repair my glass and gold Wildfire

Well, I’m finally more or less dug out of the mess Hurricane Gustav left and able to get back to paddling concerns. Here’s my problem: A limb fell on my Bell Wildfire glass and gold, breaking the gunwale on one side and deforming the hull. It accordianed the hull downward and when I released the pressure it popped back into normal shape but not without damage. The area in question as viewed from the interior, is a delaminated oval about 18" long and 6" wide right below the shoulder and on the exterior side of that were 3 horizontal creases varying from 4 to 8" which completely broke through the gel coat, glass and kevlar. I’ve built a couple of strippers and so familiar with simple f/g work, but this seems beyond my experience. If any of you experts out there have some advise, I’d sure appreciate it. This was the one thing that got my spirits down after Gus paid us a little visit.

Your description’s pretty good, but
if you have a way to post some shots of the exterior damage, it would help. It sounds like the hull is very close to its original contour, which makes things easier. I would recommend getting the gunwale repaired before you tackle the glasswork. The repaired gunwale will help the hull stay in its intended form.

Of course you should pester Bell on how to do the repair. Possibly they will offer to do the repair (for $) but I’ll admit I would probably do it on my own just out of stubbornness. I don’t recall anyone down where you are who does the KIND of glasswork needed for the repair, but you never know… network a bit and see what you come up with.

For a somewhat ugly but effective repair, you’re going to need some West epoxy, some S-glass or E-glass, and some Kevlar. The Kevlar will be used inside the boat, the glass outside. E-glass, while not as strong, makes for a more transparent repair. You may need a disk sander to do the shallow excavation around the outside damage, and maybe a rasp, and a sharp knife if you have to slice off Kevlar.

At this point I have to stop, because I can’t see what sort of delamination you are seeing from the inside, and what kind of breaks you have on the outside. There can’t be THAT many layers in such a light canoe, and we have to use sense about what we take out, and what we put in.

But one thing… If you do the repair yourself, set reasonable goals. You want a functional result, rather than an aesthetically pleasing result. And, it will be easier for you to do a repair that is light, strong, and flexible, than it will be for you to make the repaired area look new, inside or out. An idea: since other paddlers may ask about the repair, maybe you can incorporate Gustav’s name and year.

I have no idea how to help you, but I’d implore you to take photos at every juncture, because this sounds like it is going to be a gigantic learning opportunity. If you can pull this fix off, I’d imagine you’re going to be a lot more confident with composite repair in the end, and I want to glean as much info from it as possible.

At the very least, if it can be fixed, maybe your homeowners will cover it or replacement cost. But hurricane insurance issues are way beyond my depth as well.

Repair Kit on Way
John; I’m sending a repair kit, along with laminate repair instructions as written for Bell, now redone for Placid boats.

What color gel? If Bell’s almond - we have a close match.


I’ll send photos, but…
I’m out of town right now so it’ll be somewhere around Monday before that happens. You said what I needed to hear however. I like my boats to look good and the reality is that I probably don’t have a good shot at making this come out well. Maybe with CEW’s repair kit and advise there’s be a chance. This hull was made when he was still the mover at Bell. I’ll get about $500 insurance, but around these parts it’s close to impossible to find skilled craftsmen. Thanks for the responce. This is gonna take some pondering.

You’re a good man Charlie…
Thanks, I feel better about this already. It would not be possible to find a better advisor about this hull than you, since you made so many.

It is one of the old blue color. I’ll get this one repaired come hell or high water but will only resort to my inexperienced hand if absolutely necessary. I actually have a “Jimmy Carter” for a new B&G Wildfire and was on my way to the Placid website to take a look.

Lamination is ~ easy. Matching gel ~ easy too, blue dye in tan, then feather the patch out with spray enamel.

A larger issue is the rails. Pb uses the profile I came up w/ for Bell, but… Are all 4 rails gone?

If only 2 are busted, I’ll check today re ash in 14’ length. If all 4 are firestarter we can switch you to cherry. Alternatively, how do you feel about cutting 8? scarf joints? [8" to get 2 screws through the joint. That would allow me to send a couple short sections at minimal freight.

Marc Ornstein will be up to Placid before LaLou, so if I can’t come down this year he can deliver wood as needed.

here are pics…
Sorry to be a bit late; took pics yesterday hopefully show up at the following URL;

The damage is on one side and rails broken only on that side. Outwale is not broken through but inwale is.

A coupla notes:

This is a blue gel coat but sanded and painted with off white auto paint with a clear coat. This is an old boat and the kevlar is a bit discolored so the delams are really only in the lightest colored areas.

Don’t know if folks want to follow but if not maybe private e-mails whould be better. Thanks a million.

That hurts just to look at.

not that big a deal

This’ll go pretty easily.

The outside just needs debridment, then fill divots in the gel with new gel and sand out.

The inner stress cracks, where the resin has broken in the Kev is also easy. You’ll want two layer patches, the first sized to cover the stress cracked area by a couple inches, the second an inch or so larger than the first. Peel ply the edges of the second patch down to yield smooth edges. I’ve sent enough 9.5 and 5.5 Kev to do the patches. Put whatever looks best with your inner down as the second patch. [Cut the Kev with a sharp razor knife on a piece of plywood.]

I’m sending our written protocol along w/ a CD of pics.

I’m also sending a short section of inwale already scarf cut. That’ll get you afloat. I can get an inwale to you at LaLou.


CEW, sometime explain to me why
you put the smaller patch on first, and then the larger.

smaller first
Smaller first minimizes the edges you need to peel ply or, w/o peel ply, sand smooth.

On whitewater boats, some of us do
the largest layer first, and so on down to the smallest, out of two concerns.

  1. Assuming one has tapered the laminate around the break, using the largest patch first ensures that the patch crosses the laminate layers in the best way.

  2. Comparing the two kinds of layering, going smallest first leaves little step-discontinuities under succeeding layers. Going largest first allows the edge of each layer to be hand tapered to minimize changes in stiffness.

    I think that, 90% of the time, there is very little difference in the result. However, in certain cases, such as making a skid plate out of cloth layers, doing the largest piece first actually gives better control over the transitions.

    If, on a very thin laminate, the dishing or tapering can’t be more than minimal, then doing the smallest patch first may result in just as good a crossing of the laminate layers.

Don’t know how to thank you…
Charlie, this is much more than I woulda, coulda, shoulda expected. The probabilities of success were almost nil, now at least there’s a fighting chance. I’ve said for a long time that you are a generous guy and you keep proving me right.

I’m still interested in a B&G Wildfire. I’ll be in touch about that along the way.