2002 Bell Northstar BlackGold Restoration Project

This was originally chronicled in a series of posts on BWCA.com. Here’s a link to the original thread, which has value for anyone considering such an undertaking, especially because of the good feedback I received along the way from people who have been around this block once or twice or more.

I sourced my materials and/or knowledge from the following providers, and my thanks go out to them for answering the many questions I had leading up to purchase or along the way.

  • Gunwales, thwarts, carry yoke, decks, and grab handles came from Ed’s Canoe in Vermont. Ed’s was the original supplier of these items when Bell Canoe Works still existed. The ordering process was smooth and my items arrived in a funny shaped lump of cardboard and wrapping plastic about a week after order. The staff was easy to work with and they were so kind as to cove the edges of the decks so they mate into the inwales.
  • Contour seats, hanger trusses plus related attachment hardware, and tug eyes came from Dennis at Northwest Canoe in Minneapolis. If you’re ever in the Twin Cities you should go check out his shop! Thanks for holding your last pair of ash caned contour seats of the season for me, and I’m especially grateful for the tug eyes and installation advice!
  • Stainless steel screws for the gunwales and decks came from my local Menards.
  • Kevlar, s-glass fiberglass, and peelply fabrics, plus cutting tools and West Systems 105-A/206-A resin/hardener quart kit with measuring pumps came from Sweet Composites.
  • System Three Clear Coat 1-quart resin & hardener kit, plus a digital scale for measuring it out were obtained from Amazon. Their price was average, but free Prime shipping edged out other sources for total cost.
  • Bear Paulsen at Northstar Canoes was instrumental with providing advice on how to go about the repairs, what order to attempt them in, and other specifics regarding typical lay-up and construction of Bell canoes.
  • The contributors to my thread on bwca.com also provided some helpful advice and encouragement; especially pblanc who provided very detailed ideas to follow and directed me to similar projects he had undertaken, and ozarkpaddler who asked pblanc to provide his suggestions.

Okay…. time to get down to it.

6/8/2017 – Today while cruising the Internet at work I came across an ad on Facebook marketplace for a canoe not too far from where I work. I left early to go see it in person & possibly come home with a diamond in the rough.

She’s been sitting unused in a backyard for several years….. not certain on exactly how long but the registration sticker expired a decade ago. The wood has rotten away – the seats & hangers, handles, thwarts, all of it. At some point, maybe the reason why it got parked and abandoned, a limb fell on it and bent the port gunwale by the bow seat and also put a pretty severe looking crease into the laminate. After it had been sitting some idiot plunked it with a pellet gun and put a pea-sized hole completely thru the hull also near the crease. No doubt about it she’s a fixer upper but am I not too far off in my belief that it looks worse than it is? Some patch and reinforcement work, new gunwales, seats, and thwarts? Sand & refinish the hull in some fashion to remove oxidation and broken down resins from UV?

Canoe came out of the factory in 2002.

Here’s some photos of it as it was received by me:

There are also lots of spiderweb type cracks all along the sides and bottom without any other apparent damage.

The skin seems very UV oxidized as well. I hit a test spot with some Windex to cut thru some of the grime of being outside for so long and was heartened to see the blackgold pattern emerge before fading a bit once the ammonia evaporated off – 

Did I get more than I can handle? I’ve never done fiberglass work before, although it seems straightforward.

A few days later and I’ve had a chance to give the hull it’s first real bath with a scrubber and soapy water. It’s amazing how much better the hull looks when it’s wet, but as it dries it goes back to the same dull finish.

I got a response from Bear @ Northstar, the old Bell gunwales are the same profile as what they’re currently using. Online, pblanc pointed out it will be more cost effective to drive round trip to MN to get them if I decide to go the Aluminum route due to gunwales having to ship via truck and not by UPS/FedEx.

Bear’s advice is to rerail the boat first, then fix the structural repairs on the inside, and then perform any gelcoat repairs as necessary.

A question I posed to people following along on the thread – By using S-Glass on the outside on the holes or on the horizontal crease, is this effectively taking the place of the gelcoat? I’ll remove gel as necessary to get to the underlying fabric, apply epoxy, apply patch and ensure it’s completely wet out, and then once cured fair it to blend into the hull? The penetrating epoxy would be last then, once the hull has been completely sanded and prepped, to apply a consistent finish to the whole surface?

What’s a good source for fabrics? So far US Composites in Florida or Jamestown Distributors in Rhode Island seem to have what I need. It’d be awesome if I could find the same fabric as what Bell used for the interior so the patch is less obvious but so far no luck. I think I’ll need more Aramid and ‘glass than what comes in the repair kits.

6/22/2017 – Leaning towards getting a knockdown kit now, not sure from which of the two leading suppliers. Still trying to figure out best pricing. If I went aluminum, the cost of materials plus roundtrip fuel and meals/overnight in the TC likely negate any savings found in the lower cost of aluminum.

Probably will start on this project in earnest in August or September, depending on how the summer unfolds. Maybe sooner if I get the boat over to the workshop and obtain the gunwales. How easily will the clear gelcoat come off where it hasn’t been obviously delaminated? Is this hand sanding territory, random orbital, or a combination of both or perhaps some other tool?

8/3/2017 – I ordered & obtained the gunwales, decks, and thwarts from Ed’s. It took about 10 days from when I placed the order to when I received it. Ed’s was kind enough to put a kerf on the gunwale and also put a cove into the decks so they mate with the gunwale profile. No other progress than getting the main wood components. I’ll order seats once the hull repairs are completed.

Here’s some photos:

Plans are to finish measurements tonight and maybe get the gunwales off so I can assess any hidden damage, then make plans for the new gunwale installation.

Question regarding the kerf – I know its my choice if I want the gunwale w/the kerf as the inwale or the outwale. My plan was to have it be the inwale so when drilling holes for the thwarts and seats I would be going through one solid piece instead of the thin kerf edge and then the other piece of the gunwale. Just seems safer for that edge and easier to finish up in the stem that way.
What would you do?

8/7/2017 – Got a little work done over the weekend, mostly epoxying the gunwale pieces together, sanding off cured resin from the gunwales, and trying to lay things out to get a sense of how they’re going to go on the boat.

I guess the only real difference of doing it kerf inwale vs outwale is the 1/8″ that’s lost due to the kerf. Ultimately I believe my thinking has changed and I’ll install them as indicated by Ed’s, with the kerf on the outwale so the inwale is full width.

My decks will be inset as well, I bought Bell decks from Ed’s and they were nice enough to cove them to fit the gunwale profile. My intention is to just hold the decks in place via screws…. I plan to finish the gunwales and decks with the same oil I used on the cherry woodwork for my Spirit II, which is a gunstock oil called Tru Oil. Open to suggestions including spar varnish as I know I’ll be applying a coat or three to the exterior when done. I’ve already committed to occasional removal & refinishing of the hidden sides on the Spirit given my use of oil there.

My experience with joining the knock down gunwale segments wasn’t as great as I would have hoped. I really like the idea of the countersunk screws for providing a mechanical bond in addition to the chemical bond of the epoxy but I think they make the screw fitting before cutting their shiplap joint. The instructions make it clear that material is lost due to the blade, however when the gunwales are joined there’s a definite gap at the start and ends of the joints. I should have taken a little longer and tried to accommodate better for this, however I got a little excited about getting it done and went for it. For the record, I’m not unhappy with how they turned out, however I can see where I should have used a little better attention to detail. I mixed the entire batch of epoxy in a cup, according to the directions I should have had 30 minutes of pot life but after 15 minutes the cup was starting to get hot and the epoxy in the cup was turning to gel. Did I do something wrong here? I mixed thoroughly, scraping the sides and bottom with a plastic epoxy stick. When I was done mixing there were a fair amount of bubbles in the cup, maybe I mixed it too much? Need to go back and reread the Epoxy Book maybe…
In the end I was only able to get half the joints done using the epoxy sent by Ed’s. I would have had enough had the epoxy not kicked early. Luckily I had some West 105/205 packets and mixed up a batch in a clean yogurt container. The West is thinner than what Ed’s sent, and mindful of the 10 minute pot life I got to work on the rest of the joints and finished with a couple minutes to spare.

Before I get to photos, how would folks suggest filling the gaps or otherwise smoothing out the inconsistencies? My thoughts are a specialty wood filler from a place like Rockler or Woodcraft that’s made with ash flour or maybe trying to make my own… On hand right now I have an obscene amount of West System microballoons, a takeout pizza size cup of West System fairing compound, and the aforementioned West 105/205 packets from a fiberglass boat repair kit I bought last year. I also have a foot “extra” on each set of gunwales so I could sand off one of the ends and mix that in with epoxy too.

How much should I care about the scarf joints lining up with seat or thwart bolt holes? I had what I thought was a nice compromise with how the top edges of the thwarts turned out but then when I started measuring distances from center I started to get concerned about the back bolts for the bow seat essentially passing through the center of the joint.
I saw some discussion on another paddling board that if the joints were properly done that it shouldn’t matter, as the resulting joint would be stronger than the surrounding natural pieces. I just want to make sure I’m not setting a future bow paddler up for a wild ride.

Ok, some progress photos…

8/8/2017 – If I can’t avoid going thru a scarf I’m certainly going to ensure I’m missing one of the screws. On the other hand, it’s only about 3″ between the screws buried in the scarf and if I line them up like how I’d like then the screws will be less than 2″ apart from each other. Pretty narrow field to try to fit not only bolts for seats or thwarts, but also for trying to drive screws for the gunwales.

I will probably end up dry fitting the inwales and measuring to ensure everything is well spaced.

Only progress last night was I cut the yoke, front thwart, and kneeling thwart. Handles will be cut after the gunwales are done and decks are installed. I used a piece of paper under the sawhorse to collect the sawdust to mix into a small batch of epoxy for gap filling and fairing.

8/14/2017 – Decided to mix up some epoxy along with colloidal silica and ash sawdust I gathered the other night when cutting the yoke and thwarts to size, and use it to fill gaps in the gunwale joints that were the result of missing material and to fair the gunwales. The sawdust was screened through a piece of window screen to get rid of any bigger pieces. Most passed through, however, as I used a fine toothed saw to make the cuts. As pblanc mentioned in one of his posts, I got hotspots by the joints where there’s a noticeable dip or bump. Happy to say that for the most part I was able to smooth these spots out. It’s not perfect, but neither is the canoe. 

The fairing was done in two batches… First I did the side that would be sandwiched to the hull. This was probably my better out of the two in terms of epoxy mix – the final product was about the color and texture of creamy peanut butter that had been warmed up slightly. Naturally, I did not get any photos of this. 🙂
The 2nd batch was applied to the visible edges of the gunwales, again only on and near the joints to fair the opposing sides. This batch was a little more textured, I think my confidence on how the first batch turned out lead me to mix in too much sawdust. Of course, I did get a photo of this.

That’s about where progress will stay for the rest of this month. I plan to get another 2 coats of oil on the rails and at least the final coat will be wet sanded. The decks are at least a couple coats of oil behind everything else but will be caught up by the time installation happens. Turns out the thwarts use the same bullnose as the gunwales, so I was able to turn a scrap piece into the perfect tool to sand the cove on the decks.

Looks like I might need to shape the tops of the decks to mate to the gunwales… When dry fit against the gunwales I see that they’ll either sit below the level of the gunwales or slightly proud. Looking at factory decks it seems like they’re arched. What kind of tool would I use for that, a plane of some kind?

9/13/2017 – One month later and my package containing the fabric & resin from Sweet Composites has just arrived. I didn’t order it a month ago, in fact I think I called & talked to Jennifer last Thursday. Anyhow, the delay is mine and life has been doing a good job of getting in the way in the last month.

Only progress on the boat is the other night I finally found some time around 11PM to remove the “good” side gunwale and fit the new rails to that side. Nothing’s been attached yet as the hull was pretty filthy underneath the aluminum and I needed to go out and get a new #8 countersink. Plus, I really wanted to get a good idea of where the scarf joints matched up to where seats will need to be attached. The good news is that it seems that I can avoid having the seats directly on an inwale scarf, but it might mean the front thwart will need to bolt thru it or the thwart will need to move fore a little. Guess time will tell once I get this side mounted and then focus on the other side.

One thing that seems to have happened when I was getting the gunwale clamped is that the very ends of two of the scarfs have opened ever so slightly… No more than the width of a fingernail if I allow it to open up. Curious what, if anything, I should do to try to reglue or reinforce those spots.

One can never have too many clamps when putting new rails on a canoe.

10/3/2017 – Some progress on the boat. I’ve got one side permanently mounted and am starting on the damaged side of the canoe.

For mounting the gunwales I decided to line up the scarfs like this. I like the symmetry but I hope it doesn’t become a structural problem down the road.

I used tape on the top of the scarfs to mark the locations of the buried screws, plus used tape on the face of the inwale to mark where the gunwale screws should go in. Spacing is 4-6″ depending on location or proximity to seats, thwarts, or scarfs. 

Specs for the canoe state the gunwale width is 31″, which is also about the length of the old rotted out portage yoke. I clamped a bar to where the yoke should go and put the marks on the seam between the inwale and the outwale… roughly even with the hull edge. Am I jacking the boat out ~1.5″ too far, and will it have an impact? I have to push the hull out about 2″ from where it wants to be with no bar.

When I had the gunwale on with only spring clamps I could see where PBlanc referred to as hot spots. I’m happy that after using bar clamps while drilling & screwing the wales together they seem to have disappeared.

I had my teenager help me turn the canoe around so I could start working on the damaged side. No photos of taking the old rails off but this side went much faster than the other, with my new knowledge about how they were mounted. Once I had the interior rail free the outer easily came off. The best part is that the hull mostly sprung back into shape! The chines seem like they’re no longer deflected, however there’s a bit of twisting damage from the tree to the very top edge of the hull & extending down the outside 3-4 inches.

So, my plan of attack for this spot is probably an s-glass patch that wraps around the top. Should I go to the effort of clamping a couple paint sticks or very rigid but flexible material wrapped in plastic along the hull edge to try to fair out that ripple while the epoxy is curing? I kinda get a sense I should but wanted to know what others think first.

When I took off the damaged gunwales I couldn’t resist doing a dry fitting of the new gunwales. I think the side looks very good other than the surface and bit of structural damage, and the gunwales do a good job of pulling the side into shape.

Hope to get going on the edge repair soon so I can get the canoe over to the winter workshop for the hull repairs. My wife would like her parking spot in the garage back before the snow flies. =)

10/5/2017 – In case someone finds this in the future with the same question, the spacer bar should be for the width of the molded hull. With different gunwale options available the “gunwale width” is really the width of the hull not including the outwale.

Source: This post plus others once I came across the term “molded hull.”

No photos, but I have started prepping the hull for the composite repair necessary before I can finish the new gunwales. I have sanded the exterior to the point where the weave of the carbon layer is starting to be exposed & the dust is taking on a grey color. I’m going to finish sanding the area tonight to get the weave uniformly exposed and then start planning my patch. I’m thinking I will do a kevlar patch on the inside, approximately 7×3 in size, and then cover that and wrap over & down the front with an s-glass patch approximately 9×7 in size. I have some left over 8′ cherry sticks from redoing the gunwales on my Spirit last year that I’ll plastic wrap and temporarily clamp to the hull so the cured repair will hopefully get rid of the wave where the hull got twisted. It shouldn’t add much to the thickness at that spot so the rabbit on the gunwales still closes up.

10/6/2017 – Couple quick shots before I head out for the weekend, so no more work until Sunday evening at the latest.

Sanded the clear coat off more last night, for the most part I’m down to the hybrid fabric as the sanding dust is taking on a uniform slate grey color. I’m afraid to sand much more as I don’t want to completely take off the carbon layer as seen by the rivet hole near the hull edge.

My plan is to mock up the patches with some paper to verify fit, cut out, and maybe epoxy on Monday at the earliest.

10/12/2017 – Trial by fire time.

Decided I had adequately sanded thru the gelcoat and had exposed a mostly uniform checkerboard pattern of carbon weave. At this point my sanding dust was the color of graphite dust, maybe a few shades lighter.

I made a template out of construction paper and fit it to the side. Originally I was going to do kevlar covered with an s-glass layer on top and wrapping over the top edge and going down the front. Decided that the second layer on the inside would be overkill and instead wrapped the top 3/4″ of the fiberglass from the front over the top edge and slightly overlapping the kevlar patch. This part will be under the gunwales when it’s finished so any imperfections will be hidden.

With my plan in mind I set about tracing my patches onto the fabric with a sharpie and then cut them out. After masking boundaries with tape I went about getting the resin & hardener mated to their pumps, and mixed up a 3oz batch of epoxy. Later I’ll find out this was probably double the amount I actually needed. Ah well, learning curve… 

I wet out the inside first since the kevlar patch was to be placed first. After letting it sit for a minute or two I placed the patch and got it nice & wet. Satisfied for now, I wet the outside of the hull and placed the fiberglass. I used a piece of peel ply, working from the bottom of the outside patch upwards, to wrap the fiberglass over the top edge and over the edge of the kevlar patch, and then down the kevlar patch. This worked for the most part, but it was a balance between tension on the peel ply to keep the top down and having it pull away from the hull because of the tension. Once I felt it was all well wet out and excess had been removed, I took some 3/4″ cherry sticks that I had left from last year’s canoe project, wrapped them in saran wrap, and clamped evenly to the canoe so it covered the patch and extended a couple feet past the repair site in either direction. 

I left this all to sit about 20 hours before I had another block of free time to see how it set up. With the temporary gunwale off I could see that the edge is much more in line with the rest of the hull edge, and it’s significantly more firm than before the patch.

I have to fill a couple air bubbles that were introduced when I clamped on the gunwales plus fill the weave on the outside. I was a little heavy handed with the epoxy in a few spots so I have a some ridging on the edges or higher spots on the patches…. mostly on the outside. On the inside I have some thick epoxy on the bottom edge, far away from the patch, and that will get blended into the longer patch that will run parallel to the water line.

Still hoping to get the gunwales done by the end of the month so I can move the boat to the heated winter workshop.

11/13/2017 – It’s been a month or so since my last update, and it will probably be another month before I’m able to make any more progress except further finishing the woodwork.

Finished getting the gunwales on happy to say that process went easily enough and was aided by a new Li-Ion drill and impact wrench. Having experience with re-railing my Spirit II in the spring of 2016 was also valuable. I made a couple goofs along the way, most notably in joining the two sides at the bow. I’m not sure yet what, if anything, to do about the gaps on the ends of the gunwales. I did keep a baggie of sifted sawdust in case I decide to make some thickened epoxy and use it to fill gaps.

I followed a 6″ screw spacing for probably half the length of the rails, with 4″ spacing in the area of the scarf joints, extending to past the seat in the bow. Maybe a little over built but was hoping the end result was spreading the load over a greater area. Decks have been dry fit and go in nicely when coaxed with a rubber mallet. The bow and stern screws were driven at an angle and will be replaced with longer ones when the decks are permanently mounted. I don’t think I’ll use any epoxy to secure the decks, only 4 screws on both sides.

While in MSP recently for work I stopped by NW Canoe to get seats and some hardware. Dennis was happy to talk about the North Canoe he’s been working on this year and gave some advice for my repairs. 

I got the canoe over to the winter workshop last weekend, which made my wife happy as now she can park in the garage again. Bonus is that the space is heated, and even though the thermostat is kept low it’s warm enough for 105/206 to cure. I just have to make plans now when to go work on the boat versus being able to walk out to the garage for a couple hours here or there.

Before loading the canoe onto the car I weighed it at about 54lbs. I was expecting less, based on Bell’s specs but maybe the difference is a combination of material change and the extra screws plus the contour seats?

Here’s some progress shots.

Composite repairs. Single layer kevlar patch inside and a single layer of ‘glass on the outside.

Composite repairs. Single layer kevlar patch inside and a single layer of ‘glass on the outside.

A view from along the side. After some blending sanding on the edges it looks alright!

A view of the stern with gunwales installed & the deck dry fit into place. The gunwale ends need to be trimmed, as the finished ends are more blunt and rounded.

Looking towards the bow. The kneeling thwart, carry yoke, and front thwart have been fitted & installed.

I used the bat or a care bear I found in the garage as a safety cap for whichever end of the canoe was facing the garage opening. I didn’t want anyone poking themselves on the sharp edges or possibly hurting the finished ends of the gunwales…..

Here’s a couple other canoe porn shots out in the yard, with all the furniture installed. At this point if it weren’t for the holes in the floor and the creased side it would be paddleable but there’s still so much work to go! The blue painter’s tape on the decks is being used as a rub guard for use with the sander… I’m trying to replicate how Bell shaped their decks to blend into the gunwales. It’s early, but I think it will work ok.

I have a new theory on how the holes got put into the hull… The guy I bought the canoe from stated that someone plunked the hull with a pellet gun. I think that was just what he said to explain the holes, but in reality I think what actually happened is that when the side got crushed it drove the seat hanger bolts into & thru the hull. The white dot is towards the bow stem and it is near the end of the stress mark on the hull. The thru and thru hole is actually a little oval-shaped and is closer to the center of impact, which was right at the bow thwart. This seems much more plausible to me than “some kid shot it with a pellet gun.” The bolt that went thru the hull ultimately was bent into a Z shape. Imagine the forces needed to not only drive a blunt tipped object completely thru the hull but then also to deform it in two different places so sharply!

I brought the canoe & my supplies over to the winter workshop. Here she rests until I can come back to continue working on the repairs…..

11/14/2017 – I reached to Northstar for advice on patching the holes. I’ve had several different thoughts on how to go about it based on advice received so far. My original plan was to do two layers inside and a layer of glass on the outside, but then I got to thinking that perhaps I should build it back up with as many layers as in the original layup. Northstar’s suggestion was to do a single layer patch on the inside and then fill the hole with epoxy or gelcoat since it’s not so much of a structural problem. 
I might go somewhere in between by putting a barrier on the underside of the hull at the hole (plastic held in place by tape) and then filling from the outside in with a couple pieces of glass for sandability, topped by a round kevlar patch. The outside might get additional work before I roll on the finish epoxy coats. The pieces of glass will be small, probably pea-sized, and the interior kevlar will be approximately the size of a half dollar.
The other hole which never penetrated the hull will just get an interior patch and then a fiberglass patch on the outside. The extent of the visible damage outside is not much more than spider webs in the gel.

One thing that I’ve noticed when cleaning up spots inside the hull is spots that have been hit with epoxy either via accidental drips or where I patched under the gunwales where the fabric color came back… The weave that previously looked like a sand & light red checkerboard now looks more like butterscotch and black squares. I wasn’t planning on doing an epoxy coat inside, but what about varnish? What do other folks do with their boats?
You can see what I’m talking about with the color difference a few posts up where I shared a photo of the patch under the gunwales.

12/4/2017 – Had some time to get over to the shop this weekend and put a few hours in. Big psychological hurdle has been overcome, the holes in the hull have been patched! In my emails with Northstar, Bear had suggested simply putting a fiberglass patch on the inside and then fill from the outside in with epoxy. His point was it’s not a structural issue, just a couple holes.

Armed with this advice, I took to knocking off all the loose gelcoat around the holes, then I prepped some circles of plastic to tape to the outside of the hull to act as a dam. The forward most hole, which wasn’t even a hole, got a kevlar patch on the inside. The other hole, the one going clear thru the hull, got some cut up s-glass strands wadded up and jammed into the hole then I liberally wet out / filled the hole with resin. Once the glass was nice and wet I took another kevlar patch and laid it over. Both patches got topped with a piece of peel ply & the whole affair smoothed & squeegied. The peel ply patches this time around looked wet & translucent but not shiny, which I believe I read somewhere in my research was what one’s trying for when using it.

While at the shop I also gave the undersides of the decks and all the cut ends of the thwarts & seats a good sanding with 120 grit on the orbital before coating with oil. The walnut looks really nice when oiled but it’s going to take several coats because when the excess is wiped some of the figuring disappears.

Came back after 16 hours or so of cure time and pulled off the peel ply and the tape patches on the outside of the hull. I don’t think I could have asked for better on the through and through patch, except maybe I could have colored the epoxy with some graphite as the butterscotch of the kevlar transmits pretty well. Ah well, nobody’s going to see it from that perspective except when its on the car. =)
Also no epoxy bled through the first spot to the temporary patch on the outside of the hull so I will take that as a good sign. There was no visible damage to the fibers beyond the top layer on the inside. The outside was just missing gel at the impact site, the carbon looked ok.

Next up, probably during Christmas break, is getting the rails uniformly sanded and oiled and then attaching the decks. I might get to doing the long patch on the port side inside to reinforce where it was crushed…. Or that might be a January thing. Hoping I might get her out for a paddle in February.

2/22/2018 – I was able to get over to the workshop a couple times and put some time in on the boat this month. Things are going well! 
Super Bowl Sunday I got the interior two layer patch installed. I think I ended up using about 7 pumps of resin & hardener mixed in a couple batches to completely wet out the patches. It used more than I thought it might. Something to keep in mind for when I go to do the exterior patches, although I suspect it’ll end up being less than that amount since the exterior patch doesn’t look to be quite as large as the interior one. 

After I applied the patches I decided to take a look at the underside & to my surprise I found that the laminate was compromised to the point where resin was soaking thru the hull to the exterior in a couple spots. I slapped a piece of plastic & taped it securely to the hull in the spot it was soaking through the most. No picture of the plastic here, just of the resin leaching thru the laminate. It was really flexible in this spot.

Peel ply is an interesting thing to work with. Not sure which I prefer, the peel ply or using some kind of plastic wrap…. I guess it’s probably situational, will I be putting more layers on top or is this the top coat? The peel ply leaves a subtly rough, almost sandpapery kind of texture. Plastic leaves it as smooth as you can get the plastic to sit. I also had some ridges of epoxy get accidentally introduced, mostly near the gunwale but also beyond the patch where the epoxy abruptly ended. Also in a couple spots when I pulled off the peel ply it looks like it pulled some cured resin up with it. Perhaps these were places that were either starved or maybe my surface prep wasn’t to snuff in these spots? I came back about 48 hours after applying the patches to remove the peel ply.

When I came back a week or two later to work again I used plastic wrap to cover the epoxy. Once I got it to stop sticking to itself it worked well for being able to see & move the resin around. I had a bright idea to run a long strip of tape down the chine to try to hold the plastic wrap down, and in the end the tension caused it to lift the plastic from the hull. I was able to quickly get the tape detached from the hull so the plastic sat back down…. then the endless smoothing started. 

Along the way I also had some extra resin so I used it to finish filling the starboard side places where there’s missing gelcoat and to top off the filled hole for my wayward deck screw. I’m happy with the result of this & the hull feels fair to my hand.

Did not get any photos the next day when I came back to remove the plastic but I’m generally happy with how it turned out. There are some bumps from wrinkles in the plastic which will need to be knocked down, but I think I’m ready to move on to the exterior repairs now.

One other thing, I have a scarf joint that was ever so slightly open towards the end. I ran some sandpaper in it to clean out old glue and worked some Titebond III into the joint, then clamped & left it to dry.

Hoping I can get back to the workshop maybe this weekend to finish prepping for the exterior patch. I think I’m about ready. Looking to be a thin strip maybe 2″ wide towards the bow and widening out to 4″ right behind the seat which is where the point of impact was. I also have a 2 layer patch near that which is where I sanded a little too deeply and removed a teardrop shape area of the carbon.

Still on track I think for getting her on the water in April!

Oh, and the patched area of the hull is waaaaaaaaay stiffer than anywhere else along either side. There aren’t any other mushy spots, but while I can get a little bit of deflection when pressing on unpatched areas, I can’t even get the patched area to budge.

5/6/2018 – Over the past couple months since my last post in this thread I’ve applied several coats of oil to the woodwork, worked in epoxy patches on a few different parts of the hull to fill missing gelcoat, washed, sanded, and washed the hull again, then sanded a little more, and washed it a few additional times. Finally, after another wash/wipe dry cycle I applied two coats of System Three Clear Coat to the exterior over 24 hours. I contacted System Three and that was their recommendation for how long to wait between coats. I’ll go back tomorrow evening to remove tape from the gunwales and then wait until next weekend before really handling the boat. System Three states 72 hours for full cure, and this would be more like 144 hours.

I do intend on brushing or maybe rolling on some spar varnish to inhibit UV, however I was hoping to have the boat ready for the Des Plaines marathon which is two weeks from today. So I’d have to wash it to get rid of whatever gunk gets picked up on the river.

My intention is to hopefully get it out for a test drive sometime in the week before the marathon and worst case my fallback boat is my Spirit II.

This process has gone on a little longer than I thought it would, however I’m pretty happy with the result. Yes, there is a sag or two in the clear coat and bubbles or other surface imperfections. It’s all a learning process and future work I hope continues to build upon the experience gained from this. I am very happy to say that the patch on the exterior is fair to the touch and blends in with the surrounding hull. 

Sorry for the strangely oriented photos. I’ll try to fix that later when I have another chance to come back to the site.