When I paddled around Puerto Rico, I had a few close calls with reefs and submerged rocks. On more than one occasion I was surprised by a wave breaking over a hidden boulder which I managed to avoid only by timing my strokes with the wave crest. A rock covered with jagged barnacles and oysters is the kayaker’s most terrible enemy and I fear them more than a hungry great white shark. There’s always a chance the shark is just curious.
Because of that, I’ve always carried a fiberglass repair kit with me but somewhat irresponsibly, I have never taken the time to learn how to do a field repair. It’s been buried in the front hatch, providing nothing more than emotional support. But in practice it has been as useless as a can of fish with no can opener.
I’ve always been one to think, “it will never happen to me.” My beach landings have almost always been on sandy shorelines, and I’ve had the foresight (or luck most likely) to check that the landings would be in calm bays sheltered from the wind. In the chance that a quick repair is needed, I’ve had some waterproof tape with me that would hopefully get me to somewhere I could then rest a bit and think of what to do. In Vancouver Island, however, relying on hope and optimism just seemed too imprudent and disrespectful of my good fortunes thus far in life.
From photographs I’ve seen, many of the landings on the Pacific coast are rocky, exposed, with countless scattered reefs. Out on the ocean, you only need to be unlucky once to be unlucky for the rest of your short life.
I concluded that learning how to execute a successful fiberglass field repair is a skill I must have. To do that I called up the man I call the Kayak Whisperer, out in Naples.
“Hi Jay! I’ve decided that the Vancouver Island adventure is a go for this year. You mind giving me a class on fiberglass field repair, I got a feeling I might need it this time.”
“Yes, of course, come on by next weekend.”
I’ve known Jay for four years since I bought the Taran kayak. Meeting him is every kayaker’s most fortunate life encounter. Mine happened because when I purchased my kayak, it came with a small but critical production defect. The stern opening for the rudder deployment cable was placed in a location that made it inoperable. The existing hole had to be patched and closed, and a new one drilled farther back. Looking at a six-thousand-dollar kayak currently about as useful as a pile of driftwood in my living room I was feeling extremely distraught. For 9 months I had anxiously anticipated the delivery watching YouTube videos and reading blogpost reviews about my new kayak. And now that it was here, I couldn’t take it out on its maiden voyage. I posted on the Strictly Sea Kayaking group asking for recommendations on kayak repair shops in South Florida. The recurring responses from as far away as Newfoundland were, “Call Jay Rose!” “Jay is the Master of fiberglass!” and “Oh you are so lucky you live close to Jay; we shipped our kayak to Naples for him to work on it.”
I called Jay, and after briefly explaining the work, I was driving to Naples with my three-piece kayak crammed inside the Prius.
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When I arrived at Jay’s shop. I was a bit concerned. There was no shop, I had just driven down a potholed street to an old warehouse park on the outskirts of town. “Surely the address must be wrong”, I thought, wondering why there were no kayaks anywhere to be seen. A few minutes after I arrived another car with a kayak on the roof rack pulled into the parking lot, and a man wearing gray wife beaters stepped out. He was not very tall, but he was built with broad toned shoulders and wore a trimmed beard black as coal that seamlessly merged into his short curly hair.
“Hi, I’m Jay. You must be Felipe. Holy Cow! Is the kayak inside the Prius?”
“It’s a little tight, but I can just about drive safely on the highway with this setup. If I can manage without the central rear-view mirror, and don’t mind being a little too close to the steering wheel.”
“Don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that. Well, let’s get it on the work stand.”
As he said that he unlocked one of the warehouse rollup doors, coiled it up with a clatter, and revealed a garage workshop with several stacked kayaks on a rack.
“I have five units like this one. It’s been getting crowded, people keep sending me their boats, and I need to rent out more and more space.”
He looked at the stern piece with the opening for the rudder cable on my kayak, and immediately gave the diagnosis.
“Yeah, looks like whoever was making this goofed it. You rarely if ever see three-piece kayaks. Fortunately, this is easy, oh and you already have the right die pigment for the gel coat. It will look flawless. You can come and pick it up next week.”
He wasn’t overstating things like a used car salesman. When I picked up the kayak the following weekend, the defect looked as though it had never existed.
Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation