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Questions on Kevlar canoe repair

Apr 20, 2024
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Hello everyone, first post here although I have been reading others for a while. Especially the trip reports!
I was given a 1996 Mad River Malecite in kevlar that has most of the gunwales rotted off. Not problem for me to replace those .My question is what do I need to do with these cracks? They are on both ends only behind the flotation bulkhead, my guess is water got in there and froze? I can't see any thing on the inside, obviously covered by bulkhead. The rest of hull looks good just minor wear and scratches and the inside of hull looks great where I can see it. Do I need to remove float bulkhead and pull the foam to inspect the inside where the cracks are? How can I tell if the cracks are only in the gelcoat. I assume the red is gelcoat? Anything else recommended ?
As far as gunwales and deck I have Doug fir to replace. Do the screws need to go through the old holes in the hull? And is this a boat that I need to loosen the screws for the winter so it doesn't cold crack? Any other suggestions welcome and thanks in advance.


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Welcome to the campfire Tom.
That is some wild crazing on that malecite. I’m not sure how I would handle that but they don’t look like they compromise the hull very much. I could be wrong though. Others will be along shortly for more help.
I think sanding and coating would be fine for that. I only have skin Kevlar so just sand and spar, but I suspect yours require a different coating.
I believe they are “stress cracks” in the gel coat and I’m pretty sure they don’t go all the way thru. I’ve used these two products pictured below, but I always painted the canoe afterwards with a quailty paint.
I don’t know what you could use to fill those cracks if you don’t plan on painting. If the product you use doesn’t match it won’t look very good.
I never have tried to reuse the same holes when replacing gunnels and I have never had any issues. I feel you are better off avoiding the old holes as much as possible. Those new gunnels will ad a lot of strength to the area around the holes.
I don’t know if you need to loosen the gunnel screws on a kevlar canoe.IMG_4633.jpeg
Thanks Robin, Does this stuff flex with the hull ? also I have this issue shown in the pic that the top of the bulkhead is gone I think rodents? what material would you use to patch that . The gold fabric is very flexible, is it Kevlar? I only have experience with fiberglass and epoxy which seems to stiff for this . I know once the gunnels are on the hull won't move much there but this hull is quite flexible. I have seen pics of the same year Malecite and there were thwarts behind the seats mine has no thwarts or holes where they should be . Are the seats enough or are thwarts needed as well


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Jim, so you just added the thwart for carrying , It was not needed for structural support?
Here’s a fiberglass Malicite I restored, but it didn’t need any body work. At the end of the video it shows a center thwart, wether that was there or not I don’t remember but I think the canoe needs at least a center thwart.

If you Google “total fair” they give you a lot of information about application. You might be able to find something cheaper or something that comes in smaller quantities to save some money, it doesn’t look like you need much to fill those cracks.
As far as the bulkheads, I’m not sure what to do about that.
It was an old canoe and had crazing (not as bad as yours) more spider cracks at stress points. I patched them and then painted the hull. It never had any thwarts, there were no holes in the gunnels except to hang the seats. So yes it never had any thwarts. I always handled the boat by myself and it was awkward without a middle thwart. I had a carved portage thwart that I had removed from another project so I added it to this one. I most likely balanced it on a narrow piece of wood on a sawhorse. Then set the thwart so it is just a bit stern heavy.
I have a 1988 Kevlar Malecite- same color- which I bought and rescued a couple of years ago. It had worse spider cracks than yours at several places along the hull. It looked like the prior owner had some pretty good side impacts, but short of wrapping it. The cracks have not had any effect. Mine had a center seat and I added a thwart between it and the stern seat which gave it more stiffness and eliminated some minor oilcanning. It is a very versatile canoe and I enjoy paddling it solo or with a grandson or two. It is also good with a pole. IMG_0409.jpegIMG_2828.jpegIMG_2771.jpeg
Thanks for all the tips and inspiration, It looks to me like I can either do nothing to the spiderwebbing or sand and fill then paint. I really don't see myself putting new gunnels and deck and refinishing seats and not also redoing the hull so I think I will do it all. I still am not sure how to deal with the bulkheads. I would love to hear from someone who has done this repair or knows of someone I could contact for some ideas. Thanks again.
Hi Tom & welcome. Is there any indication that there is moisture in / around the foam where the bulkheads are open? It doesn't look like "rodent" to me as the cloth has a really straight edge for chewing / digging. I'm assuming there was a (plastic?) cap that covered the area... maybe it was left open at the factory? The foam should provide floatation so I don't see a downside to having the float chamber open at the top.

You can probably just recap it but, to be sure, I think I'd call or email Mad River and try to get some info.

Let us know what you find out & we'll look forward to seeing your own trip reports.
Hello Gamma, I never thought of the fact that it might be intentional. I looked at the other end and pulled the rotten wood deck off and that end looks the same, the deck sits about 3/8" above the top of the foam. So I think it is intentional to leave it open ,so water can drain out of the bulkhead? I am not going to do anything with that and just go ahead and fix the larger spiderwebbing and paint it and replace the gunnels. One less thing to do,Thanks for the insight!
I have an old Seda Scout kevlar with similar crazing in several places. Gave them all a coat of epoxy and regretted it. My epoxy skills aren't very good and it looks rather worse than the crazing did. Also I'm not convinced it was even necessary.. painting will probably help.