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Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 10: Understanding the Challenges of Gel-Coat Work

Know your limits and when to call for professional help in boat repairs.

Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 10: Understanding the Challenges of Gel-Coat Work

In Part 10, we learn how and what it takes to properly gel coat a boat. (Ross Robertson photo)

In any rehab project, there becomes a point when you have to be realistic about your skill level and what it would cost a professional to do it. Knowing this before you start that part of the project is key to both saving materials and making sure to line up a professional without holding up your timeline.

So when it came to Part 10 of this boat rebuild, I was well aware that gel coating lids was way beyond my skill set. I have never done any gel coat work and I did not want the finished project reflect that. So I called in my buddy Capt. Chip Cartwright (owner of Silver Streak Lures) as backup. He has a lot of experience with fiberglass work and was willing to help. After all part of the point of doing this project boat was to learn.

Two hands rubbing a cloth around a hatch opening on a boat.
I wanted to fix some small issues we found during this process. (Ross Robertson photo)

It became clear very quickly that dealing with black gel coat was much trickier than other colors such as white. Anyone that has owned a black vehicle knows how true this is. Attempts to both brush and roll on the black gel coat worked fine from a coverage standpoint, but the finish was not up to my liking. If you weren’t really concerned with the cosmetics on an old boat, the function would work just fine. But I like to do it right.

Even if you aren’t concerned with the finished appearance and just want to seal up the compartment lids from the elements it's not as easy as painting it on the lids. Getting just the right mixture of resin and hardeners for the given air temps and humidity that you are finishing it in all play a role in how it will turn out.

A person brushing on black gel coat to a removed hatch cover.
Dealing with black gel coat was much trickier than other colors such as white. (Ross Robertson photo)

In case you couldn’t tell, I would highly advise you hire a professional to do this part unless you have experience, a setup for it, or are like Bob Vila and Norm Abram all rolled into one.

A quick call to Vic’s Sports Center in Akron, Ohio confirmed my beliefs. While Tommy Vatalaro, one of the owners of Vic’s, said he’s comfortable with small repairs and gel coat work he knew that we needed to call in a full-time professional. He recommended Drew at CarStar in Akron, who is a fisherman and specializes in exactly this type of work.

Aside from gel coating the compartment lids I also wanted to fix some small issues we found and fill in the holes we exposed when we removed the rear starboard pieces from the Ranger to install the rear hatches in Part 4. In order to do this, make sure to thoroughly tape and cover anything you don’t want overspray on with plastic.

A boat in a building, covered in plastic.
Make sure to thoroughly tape and cover anything you don’t want overspray on with plastic. (Ross Robertson photo)
Sheet plastic covering a boat with a small portion exposed to touch up.
I also wanted to fill in the holes we exposed when we removed the rear starboard pieces from the boat in a previous step. (Ross Robertson photo)

During this process I learned how important and temperamental the mixing and the material selection process can be. When you start to search gel coats and the various components needed you will be surprised with how many options there are.

In the video link below Drew shows how and what it takes to properly gel coat a boat.


A hand and tool riveting a hinge on a boat hatch cover.
Clean up the hinges before reattaching them, using the same style of rivets that came off when removing the lids. (Ross Robertson photo)
A person drilling hatch covers on a boat.
Reattach the coated lids using the original screws. (Ross Robertson photo)



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