In Part 1 of this series, I explained the process of removing the old, cracked hatch rim in preparation for replacing it with a new rim. In this post, I will explain how I completed the minor fiberglass repairs that were needed prior to attaching the new rim. Before gluing the new rim into place, I chose to fill in the two screw holes in the deck, and I also needed to to fix the cracks in the fiberglass that occurred as I was prying off the old rim, mostly to assure that the new rim would have a solid fiberglass base with no flexing.
Tools Needed: medium-coarse grit sandpaper, masking tape, rags or paper towels, mineral spirits, scissors, vinyl or latex gloves, small pieces of fiberglass cloth, West Systems 101-TS Epoxy Packet (contains 105 resin and 205 hardener), mixing cup and stick, sawhorses. (You can also purchase West Systmes 101 Repair Kits which contain the epoxy packets and a small amount of fiberglass cloth.)
Step 1: I sanded the underside of the deck just below the areas where the two screws were removed from the hatch rim and where I had a small crack in the fiberglass as a result of removing the old rim. I used a medium to slightly coarse grit sandpaper in order to make sure that that there was just a slightly rough surface area for the epoxy to bond to when making the fiberglass repair.
Step 2: After sanding the area to be repaired, I used some mineral spirits on a paper towel to clean the area under the deck where the fiberglass patches will be applied. You want to make sure to remove the dust from sanding and any grease, oil, etc. from the area that might interfere with the bonding of the epoxy.
Step 3: On the gel-coat side of the rim area, I applied masking tape covering the two screw holes and the area of the crack. The kayak will be supported upside down on sawhorses when I apply the fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. The tape will prevent the resin from dripping down through the holes and cracks until it has time to harden.
Step 4: Lay the kayak upside down on sawhorses making sure that the rim area is not blocked.
Step 5: Cut small pieces of fiberglass cloth to cover the areas that need repair. The pieces that went behind the screw holes did not need to be very large as they were mostly meant to give a little extra reinforcement to the epoxy that I was using to fill the screw holes. I cut two pieces approximately 2″ x 1″. (The pieces were probably more banana-shaped than rectangular) Likewise, the area of the deck that had cracked was fairly small and did not really need a major repair. I cut two pieces that were only about 3″ by 1.5″ in size. Given the location of the two small cracks on a curve, I chose to cut and apply two separate pieces rather than trying to get one piece to mold around the curve.
Step 6: Put on your gloves and mix the epoxy resin in your mixing cup. For these small repairs, I like using the West Systems 101-TS Epoxy Packets as they are easy to use and make just a small batch of resin that is more than adequate to handle a job this size. The packets are generally sold in packages with 6 packets which I purchase locally from West Marine. I carry a couple of the packets as part of my kayak repair kit.
Notes on Working With Epoxy: You should do this work in a well-ventilated area and make sure to observe the temperature recommendations of the epoxy manufacturer. If you need to raise the temperature in a cold garage in order for the epoxy to cure, you could put a lighted 60 to 100-watt bulb inside the hatch to provide enough warmth. The heat of an incandescent bulb in the enclosed space of a kayak hatch is usually enough to raise the ambient temperature in the area of the repair while the epoxy hardens.
Step 7: Due to the difficulty in seeing the area where the patches were to be applied, I chose to soak the fiberglass cloth pieces in the resin to saturate them. I used my fingers to squeeze out the excess resin and then applied the piece of saturated fiberglass to the areas on the underside of the deck behind the screw holes and the two small cracks. I used my gloved fingers to smooth and position the fiberglass pieces against the underside of the deck. You easily have enough time to get the pieces into position before letting the epoxy harden.
Step 8: Once the epoxy has cured sufficiently that it can be sanded (several hours), you can repeat the process in Steps 5-7 to apply any additional layers of fiberglass. If you are only applying one layer (as I did in the area of the screw holes), you can take a medium to fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the area of the repair to remove any rough spots. In my case, I chose to apply a second layer over the area of the cracks, so I repeated the process of sanding, cleaning and applying the resin/cloth over the same area where I placed the original patch.
Notes on Fiberglass Patching: Normally, you want to cut your second layer of fiberglass cloth to be slightly larger than the first layer so it covers the entire patch. This tends to make a neater looking patch. Given the location of my repair (no one will see it) and the fact that it was a pretty minor repair structurally, I was not very concerned with how it looked and so chose to cut two more small pieces of cloth which I just offset so that the edges of each piece in the second layer did not line up with the edges of the patches in the first layer. You also don’t need to be very particular about the weave of the fiberglass cloth used in a repair like this since it is not a major structural repair. Any scraps you can find will probably work. I used woven cloth, but you could just as easily use a chopped mat cloth if that is all you have laying around. Although, given the undulating nature of the deck in the area of the front hatch, I would recommend using fiberglass cloth that is thinner and more flexible. The heavy woven stuff won’t easily conform to the curves of the deck (especially on my Romany with the compass recess).
Step 9: If you’re careful, you might not need to do this step. I had some of the cloth and hardened resin that extended out into the opening of the hatch. I needed to sand this down using a coarse-grit sandpaper so that it would not interfere with the fit of the new rim.
Next post, I’ll talk about the gel-coat repairs that may need to be made.