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Cosmetic scratches making your boat look old?

how to fix the minor scratches in your fiberglass kayak

For those of us who have fiberglass yaks understand how beautiful they can be when they are shiny and new. Keeping them that way, can be a bit of a strain, especially if you really want to paddle frequently. I personally will have minor scratches which will appear wherever I have attached my back up paddles, Camelback, or other items I frequently place on my deck. Mainly this happens near my backup paddle, as I take them out of my paddle britches. Every once in a while, I will have to do a little maintenance and give that yak some TLC.

Today, I will show you a step-by-step process for getting rid of those minor scratches and making your yak better than before. There will be a few items one will have to obtain in order to make this happen, and I will suggest a few other items which speed up the process.

 

Step 1: Wash your kayak with either a dedicated marine soap, or car wash soap. Using a microfiber towel and a little elbow grease will really ensure you get it fully clean. Rinse with lean water, and let it air dry. A shaded place and a fairly warm day is ideal for this kind of work.

Step 2: After the yak is dry, assemble your items and ensure you have plenty on hand, as you may go through your fair share. Water will be your friend as you go through this nerve-wracking process. This process involves using sand paper on the fiberglass. But, not the traditional type of sandpaper one would use on wood products. This is wet-dry sand paper, and it is normally found near the automotive section, near the filler compounds and body work

.Depending on the depth of the scratch a variation of grit may have to be used. For scratches which have depth – and can be felt when one runs their fingernail across the scratch. It should feel much like feeling the edge of a dime I would consider this a minor scratch, and use the 400 or 600 grit paper. If it feels like an edge of a quarter, use 100 or 200 grit paper. For cracks and deeper gouges, this article will be of little use – as this is a more involved process. I had used the 400 grit for this project.

Word to the wise, work on small areas when sanding, only do an area of about one-foot square before moving on to the next area. I learned this mistake a few years ago and it took me a long time to complete the task at hand.

Step 3: Spray down the sandpaper with copious amounts of water, and/or spray the area you are going to work on. Begin to use small circles on the scratched area, and continue to spray.

When you do this correctly, the color of the fiberglass will ‘bleed’ – THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t panic!!! Just keep spraying some water on the area to get rid of the fine particles, and also give the sandpaper a good spritz from time to time, and rotate the area of paper you are using.

Step 4: Once you have roughed up the area with sand paper, the area will look hazy and dull. Rinse the area with water thoroughly. This will look very similar to the picture below.

Step 5: Grab an application cloth, or one can use the applicator which comes with most wax containers. I have two choices in which I may use, a rubbing compound, or a polishing compound. The Rubbing compound has more grit than the polishing compound. If one decides to use both on this project, use the rubbing then the polishing. Since there are micro fragments of fiberglass and other particles of material being removed with these two products, unsure you have a dedicated application cloth for each item.

Step 6: Once you have decided to use one compound over the other ( I went for the polishing one in this case). Apply this compound much like one would polish the car. I always think of that scene in which Mr. Miyagi states, “Wax on, wax off”. One may see a bit of the color bleed through onto the cloth during this process. It does a ‘soft sanding’ on the fiberglass.

Step 7: There might be a slight sheen to the area after this has been dried off – but you aren’t completed just yet. Time for application of wax (car wax works just fine). Same application process as the previous method – just be certain you are using a clean application cloth.

Step 8: So, it is pretty shiny after the application of the wax and the use of a towel. But why not up the game a bit more and put a real gloss on the deck? For the final process, I break out the electric buffer/polisher and a pad (once again use one specific for the wax). I may apply a fine layer of wax over the entire kayak a few times and then buff it out once I have completely done with the smaller areas.

Step 9: Stand back and enjoy the work which was completed. I usually have to do this process a few times a year, but really don’t mind. It gives me a closer perspective of problem areas, and I tend to check the deck lines and cords, and tighten up screws if needed. One thing which will make this process easier (which is clearly not what I did) is to remove the deck lines and cords – or replace them during this time. Otherwise, one will have to constantly move the lines and cords out of the way from the wax and the electric buffer.

This section of area took nearly 30 minutes to completely make look fairly new again. The time to complete a whole yak is a case by case situation – but shouldn’t take more than 3 hours when done correctly. There is nothing like paddling around with a show stopper finish on your kayak, and making heads turn. Have pride in your yak and make it last for years to come.

 

 

For the Padder Within…

Getting rescued by the USCG (training)

USCG rescues

Last week, I covered how to use a VHF and what steps it takes to call for help. This week will be a continuation of the process, and what it actually looks like from a kayaker’s perspective.

A little background to this training: A few years ago, I had organized a joint training mission involving a local paddle club and the USCG. Our training proceeded with a pre-brief with members of the Coast Guard and the paddle club members who would be on-water.  Safety was our main concern during the day, and we had a code word which would be used, if the Coast Guard were truly needed elsewhere. During the planning – it was understood we would not use flares, no PLB, or actual electronic rescue devices (for concerns of citizens believing this was truly an emergency) and would transmit the Mayday call via VHF channel 72.  All four kayakers were ACA level 3, and higher coastal instructors – had numerous safety/rescue devices, PFD’s, clothing suitable for immersion, sea kayaks, and skill sets appropriate for the conditions/environment.

The four paddlers launched from an alternative site because of time constraints and proceeded to head out past the pier head. Moments into the paddle, we realized this would not be a flat water and smooth training experience, however would add to the realism of a rescue. Conditions were: waves 2 ½ to 3 footers, nice rollers from time to time, winds constant around 15 mph from the ESE, Air temp around 75, water temp mid 60’s. We paddled about a mile away from the pier head, and just within viewing for the folks on Neshotah beach. We weighed out the options to either conduct the training away from the beach and attempt to maintain our position, or face additional broaching waves and winds which may have increased the safety factor.  We chose to conduct a safe affair. Our scenario involved one kayaker getting ‘injured’, losing consciousness and fracturing her arm as a power boat ran into her and ejecting her from her yak.

During the post-briefing of all the members involved, here are a few interesting noteworthy topics we encountered and will be perfecting.

  • While one VHF is worth the weight of gold during any paddle adventure, two or more is best. I could transmit the Mayday, however could not receive CG replies. Luckily, we had three VHF radios with us. I could not imagine just how any paddler could signal what kind of emergency they may have without communication.
  • As mentioned, our ‘victim’ had been hit by a power boat, knocked unconscious, and ejected from her yak. The decision to keep her in the water and maintain an open airway was a personal choice – for the fear of C-spine injury and further injury, we did not attempt a H.O.G (Hand of God) rescue, or place her on the decks of the two other kayaks. The kayaker who rescued the swimmer, had to store his paddle, and hold onto the shoulder straps of the PFD of the swimmer. Her face was away from the oncoming waves. It was somewhat unbalanced for the rescuer to maintain center balance of his yak, as broaching waves and winds continued. The third yak clipped on a tow rope to get the swimmer’s yak out of the way. Even if we did do a H.O.G. rescue on the swimmer, the CG would have to once again remove the injured kayaker from the kayak (as they manually hoisted her onto the CG vessel). There was an option for the CG to use a dive team and stokes littler to extract an unconscious swimmer.
  • Once CG boat arrived, swimmer had to be passed off to the crew, and lifted out of the water. Additional information of accident was provided, and swimmers known medical history provided (which was unknown) – although this would be normally known for a professional outfitter group paddle, or if your friends who you paddle with normally share that kind of information. Might be best if we all carry some sort of ICE (In Case of Emergency), brief medical history, and meds somewhere on our person/inside a pocket of the PFD.
  • Ideally, the rescuer and swimmer stay together and await the CG rescue boat. If additional kayakers are in group, CG desires the rest to stay out of the immediate area of swimmer and rescuer.
  • With conditions present, would it have been wiser for a second person to stabilize the rescuer by rafting up? What would the situation be had it only been two paddlers, one being a swimmer, and the rescuer still had to make a VHF call, maintain contact with the unconscious swimmer, and stay upright? In flat water with no conditions – I would expect there is a totally different response and outcome.
  • As noted, there was no use of flares, PLB (personal locator beacon), or other electrical devices. We did use a laser flare, paddles and hand signals to dictate our location. Although we did not have orange smoke to mark our position – this may have been a great option for a daytime rescue. Air horns and whistles would have been impossible to hear, since we couldn’t even hear the sirens of the Coast Guard boat. Once again, thinking how this could be accomplished with a solo rescuer.
  • Towing an empty yak (from the rescued kayaker) with an extended rope can be problematic with conditions. Although this worked well, the empty kayak had a mind of its own – Careful attention and adjustments were made to the length of rope once passing the pier head and conditions decreased.

 

Another aspect of a rescue is working with a helicopter crew. A couple of years ago at the East Coast Paddle Festival (Charleston, SC), I had also taken part in a similar training exercise. This one was involving a USCG rescue helicopter, and talking to the crew as they were trying to “find” us. We communicated with them via VHF, and vectored (help guide them into our position) the helicopter to our exact location. When they were close enough for visual confirmation, we used a various assortment of visual ques to pinpoint our location.

Both aspects of training provide knowledge only gained from actually conducting this practice. As a kayaker, one should always seek knowledge about what could happen – and how to effectively take actions in the worse case situations. Hopefully you will never have to enact any of these rescues as a real world emergencies. But, understanding this process may make it a bit easier.

 

*** Personal note:  A BIG thanks to all who made this training special *****

For the Paddler Within…

How to make that all important call

Using a VHF radio (or otherwise called a marine radio) can be a lifesaving device for when you really need help on the water. Understanding how to use it and who to call may just save your life.

VHF Hand held radio

What exactly is a VHF radio?

It is a communication device for boaters. It is a means in which boaters can communicate with harbors, locks, bridges, marinas, other boaters and summoning rescue services.  For seagoing vessels, these radios are permanently mounted, for kayakers – these are handheld devices. There are several makes and models available to the public, finding one which works best for you is a personal decision. Many Marine hand held models are waterproof – and some actually will float.  Besides making calls, many of the models will have a weather channels, providing pretty accurate condition reports.Mainly used by kayakers who hit the open waters (Great Lakes/Oceans or any water monitored by water rescue services) – this should be an essential piece of equipment before heading out.

How do I use it?

Since each model is slightly different from the next – the basic functions are quite similar. It is always best to fully charge your VHF before heading out to the next paddle destination. As well as recharging it after you have returned. The battery life varies, but based on personal experiences can last for at least a week (unit turned on, moderate use during a 6-hour paddle day, and then turned off when not used). If possible, bring the charging base, or extra batteries to ensure you have enough juice for the trip. There is normally a knob to twist the unit on/off, and there is usually a ‘chirp’ heard as it powers on. There are numerous channels to use if you wish to communicate with others in your kayak group (once you pre-arrange this channel with each other during the pre-launch brief). Majority of regions within the US have specific channels which can be used freely by civilians – and others which are either commercial use, or predetermined agencies. Follow this link for channels in your area. Once a channel has been established for communications, bring the speaker towards your mouth and push and hold the transmit button, clearly and calmly send your message, release once done. Much like using a walkie-talkie.

Emergency channels

Channel 16 is the channel to use if needing to make an emergency distress call. Normally, this channel should be monitored while on the water – as there may be important messages by the Coast Guard, or other boaters who need assistance. Traffic (communications) on this frequency has top priority, and should never be used as a ‘party line’.

Channel 9 is used mainly for ship to ship and ship to coast communications.

Range

There is limited range on all VHF radios – and depending on many factors (transmitter power, topographical features, and your antenna height. VFH’s are basically a line of sight communication device – if there is any kind of interference between the two, the signal may not be heard. This may mean one may need to move to higher ground, or move out from a secluded cove to be able to transmit/receive.

How to communicate

VHF mayday sticker

If needing to transmit on channel 16, there are a few simple procedures to ensure you have proper procedures – and using proper lingo terms for the situation. Each one of these is repeated three times – to get the attention of other boaters.

Pan-Pan: This is a call in which a vessel is declaring an urgent situation which is not an immediate threat to either the vessel or the people on board. Examples of this, in which you may hear is: lost of navigational equipment, mechanical issues, need a tow, or any other non-life threatening emergencies.

Sécurité: This is an informational broadcast message (usually a USCG message to boaters), with additional information provided on another channel, which will be provided by the issuing department. An example of this could be a dense fog advisory, and vessels will alert others as they leave or enter a narrow channel or harbor. Or this could also be used to alert other vessels of large floating debris at a specific location.

Mayday: This is for serious events which suggests a potential loss of life, or a life-threatening situation.  This will initiate immediate response by the Coast Guard and other agencies. Falsely reporting a Mayday, or using this channel as a open “chat channel” is strictly forbidden – and yes, they can triangulate your location if you abuse this channel.

 

Hopefully, there will never be a situation in which you will need to activate a Mayday call. Best advice I can provide to you is, practice making this call at home (without turning on the VHF) with another person. Print out the blue USCG form above and laminate it and bring it with you. Work with the nearest USCG station on your radio calls, or find groups who train with the USCG during joint missions. In one of the upcoming blogs, I will show a video how I had worked with a local USCG as we called in a Mayday and a “rescue” during a training mission.

 

For the Paddler Within….

Trip report – The Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Paddle destination: Horicon Marsh (southern aspect)

 

Launch/Land locations:

Horicon Marsh put in

Launch – Green Head Road N8600 Green Head Rd, Mayville, WI

Land – One Mile Island Trail Head and parking 204 N Nebraska St, Horicon, WI

 

Type of environment:

Hoircon Marsh

Did you know Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States? The marsh itself covers approximately 32,000 miles – majority of it is water. There are several small islands throughout the area – some are easier to walk upon than others (depending on water height/recent rain). The put in at Green Head has a rather large parking area – more like a dirt road with ample parking on the side of this road. This is a dead-end road, and there is a cul-de-sac which makes navigation with a trailer a bit easier. The launch has a gradual grade into the water, and you may need to get your feet wet. This section of water is the Rock river, and following it west will eventually lead you into the Horicon. One may see some smaller boats with trolling motors through this section of river, although rare. Traveling along this stretch, the trees and vegetation is pretty numerous and offers nice protection from the winds. As one exits this forest of trees, the water area opens up and the scenery changes dramatically. Didn’t really notice any current while on the water, until nearing the take-out area near Horicon. It was fairly gentile as it flows south towards the city. The take out at One mile Island, is slightly tucked away on the western side of the main channel. This parking lot is rather sizable and can hold easily 40+ cars. Total one-way distance is about 8 miles.

Hazards:

Horicon group leaving

One of the biggest hazards is the size of this place, and the ever-changing water levels throughout the year. This can be a unique maze, if one decides to venture away from the main flowage. I would highly recommend downloading this navigation map http://tinyurl.com/y3agdjc8 to aid your progression. A compass, GPS, or other tracking device will also be helpful. There are landmarks one can see from the seat of the yak – but the marsh can act as a cat tail maze at times. Once one gets nearly midway in to the marsh, a water tower in Horicon can be seen and can be used as a general reference point. Best suggestion I have is to go with someone who knows that marsh VERY well – or even go with the Horicon Marsh visitors center – as they offer guided tours throughout the year.

The navigation map provided displays the paddle route one should take, there are marked signs on this path, however at times can be rather difficult to see.

If it is a windy day, or chances for a breezy day – some may find it a challenge doing this route. The cat tails and scattered islands only offer slight protection.

There are the occasional tour boats which follow the main channel going north to south – these may be a good reference point to follow, should you need to find your way to the take out.

Horicon Marsh

Wildlife:

Abundant wildlife in all aspects. So great in fact, during water fowl season approaches, hunters enjoy this place. Depending on the time of year one paddles this area will dictate what is seen and heard. The times I have gone – there was migration of spring birds and other water fowl moving into the area, and at others, the cat tails were very tall and plentiful – at times obscuring distant views.

Horicon Marsh

Skill level:

If with someone knowledgeable about the area – this is a great beginner paddle when conditions are perfect. If going the entire distance from Green Head to Horicon, this may be quite the workout on windy days. Although there are a few islands in the heart of the marsh, majority of them have a solid ground (look for very established trees) and can be good resting place. Because of the chance for facing winds, and distance of this paddle, I would not recommend kayaks shorter than 10 to 12 feet.

Horicon Marsh

Other notes:

Definitely check out the Horicon Education and visitors center while you are there. There is such great information about the geological design of the marsh, how the marsh was used throughout the years, the mistakes humans learned when they attempted to change the landscape, and what the future of the area holds.

 

For the Paddler Within….