I recently dropped my Kayak. I damaged a small portion, however the damage was only to the Gel Coat. The repairer suggested a skid plate, What is it?
Metal keel cover
A long metal strip is placed along the keel to take the brunt of keel abrasion. These are fairly common on canoes. They can be flat, or have a slightly raised keel (fin) which improves tracking. A gel coat repair is all you really need … unless you are prone to dropping it a lot! Bob
Not so fast there Pilgrim!
Keel strips are nowadays commonly applied via laminating fiberglass or other woven fabric with an appropriate epoxy resin. Not a difficult job, but best done under supervision if you are not experienced. Good weekend project. A recent Seakayaker Mag had a feature on this process.
In the world of wood & canvas canoes, metal keel strips were commonly used. But not on glass or ABS hulls.
I used a hard rubber molding…
... I have used a hard rubber self stick molding to protect the keel line of my Composite Kayak. I have placed it from just under the tip of the bow, all of the way back and up the stern part way. This protects it from scraping stones, the road, or anything in or out of the water. Recently on a cold day, I dropped the front about 4" onto the road surface (Hands cold), and the rubber molding absorbed all of the impact. No damage to the hull! :)
.... McMaster-Carr Catalog Company sells this molding. It has a waterproof two sided tape already on the back of the black molding. If you let the molding sit out in the sun on a warm day, it becomes softer, and easier to bend up to the bow and stern.
... McMaster-Carr's phone number in New Jersey is 732-329-3200. The rubber molding comes in 10', 25', 50' lengths. (up to a 250' roll)
...The molding comes in two sizes. I used the larger one on my 18'x24" composite kayak. This size measures 7/16" wide, by 7/32" high (Projecting down from hull). This Catalog number is 1000A5, at 74 cents a foot.
.... The smaller size works ok for small sized (or narrow) kayaks. It is 5/16" wide, by 3/16" high, and the catalog number is 1000A4 at 60 cents a foot.
.... This also will assist a little in straight line tracking. If your kayak is already difficult to turn, you might want to use the smaller size. If it turns easily, try the larger size to help it track straighter. Both sizes use a two sided waterproof tape that will also help cushion the blow.
.... I then got fancy, and used a little white acrylic calk, and ran a small bead along each side of the black rubber moulding to blend it in better. It looks decent, and when I look at how much the molding is scuffed up, I am reminded of how well it has saved my hull.
Happy New Year!
glued on kevlar
Skid plates are also a strip of Kevlat tape or kevlar felt glue onto the keel for protection against abbrassion.
There’s a few places that sell that these kits. raka.com sells the kevlar felt and resin in bulk.
Some other places might be cheaper because they sell as a kit.
Glued on glass, either E-glass or better
S-glass makes a better skid plate. Kevlar felt is grabby, and Kevlar adds little structural strength in this application. The reason Kevlar felt is used for “skid plates” is that it holds together better than other felts or cloth, and can be applied in a single step (unlike a structurally superior 3 layer concentric glass plate). And the Kevlar name. So you tend to get a thick, grabby, bad-looking skid plate, which at least in whitewater applications, sometimes cracks. What a deal for convenience.
Sea Kayaker Article
Sea Kayaker had an excellent article on applying a skid plate sometime in 2004. The article illustrates/describes the entire process, including layout, cloth laydown, gel coat application and finishing.
Someone may know the issue number; if not, email me and I’ll send it to you.
Gelcoat application ?!?
Someone must be ruled by aesthetics if they bother putting gelcoat on an add-on skidplate.
I added keel strips to two composite sea kayaks recently and just used 3 inch fiberglass reinforcing tape and black gelcoat.It looks good,UV resistant and seems to be tough,I think there is beauty in functional objects.
It demonstrates the owner is using and enjoying his boat not babying it.
For abbrassion resistence, I wouldn’t worry about structural strength or even stiffness. The boat hull should have that already.
One could go with aramid/Kevlar tape, s-glass, or even a polyester tape (poly tape is cheap, very abbrassion resistent, but has little stiffness).
S-glass will have an advantage over using aramid in that it will be easier to apply. Aramid sometimes doesn’t want to behave when you don’t vaccuum bag it.
One last tip: On boats I build myself, I mix in some graphite powder (aka: ground carbon fiber) in with resin and apply a few thin coats in high rub areas.
If you want to do the gelcoat yourself…
…I have an album on gelcoat repair and restoration on Webshots at:
Yes, I use graphite powder also.
We are dealing with different definitions of abrasion resistance. I want something hard that does not catch or drag when pulled over varied surfaces, that wears away slowly, and that wears smooth. Kevlar and polyester don’t do that. S-glass does. S-glass also takes a whack better than carbon cloth.
I would be intersted to see a Kevlar felt skid plate and a four-layer S-glass cloth skid plate dragged over the same surfaces with the same weight loading. I’m not certain which would last longer, but for those who have the patience, a glass patch sure looks better, new and after abuse.
I am thinking of ordering some carbon/Kevlar cloth from John Sweet and seeing if it wears smooth as a skid pad. I would prefer S-glass/Kevlar if it existed, but evidently not. Sweet offers S-glass/carbon, but for me that would have no apparent advantage over pure S-glass.
Please send me the article or the number of the article.
Super easy skid plate for stern
For dragging composite boats on their sterns, here’s how I made up a bunch of vinyl skid plates in a few minutes. Using tin snips, cut a section, about 5 or 6 inches square, from a vinyl gutter from Home Depot. Pop it in the oven at 325 degrees for a few minutes, and it will become plyable and somewhat stretchy. Gripping opposite sides with gloved hands, stretch the middle section of the vinyl over the upturned stern of the boat. The vinyl will mold perfectly to the curvature of the hull. When the plastic stiffens in a few seconds, trim the excess where you gripped, and then just glue or tape on the skid plate.
It is cheaper to buy the raw materials instead of a kit IF you have a big stable of boats or might be installing more skidplates in the future. (HINT: become the skidplate installer for your group of friends.)
I bought a yard of felt a couple of yearsago and always have resin around. I have used them on several projects. The felt is STILL going strong!