Refinishing advice for Seaward Kayak

-- Last Updated: Mar-20-15 2:17 AM EST --

My 15 year old got an older Seaward SouthWind Kayak from a neighbor. It has seen better days and had 6 different cracks in the hull and top deck ranging from 3-8 inches long. I have done enough fiberglass repair in my life to be able to fix the cracks. We sanded down, fiberglassed and sanded flush over the last couple days and it is looking great.

Now where I need help. Prepping for paint, type of paint, and application of paint.

I don't want to redo gelcoat when it seems like a good urethane will be close. Also, I have an HVLP sprayer and some experience spraying clear lacquer on wood.

So is it better to shoot it than roll brush on? Do I get a nicer finish if I shoot it? And is there anything I should know about spraying urethane? What brand/type of urethane should I use? I want a one part...but brand?

I guess before this I should be asking about the scratches. There are a lot of deep scratches in the hull. Not quite through the gel coat but close. Should I be sanding them out, or filling them with bondo and sanding flat?

Finally, should I be priming before painting? I don't completely understand what primer does, but figure it is likely important. I see people talking about high build primers and I am guessing they help fill the minor scratches and issues?

It has been fun working with my son on this project and I think it will be cool to have a nicely finished Kayak when we are done.
Thanks in advance for your help.

I know you ruled this out, but I think I would have just fixed the gel coat.

if you’re going to paint it
paint it the same color as the hull and deck, because it will scratch easier than gel-coat and the color beneath will be the color of the scratches.

Why not gelcoat?
I never understand why people take a wide-eyed step back when they hear the word “gelcoat”. I’ve worked with it a little. If I had to compare working with gelcoat to working with another product, I would say it’s just like working with a typical can of paint - only I stir in some liquid from a little tube before I start, and then have limited working time with my mixture. But how much time do I need? All I’m doing is applying some paint consistency gel coat - whether its coating an area, or just lightly working a drop or two into a few deep scratches.

Gel coat is a pretty good finish for kayaks. What do you suspect the kayak would look like right now if originally, instead of gel coat, they would have applied your substitute to the whole thing? Do you figure you’re going to come up with a substitute that will fare as well over the years? What drives the need for people to come up with a substitute? Maybe there’s something to it? I just haven’t figured it out yet. And evidently kayak manufacturers haven’t figured out anything better either. You did the glasswork, so you’re handy enough. So I’m curious about the aversion towards gelcoat.

Call Seaward
I’m sure they’d give you some good advice over the phone. Also might be a good destination for a road trip, get a tour of the factory, you Canadians have really nice campsites up that way.

Seaward painting…
Hmmmm…I wasn’t quite expecting these answers. I have been running searches and reading a lot over the last month trying to find out about refinishing fibreglass kayaks/canoes. I set out expecting to gel coat, but I always came across people going to one part urethanes. The idea I got was that gel coat was hard to do. I know enough about shooting lacquer that I figured urethane would be in my ballpark and went that way.

I assume gel coat is more durable. So I would be happy to gel coat if anyone here would talk me through the process.

The kayak will need to be completely done to look nice. It has many, many deep scratches on the hull and on the deck. It has faded a touch too and I dont think the color could be matched on the deck, for sure not on the hull.

So tell me the process and product if I gel coat it? I guess you don’t prime then? Still fill gouges/scratches or just sand them out? Can I spray gel coat? Do I need to or just roll/paint on?

lots of info
I’ve never sprayed it, but if you google “spraying gelcoat”, you’ll get lots of info and process walk-throughs.

Here’s one of the first things that pop up.

More musings
As I began searching for refinishing kayaks most of the threads I found were people being talked out of gelcoating and into painting with urethanes. So its funny that I am being talked in the other direction.

What is your experience with gelcoat CapeFear? Are you using it in repairs? When you paint it on does it level nicely? Or do you still get brush marks?

YouTube is your friend…

– Last Updated: Mar-20-15 4:10 PM EST –

Gel-coat is tougher than paint so you won't be touching it up every-time the paint gets dinged

There are plenty of gel-coat repair videos on YouTube.. Here's one to get you started...


what other forums?
Any other paddling forums?

Because I can’t remember an instance when people here seemed in favor of painting over gelcoating.

Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t urethane paints also take premixing and a bit of care in applying? Certainly not as easy as using an acrylic.

I think gelcoat would be a bit more durable than any paint.

nothing extensive for me
I’ve only done kayak repairs on my own boats. I’ll use a fairly thick coat vs what I might do painting the shed or the kitchen, so that it does level out nicely without brush marks. Then the light sanding and buffing. The only mishap I’ve run into over the years is having too old of curing material that you mix in. I understand that loses its effectiveness over time. It was probably at least a couple years old already when I used it. So the stuff didn’t cure - it remained that paint consistency. That was just filling in some deep scratches and such - spot work - so no big deal. It wiped off like wet paint too. If I were doing something more significant, I’d start with fresh material.

I’d suggest mixing up a little bit and painting it on something, just to get a feel for what you’re working with, and how you will make it work for your project. See how long it takes the leftover to set up in whatever cheap little disposable container you use, given your mixture. See if using a brush could prove satisfactory, or if you feel you should use a sprayer. See how long you have before it sets, how quickly that happens, and what the stuff feels like as its happening. That goof-around procedure will pretty much take the mystery out of it for you, and the next time you’ll just be working with a paint that’s called gelcoat that has a timeline to work with, and that works really well for boats. That’s my take on it anyway.

An example from here.
Here is one talking out of gelcoating from this forum.

There are two types of urethane…two part and one part. It seems that the two part is harder and more durable.

When I read threads like the one I have posted here I get scared of gelcoating. Seems like a lot of work and I am unsure of the part about getting the last coat to harden up where they talk about it needing to have wax or something mixed in to make the top coat harden. I also don’t want to have to wetsand to smooth the final surface. A fellow who does auto painting and tells me its relatively easy to shoot urethanes pretty flat without the need for sanding the final coat if I set up my sprayer right.

I only know a touch about urethane, but pretty well nothing about gel coat. That is why I am asking here. I want something that is going to look really nice and last. But we if one method is twice as much work without a noticeable improvement in quality/durability…

It depends on the area involved
If you’re going to be doing an entire boat, paint will be much easier. If you’re just doing spot repairs, there’s no reason not to use gelcoat. Another option for large areas is to paint the deck (for aesthetics and ease) and gelcoat the hull, at least from the chines down (for durability).

Gelcoating curved surfaces can be a hassle, as it tends to run when the surfaces turn from horizontal to vertical. You can get paste gelcoat that won’t run, but it doesn’t self-level either and will require more sanding.

thought of that
The idea of gelcoating bottom and painting top had bounced around my head too.

The sanding part
Repairing gel coat is a multi-step process, but it is much, much easier than it all sounds.

To start with, there are a couple of things to decide on. You will probably have to check with the builder on what type of gel coat they used, There’s polyester and vinyl ester and maybe some others. Anyway, vinyl ester seems to have the better qualities and that is what I use, but there are some qualifications. Vinyl ester is generally not as easy to come by, because it has a very limited shelf life. If the builder is convenient to you, they might be able to supply you with the right stuff.

You have to have a minimum of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit to apply and cure this stuff–warmer is better, but not too warm.

I don’t think I would even consider spraying gel coat. It’s easy enough to brush, or roll on. Just prior to applying the gel coat, you will need to wipe the entire surface that is to be coated with acetone. Whether you brush, or roll the gel coat on, you’re probably not going to get it very smooth and that doesn’t really matter. Cover the gel coat with waxed paper (tape it down) and let it cure.

The sanding and finishing is probably the easiest part, but it takes patients, a good eye and the right kind of abrasives. When the gel coat is thoroughly cured, I start with a relatively aggressive 400, or 500 paper on a sanding block. Very light sanding, just to level it down. Then I switch to 600 to 800 dry and then some wet with 1000 until it’s getting pretty smooth. From there on, I go to 1200 to 1500 and then 2000 all wet. It really goes quite fast. Don’t overdo it and sand right through the gel coat.

You might have to go back and apply some additional gel coat to low spots and after curing, repeat the sanding process to those areas.

When you’re happy with the smoothness etc., then comes the polishing. I use a very cheap Turtle polish with a very low speed buffing machine (sponge pad). This goes very quickly and with a little practice the results are stunning. Wax it and you’re ready to go.

Watch as many videos as you can find. They are all very similar, but there will be some differences. Do not try to do any of this work indoors–that is, in your living quarters.

Sanding and wax paper
Hi Magooch,

The sanding process you describe is the same one I go through when I build drums (rock and roll drum kits) and want a glass finish. To be honest the sanding process is the part I like the least.

I understand that the wax paper is used to keep oxygen out so the gelcoat will cure. But what do I do when it is a 21’ hull? Will a sheet of plastic work? Do you wait for it to kick before covering? There must be something that they use…is that what I am seeing where they add wax into the mix?

Also, how many coats?

Finally, do I just use something like epoxy based bondo to fill and prep the scratches? Or is there some other fairing compound I should be using?

Here’s where to go.
Go to Find the “Knowledge” title at the top of the home page and select “Articles”. This gets you right to the horses mouth–so to speak. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to give them a call (toll free 888 441 8582), or email them. Doug Searls should be happy to give you some pointers.

NC has recently revised their website, so depending on which operating system your computer is using, you might have to look around a little to find the “Knowledge” thing.

Oh, about the waxed paper: You will probably do yourself a favor if you do the boat in workable sections–at least for application of the gel coat. You don’t have a heck of a lot of time to work with the mixed gel, so keep the mixed batches relatively small. So you really don’t have to use huge sheets of waxed paper. Yes, you can also use a wax additive, so that covering the gel is not necessary, but that’s just one more ingredient to deal with. It isn’t necessary to smooth the waxed paper into the gel coat–just cover it loosely and seal the edges with masking tape. I tried to use a plastic sheet one time and it just wasn’t worth the trouble. It might work in flat areas, but not so much where it’s curvy.

Be very careful about the correct ratio of MEKP that you use. It doesn’t take much.

Thank ncKayak knowledge page is good. I found a few other ones around the web that are similar.

Macgooch, you mention that the waxpaper/plastic sheet doesn’t have to be pressed down into the gelcoat. Just covered and taped around the edges. What was the hassle with plastic for you? Second question, do you wait a bit(until it begins to kick/flash) before applying wax paper?

Second, preparing the hull. Just sand out the previous scratches in the old gel coat? Don’t need to fill because I will be adding gelcoat? If I do need to fill will bondo filler work?

I know it is a combo of temp and amount of catalyst that affects how fast the gelcoat sets up. But done right I should have 10-15 minutes?



one more question
If a section of gelcoat hasn’t had the surface set up can you just cover it with wax paper and it will cure then?


Plastic and curing

– Last Updated: Mar-22-15 1:21 PM EST –

The right kind of plastic used in some sections of the repair might be helpful where it could be pressed down into the freshly applied gel to help level and smooth it, but for that to work very well, it has to be a little stiffer and isn't all that easy to work with. Waxed paper is cheap, it works very well and it is easy to tape down.

It's probably not really possible to eliminate part of the leveling and smoothing in the sanding process by the use of a plastic covering, because gel coat shrinks as it cures. It is quite possible that even if you allow a little extra thickness in the gel application to fill pits and scratches, the shrinkage might be such that you will have to dab some more gel on and repeat the sanding. This all sounds tedious, but it goes quickly and it's just part of the deal.

I'm not sure I'm understanding the question about the uncured gel coat. If the temperature is warm enough and the gel has something close to the right amount of catalyst, yes it should cure by covering it with waxed paper and using masking tape to seal the edges of the paper. One caveat; if you failed to thoroughly mix the cat into the gel, you might not get a good cure.

Oh, and I would not use bondo to fill deeper gouges. If the gouge did not crack, or in some way damage the underlying composite, just fill it with gel coat.

Generally, gel coat is a one coat application in the initial construction of the boat and I think they try to shoot for about .020" thickness. So when you achieve a single coat after the finishing process, you're good. Keeping in mind that there will be the added applications to fill low spots and sanding boo-boos.