used fiberglass

I’m looking to upgrade from my first rec boat to a faster touring/sea kayak. I really like the idea of fiberglass over plastic, but I can’t afford it new. I found a local used fiberglass boat (WS shenai) that definately has some wear to it. The deck seems to be in great shape, but the hull concerns me: There are a bunch of scratches and chips in the gel-coat. Should I be worried about that? Obviously, deep cracks are problematic, but I didn’t see any of those.

I’ll be looking at it/paddling it again sometime soon, and before that happens, I was hoping someone could give me some advice. What should I keep an eye on before buying a used glass boat?



Used is good
as long as the hull is in reasonable shape. Can you see any of the glass cloth through the scrapes or chips? Sounds like it is just cosmetic, which can be repaired fairly easily when you decide. If the price is right I’d go for it.

The chips aren’t very deep at all (maybe 1/8"). They expose a dark (brown-ish) layer beneath the white gel-coat. Is that the glass cloth? If so, can it be repaired?

I think I should clarify something else. There are quite a few scratches and chips in the hull. A good portion of the ridge on the boat’s keel is chipped, and appears brown. Also, there is a pretty large (3-4") patch directly beneath the seat that is chipped…also brown.

Should I be worried about these imperfections?

I’m happy to put some time into the repaires, but I’ve never fixed-up a boat, and I’d hate to spend a bunch of money on something that will fall apart in a season or two.

Thanks again,


I would also get the boat in sunlight
and look in through the cockpit and the gear hatches. This will allow you to see if cracks extend through into the inner layers of cloth. You may also be able to detect “bruised” areas where there is delamination of cloth layers. A fibreglass boat is more likely to crack and shatter, while a mostly Kevlar boat may bruise and delaminate without actually cracking.

Different people have different opinions about “gelcoat” gaps which expose cloth. In my opinion, if the cloth is not delaminated or cracked, the exposure is of no consequence. Water will NOT soak through unbruised, uncracked laminate. Others on this board believe that polycarbon chain fabrics including Kevlar, Nylon, and Dacron (polyester) will slowly pass water through their fibers. I have never seen evidence of this in my boats. I have a low opinion of gelcoat, but if you buy a boat with gelcoat, you can fix chipped and scratched areas at your leisure.

From what you describe, it’s probably not a big deal. Scratches are a part of kayaking, so this one is already broken in. You may want to touch up the areas where you see the glass cloth (darker areas), but that goal would be just to seal them in, no real need to make it perfect. This would be a good thing to do, but don’t feel like you have to do it before you use the boat. I’d give it a few days to get really dry before repairs though.

Is it still stiff? Are there any soft spots? Spend some time pushing on the bottom from the outside, covering it pretty well. You will notice the soft spots this way. If there is a soft spot, look inside and see if the laminate is cracked or loose. It is the inner layers that are stressed when you land on something hard. If not, most of the rest is probably cosmetic in nature. However, remember that those cosmetic chips and scratches can slow you down a bit. Consider recoating the bottom with resin and getting it smooth again.

How handy are you?
It sounds like the boat has quite a bit of exposed fiberglass. If the price is REALLY cheap and you’re capable of repairing the gelcoat, it might be a good deal. Otherwise, pass on it and find something that’s in better shape.

thanks for all the help…the boat is selling for $775, which seems pretty cheap to me, so I think I’m going to get it and do my best to fix it up. It might be fun to play around in the garage before the ice melts…so thanks again, and you’ll probably be hearing from me again sometime soon…with more questions.



brown spots
It could be that the brown patches you refer to are not exposed glass, but rather stains from dirty water that adhered to the less smooth scraped areas of gelcoat. Smooth, unscraped gelcoat is less likely to hold a stain from the water. If it is just a stain then you don’t have anything to worry about.

Is your garage heated?
You won’t have much success with gelcoat repairs if the temp in the garage is low. Adding extra catalyst will help, but it may not be enough if the temps are too low.

Also, make sure you buy “finish” gelcoat rather than laminating gelcoat. The former will cure when exposed to air, but the latter won’t. Here’s a link to the right stuff: