Apr 19, 2012

Fixing The Pearl

“For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.”
- J. Steinbeck, The Pearl

In the summer of 2011 I read The Pearl and bought a used Wenonah Minnesota II, a lightweight and super-fast kevlar boat with a pearl-white gelcoat finish that was covered with battle scars, which meant I got a really good deal. It worked fine but it was beat-up, and I felt immediately bonded to this canoe. I gave it a good cleaning with the power washer and threw a coat of bondo on the hull, and then Erik and I paddled it 300+ miles into Canada and back. I returned to Wisconsin in November and stuck the boat next to the shed and in the spring I assessed the damages.

There was a few bad cracks where the actual kevlar was exposed, the bondo had been badly gouged on the Big Adventure and what remained had yellowed significantly. Bottom line: The Pearl was in bad shape, probably the worst of its life (1997- ). Luckily I (1981- ) had some experience working on kevlar boats and also, lots of free time. I carefully chipped away the bondo layer and then smoothed out the gelcoat with an orbital sander.

Then I bought two quarts of wax-finished white gelcoat, putting a double coating on the most vulnerable parts of the hull. Gelcoat requires a hardening agent and you have to work fast before it starts curdling ... And also if it's sunny it might start smoking. So you kinda have to slop it on. Initially it looks a little patchy. The final step is resanding with fine grit and then bathing the entire boat with mineral spirits to clean up the dust.

I'm pretty satisfied with the work. It felt good smoothing out those scars, giving a beat-up canoe another chapter in life. Now about that interior...