To sunscreen your kayak or not to sunscreen your kayak. That is the question.
It may sound like a modified quote from William Shakespeare, "To be, or not to be . . . that is the question." And it is. An opening line from Shakespeare's play Hamlet. That's about as much of Shakespeare as I can comprehend. And it's a big question. To be or not to be? To sunscreen your kayak, or not to sunscreen your kayak?
We know that we have to protect ourselves from the sun, either with sunscreen, shelter, or clothing. In Florida, cycling the long stretch of white sandy beach along the Barrier Islands in the Gulf of Mexico, I use SPF 60, a hat and sunglasses, along with common sense. I don't stay out there too long.
We expect that the factory paint jobs on our cars protect their finishes from the ravishes of the sun, but I didn't know that I needed to think about sunscreen for my kayak.
I owned two plastic sea kayaks for a few years before someone told me that you could sunscreen your kayak to protect it from fading by using a product like 303 Aerospace Protectant. By then, the red Current Designs Storm was much less than its original red, and my eye-glaring yellow Boreal Baffin, was still pretty yellow! It was hard for me to decide if I wanted to take the time to make the Baffin brighter than it already was, even after a year of fading.
Sometimes I think (and know) that we just like to spend time with our kayaks when we can't get out and paddle, and this is just another way to do it - spending time with them in the garage sunscreening them and bringing back a little lustre before we show up with them at an event. But, when you've seen what the sun can do to a kayak and its hatches, you start to think about protecting it at the beginning of the paddling season.
We sunscreen ourselves to guard against skin cancer. With kayaks, it's about keeping them looking pretty and protecting the finish. Let's call it vanity or the pleasure of looking at your beautiful boat gliding on the water in front of you.
There is no before or after picture of sunscreening my kayaks here. I learned the lesson with my plastic sea kayaks. I 303'd them after they faded from some time in the sun and was happy with the results after using the product.
Now that I own a new fibreglass Malestrom Vital 166, I contacted the 303 product people for more information and advice. "Can I use it on a fibreglass boat?" Yes, the product can be safely applied to the gelcoat - the outer protective coating of the fibreglass boat. Hey, I didn't know if I could 303 my fibreglass sea kayak. I'm not fond of pulling out my glasses and reading the tiny fine print on product labels, I'd rather call someone.
But with any new kayak you buy, (plastic, fibreglass, thermoform, etc.) you may want to ask the manufacturer if protection from sun fade is a built in feature or not.
303 Aerospace Protectant - SPF 40: Is it environmentally friendly?
A good question. And I'm not the only one to ask. According to 303 Products Inc, as I contacted them last week, the product is environmentally friendly and passes American, Canadian and Euro regulations.
However, if you do not apply the product properly, some of the unbonded product can wash off into the water you paddle. So if you do use this product, make sure to apply it properly. The product bonds with the surface of your boat and does not soak in. People have seen excess product wash off into the water. And that means that the product was not applied properly.
How do you apply 303 Aerospace Protectant to your kayak?
According to 303 Products Inc., proper application is: Spray on, wipe COMPLETELY dry. Wiping completely dry, which requires finishing with a DRY cloth, not a damp cloth, removes all excess un-bonded 303 and makes the bonded 303 bond better and become more repellent, which also means better longer lasting performance.
At what temperature should you apply the 303 Aerospace Protectant to your plastic kayak or gelcoat of your fibreglass kayak?
According to 303 Products Inc, this product uses distilled water as the carrier, so you have to use it above freezing. This product is destroyed by freezing (when in liquid form in the bottle). So you have to store the 303 Aerospace Protectant and other topical treatment products such as wax and specialty cleaners at room temperature.
Uh, oh! I left my bottle of 303 Protectant in my freezing garage all winter! Now I'll have to buy more, and store any leftover product in the house next winter.
As for applying it, "it doesn't matter if the surface being treated is in the sun, but it DOES matter if the surface is hot to the touch. Don't use on surfaces which are hot to the touch. Warm to the touch when applying 303 to the surface of your boat is good."
Thanks to the 303 product people for getting back to me so quickly and answering all the questions I had. Hopefully, this post can save you some time and money as well by using and storing the product properly if you purchase it.
To sunscreen your kayak, or not to sunscreen your kayak . . . that is the question!
Even though I'm still waxing my skis and enjoying hitting the snow where I live in Canada, I'm thinking about sunscreening my kayaks for the upcoming paddling season. Are you?
Happy preps for your upcoming paddling season!