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In the winter we generally paddle less and have more spare time for “off season” projects. This is a great time to organize, maintain and possibly modify your paddling gear. It’s a real drag to get ready for that first trip of the season only to find some critical piece of equipment not in 100% working condition! The downtime of winter is a perfect opportunity to rectify this and prepare your gear for use.
Hopefully your gear has been put away clean and your storage area is dry and well ventilated. Dirt, salt and moisture are really hard on gear in storage. A thorough fresh water gear rinsing after any use in salt water is recommended, especially before storage. Salt is a natural moisture absorbent and if left on an item may actually keep it in a damp state no matter where it is stored. Salt has a corrosive effect on metal parts, especially when 2 dissimilar metals are in contact with each other. Salt crystals left in a fabric can be very abrasive and actually cause premature wear and tear on the fibers.
Moisture is also quite destructive on many materials if left unchecked. The growth of mildew and mold is only a minor stinky inconvenience on hard surfaced items like your boat or paddle where a quick wipe down with a slight bleach and water solution will take care of it. On fabric mildew will permanently stain the material and can seriously attack the waterproof coatings causing delamination and leakage. NOT good on paddling gear! Paddling outer wear should be hung up in a well ventilated area not wadded up in a duffle bag stuck in a corner of the garage. Check all zippers, closures and seams for damage and if the item has any latex seals a close inspection is in order.
It's a good idea to treat latex with 303 Protectant every third or fourth time I use the garment. This provides UV protection as well as makes the latex easier sliding on and off. While we’re talking 303, I find it useful in keeping many plastic, rubber and synthetic parts protected and working smoothly. A little shot on the footpeg sliders in my boat keeps them working smoothly and even a shot on a plastic zipper or fastex style buckle helps keep them at 100%!
If repairs are needed on neoprene or coated fabric items such as booties, spray skirts, or waterproof outerwear, Aquaseal is an easy to use product that really works well. It comes in a tube and can be applied as a wear strip, patch or glue and is very tough when it has cured. The curing process does take a while (24 hours) but can be shortened with an available accelerator.
So while you have some time before the spring paddling season starts get out there and do a “once over” on your paddling gear and be ready when the call goes out to go paddling! Next time we’ll talk about boat maintenance and modifications.