Total Newb repairing '84 Wenonah Sundowner 18 glass work - Help!

Hey there - My husband and I just bought an 84 Sundowner with some gnarly booboos. I didn’t want a “project boat”, but it’s a seller’s market right now. My husband is busy building a shed this summer, so I have decided I’m on canoe restoration, meaning learning the basics of fiberglass work. I know it’s a long post, but I hope someone will appreciate my enthusiasm and jump on it!! Note: we are very mellow recreational canoeists. We will be mostly paddling flat water and calmer rivers - My intention in repairing is to prolong its life, not make it super high performance. :slight_smile:

Note: wouldn’t let me embed all my photos, so see this link:

The boat has a few categories of issues:

  1. It has several long deep scrapes on the underside of it. See image 1 for a long view of the scrapes, and 2 for a closeup of what some of the damage looks like (this spot is just chipped off gelcoat and rotten FG, but there are places that the glass weave itself is definitely scraped a couple of layers through) I have examined the boat really thoroughly and none of the scrapes are full thickness , or seem to have compromised the inside, but obviously the boat was neglected and those cracks have be left to get bad. So, first question is - how do I know by sight how deep I need to go to get rid of the damaged FG? Is it pretty obvious by sight? I am very much hoping I don’t have to go all the way through because those scrapes are long and I do not want to grind a 5’ hole in the hull of my boat if I don’t have to.

  2. There are several spots where the gelcoat has chipped off. “Boat3” is probably the biggest. Obviously some of those chips are old and the FG under them is compromised. Question 2: do I sand/grind away some of that glass and repair? How much?

  3. The stem band - Oh dear, the stem band. There’s a hole in it, right where someone clearly beached it hard far too many times. The actual opening is about the size of a nickel. Fortunately, it’s in the front compartment (where the flotation is - I don’t know what it’s called). Yes, I slapped duct tape on it so we could go out on the late last weekend. This is the part I am most concerned about: Question 3 As a grind away at the damage, I start to lose the shape of the curve. Is this particular injury better left to the professionals?

  4. The Stress Crack: This crack is next to one of the seat rivets. I really don’t want to mess with this spot because I do not want to have to replace rivets. What is the smallest patch I could do on something like this? Could I just buff off the surface and reinforce inside and out, cutting the mesh to fit around the rivet?

  5. The gelcoat. Yeah, I know - That’s just not on my short list.

Thank you if you got this far! I am looking forward to failing fast and making this boat great!

I’ll let some of the others advise on what exactly you should fix, but when it comes time to do the repairs I put together a somewhat comprehensive guide for the n00bs at an outrigger club I occasionally paddle with. It covers the basics of composite repair.

I highly recommend you do a couple trial runs on cardboard or a gallon jug before you try glassing your boat. Your first few repairs will be horrible and you will learn a lot. I would do a couple trial runs on a sacrificial / throw-away substrate until you feel comfortable with the process. Once you have the hang of it, its not hard though.

I cant upload a word doc on here apparently, so please download from below


MClmes -
That resources is awesome, and I appreciate the suggestion of trial runs. I am sure the first few times will be less than awesome.

One question if you will - based on the condition it’s in how big of a no no is it to keep paddling it on the weekend? I mean, it does look like a damage done situation to me. We are camping at a gorgeous kettle pond next weekend and I would be so sad not to bring her along - we’re getting kind of attached. We’ll store her hull side up so she doesn’t stay wet.

You dont show the inside of the hull in any pics - is this the cross rib design or foam core?

The cross rib design is exactly, that, ribs that run across the hull like railroad ties and stick up from the bottom ~1".

The foam core can be easily identified by the diamond pattern in the middle with reinforcing ribs that run yp to the gunwale.

If you have the cross rib, the hull has no foam core and I believe it cannot absorb water, so you’d be fine to use it.

If you have a foam core or nomex honeycomb core, then water intrusion (soaking the core) could be possible. If you have a hollow core boat, its worth investigating if there is any moisture in it before repairing, as it will get trapped and make your boat permanently heavier and likely weaker.

But just based on how it looks, it appears to be well used after the damage was done so if you use it, that’s just par for the course with this boat.

Ah! Is that what the inside of that boat is supposed to look like?! :rofl: Sigh - it’s the foam core. Does that affect how I repair it?

Your boat has had some rough use. It is hard to say how competent the fiberglass still is after that many years. Are there soft spots in the hull?

You can fix all the damage with marine grade epoxy and some fiberglass cloth. It would help to fill some of the voids by suing epoxy mixed with microballoons or other filler designed for the purpose. You can create epoxy the consistency of peanut butter which would be perfect for fairing out the gouges in the hull. Rough up the area around the damage and add layer or layers of fiberglass and epoxy. Fill the weave with epoxy and sand. I would paint this boat with something like Rustoleum marine enamel. Good luck.

Thanks! That’s helpful. And I know - unfortunately, my lack of knowledge has gotten me in way over my head, and the guy who sold us the boat (“the price is the price”, he said) made me overconfident about the repairs.

You mentioned roughing up the surface where the damage is. I assume I want to remove the damaged layers? How do I know how deep to go? Does the fact that it has a foam core affect that calculus?

And fortunately, no soft spots except for some flex on either side of one of the gouges.

Also, any suggestion about the actual hole in the front? After I clean/grind the hole, can I fill it with any kind of foam/filler so I have a surface to lay down the fiberglass on? I assume this is a reasonable question!? Because of the location, I can’t reach the inside to put a backing on the spot.

For the stem, I think it would be a good idea to remove all of the old stressed material. There is normally foam in the forward chamber in the bow, so yes you can use foam to fill the hole and then shape it so you have a form to put the glass and epoxy on. I would plan on at least two layers of different widths. Then after you have it shaped up, add two layers of fiberglass tape of different widths on top of that. Sand it and paint it.

Thank you. I was wondering if you knew what I would find when I sanded down the gouges in the hull, given that the floor of the boat has a foam core?

Normally in a Wenonah the foam core is really a series of foam ribs that are added for strength. Some of their hulls are built pretty light and the foam is a type of reinforcement to keep them from flexing too much. I had an old Odyssey that sustained a surprising amount of damage after swamping in an easy Class I rapid. I had a talk with Mike C the owner of the company and he admitted their boats are built pretty light. He sent me some repair materials for free.