May be picking up a vintage 16' fiberglass kayak and need some insight

I have an opportunity to pick up an unwanted vintage fiberglass kayak that may be heading to the landfill if it isn’t claimed soon.

It’s a project and its owner says that it may be unfinished, but I can’t fully tell from the photos. He says it’s bonded and solid, not unstable.

I’ve been reading about fiberglass kayaks online and some people say they last about 50 years. Others say they can continue to be used as long as they are maintained and stored properly.

What do you think? Is it worth picking up since I don’t have much to lose? How much more do you think the kayak will need to be water ready?

Fiberglass boats can last a very long time. There are tons of old fiberglass sail boats and motor boats out there. Find out if you can what kind of resin was used to built that kayak, polyester, vinyl-ester, or epoxy. Polyester boats can have a tendency to delaminate over time to a greater degree than vinyl-ester or epoxy. Take a good look all over the interior and exterior for signs that the glass is starting to delaminate.

Looks like it can use another coat of resin on the hull exterior, certainly on the seam tape/rub rail. Then the whole exterior should either be painted or receive a few coats of a good marine varnish to protect the resin.

Free boats are often the most expensive. I’d pass unless you have spare time and really want a project.

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For starters you might want fore and aft watertight hatches with hatch covers and bulkheads. Indeed, it is a project. If that’s what you want/expect, go for it. On the other hand, if your aim is to get on the water relatively quickly, this won’t do it.

The fiberglass lifespan isn’t likely the limiting factor. Vintage boats often don’t have the now standard safety aspects, like adequate flotation and deck lines. Looking at that boat, it definitely does not have enough flotation in the front (I just see s small float bag), and may not in the back if there is no bulkhead nor large float bag behind the seat.

Other difference is comfort. Newer boats have made great leaps in improvements in seats and cockpits and such.

I personally am not a project boat person, so I wouldn’t even consider this. YMMV

Looks like a home made boat to me. Cockpit looks too big. Hull looks round and likely high in the middle. Might be a little tippy.

Appears weave didn’t get a good fill coat. That deck/hull joint tape is too white. Should be clear.

Is it free? Do you have low expectations? Do you like to work in boats or go out and play?

Unfortunately, the current owner doesn’t know anything about the boat and received it from a family member.

Thanks for the detail on what to look for and to check for delamination, and if I do get it, I would like to seal it and paint it.

I’ve worked on aircooled Volkswagens, vintage motorcycles and bikes. You’re very right. I’m trying to find out how big this project is before deciding on whether to take it on.

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Thankfully, I have another plastic Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 kayak to get out on water when I need to. I wouldn’t be relying on it as my main kayak.

Thanks for the insight. I think in one of the pictures there does appear to be a bulkhead in the rear, but I can’t tell. It’s good to know that this design may have issues with floating altogether.

I’ve read that people made homemade boats in the 70s and 80s using molds. Is it possible this was made in that way?

The seller says he just wants it gone, or is planning to cut it up and junk it. I do have low expectations for it, but I am interested in a project, whether it’s this or building a skin-on-frame kayak.

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If it don’t work you can always send it to the dump.

Well you don’t know what resin was used in the construction so if you get it you should use epoxy which will bind to either polyester or vinyl-ester resins. You would need a quart of epoxy with the appropriate amount of hardener and mini-pumps, say 75-80 dollars. Probably also a fair bit of sandpaper and incidental supplies like masking tape, paper towels, mixing cups, squeeges, disposable gloves, solvents, etc. Some of that stuff you might already have.

Good marine paint like Interlux Brightside will probably set you back over $50 a quart with shipping and you will need foam brushes and rollers if you don’t have them. With that very high, peaked foredeck you probably should put a larger float bag in there. A 30" 3D end bag designed for a tandem canoe would probably work. That would cost another $50 or more.

I would go look at it. If there are no obvious defects press in on the deck and hull all around. If you start to hear cracking noises walk away. My other concerns would be whether the stern bulkhead and that somewhat funky rear hatch cover are reasonably watertight. You could waterproof the bulkhead by running a fillet of thickened epoxy around the edges. The hatch doesn’t need to be absolutely watertight but you don’t want a lot of water leaking into that stern compartment.

To get that boat seaworthy is probably going to require an investment of 250-300 dollars and quite a bit of time. And my experience has been that it always costs a little more and takes a little longer than your original estimate, so take it from there.

It may be headed that way either way. I just feel bad. Somebody spent time trying to make this boat and now it’s just going to get junked. feelsbadman.jpg

Time to make it a planter. You’ll spend a ton of money and time. It will still be worthless, impractical, and not paddle well.

If it was something like say my father’s I’d do it. Otherwise it’s not time or money well spent.

I bought a Current Designs Extreme. Cheapest boat I have bought. I paid three hundred bucks. I had high expectations for it. I restored it basically it looked great when done. I put 600+ into it for parts and materials. Countless hours working on it.

I bought another one for 900 I buffed it out and was done. Two hours in it not two weeks. Buying all the supplies you need to make it look like anything is very expensive. Add tools depending on what you have already.

Pick it up take it to protected waters and try it. It’s missing many things as said above compared to kayaks in the last 25-30+. comfort and safety.

Hatch in it will never even seal.

900 and I compounded it and waxed it. Doubt you want to spend 300 plus for materials and still have zero value.

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Yes, during the 70’s and 80’s my outdoor club had a couple of molds for whitewater kayaks and used to get together to lay up the fiberglass in them. They were molded in 2 or 3 pieces (for some whitewater boats the keel hull was two piece with a seam that would split under pressure so a person would not become entrapped against rocks in a strong current.) The sections were then glassed together with tape and the final coat placed on the outside. That one is too long and the wrong form for a whitewater boat and was surely intended for touring. Looks wide and flat bottomed and may be kind of a barge to paddle. I would mainly not trust that odd fiberglass hatch cover to keep any water out and you would have a tough time finding a rubber cover to fit that. Have you tried to sit inside it yet? Looks like a very deep cockpit though the photos are hard to judge. unless you can build and install bulkheads you would need to invest in large flotation bags for the stern and bow areas. And finding a sprayskirt that fit the cockpit could be a challenge too. If you don’t mind spending a few hundred bucks and maybe many hours and still not having a serviceable kayak, that’s up to you.

You could take it, as is, to a shallow warm water pond or swimming pool and see how it feels to sit in and paddle it. I would certainly do that before wasting much effort on what may be something you would not WANT to paddle.

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As others said above, lacking basic safety stuff like perimeter lines and heck only knows how it would behave if you tried a wet re-entry with that peaked deck. Probably not well.

Looks like something home made, the fiberglass is not as much of an issue as its deviation from currently accepted features to make a boat safe and reliable.

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Go get the boat. Bring it home and take a good look at it in bright light. Find some friends who know boats to give you their opinion. Repairing fiberglass is not that hard. A 16 foot sea kayak with a cockpit is way ahead of all the junk out there.

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