For anglers who have spent many a day offshore leaning against a gunwale of a rocking boat while dropping baits and fighting fish, they understand the value provided by a set of coaming pads to provide cushion for your body.
Traditional vinyl upholstered coaming pads provide good cushion but are susceptible to deterioration and damage from wear and tear caused by the elements in our marine environment.
When our boat, a 2006 Dolphin 22 Bull Tournament, was originally built in late 2005, there were pre-fabricated coaming pad kits available from SeaDek Marine Products. These closed-cell EVA foam pads utilized a durable adhesive backing to enable a simple peel and stick application process.
After 14 years of hard use and exposure to the elements, it seemed like they could use a refresh.
SeaDek is an innovative product made from closed cell EVA foam, utilizing a peel and stick application process. Now widely known and accepted throughout the industry for its applications as a cushioned non-skid deck pad system, there are also some enhanced coaming pads available compared to what was originally equipped on our boat.
Although SeaDek has a well-established network of installers, they also offer boaters the option of a DIY approach to outfitting a boat with their products.
Our journey began with the receipt of the SeaDek templating-kit. The boat was originally outfitted with fixed-width coaming pads, trimmed to fit length-wise, but our goal would be a more natural custom fit in the replacement pads. To achieve that, we will template our exact desired dimensions onto the provided template materials. More options on the SeaDek website include pre-scanned kits for certain boat and kayak manufacturers.
The templating-kit consists of a number of mylar pieces for patterning, a detailed order sheet, a sample kit containing SeaDek samples, a return shipping label and instructions for every step.
- Old Pad Removal and Templating
- Color/Style Selection and Design Review
- Installation of Pads
Old Pad Removal & Templating
Before templating for new pads, we needed to remove the original ones. After 14 years of sun and wear and tear, the original adhesive was still going strong. However, the pads peeled away generally intact, leaving only the adhesive residue behind. We used Goof Off to soften the residue before scraping away with a putty knife.
This removed the bulk of the old adhesive, and a couple of passes with Goof Off on a paper tower would take care of the remainder.
Now, we were ready to apply the long rectangular mylar sheeting to the gunwales. It is not a requirement to use the full sheet for your templates, but it is necessary that the pieces of mylar are larger than your intended pad. Do not cut the mylar to fit, as SeaDek uses the indelible marker outline traced onto the mylar to form the design template for your pieces. You get to choose the number of mylar sheets you will need and we used about 5 to do this project to help give you an idea. The swim platform used a full sheet itself and then the rest were cut into the long pieces.
Once we had cut the mylar into strips of roughly the appropriate size, it was time to fix them into place with masking tape.
It is crucial that the mylar rests flat against your surface in exactly the way you wish your fabricated pads to sit, in order to achieve a proper fit in the end.
Templating is of the utmost importance to the success of the final fit!
Once the mylar is in place, it is time to begin tracing your outline. We chose to leave approximately 1/8” of the flat surface as a margin to the top of the gunwale and followed the bottom of the gunnel exactly flush. Depending upon the specific contours of your boat, you may wish to place your pads differently. Now is the time to make those decisions.
Once your lines are drawn on top and bottom, be sure to go around the boat and hold the mylar in place, double-checking that your lines ended up where you want the pads to be, and no mylar shifted during your drawing process. If anything is slightly off, it is easier to cut more mylar and re-draw it than try to address it further along in the process.
Ensure that you label each mylar piece per the instructions included. Indicate port, starboard, bow, stern, top/bottom to make sure that the pads are printed with the proper orientation. It is also important to number your mylar sheets because you will be indicating on the order form where they are located on the boat.
We would also be installing a helm pad during this process and a swim platform pad. If you are templating for coaming pads, it is a convenient time to address any other SeaDek needs you may have considered for your boat.
Once all your templating is done, triple check your outlines and that all mylar sheets are appropriately labeled and numbered as specified in the template kit instructions. It is now time to fill out the order form, and select your style/finish options.
Color/Style Selection & Design Review
Once you have a completed template, it’s time to consider what style and color scheme you wish for the final product. This would be a good time to speak with SeaDek and discuss your project before making any decisions. They are happy to offer feedback in terms of thicknesses, colors, and textures that will match your specific goals.
We also wanted to laser etch our tournament team logo on the helm pad. SeaDek recommended using 3mm Cool Gray over 17mm Storm Gray for our pads. We opted for the brushed finish on all pads and placed a custom fish ruler on the inside transom bulkhead pad in addition to the Team Googanator logo on the helm pad.
Make sure to check the design drawings that SeaDek generates for your project. If you do a lot of family boating as we do, make sure to consult with your significant other to ensure your planned color and design scheme won’t drive them crazy!
Installation of Pads
Once you sign off on the design, it doesn’t take long for you to receive a box of finished pads. They will come with step by step application instructions, as well as detailed labels on the adhesive paper backing pads that correspond to your approved design template.
As with all adhesive applications, preparation is the key to a successful installation. SeaDek recommends using acetone to thoroughly clean the installation surfaces, followed by denatured alcohol. It is especially important if installing over a non-skid surface that cleaning with these solvents is done very thoroughly.
Once the fit is verified, the application proceeds as follows: First, make a cut through the paper backing in the center of your first pad. It is important to use a sharp blade that will allow you to cut the paper without cutting into the pad. Once this cut is made, fold the paper back approx. 2” on each side, creasing the paper.
Fold the paper back down over the exposed adhesive, so that all the adhesive is covered. Place the pad into position, and thoroughly tape down one side of it with masking tape so it cannot move. Fold back the backing paper in the center to the creases you made, double-check alignment, and firmly press this center portion down to your cleaned surface.
Once the center portion is secured in place, proceed to the side which is not taped down, lift it so you can reach the folded back paper, and slowly peel it back 1-2” at a time as you press the pad down into position. It is important to note that the foam material may stretch! Ensure that as you peel the paper back, the SeaDek material is not stretching as you apply it to the surface.
Once you have worked your way to the end of the first side of the pad, it is time to remove the masking tape holding the other side in place. Once the masking tape is removed, lift up this side and begin peeling back the backing paper and firmly pressing this side down, again making sure not to allow any stretch in the material as you go.
Repeat this process around the rest of the boat, making sure to watch for any stretch in the pads that may compromise the overall fit. Take your time, and make sure everything lines up as you go. Go back around the boat and push down any small gaps on the edges that you see, to make sure that everything is firmly applied and tightly sealed around the perimeter.
Your final product will last for years to come, providing comfort and support, with low maintenance and high durability compared to traditional vinyl upholstered coaming pads.
Having the satisfaction of going through the process yourself is an added bonus. Tight lines and happy boating!