Painting Gunwales?

I have an older Old Town Discovery and the Gunwales are really faded. I don’t see any cracks or anything, just the paint fading, I’m assuming from the sun.

It’s not the end of the world but it would be nice to fix that. Is painting them an option? I’ve googled this and haven’t found much, besides one video of someone using black vinyl spraypaint. Will that hold up? Thanks! I’d rather not replace them if at all possible ($$).

I also have an Old Town Disco, and that is nor paint unless someone before you painted them,
They come from the factory just straight vinyl.
We have kept ours in good shape, but if ours needed work, before I painted them I would check with Advance Auto and see what they have for restoring faded black vinyl (there is lots of that on cars)

Right, I misspoke, not the paint fading, the original vinyl.

Good call, thanks! It’s an awesome canoe, especially being 25 years old. Just needs a little help

You might try giving them a good scrubbing with a stiff brush and non abrasive cleanser to make sure it’s not just dirt, and then apply some 303 UV protectant which will make them look at least a little bit better and maybe a whole lot better if you are lucky. If they are still ugly then I’d follow Jack’s advice and find some plastic restorer to apply…and use gloves and follow the directions because that stuff is nasty since it basically melts the plastic.

Gunwales tend to take a beating. They are the contact point when transporting on roof racks (and for a lot of us, they provide the sliding surface that’s used when getting the boat up onto the rack), they contact the ground when flipping the boat over on land (to keep them from becoming bathtubs when it rains), they rub against tree trunks when working your way though tangles of fallen trees on creeks, they got bumped and dinged by paddles during normal use, and even pried against with paddle shafts during certain abrupt maneuvers. I think if you paint the gunwales it will only be a short time before the paint is chipped and scratched away and you need to do it again, especially since you may not find a paint that bonds very strongly to smooth vinyl in the first place. If you can restore the original uniformity in color as suggested above, fine, but if you can’t, it is just an Old Town Discovery after all, which even when it was new, was never a showpiece of canoe culture.

I don’t use a roof rack, I store it in my garage, and I use a trolling motor so I’m not doing much paddling. So none of that really applies to me. And more importantly, a “showpiece of canoe culture” or not, it’s still my canoe and I’d like it to look good.
I have to stop posting to this forum. Most are helpful, but there’s always one obnoxious comment.

I’m sorry you took those comments so hard. Bear in mind a couple of things. Many of us here paddle hundreds of miles per year and have come to accept the wear and tear is a fact of life. I’m fussy with my boats, taking greater care to avoid scratches and the like than most people I know, and yet wear and tear is still inevitable when boats are used a lot. Along those lines, until just now, the idea that nothing ever comes into hard contact with a canoe’s gunwales is something I’d not have imagined. If, for example, you looked over old discussions here about protecting wood gunwales from weathering, taking into account how to deal with frequent dings in the finish is a topic that comes up every time.

Still, you are right that it’s your boat and you can feel about it as you like, but having been doing this more than just a short while, I’ve seen plenty of newbies adjust their thinking about such things too. We all speak from our own experiences and backgrounds, and sometimes a lot of the context of attitude gets misinterpreted when all that’s exchanged are a few typewritten lines.

All that said, it occurs to me that there is likely to be fresh, new-looking material just below all that visible weathering on your boat’s gunwales, so if other methods fail and you still want to restore the color, I bet that polishing with some fine sandpaper followed by emery cloth would be something worth trying. You could test the idea in a very small area before deciding to do the whole surface.

Don’t use roof racks…
Store boat in garage…
Use trolling motor; not much paddling…

All that information could have been noted in the original post.
That could have saved the original poster from receiving suggestions he found to be obnoxious. Surely he jests ?

I found Guideboatguy’s & others suggestions to be quite good; based on what little information was made available.


Everyone’s suggestions were very helpful. The only thing I found obnoxious was, “but if you can’t, it is just an Old Town Discovery after all, which even when it was new, was never a showpiece of canoe culture.”

Which to me said, “your canoe is a piece of crap, even when it was brand new 25 years ago, so why I are you worrying about how it looks?”

However he posted again and apologized, and I appreciated that.

I would try wet sanding those gunwales with some very fine wet-or-dry paper (perhaps 1500 grit), then give them a spray of 303 Aerospace Protectant or Armor-All and see how they look.

As gentle as this board has become, it is a long way from PC. :smiley:

If they are vinyl and you want to paint them you have to use a fine grit and/ or steel wool to clean off the oxidized stuff. Wipe with denatured alchol and paint with Krylon Fusion from a rattle can. Repeat thin coats.

Nothing like teak though.

@jm76 said…
I have to stop posting to this forum.

Retreating to a safe space after only 6 comments?

Hang in there with the grumpy old men. You might pick up some good information.