You’ve spent the day careening from wave to wave aboard your watercraft. As it rests, you notice severe gouges on its hull and wonder how to prevent the unsightly damage that could eventually transform your prized possession into a sinking ship.

Sue Rogers-Smith, CEO of KeelShield, Inc., Peoria, Ill., wondered the same thing. As an avid boater for most of her life, Rogers-Smith became all too familiar with the hassles and expense of fiberglass and gel-coat repair.

Over time, continuous scratching and scraping on any water vessel can cause serious problems, ultimately costing a lot of money. “If you own a boat and don’t have anything to protect it, you can count on it getting damaged every time you beach it. Friction from the sand scratches and scrapes the boat’s keel, bow and stern. Over time, the scrapes can turn into holes, allowing water to trickle through the fiberglass, weighing down your boat,” said Rogers-Smith. "Worse yet, you’ll spend in the neighborhood of $1,000 for repairs and far too much time being frustrated." So Rogers-Smith decided to do something about it.

A Revolutionary Product

After spending six months researching plastics and adhesives, Rogers-Smith founded KeelShield, Inc., in 1994. The result of her initiative was a revolutionary marine product called KeelShield™ that would help watercraft users protect their investments and take the worries out of beaching, trailering and shallow-water operation.

KeelShield is a heavy-duty, virtual armor plating that provides unparalleled protection against scratches, chips, gouges and scars to keels, bows and sterns for an assortment of boats, rigid inflatables and personal watercraft. Because KeelShield is comprised of Pellethane™ thermoplastic poly-urethane elastomer, a very durable polymer with high abrasive and impact resistance, it performs exceptionally well in marine applications.

Similar products in the industry are made of plasticized vinyl. After exposure to various elements, the vinyl becomes brittle and cracks, causing the adhesive to fail. This is not the case with KeelShield.

Adhesive Tape Makes it Stick

The polymer strip enables water enthusiasts to beach and trailer their vessels or operate around docks, boat ramps, slips and shallow water without damaging their watercraft. To provide a virtually unbreakable bond between the KeelShield and the surface of any vessel, Rogers-Smith uses 3M™ VHB™ tape from 3M Bonding Systems Division. This pressure sensitive adhesive bonds on contact with strength enough to replace rivets, bolts, welds and similar fastening methods.

“There’s nothing else like it. 3M’s tests and our experiences have proven that the 3M VHB tape can be submerged in water for months and holds up to just about everything. There is nothing on the market that can compare to this adhesive. It is leading-edge technology,” said Rogers-Smith. In fact, KeelShield, Inc., is the only company in the industry that offers a lifetime warranty on adhesion if the KeelShield product is dealer-installed.

The adhesive flows into microscopic surface irregularities to help seal against moisture, salts and other environmental conditions. According to 3M tests, 3M VHB tape demonstrates excellent performance when exposed to most common solvents and fuels. Additionally, when submersed in water or salt water, the tape retains 100-percent adhesion. 3M’s outdoor weathering tests show that 3M VHB tape can also withstand harmful ultraviolet rays.

Many boaters and anglers are already loyal customers of the Keel-Shield product, but according to Rogers-Smith, personal watercraft need KeelShield protection too. "Personal watercraft have a very thin layer of gel coat compared to other water vessels, so they abrade easily. And since they are almost always beached, they need extra protection from the sand," said Rogers-Smith.

Quality and Versatility

Available in 15 different colors, KeelShield can be matched to virtually any vessel’s color scheme or used to add a touch of style. The material itself weighs less than four pounds, much less than the weight of water absorbed into fiberglass through a damaged hull. Boaters can choose between 5-inch-wide or 12-inch-wide strips, depending on the size of the vessel. What’s more, the grooves built into the protective stripping mean that KeelShield can be easily molded to fit just about any application.

KeelShield, Inc., lives up to its promise of providing a quality product – and the word is spreading. From 1996 to 1997, the company experienced a 400-percent increase in sales. Likewise, 1998 proved to be another banner year, with a sales increase of 200 percent.

Many boat builders are recommending KeelShield not only for keel protection but also as an excellent surface for anchor lockers, lazarettes, engine rooms, outboard trim and swim-platform trim. Rogers-Smith added, "We plan to pursue other applications of KeelShield, especially in the industrial arena. With 3M’s and our constant dedication to research and development initiatives, we will continue to improve the product and find new uses for it."

KeelShield, Inc., uses national distributors to sell its product. Besides selling the product throughout most of the United States, the company also has distribution in Canada, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and 24 other countries in Europe.

The 3M Bonding Systems Division offers a full line of double-coated tapes, reclosable fasteners, laminating adhesives and vibration-damping systems for industrial manufacturers to help improve the design, assembly and performance of their products.

For additional information about 3M VHB Tape, contact 3M Bonding Systems Division, 3M Center, Bldg. 220-7E-01, St. Paul, MN 55144-1000; call 800-362-3550; visit the company’s Web site at www.3M. com/bonding.