New (composite) Boat Blues

I’ve recently bought my first composite boat…a P&H Capella 163…and have been out 4 of 5 times. I usually paddle whitewater, with three playboats that get royally beat up, however I’ve treated the Capella with what I thought was TLC. Not so much due to the price, but because the finish and workmanship is just too nice to mess up. More of a “respect” thing.

So today, after unloading, I flipped the new boat over for a close inspection and was alarmed to see that my version of TLC was probably not what the Sea Kayak Doctor ordered!!

I knew there were a couple spots where my first boarding started bad and ended poorly, with me bouncing her off some shoreline rocks, but after that (Ouch!) incident, I’d been pretty careful.

So what’s the deal? Am I being silly to worry about minor scrapes here and there? Can I just relax, be as careful as is reasonable to enjoy the boat, and accept the fact that boats get scratched up? And finally, are minor scratches/abrasions to the gelcoat going to cause problems later on?

And yes, while I’m asking all these questions, I 'll chance this one: Do people have these refinished now and then, like a fiberglass Corvette?

FYI, what a great time I’ve had in the boat. Sooooo much different than paddling out of a hole upriver under the falls… Both are fun, but this is really nice.


If I saw a composite boat with no
scratches I would figure one of two things:

  1. the boat just came from the dealers
  2. the owner doesn’t use the boat.

    My four year old QCC has more scratches on it then any other QCC on the water, but it also has more mileage on it than any other QCC on the water.

    It doesn’t look to me like it needs a new coat of gel coat for a long time.

    Enjoy the boat. Each scratch will remind you of a particular great day on the water.



Don’t worry
unless a ding goes all the way through the gelcoat to the glass.

To Repair or Not to Repair
My personal take on dealing with scratches on composite kayaks (I am on my 4th one)

  1. If you see no color change in the scratch completely ignore it.

  2. If you see a color change (usually goes to black on white hulls) but do not see any sign of fiberglass (threads or fuzzies) then just check it every once and a while to make sure no fiberglass is exposed. About once a year or so I mix up a batch of gel coat repair and take care of the more major scratches. Not really needed but it keeps me up to date on doing repairs.

  3. If you see fiberglass (threads or fuzzies)in the scratch I would get some gel coat repair material and do a repair. It is not as if you have to completely stop paddling until you cover it up, but you do not want to wait so long that the glass might wick up a lot of water.

    Bryan Nystrom has some of the best instructions for gel coat repair on kayaks at his webshots site

the deal
gel coat was designed to provide a pretty colored surface, oops, turns out that kayaks bump things and the gel coat gets scratches. To expect your kayak to remain scratch free is like buying tires and being surprised that they don’t last as long as the car. Just keep having fun and in ten years you might decide to repair some big dings that happened five years ago,to come.

and paddle the hell out of that boat! Refresh it every third year or so…it’s a great product…enjoy.

Gel coat is non-structural
yet the biggest factor for the newbies. Relax people. Paddle the damn thing hard!

It’s a boat not fine art or furniture
Folks sometimes look at my wood and fiberglass boat and say “uh oh! There’s a scratch on the hull there!” Yup. There’s more than one. Each one represents a great time paddling. Don’t let the beauty of the boat keep you from enjoying it. It will get scratched.

Yes, you’re being silly
It ain’t furniture - paddle and don’t sweat the scratches. This is a reason for buying a used boat - scratches are pre-installed.

When it gets really bad, put on a wear strip along the keel line - see Atlantic Kayak Tours website for info.


it is MUCH better to get a keel strip
now before you do any damage…

think of a keel strip as a prophylatic object…do you put one on BEFORE or AFTER a situation??? :slight_smile:

yes hindsight is 20-20 but cmon…if you thnk you need one you probably need one now…can be put on in a day by a lot of shops…def worth the 130$ or so (depending on where you are)…


Well y’all,

I got some great advice here, tips on prevention (wink, wink), details on repair, and maybe even a chuckle or two. Plus it reinforced my belief that toys are made to play with.

Thanks to all for taking the time to respond. Good stuff.