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Canoe Maintenance & Storage

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Annual Canoe Inspection

Before putting your canoe away for the season and prior to extended trips, a thorough inspection is recommended. Using a flashlight inside your overturned canoe to inspect composite (fibreglass, Kevlar, carbon) hulls for stress cracks, which look like spider web cracks on the inside. ‘PLEASE’ do not confuse an outside only hairline gel-coat crack (cosmetic) with real stress cracks (structural) Gel-Coat Scratches / Chunks of Gel-Coat Missing.

All gel-coat scratches will show white, regardless of hull colour. Think of deep scratches on composite boats as love bites, gentle reminders of past excursions or outings. The deeper the scratches, the better your stories we hope! Unless scratches expose the boats cloth do not touch them, you will just make a mess! Deep scratches (into the cloth) are actually relatively simple to repair.

General Care for Your Canoe

Wash your canoe thoroughly after each use. We use an environmentally friendly household dish detergent, non-abrasive kitchen-cleaning pad and a soft cloth. Acetone is great for getting rid of tough marks like pine gum; it can be picked up in your local automotive department. If you cannot find Acetone try using nail polish remover as most contain some Acetone.

A UV inhibitor such as UV Tech or 303 Protectant will help protect Royalex, plastic and gel-coat finishes from fading. Think of 303 as “sunscreen” for your canoe. Apply 303 Protectant 2 to 4 times per season. Though not as effective, Armorall also works.

Note: Frontenac Outfitters does NOT recommend waxing your boats hull. Although waxing will do no harm, it actually decreases hull speed and it interferes with 303’s UV protection.

Gel-coat Canoe Repairs

Exposed fibreglass or Kevlar cloth could “wick” water into the cloth, which could in time begin to separate the boats cloth & gelcoat layers. A simple fix is to fill the area with 5- minute epoxy, for a more visually appealing repair we use gelcoat

Gel-coat Repair Materials

  1. Gel-coat (custom ordered by us to match from the boat manufacturer)
  2. Hardener with MEKP (automotive)
  3. Rubber gloves
  4. Kitchen stretch wrap
  5. Electrical tape 
  6. 100-grit (dry) sandpaper
  7. 300, 600 & 1000-grit automotive (wet) sand paper

Gel-coat Repair Procedure

  1. Wipe the repair area with Acetone & rough it with 100-grit sandpaper for better adhesion
  2. Mix gel-coat with hardener (few drops) & fill area 
  3. Using kitchen wrap with electrical tape, stretch wrap over the repaired area to smooth the gel-coat & remove air bubbles
  4. When dry, wet sand the area to blend with 300 & 600-grit paper (a 2nd or 3rd gel application may be required) 

Note: It may take up to 36 hours for get-coat to fully harden. For best results, finish with a wet sand using 1000-grit paper.

Small Holes & Spider Crack Repairs

When looking inside your boat, if spider cracks or holes are clearly visible, your canoes integrity may well be compromised.

Hole Repair Materials 

  1. Fibreglass or Kevlar cloth 
  2. Epoxy resin 
  3. Hardener with MEKP (automotive) 
  4. Rubber gloves 
  5. Kitchen stretch wrap 
  6. Electrical tape 
  7. 100-grit sandpaper (dry) & 400-grit (wet) sand paper 
  8. Cardboard

Small Hole Repair Procedure 

  1. Rough the inside of the canoe with sand paper to prepare 
  2. Attach the cardboard backing with wax paper to the outside of the repair area as a base to repair onto 
  3. Saturate the cloth with the mixture of epoxy / harder & apply cloth to an area 2 inches larger than the impact region 
  4. When dry, apply a 2nd slightly larger application 
  5. Gel-coat the outside of the repair area and wet sand per above instructions and paint gel-coat onto the cloth on the inside 

Note: For composite repairs larger than discussed above, please see your boat dealer about returning your craft to the manufacturer for professional repair.

Royalex & ABS Canoe Repairs

Royalex & ABS hulls are probably the most carefree canoe materials available so it is unlikely you will face any major repairs.

As described above, 303 Protectant should be applied 2 to 4 times per season. Deep gouges or very small holes can easily be plugged with hot glue or Ptex candle (sold in ski shops). Clean the area to be repaired with rubbing alcohol and then apply duct tape to the underside of the hole. Over fill the hole from the topside with glue or Ptex and allow cooling, and then use a razor blade to cut the repaired area flush.

Note: Kevlar skid plate kits are available through Frontenac Outfitters to beef up the bow & stern high-wear areas.

Cold temperatures can pose a greater threat to Royalex boats due to possible hull contraction and expansion. Wooden rails on Royalex canoes should be loosened off each season prior to winter storage and re-tightened each spring.

Hardware Maintenance: Quality canoe manufacturers only use stainless steel hardware as under normal conditions it is not susceptible to corrosion or rust. Periodically all screws and nuts should be checked and tightened as they tend to loosen from repeated use or vibration during transportation.

Wood Gunnel Canoe Refinishing

Most companies treat wood gunwales with three coats of Scandinavian Tung Oil prior to boats leaving their shops. However tung oil tends to both evaporate when exposed to sun & heat, so its smart to add a new coat of oil upon canoe purchase.

We suggest reapplying oil 2 to 4 times per season or as gunwales become dry and rough. Apply in the shade with a rag; leave 5 to 10 minutes before wiping off any excess oil. We do NOT recommend varnishing wood gunwales, as it will eventually crack & peel. Canoe seats, yoke, thwart and handles may already be varnished upon purchase and that’s OK as they are subject to must less wear and should require virtually no maintenance.

Upon purchase, place your canoe upside down on a pair of sawhorses, and then apply a coat of tung oil to the gunwales underside. Next apply a silicone bead where the wood gunwales meet the gel-coat. This proactively stops water from seeping between your boats inner gunnels.

Canoe Storage – Inside

Inside storage is preferred (highly recommended for wooden gunnels). Prolonged UV exposure and snow or ice buildup can shorten the lifespan of your canoe. The best canoe storage is upside down in a cool, dry place, off the ground. A pair of padded sawhorses works great. Suspending your canoe from ceiling rafters works well ‘IF’ the canoes weight is resting evenly on the gunwales. DO NOT store heavy objects on top of your canoe, and DO NOT store your canoe on its side as the hull can deform.

Canoe Storage – Outside

If you must store your canoe outside, suspend a tarp over the boat leaving the down wind ends open to ensure circulation and to keep snow and ice off. DO NOT wrap your boat tight in a tarp as it will trap moisture inside, which can discolor the boats hull & wood.

Note: Critters love to nibble off your beautiful wood gunwales during winter to spring to get the salt they crave left from your hands!

Canoe Maintenance Prevention

Frontenac Outfitters is pleased to utilize our on-water location & expertise to teach you how to correctly lift, portage and put your canoe in & out of the water. Our tips will go a long way to eliminating most normal wear & tear. We will also show you the best methods to easily transport your canoe.

While were sure to have forgotten some things, we hope you enjoyed our Canoe Maintenance & Storage Article. We offer a complete selection of canoe maintenance & storage accessories available to help you!

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected]

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