Clear kayaks are among my favorite types of kayaks. Since they’re made with the same material used in bulletproof windows and military fighter planes, they’re virtually unbreakable and resistant to a wide range of temperatures. In addition, they don’t quickly degrade or turn yellow because of the anti-ultraviolet radiation treatment they undergo.
Durability aside, clear kayaks are primarily valued for their aesthetics. Seeing marine creatures swimming underneath you while kayaking is an experience you won’t get with regular kayaks. But do clear kayaks get scratched?
Unfortunately, clear kayaks aren’t resistant to scratches. That’s actually one of their main disadvantages. Fret not, though; in this article, I’ll discuss the leading causes of scratching on clear kayaks and how to prevent and remove them.
What Causes Scratches on Clear Kayaks?
Polycarbonate, the primary material used in clear kayaks, is known for its excellent impact resistance, longevity, and durability. It’s one of the few transparent materials that can undergo large plastic deformations without breaking or shattering into pieces.
Even so, it’s not immune to surface scratches. Although these scratches don’t seem like a big deal, they can significantly affect the kayak’s aesthetic value. Moreover, these scratches can cause lasting damage and shorten the life of your boat.
Here are the three main culprits of polycarbonate scratches:
You will inevitably scratch your transparent kayak by kayaking over shallow stream beds, sharp rocks, and shells. Dragging the boat on grass, sand, or dirt can also scratch it.
The best way to prevent these scratches is to avoid shallow rivers and lakes that are filled with rocks and other natural barriers. Instead, choose a vast, open space with calm waters. If you insist on kayaking in shallow waters, make sure you don’t push it too close to big rocks.
When boarding, place the vessel parallel to the dock. It must be close enough to reach but not too close to prevent it from scratching the hull or the side of the clear kayak.
Rough cleaning equipment and solvents can cause significant damage to your clear kayak.
Polycarbonate is extremely sensitive to abrasive alkaline cleaners and surfaces. For this reason, never clean your transparent kayak with scrubbing pads, steel wool, or a dry towel, as these cleaners can easily damage and scratch the boat’s surface.
A dirty cloth with sand, dirt, or grime build-up can also cause unnecessary scratches.
Also, never use a power washer when cleaning your clear kayak, as the water pressure is too aggressive. If you must, use the power washer with a mist setting.
Proper storage is one of the most important aspects of boat maintenance. The worst thing you could do to a lucid kayak is to carelessly drag it into your garage and leave it there without proper protection.
This will not only damage the hull but also create a nasty set of scratches that’ll seriously ruin the vessel’s look.
Ideally, sheer kayaks should be stored indoors, so it’s safe from direct sunlight and weather damage. It should also be kept off the ground with its weight evenly distributed on a rack or hanging system.
This way, nothing and no one can accidentally scratch the boat.
How to Prevent Clear Kayaks From Getting Scratched
To ensure your polycarbonate kayak stays smooth and devoid of unsightly scratches, follow these maintenance tips:
Avoid Abrasive Cleaners
The best and most straightforward way to clean a transparent kayak is with a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge. As much as possible, use a natural cleaner without chemical additives.
Avoid harsh detergents and cleaners with bleach, ammonia, acetone, and other alcoholic alkaline solutions. This includes everyday household cleaning items like Windex, Lysol, 408, Pinesol, and Isopropanol alcohol.
If you manage to get the dirt out with soapy water, thoroughly rinse it off with lukewarm water and dry it with a microfiber cloth. If not, dip a sponge in the soapy water and gently remove the dirt with the sponge’s non-abrasive side.
Then, hose off the soap and let the boat air-dry for a couple of minutes. Just make sure the boat isn’t placed under direct sunlight to prevent premature yellowing.
Practice Proper Storage
Properly storing your kayak not only prevents surface scratches but also keeps your investment safe. Therefore, you should take the time to put it away carefully. Even if you’re planning to use it after several days, it’s worth putting a bit of effort into protecting it from damage until it’s ready to be used again.
When storing your clear kayak, make sure it’s free of dirt and debris. The small particles found in sand and dirt can leave tiny scratch marks on the polycarbonate surface with the right amount of friction.
As mentioned above, clear kayaks are best stored indoors, so it’s protected from the elements. If you don’t have space indoors, you can instead place it under a deck, under a roof, or on a covered porch. Just make sure it’s wrapped in a UV-resistant kayak cover.
Additionally, keep it off the ground to prevent damage caused by moisture or freezing temperatures.
If possible, buy or build a storage rack specifically designed for kayaks. These racks allow you to place the kayak upside down or at a slight tilt on specialized beams.
If you don’t have time to buy or build a storage rack, place two even wooden planks on the ground and position the kayak with its ride side up.
Make sure the planks are close to the wall. Then, every month, gently rotate the kayak, so the other side is leaning on the wall. This way, the kayak won’t get disfigured over time.
How to Remove Scratches From Clear Kayaks
There are several ways to smoothen and polish a scratched polycarbonate kayak, including vapor polishing, welding, and buffing.
Since clear kayaks are made from impact-resistant material, these polishing techniques won’t cause lasting damage if done right.
However, if you’ve never polished polycarbonate before, it’s best to consult a professional to avoid permanent scarring.
Vapor polishing, otherwise known as vapor smoothing or solvent polishing, is a method of polishing plastics to reduce surface imperfections and improve overall clarity. It uses a special chemical vapor that heats the affected surface and clears any roughness or dulling.
Vapor polishing is a reasonably simple process, but it does require a lot of skill and experience to properly complete. Therefore, you should always let a professional do it for you.
The best way to remove deep scratches is by “welding” the groove with a heat gun. Hover the gun several inches above the scratch until it disappears or diminishes. Ensure you don’t overheat the area as it might alter its color and melt the surface.
You can also heat the end of a metal spoon and gently press the hot tip along the scratch to flatten the surface.
To buff away scratches on a polycarbonate kayak, you need to use a buffing wheel mounted on a high-speed bench grinder. Use an extra-light setting to prevent too much friction and pressure.
Gently sand out the shallow scratches, then move the buffer back and forth on the sanded surface to ensure even polishing.
Although clear kayaks are virtually unbreakable due to their polycarbonate material, they aren’t resistant to scratches. Deep scratches can be removed by polishing the polycarbonate, but only do it if absolutely necessary.
Remember: prevention is better than cure. Avoid unnecessary damage by practicing proper cleaning and storage techniques.