Protect Your Boat’s Hull

Author: Trace Myers

My family loves to compete in local bass fishing tournaments in and around Utah. On tours such as the Ultimate Bass Team Tour and B.A.S.S. Nation, we often pull up to shore for weigh-ins. I noticed our last boat’s keel was getting scratched up and the gelcoat was even coming off in places, so when we — wife, Mandy; daughter, Jo, 10; and sons Jordan, 12, and Tyson, 15 — bought our new Legend V20, we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. A friend of mine has had the same KeelGuard (keelguard.com) on his boat for eight years, so it really seems to hold up. I was sold. It also has a lifetime warranty. It comes in 11 colors, and I chose red to contrast with my black hull and match the red accent stripe for a custom look.

All KeelGuards are 5 inches wide and come in different lengths, depending on your boat’s LOA. The recommended length for my 20-foot, 5-inch boat was the 8-footer. Megaware provided everything we needed except masking tape, acetone (or alcohol), paper towels and a rubber mallet. The kit cost $195, and with Mandy’s help it took just a little more than an hour to install.

Note: KeelGuards are not recommended if your keel sits on a boat trailer roller, and it needs to be installed when the temperature is at least 60 degrees.

1. Mark and Mask
It’s recommended to begin about 6 inches above the waterline. (I laid down on a mechanic’s creeper to be more comfortable.) The reason for marking and masking is because the next step involves lightly sanding the working area — called etching — and priming it. Masking prevented us from scratching a part of the hull that won’t be covered by the KeelGuard. I had a 5-inch-long scrap piece, which made it easy to mark the hull with a pencil every foot or so. Hold the full KeelGuard up to the hull — with the backing strips intact — to determine where the back of it will be. Stick regular masking tape to the hull, using the pencil marks to aid alignment.

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2. Etch the Surface
Next, take the 3M Scotch Brite pad that comes with the kit and thoroughly scuff the surface area to remove any wax or contaminants and to create a dull finish that will help the adhesive stick better. Use a front-to-back-to-front scrubbing motion, so the edges of the masking tape don’t get peeled back.

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3. Clean the Area
After all the scuffing and scrubbing, clean the area. Mandy used acetone applied to paper towels, after putting on rubber gloves for protection. It’s also recommended to use acetone in a well-ventilated area (we were in a driveway). Alcohol can also be used and is recommended in enclosed areas.

4. Apply the Primer
Included in the kit is a tube of 3M Primer 94; activate it by bending it to break the vial inside, like you would do with a glow stick. There’s an applicator sponge at the tip that needs to be kept moist, so after “painting” about a square-foot area, shake the tube. Use slightly overlapping strokes to ensure full coverage. When it was applied, the color of the gelcoat came back to help us see where it had been applied. It dried very quickly, so we didn’t have to wait before beginning the next step.

5. Position the KeelGuard
While a KeelGuard only has one adhesive strip, there are three backing strips that can be removed one at a time to make it easier to work with. To start, peel off about a foot of the center section and carefully align it with the keel, which was easy thanks to its ribbed design. At first, this step was a little nerve-wracking, because the adhesive is very powerful and we didn’t want to misalign, because once it’s in place it can’t be removed and re-positioned. I started at the front and pressed the entire length of KeelGuard into place.

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6. Attach the Sides
With the center of the KeelGuard firmly attached, it’s time to attach the sides. Again, peeling off about a foot of backing at a time, use the burnishing tool, which looks like a spatula, to press it into place with a good amount of pressure, working from the keel outward to prevent bubbles. It’s best to complete one side before repeating it on the other side. At this point, it’s OK to remove all the masking tape from the hull.

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7. Pound the KeelGuard to Bond It
The 3M adhesive used is pressure-activated, so the final step is to take a medium-hard rubber mallet and thoroughly tap all areas of the KeelGuard. Use about as much force as it would take to crack a pecan. Although this step is optional, it will ensure that it is firmly bonded to the hull.

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Now when I beach my new boat, I don’t cringe when I hear it make contact with the bottom.

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