The Keel Strip
It was recently pointed out to me that we do something in our build process that isn’t commonly done. I learned to build kayaks at North Coast Kayaks so it wasn’t unusual to me. The first thing I learned to make were bulkheads. They are flat and easy to make, and as my skills progressed I learned how to make every other part. So I didn’t know that part of our build process was unusual, it’s how we’ve always done it. We build a keel strip into the kayak, which isn’t that unusual, what is different is we put ours on the inside of the kayak.
Right from the Start
When I apply the gel coat to the hull mold I add extra down the centerline. Look at the bottom of any well-loved kayak and you will notice there are more scratches in the center and even more on the bow and stern. Since the gel coat is the thin candy shell that protects the fiberglass from UV and abrasion damage it makes sense to add more where you know the kayak will need it. Since I added the extra gel coat at the beginning the added gel coat isn’t visible from the outside.
Reinforcing the Reinforcements
So in addition to adding extra gel coat to the high-wear areas of the hull, we add strips of chop strand mat, a type of fiberglass, along the keel line of the hull. The laminate of the hull is already strong, and the strips of mat add bulk and thickness, as well as added strength to the keel line. This is similar to the way many external keel strips are made. We just build it into the hull rather than adding it on the outside. So our keel strip is very similar to those that are added to the outside of the hull.
We Do Inside What Most People Do Outside
So why make the keel strip internal? Here are some advantages: As part of the build process, it takes less time to install. Also not being external means it doesn’t add any drag to the hull. Most of the damage caused by normal use just shows up as small scratches. Unlike the keel tapes that are sometimes used our keel strip won’t tear or fray when abraded.
What if I Want to Add a Keel Strip Anyway?
If you want the added protection of an external keel strip that is not a problem. Our internal keel strip in no way interferes with adding an external one. We can even do that for you at our shop. For most paddlers, our internal keel strip is more than enough protection. Because it doesn’t interfere with adding more if needed I can’t find the downside. So yes, we put our keel strip on the inside. That’s how we’ve always done it.