If kayak care sounds like work, don't worry ... a little attention goes a long way. There are a few basic things to do and think about to keep your equipment in good shape and soon, it will be routine.
Then relax ... it's easy!
During Paddling Season
First - dragging a kayak on the ground will thin and weaken the material or worse, create holes that will have to be repaired, this is a big "no-no"!
UV Protection - just like your skin - you need to protect your kayak from UV sunlight and oxidation. It's a good idea to apply a coat of spray-on UV protection at the beginning and end of the season after it is clean and dry. You can find it at most sporting goods shops.
Cover - your cockpit when you aren't using it - this helps to keep rain and critters out. Dry out the inside before you cover it to keep mold, mosquitos and scum from accumulating.
In Season Storage -
if you store your kayak outdoors just for the paddling season - there are several ways to properly store it - (don't forget to dry it first).
Storage Damage - In the instance of restoring a depressed deck, say from storage, you can use the sun to your advantage. You can prop up the depressed deck on the inside to the desired level and leave it in the sun for a day. Most often, depending on the severity of damage, this method will take care of it by "remolding" the deck shape back in place by the next day. I refer to this as "creative" kayak care!
Preparing for Off-Season Storage
In the Fall or any time you store your kayak and equipment for a long period, you will want to do a few basic things.
Simple maintenance is especially important if you are kayaking in salt water. Salt crystallizes into welds, screws, pulleys and well, just everywhere - so be observant. Personally, there are three products I cannot do without . . . "eraser" type sponges - duct tape and WD-40 - all of which you can get at any supermarket.
Clean and dry the kayak
Inside the kayak
On a dry day - unload any and all loose gear, hatch covers, straps, seat, etc. and put them aside. Undo the plug and drain any standing water. I like to have at least four of those wonderful "eraser" type sponges - they're terrific at thoroughly cleaning surfaces very quickly. Hose out the loose dirt and drain it out. Next thoroughly wipe the inside (as far as you can stretch) and hose it out again. Let your kayak thoroughly dry upside down and off the ground.
Outside the kayak
After I clean the inside I like to raise it up on something that will support it while I clean the bottom. You could use yard furniture or prop up an end on a fence, etc, if you don't have a kayak stand system.
Again, I use the "eraser" sponge and start on the hull and entire exterior while it is upside down. First hose the loose dirt. Then begin at one end - sponge off the dirt, working your way to the other end.
My kayak stays in the water all season so the bottom gets pretty grungy - I pull it out from time to time in season and I find the "eraser" removes the scum quickly and effectively.
Make sure you run your sponge in all the sneaky areas that bugs like to nest like under the cockpit rim - perhaps way inside each end and in the deck hatch areas. If you don't thoroughly clean these areas - you may have uninvited guests hatching while in storage.
The loose gear, paddle, hatch covers, straps, seat and any other components that were removed from the kayak, will need some care too. First clean the individual parts like the seat. Any loose straps or spare lines can be soaked in a bucket of warm sudsy water (no bleach as this will burn the fibers), use only a mild detergent - rinse then thoroughly air dry the items.
While going over your kayak for a cleaning, check any attached parts - like the deck cords, toggle handles and bulkheads - take note of any frayed cords and fix or replace them promptly (or at least make a list of the things to work on in the winter if your kayak is stored indoors).
If you have a two-piece paddle - take it apart - wash and rise it too - then allow to thoroughly dry.
If you have a rudder system - sponge off and check all the control lines and moving parts in between seasons. Clean away all dirt and tighten bolts and screws as necessary. The use of some WD-40 or other kind of corrosion block product on metal joints or fittings (moving parts) - this will keep them in good shape.
In addition to damage that sun can do - another important threat to kayaks is stress on the hull formation or decks. Particularly plastic kayaks will take the shape of what they are sitting on over a long period of time. That's why it's not advisable to leave your kayak on top of your car for days at a time.
The best way to store your kayak is on its stern, standing up - why? - because this is the point with the least amount of stress. Not everyone has an area tall enough to accommodate this so there are a few other options for off season storage.
- Boone Blue Kayak Crib 2 Paddles found at Amazon, can be mounted in a basement, shed, garage or any sheltered area
- a sling system against a wall
- a sling system that is mounted on exposed rafters
- a hoist system - mounted on rafters
With all of these alternatives, hanging the kayak on its side is advisable.
Checking the Hull
After a season of paddling and you've done a thorough cleaning of both your kayak and equipment - inspect the hull for any damage like gouges or curls.
On plastic (rotomolded polyethylene) curls can be removed using a disposable razor. I find it's easiest to "shave" these at an angle and with care.
Some depressions and scratched areas can be smoothed by carefully using a hair dryer. Keep the hair dryer moving and at a distance to avoid melting or thinning the plastic.
Kayak care includes cleaning and checking your life jacket also. Make sure to follow the manufacturers' label (remember to save this when purchasing) for instructions for your particular PFD. Check the straps, zippers(s) and any clips for damage. Do not put your PFD in the washer or dryer, this could damage it. Also - let it thoroughly air dry outside before putting it away for the winter. Do not store it in plastic - this traps moisture and creates mold.
Finally - remove your roof rack in the off-season. It will also need to be cleaned and checked to ensure that it is ready for the next paddling season.
So, that's all there is to it!
A little kayak care will keep you paddling happy for many seasons.
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