Just like a car, your kayak needs regular service. Get into the habit of looking over the entire kayak at regular intervals to detect damage and wear early.
In this post, My has summarized some tips and tricks on how to look after and take care of your kayak.
Keep the kayak clean
Keeping your kayak clean is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to extend its life.
Salt water accelerates wear and corrodes metal parts. Stainless metals used in kayaks are resistant to rust, but not 100%. Crystallized salt in the kayak's various moving parts and lines also accelerates wear.
Sand, dirt and gravel like to get stuck in the moving parts of your kayak, it makes them stiff and increases the wear and tear on them. Inside the kayak, e.g. under your heels when you sit and paddle, the wear and tear increases significantly if you have a salty and dirty kayak. If the kayak is worn, the risk of cracks increases when the kayak flexes or receives shocks.
Rinse off your feet and shoes before getting into the kayak and wash the kayak with fresh water, both inside and out, after use in salt water. Be extra careful with the skeg box, the rudder, the hatches and the pedals.
The skeg is the kayak's drama queen and needs some love to function properly.
The skeg is a fin that you fold out from under the kayak to prevent weathercocking. To learn about the function of the skeg while paddling, read Emil's blog post here!
To learn about the mechanics, continue reading.
There are different types of skegs that work in slightly different ways, the most common is a wire skeg and we will talk about that in this post. The skeg fin is the actual fin you can see under the boat, when it is retracted it is inside the skeg box.
From the fin there is a wire that leads to the skeg control unit which is within reach of the cockpit. If you open the aft bulkhead, you can see the skeg box from the inside and the skeg tube that protects the wire between the box and the control unit. At the top of the fin there is a small hole, where you can tie a thin rope to make it easier when the fin gets stuck inside the skeg box.
In addition to keeping all parts of the skeg clear of gravel, sand and dirt, it is also good to think about the following in order for your skeg to function as well as possible.
Avoid dragging the boat, especially on soft sandy beaches.
Pull up the skeg when paddling in shallow water or going ashore.
Sometimes use silicone spray on the moving parts after washing
Test the skeg with the contrul unit at the start of the trip, if it doesn't move, have a friend pull the fin down into the blade or go ashore to check it isn't stuck. NEVER try to force the skeg down with the control unit.
Be careful with the skeg control unit when getting in and out of the kayak, doing a buddy rescue or loading the kayak.
Troubleshoot the skeg
The most common problem with the skeg is that it gets stuck up. Never force the skeg down with the control unit as this can make an easily solved problem worse.
- Start by cleaning the skeg box around the skeg and pull it out manually by pulling the fin. Slide the skeg in and out a couple of times and then test the control unit again.
- Lubricate the moving parts with silicone spray. Spray sparingly on the control unit and into the skeg box where the wire enters the kayak. Slide the skeg in and out a couple of times and test the control unit again.
- The skeg tube is the pipe that runs from the skeg box in the aft to the control unit by the cockpit. Open all hatches and inspect the tube to make sure it is complete and runs straight and flush with the kayak. In the aft bulkhead it must be attached to the skeg box and in the cockpit it must be attached to the control. If the skeg tube is loose or crooked, it can affect the function of the skeg.
- If steps 1, 2 & 3 do not produce results, we now begin to suspect that the wire is broken. It can be caused by a collision with the skeg or when trying to force the skeg down with the control unit. In order to access the wire, you need to remove the control unit. Unscrew the screws and carefully pry off the small plastic caps. Unscrew the adjuster and manually pull out the fin as far as it will go. Unhook the fin and pull out the wire. The wire must be straight - if it is "kinked" and has a strong bend, it needs to be replaced. Contact us for spare parts.
Hatches and cargo
The hatches and pack spaces in your kayak are the reason it doesn't sink when it capsizes, so hatches and bulkheads are worth checking even if you're not paddling with a packed kayak.
When packing your kayak, be careful not to damage/clamp rudder or skeg tubes, chafe the inside of the hull or bulkheads. Pack the kayak evenly and not excessively heavy, this can lead to different/worse or dangerous water characteristics and potentially deform the kayak.
If the hatches are difficult to get on or are not completely tight, wipe them clean of grit, sand and dirt and spray them with a little 303 aerospace protectant.
Composite kayaks can be built from a variety of materials. What all composites have in common is the combination of a fiber and a matrix material, the result is a material that is light and strong.
Traditionally fiberglass is used as reinforcement and polyester as matrix material but there are many different options to give the laminate different properties. Alternatives for fibers are carbon fiber, aramid, flax fiber, hemp and jute and for the matrix material the most common is polyester, vinylester or epoxy. On a daily basis, you don't need to know what your kayak is made of, but should an accident happen, it's good to know so that the repair can be done with the right tools.
The outermost layer of the kayak is gelcoat and over time it will become scratched and worn. A completely unscratched kayak is an unloved kayak and as long as the scratches are not very deep it does not affect the function.
Composite kayaks can withstand more damage than many people think and, should it be necessary, most things can be repaired. The earlier a damage is detected, the easier it will be to fix it. I recommend regularly inspecting the entire kayak. Inspect the kayak for any dents, bulges or cracks. look over the whole boat so that it feels even, smooth and stiff.
When inspecting your kayak also look for places where the gelcoat or laminate is thin or worn from use, this is most common under your heels inside the kayak or along the furthest of the keel line.
To keep the kayak looking good for longer and protect the gelcoat against unnecessary wear and tear, I recommend polishing and waxing the kayak a couple of times a year. To make a scratched hull a little nicer, use a polish/rubbing with abrasive properties and then apply a layer of protective boat wax.
Deeper scratches or very scratched hulls are a slightly bigger project to fix and you can read more about how and when to fix them here.
Maintenance of moving parts
Loose or weakened parts can lead to reduced control of the kayak and lead to a greater risk of other damages.
Deck fittings are the small plastic pieces that sit on the deck of the kayak and hold the lines in place. They are technically not a moving part, but still... Check that the plastic is okay and not starting to get worn and eaten by the sun. Spray with 303 aerospace protectant or make sure they get a coat of UV protective boat wax to extend life. Check that bolts and nuts are tightened.
When tightening bolts and screws, be careful not to overtighten. This can cause gaskets to crack and start to leak. Check the screws and bolts after shipping your kayak, the road vibrations can cause them to start loosening.
The seat isn't really a moving part either, the only thing you want to check here are the bolts so they are tight.
The rudder available in lots of different variants, we use SmartTrack so that's what we're starting from here. The rudder consists of a number of different parts, most of which are available as spare parts, so the entire rudder rarely needs to be replaced if something were to happen. The rudder sits at the back of the kayak and is connected with ropes or wires to the pedals in the cockpit. Within reach of the cockpit is also the possibility to fold up or down the rudder with a rope and a ClamCleat. Maintain the rudder by keeping it clean and making sure all the small moving parts are in place and moving properly. Spray sparingly with silicone spray if it starts to get sticky. Replace lines if they start to wear, the most common places for worn lines are in the pedals and behind the seat.
The skeg got its own headline because it is such a drama queen.
Pedals can become worn over time, especially the parts that connect to the rudder lines. Here, too, most smaller parts are available as spare parts and can be replaced. Keep the pedals clean and spray with silicone spray if they start to get sticky.
Static ropes wear slow and steady, look at them and replace when they start to get fuzzy. Look extra closely around the deck fittings, the handles and at the ends where they are tied. Better to change too soon than too late, a couple of meters of rope is much cheaper than a broken kayak.
Dynamic ropes stretch over time, tighten and tighten them over time and replace when they are no longer dynamic enough. Bad dynamic lines are not a huge problem for the kayak, but if you store your safety gear under them on deck, it's good that they are in good condition.
If possible, you want to store your kayak frost-free, off the ground, upside down and protected from direct sunlight. Also remove the hatches to avoid moisture in the kayak.
Transport of the kayak on a roof rack
Be sure to follow the laws and regulations that apply to transporting goods on racks. Also, make sure you don't exceed the recommended weights for your roof rack.
Avoid laying the kayak with the hull against the roof rack, the hull is not designed to handle that kind of force and it can cause your kayak to become deformed or suffer other damage. If possible, place the kayak upside down or on its side and protect it against hard edges.
Tighten the kayak so that it is secure, but do not overdo it. If you are going to drive long distances and at high speeds, we recommend that you also fasten the aft and stern of the kayak. Do not tighten too tightly, it can deform the kayak.
Transporting the kayak upside down or with a cockpit cover over the cockpit also reduces fuel consumption.
Handling the kayak on land
The most damage I see to kayaks is from handling on land. Kayaks that have been dropped, jumped off the kayak trailer, stored on racks and filled with water during the winter or various forms of transport damage.
If possible, avoid handling the kayak by yourself. Ask someone for help loading and unloading the kayak from the roof rack or trailer. Be sure to carefully communicate where, when and how the kayak should be lifted and turned so that it is not dropped.
When you lift the kayak, do it under the kayak in the fore and aft. The handles are primarily for handling the kayak in the water and can, especially if the lines are worn, break if the kayak is carried in them. Carry the kayak as little as possible when loaded.
If you are using a kayak trolley, make sure it is properly assembled and placed in the correct place under the kayak. Be careful with more difficult terrain and take it slow.
When hitting shore with the kayak, pull it out of the water but avoid dragging it. Ask for help and lift the kayak to its destination or roll it on a trolley.
Taking good care of your kayak and thus early detection of damage and wear can save you a lot of time and money. Small damages that seem insignificant can affect the kayak and cause damage that is both difficult and expensive to repair. Taking a day out of the paddling season to maintain your kayak can give you many extra years of fun and adventure.