Maintaining and Storing Your Canoe for the Off-Season
Before putting your canoe away for the season and prior to extended trips, a thorough inspection is recommended. Properly maintaining and storing your canoe for the off-season is one of the best ways to increase the lifespan of your boat(s).
For composite canoes (fibreglass, Kevlar, carbon) inspect the inside of the hull using a flashlight for stress cracks, which can look like a ‘spider web.’ Don’t confuse an outside only gel-coat crack (cosmetic) with real stress cracks (structural).
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! Unless scratches expose the boat’s cloth, we recommended leaving them be; however, it is suggested to repair deep scratches that go down into the cloth.
General Care for Your Canoe
Wash your canoe thoroughly after each use, especially when paddling different lakes. Use environmentally friendly dish detergent, non-abrasive kitchen-cleaning pad, and a soft cloth. Soap and water are also effective, and Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser works wonders on those stubborn scuffs and the ‘sticky-stuff’ like tree sap.
A U.V. 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.
Canoe Maintenance Prevention – Frontenac Outfitters is pleased to teach you how to correctly lift, portage, and put your canoe in and out of the water. Our tips will go a long way to eliminating most wear and tear. We will also show you the best methods to easily transport your canoe safely and securely.
Visit our shop for in-person demonstrations or check out our YouTube Channel for how-to videos and in-depth reviews!
How to do Gel-coat Repairs on a Canoe
Unless scratches expose the cloth, we recommend leaving them be unless you’re set on repairing them. Instead, think of scratches on composite boats as gentle reminders of past excursions; the deeper the scratches, the better your stories!
However, exposed cloth will eventually become saturated with water, which in time, can lead to de-lamination. A simple fix is to fill the area with 5-minute epoxy, but for a more visually-appealing repair, a proper gel-coat patch is required.
Here’s how to do a gel-coat repair on your kayak:
Gel-coat Repair Materials
- Gel-coat – custom ordered from the manufacturer to perfectly match colour, or gel-coat repair kits can be purchased through most marinas
- Hardener with MEKP
- Rubber Gloves
- Painter’s tape
- 60, 120, 220 grit Sandpaper (dry)
- 300, 600, 1000 grit Automotive Sandpaper (wet)
- Dremel Tool
Gel-coat Repair Procedure
- Etch out the cracked gel-coat with a Dremel tool
- Rough the area with 60-grit sandpaper for better adhesion
- Clean with Acetone or nail polish remover
- Mask off the area with painter’s tape
- Mix gel-coat with hardener (read the instructions for proper mixing ratio)
- Fill damaged area
- As gel-coat begins to harden, remove painter’s tape so that it doesn’t get trapped beneath the new gelcoat and hinder its adhesion
- When dry (within 24 hours – 48 hours), begin sanding starting with heavy-grit sandpaper and working towards wet sandpaper to blend the patch with the existing gel-coat
Note: Two or three gel-coat applications may be required depending on the severity of damage.
How to Fix Small Holes or Gel-coat Cracks in a Composite Canoe
Looking inside your boat, if spider cracks or holes are clearly visible, your canoe’s integrity may be compromised.
Hole Repair Materials
- Fiberglass or Kevlar cloth
- Epoxy Resin – vinylester or polyester resin will also work if Epoxy resin isn’t available
- Hardener – match with the resin system used based on manufacturer’s instructions
- Rubber Gloves
- 100-grit Sandpaper (dry)
- 400-grit Automotive Sandpaper (wet)
- Cardboard & Wax Paper
Small Hole Repair Procedure
- Rough the inside of the kayak with sandpaper
- Tape the cardboard backing with wax paper to the outside of the repair area as a base to repair onto
- Saturate the fiberglass or Kevlar cloth with the mixture of epoxy and harder
- Apply cloth to an area 2” larger than the impact region
- When dry, apply a second, slightly larger application
- Gel-coat the outside of the repair area as per above instructions – paint gel-coat onto the cloth on the inside if needed
Note: For composite repairs larger than discussed above, we recommend having the repair done by a professional before storing your canoe for the off-season – our repair tech, Matt Lemke from Lemke Paddlecraft Repairs, is who we use locally.
Royalex and ABS Canoe Repairs
Royalex and ABS plastics are probably the most carefree canoe materials available, so it is unlikely you will face any major repairs.
As described above, a U.V. inhibitor 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).
Small Hole Repair Procedure
- Clean the damaged area with rubbing alcohol
- Apply duct tape to the inside of the hole
- Fill the hole from the other side with the Ptex or Plastic Weld Epoxy
- When dry, use a razor blade cut the repaired area flush
Note: Kevlar skid plate kits are available through Frontenac Outfitters to strengthen the bow and stern 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.
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 can loosen from repeated use or vibration during transportation.
Wood Gunnel Canoe Refinishing – Most companies treat wood gunwales with three coats of Tung Oil prior to boats leaving their shops. However, Tung Oil tends to evaporate overtime when exposed to sun and heat. 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.
Note: We do not recommend varnishing wood gunwales as it will eventually crack and peel. Canoe seats, yoke, thwart and handles may already be varnished since they are subject to must less wear and should require virtually no maintenance.
Storing Your Canoe Inside
Inside storage is preferred (highly recommended for wooden gunnels). Prolonged U.V. 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 and 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. It is also advised not to put anything inside the canoe if it’s being stored by this method.
Note: Don’t place heavy objects on top of your canoe or store it on its side as the hull can deform.
Storing Your Canoe Outside
If you must store your canoe outside, suspend a tarp over the boat leaving the down wind ends open to ensure circulation. Don’t wrap your boat tightly in the tarp as it will trap moisture inside, which can discolor the hull and start to rot the wooden components.
Note: Be wary of critters that love to nibble at your beautiful wood gunwales during the off-season!
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or recommendations of your own for maintaining and storing your canoe for the off-season, contact us to share them!
If you’re a kayaker, be sure to check out our article on Maintaining and Storing Your Kayak for the Off-Season.
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