I ran into this interesting resource here:
It is always best to store your kayak indoors, out of direct sunlight and protected from inclement weather. Boats made from polyethylene plastic are strong, rigid, and highly impact resistant, but due to the nature of plastic in general, it is important that you take steps to store your boat properly. You can store your kayak outside but it would be best if you kept it covered with a loose tarp to keep the sun off of it and remove the hatch covers to prevent excessive temperature extremes inside. Do not let your fibreglass kayak sit in the back yard full of rainwater. Fiberglass is porous and will absorb water adding substantial weight to the boat permanently! It is good to store your composite kayak with the rubber hatches loosened or removed to allow the storage compartments to “breathe”. A cockpit cover provides great protection to keep small animals from choosing their home inside your craft. Don’t forget to release the compartment straps to avoid unnecessary pressure on the gaskets.
The best places to hang your kayak are from the ceiling of a garage or under a veranda. However, you must suspend your kayak properly and never hang it from the toggles. Hang your kayak using straps positioned underneath the bulkheads which are the firmest parts of your kayak. For tandem kayaks, position a third strap at the centre of the craft. If you decide to hang the kayak from the ceiling, do not use the toggles. Hanging your boat from its grab loops or handles increases the likelihood that your kayak will experience warpage. This method is offered as a suggestion only.
Storage on saw horses
If you choose to store you kayak on sawhorses, use sawhorses with a soft covering or place foam blocks over any hard surface on which the kayak would rest.
Storage on foam blocks
If you store your kayak on foam blocks, lean it sideways along a wall or straight surface. For plastic kayaks, the blocks must be positioned under the bulkheads to avoid any deformation.
Because of their light weight and shape, kayaks are ideally suited for car-topping. But it involves more than just placing the kayak on the roof of your car and tying it down securely. Your primary concern in carrying your kayak is that it stays securely tied to the vehicle. As with storage, another concern in transporting your kayak should be potential distortion of the hull. Car-topping the kayak is best done with a quality roof rack specifically designed for attaching kayaks. The boat should also be tied to the vehicle as well as the rack by using its carrying toggles. Cinching down these bow and stern lines too tightly, however, will increase the likelihood of hull warpage, as will leaving the boat tied tightly in the sun.Tie appropriate knots! of use a camlock buckle if you are not expeienced with knots. Care should be taken to make sure that the kayak and racks are properly secured to your vehicles in order to avoid damage to your vehicle or kayak, or injury to other persons.
An unloaded solo kayak can be transported by the paddler. If you suffer from backaches or find your kayak too heavy, use a kayak cart at one end of the kayak. Grasp the toggle and pull it along behind you. Kayak carts are often collapsible for easy storage in your kayak before departure.
Vehicle with a roof rack
Upside down, right side up, on its side; there is no wrong way to transport a kayak. The only conditions are that the kayak be well secured, that nothing obstructs your field of vision and that the hull is not being deformed.
If your car is equipped with a roof rack:
- Position the foam protectors on the rack bars.
- Install the kayak.
- Use two straps and two cords to secure it in place.
- Slide the straps under the rack bars and over the kayak.
- Repeat, attach the buckle and pull tight.
- Attach the bow and stern ends using cords. Do not tighten excessively.
Several kayak support systems are offered on the market: cradle-shaped, J-shaped and others. Choose a system contoured to your kayak shape and that spreads weight evenly. The support bars of your rack should be positioned near the bulkheads or one third of the way from each end of the kayak.
If you are transporting your kayak upright or on its side, a cockpit cover could prevent rain and dirt from entering the craft. You may even save money on fuel because of decreased air turbulence in the cockpit.
The use of self-tightening straps is not recommended because it is hard to determine the amount of pressure applied to the kayak. Check with local authorities for information on the maximum length of craft that may be transported on a vehicle roof.
Loading your kayak for a trip
Whether for an expedition of a day or a week, it is important that you place your gear in dry bags. Use several small bags (20 L maximum) rather than one big one, because small bags are easier to store in the compartments and balance the load throughout, increasing kayak stability.
Balancing the load in a kayak is very important. Your kayak must not be heavier at the back than in the front. Store long, light objects such as tent poles and ground mattresses at the stern and bow of your kayak. Tie them together with pieces of rope; then you need only pull on the end of the rope to retrieve them. Place the heaviest bags as close as possible to the centre of your kayak in the compartment behind the paddler. In tandem kayaks, heavy objects can be placed in the centre compartment.
If you are leaving for several days, here are some helpful tricks:
- Separate you food into meals, for example, one meal per bag.
- When you load your kayak everything needed for your meal will be easily accessible because you will have placed it on top.
- On expeditions, share baggage evenly among the paddlers.
- Always try to carry the same baggage. Remember where bags are stored, making it easy for you to balance the load in your kayak every day and speed up the loading process.
Before setting off: checking your kayak…
Each time you use your kayak you should first check each of the following items:
- Visually inspect the deck and hull to ensure that your kayak is free from cracks or other apparent signs of damage. If you are on an expedition and notice a crack, fill it with chewing gum and cover it with a strip of duct tape. Such repairs are temporary, and you should have your kayak repaired properly when you return home.
- Ensure that the rudder or skeg is operating correctly and that the blade is in good shape.
- Ensure that sand and salt are not obstructing the mechanism.
- Make sure your steel cables are rust-free; if you have Spectra® ropes, check their condition.
- Make sure that pedal and cover straps are not worn or frayed. A spare cord can always provide a temporary fix.
- Check that straps properly close compartments and that rubber seals under the covers are clean and in good repair.
- Ensure that all screws are tight and that no o-rings are missing.
- Finally, and above all, enjoy your outing!
Before starting off, make sure that you release the shock cord securing your rudder in place.
And you’re off…
When the water is deep enough, lower the rudder (if you have one). Do this by grasping the cord attached to the rudder on the right. There are two knots in the cord, pull the knot furthest away forward. Bravo! Your rudder is now in the water.
Test the rudder by pressing lightly on the right pedal as you paddle. Your kayak should turn right. Now try a left turn. To track straight, position your feet equally.
Time to run ashore?
Don’t wait to run aground before raising your rudder. You may damage it. Position your feet equally, grasp the cord and pull the knot furthest away forward. This will retract the blade into its brace.
In tandem kayaks the paddler at the back controls the rudder.
Reminder: Reinstall the security shock cord on your rudder after your outing is over to prevent the blade from lifting during transportation.
With preventive and yearly maintenance your kayak will last through many years of hard use. Before heading out, look over all of the shock cord and static lines. If any are too loose or frayed, replace accordingly. Check to see that the footbraces adjust easily and aren’t jammed with sand. If they are, remove the pedals and use a small scrub brush and a garden hose to remove the grit. If you have a boat with a rudder or skeg, check to make sure that all the moving parts are not binding. Clean by scrubbing away grit and then by coating the parts with WD-40 or other silicone lubricant. Clean polyethylene with mild soap and water. Use 303 Protectant or a similar plastic protectant to guard against UV rays and to help your boat shine.
The following advice will allow you to maintain your kayak in good condition for years to come:
- Clean your kayak with fresh water and a mild soap after each outing (especially if you paddle in salt water or around beaches).
- Rinse the sliders, pedals, footrests and rudder pulley to remove salt and sand.
- Clean the rudder blade with fresh water to prevent salt from tarnishing the colour.
- Rinse the shock cords and compartment covers inside and out.
- Use Protector 303 to maintain the seals and rubber covers. Apply Protector 303 several times during the year.
- always rinse and dry the neoprene skirts covering the compartments to avoid damage by salt.
- Make sure your kayak is completely dry before storing it in a closed bag.
- On kayaks with a skeg, rinse the skeg box to remove any accumulated sand that may block the mechanism.
- Rinse the control knob on kayaks with skeg to avoid any accumulation of sand or salt.
- If any salt water has entered the cockpit, rinse your seat cover to prevent the salt from damaging the cover material.
- Loosen the cover straps to prevent compression of the rubber seals for long periods of time.
Maintenance includes regularly applying 303 Protectant to your rubber hatch covers, which helps maintain flexibility and watertightness.There may be times in the lifespan of your composite kayak that call for minor repair situations. Contact Rosco Canoes for more advice on your specific situation. Rosco Canoes uses an expensive, very tough gelcoat, but even the best gelcoat will crack under a direct impact or eventually scrape off of the keel area. Do not be alarmed if the gelcoat has scraped off on the keel: it is mainly cosmetic. Rosco Canoes sells a gelcoat repair kit with detailed step by step instructions on how to repair your kayak. In the event that your composite kayak suffers structural damage, this too can be repaired. You can purchase a fiberglass repair kit with detailed instructions. If your kayak has suffered major damage, you can have it repaired at a professional marine repairer or contact a specialist for a repair quote.
Make sure that you:
- Clean your kayak using mild soap and water.
- Check your rudder or skeg mechanism.
- Check your lines and steel rudder cables.
- Check the pedals and footrests to make sure they function properly.
- Check shock cords and replace them if necessary.
- Check the screws and o-rings.
- Check the silicone seals.
- Loosen the compartment covers to avoid compressing seals.
- Check the compartment straps.
- Inspect both the hull and deck and make any necessary repairs.
- Rinse the sliders, pedals, footrests and rudder pulley to remove salt and sand.
- Clean the rudder blade in fresh water to prevent salt from tarnishing its finish.
- Rinse the shock cords and compartment covers inside and out.
- Always rinse and dry the neoprene skirts covering compartments to avoid damage by salt.
- On kayaks with skeg, rinse the skeg box to remove any accumulation of sand that could block the mechanism.
- Rinse the control knob on kayaks with skeg to avoid accumulation of salt or sand.
- Apply a coat of Protector 303 to your kayak and gaskets.
- Make sure that your kayak is dry before packaging or placing it in a closed bag.
- Make sure that the storage space and method of storage used is adequate.
- Check your PFD (personal floatation device).
- Check your paddle: if it is a two-piece assembly, rinse and disassemble it for winter storage.
- Check your pump and paddle float.
- Clean and dry your floating line.
- Clean your wetsuit and other gear.
It is hard to avoid the appearance of scratches on the hull of your kayak. The question is whether they require special care!
Scratches need not be repaired unless some fibre is exposed. Superficial scratches will disappear with a coat of polish. However, deep scratches may be coated with Gelcoat Polyester paint the colour of your kayak. Contact Rosco Canoes for information on how to obtain the paint. After sanding and polishing, your kayak will look brand new.
Don’t worry: the plastic is quite thick. However, scratches are impossible to remove by sanding and polishing. If the hull of your kayak is deeply gouged or perforated, it must be welded with polyethylene. In such case, we recommend that you contact Rosco Canoes for advice.
Deformed plastic kayaks
Improper storage or transportation of a plastic boat can potentially distort the shape of the hull on your boat. If your kayak does become the victim of slight distortion, correction is a simple process. Brief exposure to the heat of the sun is often all it takes to restore the hull to its original shape. If that doesn’t work, the hull can usually be restored by applying heat to the outside of the boat with a hair dryer or other low-heat source such as a 75-watt light bulb. When the hull is pliable enough, it can be pushed back in shape by hand. Be careful not to overheat the hull as you might get burned or damage the hull. A weight can be placed inside the boat against the warped area to help maintain the shape of the hull as it cools. Although cooling normally occurs quickly, we recommend that you allow up to 24 hours to ensure that the process is completed. A kayak that is used in normal conditions will receive scratches, especially on the bottom of the hull. Scratches do not alter the boat’s structural integrity or navigational capabilities and should be of no concern.
Ropes and lines
Check if they are in good condition and if knots that hold them in place are tight.
Rudder or Skeg
If the blade of your rudder breaks, you can replace the blade without changing the entire system. The same applies to the pulley, blade holder and rudder support securing the rudder to the hull.
To answer this it would be beneficial to first describe the process of building a fiberglass kayak. The designer will first produce what is called a plug which is in essence a full size model of the finished kayak. The plug eventually gets “detailed” to a mirror finish before female molds of the deck, hull and cockpit rim are made. Even the smallest scratches left in the plug would show up in the mold and all future boats built from that mould. To build a new kayak from the female molds, gelcoat is sprayed or brushed inside the mould and let cure typically overnight. The next day layers of fiberglass and other fabrics are laminated inside the mould leaving the gelcoat mirror smooth as the outside finish. If someone were to attempt to re-gelcoat a kayak, they would first have to remove all fittings and lines, sand the entire surface to achieve a good mechanical bond and then spray the gelcoat through a special gun to a uniform thickness. Gelcoat is a heavy, catalyzed material that leaves an “orange-peel” texture when sprayed. This doesn’t matter inside the female mold while building a new boat (remember the inside of the female mould is mirror smooth) but would be very undesirable as the outside finish of the boat if sprayed on later. To get the boat smooth again would involve an unrealistic amount of labor and would add at least 5 pounds to the weight of the kayak! If you wish to repaint your kayak anyways, we suggest you contact a local boat repair shop where they will be able to apply marine coating. This paint is lighter and offers a glossy finish.