duct tape it down firmly. Remove the film a day or two later and your good to go with out any sanding and the repair is as smooth as a babys butt.
  • a major repair such as a hole is almost as easy: sand around the hole, wet out a piece of fiberglass with epoxy and lay it over the hole. Cover it the same way (with some plastic film)and that should be it.

    If for some reason you didn’t put enough epoxy, or you have a void here or there, just repeat the process but with out more fiberglass.

    You actually don’t need to use any plastic film, but if you don’t you’ll end up doing a lot of sanding to get it smooth.

    In a race two years ago, we punched a hole in the front of our ultralight comp cruiser when we hit a submerged log at 7MPh. The hole was below the water line and right in the center of the bow.

    About a week later after my repairs we were good to go again, and you can see the patch, but the repair conforms perfectly to the original shape of the bow.

    Our Jensen was so bad after one down river race three years ago in shallow rocky conditions that I redid the whole bottom with epoxy and that boat keeps on ticking.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    And lastly you can’t beat their ultralight weight for loading, unloading and portaging.



2 cents
Longevity. It will last very long if…it is stored inside when off the water and put in a boat bag for transport. UV rays and weather are the number one killer for skin coats.

(I had put this on the duplicate post)

It’s plenty durable so long as it is used with the awareness that it is not plastic (impact is not good). Skincoats maximize performance, light weightness, and stiffness.

Maintenance. Keep it covered! If you have wood gunwales you’ll want to treat them from time to time (enhances longevity).

Unless the scratch has led to a stuctural issue, then live with the scratch. Try not to scratch above the waterline. You can’t wet sand and buff a skin coat the way you can a gel coat.

Skin coats are not as durable as gel coated boats. Gel coat provides significant abrasion resistence to the exterior layer of cloth in the hull. I personally feel that gel coated surfaces are easier to repair becasue it gives you some material to work with. But, gel coat is heavier.

Buy a bag.

Happy paddlin’,


The vinylester on my Millbrook boats,
my Noah kayak, and on my old Phoenix, is just as hard as the epoxy on my Bluewater Chippewa and my Dagger Zealot. These are all no-gelcoat boats. Your problem may be specific to the skincoat boats you’ve experienced. Vinylester is compounded differently for different applications.

OK, smart guys, state specifically

– Last Updated: Oct-22-08 10:44 AM EST –

what advantage there is in getting an ultralight boat for the stated purposes? Costs more, damaged more easily, not really much lighter. And hardly any easier to heft for the purposes stated. ((Don't know with whom jefallon is agreeing....))

If you like to brag on ultralights, buy 'em. Functionally, they are a tradeoff, and for this guy, the tradeoff may be negative.

For what it’s worth
I’ve got a Wenonah Prism Ultralight. I’ve found the kevlar boat to be as tough as my royalex boats and a hell of a lot easier to repair. JackL’s advice is good. I do the same and don’t worry too much about the boat. Mine sits on a rack in my backyard from early May until mid-November. No 303 or protection. I do tie it down to keep the wind from blowing it into the neighbors yard. Once the snow flies in earnest I store in my garage over the winter. Get a skincoat kevlar, you won’t regret it.

he does that

– Last Updated: Oct-22-08 12:07 PM EST –

that's g2d being g2d

he's tough as nails, and you'd better be too :)

Have owned 2 kevlar ultralite/foamcore
We-no-nah boats for 15+ years, an Advantage and an Odyssey. Both have the wood gunwhales w/alum thwarts and skin-coat (no gel). I’ve got at least 1,500 Ontario miles on the Odyssey and many, many more on the Advantage paddling locally. Both boats have spent a whole lot of time in the sun (on my car) as I usually paddle in the evening after work and work is between home and the H2o. I’ve used 303 or McNetts similar product religiously, and the hulls are stored inside when I’m not intending to paddle. The Odyssey has taken some serious hits tripping with no more than some heavy scratching. The stuff is strong, and NOT the weak layup some have insinuated here. Consider the fact that most of the hulls I’ve seen used across the border in the Canadian shield are rented or user owned kevlar ultralite/foamcore hulls from various manufactures. My Advantage looks remarkably good considering its 15+ year age. For the flatH2o use you mention, I think a stiff hull excells. I lightly sand and oil my wood gunwhales maybe once a year and they look great. I’ve also been using a We-no-nah J-200 marathon boat in kevlar ultralite/foamcore and skincoat since the model was introduced, and with regular 303’ing and wiping the inwhales down w/oil, the hull looks virtually new. I’d have absolutely no fears of using this layup for your intended use, or for anything else including tripping. Frequent shallow H20 use will lead to a rough looking bottom, as would happen on any material or layup.

You are an intelligent user.
Odyssey is a wonderful boat. But a point or two. Wenonah’s ultralights are stiffer than their flexcore, but their flexcore boats are not floppy. And my Bluewater is quite stiff. It is not the case that somewhat more durable layups are floppy.

So, for the intended use, our original poster is going to spend some hundreds extra to get extra stiffness that he may not feel, and lighter weight when he is not portaging, and he has to be more careful with the boat. Sounds like a deal to me.

The point is…
You told him to get out of the sport, based upon how much he wants/can lift. What a wanker you are.

I’m agreeing with Sunriver.
Your opinion about using an ultralight boat for the stated purposes is, of course, your opinion. But to say that someone should get out of the sport because they can’t heft 48lbs is ridiculous.

That’s Being…
A smartass.

i thought the “wanker advice” was a nice touch.

stickman, so you want evidence?
I know talk is cheap but if somebody has evidence to back it up?

You really want to see what a bit of beach launching (about 4 sessions) from a fine sandy beach can do to a clear coated vinylester finished Kevlar hull?

Do you want to see Kevlar fuzzing up?

Send me a private email and I will be glad to oblige with sending you a couple of jpegs.

If your use will be limited to mooring launches and no abrasion of the hull is expected, get any finsih you desire.

I won’t.

Possibly the finish in question is rather soft and not the norm but how do you repair a tear/hole to make it cosmetically OK (some of us care about looks: resale value) when you have a clear coat and the fibres/pattern does not match up anymore?

Just wondering…

Just responding to the posters

– Last Updated: Oct-22-08 9:25 PM EST –

question of anyones knowledge or use of kevlar ultralite boats guys, nothing more. I know flexcore is stiff also, have owned and sell them, but again... the poster didn't ask for a comparison between ultralite and flexcore. I believe any layup or material is gonna look fairly knarly after repeated beach launchings, and accordingly only exit or enter my boats from the H2o and my 15+ year old trippers bottom has faired very well as a result... try getting in/exiting from the H2o. I might add the Prism I used for tripping (tufweave/flexcore/gel) looked far worse from tripping wear (chunked gel, ground fiber)than my Advantage (kev ultralite/foamcore) ever did. My Bell Magic and Wildfire are black/gold flexcore w/clear gel and both show more wear than any of my kevlar ultralite/foamcore hulls also. And I assumed the poster already knew the price difference and had leaned towards the higher cost, stiffer hull. I can't respond about the patching issue as I've never needed to patch a hull, though I've seen a couple of hulls that were bought year end from liverys in Canada/Minn and had patching and still got what I'd consider high dollar for a used kev hull.