Kayak Maintenance

Kayaking Resources

Routine Maintenance Procedures

Kayaks generally do not need much maintenance, but a little bit will go a long way to enhance your pleasure in using the boat. It will also increase the longevity of its appearance and even its structure.

Cleaning the interior

Rinsing out or washing the interior (particularly the cockpit) to rid it of sand, food waste, beach scum and general debris is a good idea after each use and will prevent the growth of mold or other things that can "foul" the interior. Usually just a water rinse is sufficient. An easy way to accomplish this is to set the kayak upside down on saw horses and hose the interior through the cockpit. Excess water and dirt can simply run out of the cockpit. Use a damp cloth to wipe out the insides of your bulkheaded compartments.

Cleaning the Exterior

A water rinse is often sufficient. Water born scum can be removed with soap. Use a mild solvent like alcohol or naptha to remove stubborn stains. Avoid the use of harsh solvents like acetone, MEK or toluene on the outside of your kayak. If you need to use a strong solvent, dampen a rag and wipe quickly. Do not leave the rag in contact with the surface of the kayak. It may still dull the surface, especially on the Carbonlite material. Fiberglass can take quite a bit more of it.

How to repair leaks in your kayak:

Unless your kayak has a crack, leaks primarily occur in the following areas: seams, ends, hatch rims, bulkheads, skeg housings or fittings. Eddyline kayaks are all water tested before leaving the factory. However over time, leaks can develop from various sorts of stresses including freezing and thawing, shock, overtightening car tie downs, etc... Most leaks are easy to fix, the trick is finding them. Here are some suggestions.

On a dry day on the lawn or on sawhorses, put 3-5 gallons of water in each compartment (one at a time). Watching carefully, roll or lift the kayak to force the water over any suspect area and watch for where it runs or drips out. It is surprising how much water accumulates in a few hours with a drip. Also watch for the transfer of water from one compartment to another. This would indicate a bulkhead leak. Remember, the bulkheads are vented with a tiny home in the center.

Since a leak rarely means a structural problem, simple sealants like clear silicone are quite adequate for stopping them. Once you have identified a leak, press a very small amount of sealant into the area with a finger or rag. Be sure to wipe off the excess, you just want to seal the pore that is allowing water to pass. We prefer to do the sealing on the inside when you can reach the problem, otherwise apply the seal to the outside or both sides.

If your hatch rims leak, it is best to seal them from the underside. Spread a small amount of sealant like silicone into the gap between the rim edge and the kayak deck edge. This is an easy area to reach and will not affect the appearance of the kayak. Wipe off the excess.

(Night Hawk only)Seal the skeg housing from the outside of the kayak. Just inside the opening of the housing is the joint between the housing and the kayak hull. If you are unable to locate the specific area of the leak, seal around the perimeter of the housing by pressing silicone into the joint. Pay particular attention to the ends. Wipe off any excess.

On the Automobile

The family car offers some spectacular and subtle ways to destroy your kayak: The trailing bow/stern line.

This apparently harmless oversight can result in one of your more memorable driving experiences. It occurs when the bowline is run over by the wheel of the car. The effect of the sudden impact of the front section of your kayak onto the hood of your car - gives new meaning to the term V 8. The boat usually breaks in two just forward of the cockpit or across the roof rack bar.

AVOIDANCE: Don't leave trailing lines.

The flying brace of kayaks.

In this scenario, your roof load of kayaks may be noticed floating over a farmers fence or worse into oncoming traffic. This condition is usually the result of cheap roof racks or good quality roof racks, which loosen their grip either due to an unusually heavy load or the gradual working loose of screw-on parts.

AVOIDANCE: Buy reliable roof racks and check their adjustment regularly. Tie the boats down fore and aft.

Squish cracks in the mid-section.

These are fine hairline cracks, which appear on the sides of the kayak usually above or close to the roof rack bar. They have two common causes: cinching the boat to the roof racks too hard, and cinching the bow and stern so hard the hull is bent over the roof rack bar.

AVOIDANCE: Use a cradle and only cinch the bow and stern enough to prevent blow-away. Bow and stern lines may be attached to tow hooks or the bumper. A hot exhaust pipe can melt some rope materials.

Concertina stern

(sometimes known as 'involuntary window'). This affliction usually involves people with new double kayaks on top of small cars. It is the result of forgetting that you have eight feet overhanging at each end. Sometimes the result is a puckered, crumpled stern. Other times it can result in a hole in the supermarket wall you were backing up to or in the back of the camper in front of you at the lights. An interesting variation is the "parking lot crunch" which occurs when you forget you have anything on the roof at all as you enter your customary underground parking.

AVOIDANCE: Attach a hanging rag to both ends of the kayak to remind you of your new extremities.

Travelling With Kayaks

Once again the roof of your car is the area of greatest risk for your boat. Many evil spirits can be appeased by carrying the boat pointed forward with the rudder taped securely to the deck at the appropriate end of the vehicle. It is a pretty aerodynamic shape like this but it is wise to keep the speed below 100 km/hr and don't travel with a cockpit stuffed with your camping treasures or you may well end up leaving a trail from your home to your destination as one by one, the wind lifts them out and discards them.

Rainwater can be a problem when it collects in the cockpit and can damage the hull from sheer weight. Solve this problem by fitting a cockpit cover or even better; carry the kayak upside down during heavy rain.

If you have no alternative but to use a common carrier and don't have a hardened steel pipe in which to ship your boat, (some cretin is bound to impale your kayak with a forklift or load refrigerators on top of it) you might try reinforcing the deck with foam pillars, wrapping the boat in cardboard then plastic and finally constructing a crate around it.

Putting Your Kayak to Sleep

The second most common casualty time for kayaks is during storage. Frequently the offending element is water - both in its solid and liquid forms. All too often the kayak is left hanging beneath a sundeck or leaky garage. Water gradually trickles in and fills the boat. Damage then occurs with freezing or when the surprised owner releases the ends of the boat in the spring and six hundred pounds crashes onto his/her foot, exploding the seams if it landed flat or breaking it around the cockpit if one end hit first. Another casualty zone is the area beneath the eaves of the house. Snow falling from the roof, off trees, or in some places, just piling up to a significant depth can break the hull of a fibreglass kayak.

AVOIDANCE: Store the boat in a dry place and not under the edge of a roof.

Nursing Your Kayak

Most sea kayaks are fairly resistant to the elements and do not require a great deal of maintenance. The exception however are the rudder parts including cables and the moving parts in the rudder assembly. These should be kept cleaned on a regular basis. Flushing with fresh water is usually enough. Avoid using lubricants, as they tend to attract sand and cause major jamming action.

Fibreglass and Kevlar boats usually have a gelcoat layer, which protects the structurally significant reinforced fabric against damage from Ultra Violet rays. Plastic boats and the decks of most folding kayaks usually contain UV inhibitors, which will prolong the life of your kayak by a few years.

Scratches and those inevitable scars of memorable adventures are normal. If a gelcoat scratch is especially deep and you can see the hairs of the fibres sticking up then its time for a small gelcoat repair. These are easily done on a warm summer evening in the garage rather than the living room. Repair kits are available. Small scratches should be left untouched as a testament to your experiences. Cracks where you can see whiteness in the fibres on the inside of the kayak need to be patched on the inside. Duct tape can give a temporary reprieve in the field.

Plastic kayaks can be repaired quite easily. You can usually buy matching colored plastic sticks that can be melted into the scratch or tear. After the plastic has hardened, you just have to sand it smooth.

Folding Kayaks

Folding boats need special care. In particular sand can be destructive to joints and ribs. It lies between the skin and the frame and abrades the protective surfaces allowing water to enter the wood or for electrolysis access the aluminium.

Dragging is not done with folding kayaks. Their Hypalon hulls are quickly destroyed by sharp rocks and barnacles. They must be dried thoroughly before being stored for more than a few days and ideally they should be powdered lightly with French chalk when they are folded away at the end of each season.

Using Your Friendly Kayak

Your kayak does not like:
Being dragged over sharp rocks (please!)
Being dropped
Sand on your feet (it clogs the rudder controls)
Being tied along side rough objects in waves
Being towed at speed by power boats
Being stored in strong sunshine all summer.

Your kayak likes:

Being washed down with clean water after use
Being partly unloaded before you carry it
Sitting in a snug cradle on your car
You remembering to tie it down on the roof of your car
Being locked up when you park in sleazy streets on dark nights
Being stored in a secure dry place
Having an endearing name