Skeg box repair advice for an NDK Explorer LV (rope skeg)

Below is a copy of I post I made on the NDK/SKUK Owners Facebook group. As noted, there is some stuff in there that I don’t understand including the black plastic (Delrin?) plates on either side of the skeg itself. Any ideas on a good fix that might be longer lasting the original although that may have lasted 10 years.

It is looking like an earlier repair of the skeg box on the 2008 Explorer LV (rope skeg) that lives with me is failing. The repair long predates me so I don’t know much about it & it was sound at the time of purchase (September 2001). I started getting water into the rear hatch on an Isle Royale trip last summer & have finally tested and found that indeed, it you put 3-4 liters of water in the hatch some will start weeping out through the cracks that you can see in the picture. I haven’t messed with skeg boxes & skegs before so I’m hesitant about blindly tearing into this & honestly, the closer I look the less I understsnd about what I’m looking at. My initial thought is to grind off the remains of the old repair along the seam (mostly bluish in the picture), inject some filled epoxy in the crack, and then put a little glass on top. Anyway, thoughts?

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That definitely doesn’t look good. The skeg box has separated from the hull and I suspect that’s it’s only being held in place by whatever glass and resin were applied inside. Have you tried grabbing the box from the inside and wiggling it to seek if it’s loose?

As for repairing it, your strategy seems sound. The blue stuff was obviously slapped on there as a half-assed repair, so it must be removed. NDK boats typically have LOT of gelcoat along the keel, so you may need to remove a fair about to get down the the fiberglass, which is where you want to be before you start adding more. Adding fiberglass over sketchy gelcoat is not going to work long-term. Gelcoat work is easy, so removing as much as necessary isn’t going to add much work the project

Working epoxy into the gaps is a sound approach, but if the boat has been used in salt water, you need to make sure there’s no salt left in there. Rinse it several times with hot water, dry it as best you can, then rinse it again with alcohol to help remove the water. Allow it to dry thoroughly - heat helps - then you can run epoxy into the gaps. Apply fiberglass strips to reinforce the joint.

Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, gelcoat will cure if it’s applied over fully-cured epoxy. Applying heat will cure the epoxy quicker, but it still may take 2-3 days for a full cure. The easiest gelcoat to work with is finish gelcoat paste.“Finish” indicates that it’s pre-waxed for exterior use, so you don’t need to try to seal it off from the air. Because it’s a paste, it stays where you put it and it’s actually stronger than liquid gelcoat.

One issue you will run into is color matching, which can be nearly impossible to get exact. It’s not worth the cost or hassle of trying to source the OEM gelcoat, as it’s not likely to match on an older boat. Sometimes the best option is to just make the repair a contrasting color with clearly defined edges, so it looks like it’s meant to be different. Another thing to consider is future repairs and the easiest color for matching is white.

If you’re interested, I have gelcoat and fiberglass repair tutorials here:

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Ok, not fiberglass expert here (all boats I’ve owned, except 1, have been plastic). But I look at the picture and it looks to me like that boat has had a fair amount of dragging, which likely is what wore down the old repair. Would it be better to use glass in the repair to build up the area some as a keel guard?

Thanks, I was hoping to hear from you.

The skeg box feels sound from inside the hull so I don’t have a concern there. This is a Great Lakes kayak and so unsalted. The previous owner may have had it on the ocean but probably not in 5 years or more. She sold the boat thinking that she wouldn’t be doing any long trips & would be day paddling with a lighter kayak. She did have some sellers regrets when I said that it was being purchased for an Isle Royale trip.

The blue is likely a secondary or tertiary repair. The initial repair seems to be a fiberglass patch that was brush painted yellow (what @Peter-CA may be seeing as scratches). You can see the edge of the patch against the hull in the photo. I’ll work on cleaning up the edge & sand some of the paint off before I decide on next steps.

My current stock of epoxy is “Total Boat” 2:1. I tend to like it a bit better than the West Systems I can get locally. I also have a good selection of fillers. Would you suggest injecting straight epoxy or fill with some silica or micro-ballons? I might consider adding some graphite powder to the final fill coat over the glass for color.

After some work with a rasp & a 50 grit sanding belt I have a better idea of the original repair. It looks like the original gaps were filled with something like Bondo or filled epoxy. What I thought was paint seems to have been a roughly brushed on gelcoat. the tape material was probably factory original to reinforce the skeg box. Next I think is cleaning out the old patching material.

It sounds like you’re on the right track.

As for fillers in the epoxy, you only need them when you don’t want it to run, but in this case you do want it to flow as much as possible. I would use a thin epoxy with a slow hardener and warm the area prior to application. Then, as it cools, it will draw the epoxy in.

The reinforcement around the skeg hole wasn’t obvious in the previous photo. I would suggest adding fiberglass or Dynel to it. Using graphite as you mentioned would also be a good idea.

I’ve finished clearing around the skeg box. It looks like the original damage broke off up to 1/4" of material at one point. The project is on hold far a bit. I need some fine tip syringes for epoxy and the weather is going back to early March for a while.