Mad River Canoe


General FAQs

Your local Mad River Canoe dealer can get you a replacement copy at no cost. The owners manual is a valuable source of great information on getting started in canoeing, care and maintenance and even minor repairs. You can also download it online.

One of the great features of canoes is the ease of carrying a variety of loads- people, dogs, gear, you name it. One of the key things to remember is that no matter what you carry you want to ensure that the load is evenly distributed front to back, side to side and that it is as low as possible. Another key issue is making sure that you are not exceeding the comfortable carrying capacity of the canoe. Overloading your canoe can dramatically alter its handling characteristics and therefore safety. We provide 6" freeboard capacities as a general rule of thumb on their relative capacity. Do not use this as an absolute value.

If you are loading people into your canoe the best place for them to sit is on the floor of the canoe either in seats directly on the floor. By doing this you keep the center of gravity low and provide a dry ride for your passengers. Small children should be placed directly in front of a parent.

Dogs love canoes! The key is to provide them adequate space to comfortably sit or lie down. Do not tie them into the canoe, if anything should happen you want to allow them the opportunity to get out and swim. A great recommendation, especially in rough water is a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for your pet.

For many of our discontinued canoe models from previous years, you can find information by looking on our archived catalogs page. Please note that many items found in the catalog are no longer available for sale through Mad River Canoe.

Your canoe’s serial number is stamped on a brass plate located on the right side of the stern, under the gunwale. You should record the serial number in the space provided on the last page of this manual for future reference. Your serial number is essential to reclaim a lost or stolen canoe, or to register and obtain warranty service.

Gunwale FAQs

It depends on your priorities. Each system has its disadvantages and advantages.

  • Wooden gunwales offer aesthetics, moderate weight, good balance between flex and stiffness (particularly for Royalex hulls), require the most upkeep and maintenance, and are more expensive.
  • Aluminum are the stiffest and lightest but are lacking in aesthetics, and can crimp rather than flex.
  • Vinyl gunwale systems (with or without aluminum inserts are the heaviest, require the least upkeep, and are the easiest to replace if damaged.

Let's talk about the alternatives first. We don't use mahogany because it's a rain forest hardwood in decreasing supply. Before 1991 we used mahogany in deck plates but replaced it with butternut as the impact of the depletion and exploitation of tropical hardwoods became clear. Beyond the "political" implications, mahogany tends to be a short grained wood that is subject to cracking and splitting if stressed. It's also heavier than ash.

Spruce does have the advantage of lighter weight than ash but its not as strong nor as flexible. Additionally, it is not as resistant to weathering as ash. Spruce is a soft wood and does not offer the strength and integrity of a hard wood. It's easily dented when bumped and will fracture if significantly distorted.

On the other hand, most hardwoods are too stiff to bend easily. Their grain structure is too dense to allow the wood to follow the hull contours of a canoe without being steamed or otherwise manipulated. For the most part, hardwoods also tend to be heavy as well. Maple or oak would make a right tough gunwale system except it'd probably add 10 or 15% to the canoe weight and wouldn't flex well if canoe was wrapped.

You could say that ash is a soft hardwood. Its characteristics kind of fall between soft and hard woods. It's a limber hardwood, capable of being bent to a canoe without requiring steaming or being prebent. While it's heavier than spruce or cedar or other softwoods, it is nowhere near as heavy as hardwoods such as maple or oak. Ash also has the advantage of being comparatively readily available as ash is a northeastern hardwood and quality ash is relatively convenient to our Vermont production facility.

Ash is a hardwood which translates to superior resistance to weathering compared to softwoods. It also tends to have a long straight grain structure which lends strength and more importantly, the ability to flex and bend without fracturing. In our archives, we have numerous testimonies from paddlers marveling at how the ash gunwales on their canoes remained intact even when their boat was caught in an end to end wrap or pin. This resilience is a trademark characteristic of ash and is a capability that often makes ash the gunwale system of choice for wilderness paddlers venturing hundreds of miles and multiple weeks from home or help. Ash is just about the only gunwale material, natural or synthetic, that can stand such severe distortion without fracturing or cracking.

Foremost is probably the fact that it is not as rot or weather resistant as other hard woods. Left unprotected, ash will deteriorate and rot fairly quickly. It does require periodic treatment to preserve its integrity and elasticity.

Compared to a wood such as spruce or a synthetic rail system such as aluminum, ash is heavier. It's up to you to figure out which feature is more desirable-- weight savings or flexible strength.

Canoe gunwales are subject to incessant flexing as the boat is handled and paddled. A certain amount of flex occurs every time you take a stroke. It's also inevitable that a gunwale will be bumped or scraped.

Varnish is great for use on static pieces of wood like furniture. It is a surface protectant that provides a barrier coat against the elements. Canoe-wise, you'll find varnish used to coat seat frames, yokes, and thwarts. These pieces are very static and rigid and not subject to flex. Flex causes problems for varnish as varnish is not very dynamic or giving. Repeated flex will create a series of minute stress cracks in a varnish coat. Bumps and scrapes will also crack or abrade the varnish top coat. Once that surface coat is cracked, water can creep underneath and affect the wood. This is evident by the gray discoloration that shows up on worn varnish coated products. Take a look at the edges of a used wooden canoe paddle and you'll see signs of water penetration via surface cracks or dings in the varnish.

Oil on the other hand is a penetrating finish that in effect is soaked up by the wood and then hardens to preserve the wood. As such, it is far better suited for use on canoe gunwales. As the oil has penetrated the wood, a bump or scrape doesn't remove the finish either.

The disadvantage to oil finishes is that they need to be periodically touched up and replenished.

It's really not that demanding, especially if you start taking care of them right away. Generally, you need to re-oil them at least twice a year, preferably three or four times, especially if your canoe is stored outdoors.

Basically, the periodic replenishment of protective oil is all that is involved. The frequency of application depends on the frequency and type of usage your canoe experiences, the means in which it is stored, and even where you live. If your boat is used regularly and lives outdoors, you should anticipate treating the gunwales a minimum of three times a year, preferably four. If you live in a humid warm climate, you can expect to treat your gunwales more frequently than if you live in an arid area.

Regardless of where you are, the procedure remains much the same:

  1. Clean your gunwales to remove any dried on debris or residue. Often a quick wipe down with a clean rag will do.
  2. If your rails are badly soiled or you want to do a more thorough job, lightly sand the gunwales with 100 grit sandpaper. This will remove surface scum and will open the wood's surface pores to readily absorb the oil finish. Don't forget to treat the underside of the gunwales. If you're going to sand the gunwales, it is recommended to run a length of masking tape on the hull below each side of gunwale to protect hull finish from abrasion by the sandpaper.
  3. Using a brush or soft rag, wet the gunwales with Gunwale Guard or your choice of oil. Don't forget to coat the underside of the rails and to get under the decks. If your boat has a deck fixed to the top of the gunwales by screws, take the time to remove the deck and treat the rails underneath. Due to the canoe's shape, this area tends to collect and hold water more than anywhere else.
  4. Let sit about 5 minutes and then wipe off excess.
  5. That's really all there is to a basic maintenance program. If you want to restore your gunwales to showroom condition you can: Using 220 grit sandpaper, wet sand the rail surface before removing the excess oil. Make sure the sandpaper stays wet as you sand. After waiting a few minutes, wipe off excess and buff with soft cloth.

All in all, a preventative rail treatment shouldn't take more than an hour at a time which really isn't too much of a commitment, is it?

Gray shows the natural weathering of ash from exposure to moisture and to sunlight. To remove the gray you can sand the rails, clean them with a cleanser such as GB-60, or in worst case, use a diluted solution of household bleach in water. Sanding is the longest lasting remedy and will also remove the roughened surface.

Not really, it's mostly a cosmetic choice. A dark stain, such as the walnut used by Mad River, will hide the graying of the rail to some degree but the same process is going on and the result is that you will still need to preserve your gunwales.

As the walnut is basically a stain, it is recommended that you finish your rails with a protective oil such as Natural Gunwale Guard as the last step in your rail treatment. This will not only provide maximum protection for your gunwales but will also protect the stain as well.

The very ends of the gunwales are the most prone to weathering. In the first place, the ends are the most open grain on the gunwales, providing the least resistance to water penetration. Additionally, when you turn your boat upside down water follows the natural curvature of the gunwales towards the ends, providing more exposure and more opportunity for the gunwale end to absorb water. Any time the canoe is inverted on the ground, the gunwale ends also come into contact with soil and dirt which can be caught in or around the end of the rails. Dirt holds moisture, thereby again increasing the likelihood of extended exposure to moisture.

First thing to do is to pay special attention to the rail ends when treating your rails. Go back and apply a second coat of protective oil to the ends. If the damage has been done but hasn't progressed too far, sand the rail end to remove the damaged material until you reach sound wood. This may require loosening the endmost rail screws to allow the rail to separate from the hull to make sanding easier and more complete. Don't forget to treat the section of the rail against the hull while you have the opportunity.

If the damage is extensive enough to be beyond restoration, you may need to remove the damaged rail end and splice in a new one. Mad River does provide 4' splicing sections for "spot" repairs of damage. The cost is real reasonable and the procedure is not too involved.

Not by any means. Mad River offers 4' splicing sections for partial repair. Basically, you cut the existing rail at an angle on either side of the break, unscrew screws in that section, and remove. Cut the splicing section to fit, clamp in place, drill and screw and get back on the water.

Yes, there is. Gunwales for Royalex boats are flush sided and install in sandwich fashion with the top edge of the hull showing between the inside and outside gunwales. Gunwales for composite or laminate boats have a lip (or kerf) on the ouside gunwale that caps the hull edge and butts against the inside rail.

It is possible to use gunwales for Royalex canoes on composite boats as long as the sharp hull edge is sanded flush and smooth with the gunwale surface. You can't use composite rails on Royalex hulls as the Royalex hull is quite a bit thicker than a composite hull and the kerf will not reach the edge of the inside gunwale.

All in all, it's not too bad a process. In simple terms, you remove the existing gunwales (save the hardware), clamp new rails in place, trim to fit, and drill and screw them to attach them to the hull. There's no steaming or prebending necessary.

The most important part is making sure you've got the right gunwales and parts to start with. When ordering or buying gunwales, you need to buy gunwales that are longer than your canoe to compensate for the fact that the gunwales take a curved route from end to end rather than straight down the middle. Be aware that each gunwale actually consists of two rails, the inside (inwale) and outside (outwale). Thus, you will need 4 pieces to perform a complete gunwale replacement. Make sure you also know what material your boat hull is made of to be sure you get the appropriate gunwale and gunwale screws. If you have a fitted deck, you'll most likely need to obtain replacement decks as well. If your boat has a "capped" deck you're probably spared that problem. Last, while MRC's stainless steel hardware is tough stuff and corrosion resistant to boot and most can be reused, it's wise to obtain some spares just in case. Gunwale screws are available in packs of 12 from your Mad River dealer.

As for tools, you'll need about a dozen clamps. C-clamps work fine but you'll find a couple of spring or bar clamps helpful when first positioning the new gunwales. You'll also need a phillips screwdriver, (a reversible variable speed drill with phillips head bit makes a lot of sense too), measure, marker, a drill with several drill bits, saw, a couple of wrenches, rubber mallet, and some glue if you're replacing your decks.

Probably the trickiest part of the procedure comes when you get to the ends of the canoe, particularly if your boat has fitted decks. Fitting new decks isn't terribly difficult, it just takes a bit more time and measuring. If you're moderately handy with tools, the complete job can be done in a day.

Yes, you can splice the rails behind the decks using the technique described in installing splicing sections.

You can replace one side if desired but be prepared for something of a mismatch cosmetically. Most likely you'll also end up short splicing the new rail to preserve the existing decks.

No. In 1985 Mad River switched to rounded rails and square rails are not available. Rounded rails will work just fine in replacing square gunwales.

All decks are now made of butternut. Just as with replacing squared rails with rounded ones, butternut decks will work fine. Even if your canoe design is no longer in production deck blanks are available that can be used with minor reshaping required.

The procedure is pretty much the same as working with wooden gunwales. Instead of removing screws, you'll need to drill out the rail rivets and you'll need a rivet gun to install new rivets.

Vinyl rails are pretty simple to install. Like aluminum rails, you'll need to drill out the rivets but the vinyl gunwales are flexible enough to tolerate being bent into place as you go. It's important that you make sure the rails are completely settled in contact with top of hull before you drill and rivet new rails in place.

Certainly, but anticipate what's needed as far as fitting decks, seats, yokes, and thwarts. Generally, wooden and vinyl gunwales are compatible as far as hanging seats and crossmembers but aluminum rails require different attachment systems.

Wooden gunwales will work fine. You do need to obtain proper length and pay attention to the hull material and order appropriate gunwales. Aluminum gunwales can be trickier due to variations in hull laminations between different manufacturers. It's probably best to stay with the original manufacturer for these gunwales. Vinyl gunwales are more universal and if used on Royalex or polyethylene hulls, the hulls can be shaved if need be.

Replacement seats and cross members are sold "uncut" to avoid confusion with all the different models of canoes and changes to models over the years. Measure your existing parts and order the size seat(s) or cross member(s) longer than needed. Use old parts as templates to cut the new ones and to locate holes to be drilled for hardware. Remember to coat the newly exposed wood surfaces where cut with varnish for protection before installation.

Yes, you can. Cane panels and splines are available from different sources. However, once paddlers realize how little a price difference there is between a complete new seat and the cane components and just how time consuming removing and installing new cane is, the majority choose to replace the entire seat.

No. You need to order through your local dealer. Gunwales are too long to ship UPS and require transport via common carrier (truck). Be aware that that freight costs will apply. You can order gunwales through your local Mad River dealer for pickup at the dealer, which usually reduces the shipping charges. Another option is to consider a temporary repair using splicing sections as these can be shipped UPS.

Yes. A lot of dealers will perform this job. Please contact your local dealer to see if they perform this service.

Gelcoat FAQs

Gel-coat is basically a relatively thick layer of resin with colorant added. In the manufacturing process it is the first layer of the hull, sprayed against the inner surface of mold. Its smooth shiny finish is an indicator of the mold finish. Any mold imperfections would be reflected in the gel-coat as well. Functionally, it serves as a protective finish to the structural portion of the hull's composite lay-up, particularly against abrasion. The gel-coat also provides a barrier to moisture penetration into the weave of the hull lay-up.

Yes, the resin is formulated specifically for this purpose. It tends to have a high elastic capacity and is engineered to provide superior strength without an inherent cloth structure as well as exceptional abrasion resistance.

Skin-coat boats are boats made without a true gelcoat. There is a layer of resin applied to the mold surface and the hull is laid up directly on that layer of resin. This construction is performed generally only when minimum weight is the goal such as for marathon and triathlon racers. These boats are usually much better taken care of than most recreational boats nor are they exposed to hazards as freely. Skin coated boats are lighter than gel-coated ones but are also more subject to porosity which can allow moisture to penetrate into the structural lay-up and cause deterioration.

No. you can obtain clear-coat as a gel-coat. The same resin mix used in a gel-coat is used but no coloring has been added. This will lighten the boat a little as pigment does add weight. The disadvantage is discoloration of the lay-up fabric upon sustained exposure to UV light.

Every paddler knows scratches are inevitable and regardless of the color of the gel-coat, all scratches show up as white. This makes them very evident. Some paddlers will go so far as to select a white or sand colored hull to minimize this effect.

Not as long as they remain strictly a cosmetic issue. When scratches are deep enough to reveal the internal cloth's weave, it is time to take corrective steps.

Two reasons. The biggest is that this is the most likely place for the boat to sustain an impact. Additionally, the gel-coat is thickest as it wraps around the stem of the boat. This does weaken the bond between the gel-coat and the structural layers and when subjected to a sharp impact can be chipped away. Be thankful, for this is actually the gel-coat doing its job. Often the damage will be limited to the loss of a small piece of gel-coat with the underlying lay-up escaping any damage.

No. It takes some patience and some thoroughness to generate the best possible finish but that's pretty much up to you. Basically, you'll be filling a scratch, gouge chip, or hole with new additional gel-coat and then sanding and polishing to fair it in and bring up the shine. Deep scratches, holes, or chips may require multiple applications of gel-coat but this is not really a time consuming procedure.

Not if you wear the gloves provided and use safety glasses and a NIOSH certified respirator for Dust and Mists. It's best done outside and on a day with temperatures between 68-75°F for sufficient working time.

Composite FAQs

Depends on the extent and location of the damage. If the boat has been wrapped and has multiple tears or cracks, the process can be much more involved and complicated. With extensive damage you may have to remove or replace the gunwales of a canoe to relieve any distortion to the hull. Your intent in repairing your hull will be to restore stiffness and strength to the hull.

Working with cloth and resin always has the potential to be challenging and unless you approach it in an organized manner, it can get messy in a heartbeat. It's best to get all the necessary components together and sorted out before starting. It may also be a situation where the repair is best performed over a series of days, rather than at one fell swoop. Generally, you will perform the structural repair on the inside of the hull to restore integrity while repair to the exterior of the hull will be more cosmetic in nature. If you are repairing a kayak hull sometimes it is unavoidable to perform the structural repair on the hull exterior if the interior surface is unreachable.

The actual process is pretty straightforward in that you wet out the prepared surface with resin, lay patching fabric in place, wet out that patch, and repeat the process until you have restored the hull to its original stiffness and structure. However, fiberglass resin is challenging to work with. It's sticky when wet and then you have a limited working time with which to apply it. As long as you're organized and have the materials and conditions at hand it is a realistic process to undertake.

It can be tough with many boats, especially those with gel-coated exteriors and painted interiors. Just about any damage to a fiberglass hull will show up as white, whether it be a scratch or a fracture. Surface scratches, painful as they may be, are relatively easy to identify and quantify. Regardless of the color of your gel-coat, scratches coming as a result of beaching the boat or sliding over a midstream ledge or rock will show as white. If the gel-coat is still intact and you can't see any damage to the underlying fibers or cloth weave, most likely this isn't cause for concern. Eventually, you will want to restore the gel-coat in these areas to maintain the protection the gel-coat provides to the hull structure.

The key to determining structural damage is to keep an eye out for any new or excessive flexibility in your hull. If you've taken an impact but don't see any exterior signs of damage, take a minute and push against the hull in the area of the hit and compare how flexible the hull is in that area compared to a corresponding point on other side of the hull. If the impacted area is more flexible, then you may have an issue to deal with.

Sometimes structural failure is a cumulative thing that results from use over time and can't be attributed to one instance or one rock. Signs to look for are flexibility in the hull while paddling. Take a minute and drive your boat hard and watch the interior of the hull. Any up and down movement in the bottom of the boat is not a good sign. Unlike "rubber" boats (polyethylene & Royalex) where such "oil-canning" is expected and desirable to a degree, such flex in a composite boat indicates a problem. Another area to look at is to inspect the exterior of boat along the chines (where the hull transitions from bottom to sides) and look for any pattern of parallel cracks in the gel-coat. If there is a series of cracks on one side or both, this can be an indication that the internal layup has been damaged and needs to be stiffened.

Literally, if you have the time and patience, you can restore a boat that's been broken into multiple pieces. It'll be heavier than it once was but it will be functional.

Generally speaking, damage to composite hulls falls into several categories. The first is cosmetic wear and tear. Scratching the hull is inevitable and the first scratches are the most painful. Regardless of the gel-coat color, composite hulls will scratch out white, making this type of damage look worse than it is. If the gelcoat is still intact and there is no sign of corresponding whiteness on the interior of the hull, its most likely that all you're facing is a gel-coat repair and this can easily be accomplished with the materials provided in Harmony's gel-coat Repair Kit.

Most damage that requires structural repair is the result of impact or from excessive flexibility in the hull as the result of fatigue or unrecognized damage. It is true that continued severe abrasion can necessitate a structural repair if the gel-coat has been removed and you are seeing the white fibers of the cloth exposed or lifting up. However, what we're most concerned with here is fixing punctures and cracks or fractures. It's not necessary to have exposed fibers to indicate a fracture. A white line on the interior of the hull could indicate what is called a resin fracture where the fibers have not actually been torn but the bond between resin and fibers has been broken. It's important to be proactive. If you see a point where the hull has been damaged, it's best to repair it as quickly as possible to prevent damage to the lay-up from water getting inside the lay-up and causing further deterioration.

First step will be to clean the hull thoroughly. This will make the extent of damage that more evident and allow you to assemble the necessary materials. Next, you will want to remove the damaged fibers and resin from around the area to be repaired. This is accomplished by a considerable amount of sanding and cutting of 'loose" fibers from around the injury. It is key to remove any raised fibers as these have already been resin impregnated and will not absorb any new resin and you'll find them extremely stubborn in terms of trying to get them to lay flat under a new patch or reinforcement. This step actually resembles making the damage worse in that you are opening up the crack somewhat by removing material that is still present but no longer of any structural value.

The next step will be to cut reinforcing patches of cloth to lay in over the damage. Plan on laying in multiple layers of fabric to restore stiffness and integrity. Usually this can be done at one time. Once the patches have cured, then you've got a bit of sanding to be done to smooth down any sharp edges. As structural repair is done on the inside of the hull, its up to you how far you want to go in restoring the original appearance of your hull. On the exterior of the hull, with enough time and energy, you can make the damage invisible by using the appropriate colored gel-coat kit.

No, that's one of the beautiful things about composite construction. You can repair your hull to the point where it is as strong as originally built or you can take it a step or two further and buttress the area by adding additional layers or specific types of fabric. The only drawback to building up an area is the additional weight involved.

Harmony gear offers prepackaged repair kits for Fiberglas or Kevlar® repairs. The kits contain enough material for most repairs of cracks or tears up to 12" long. You can also obtain additional resin and cloth from your local outdoor specialty store, marine stores, auto parts stores or from boat building supplies on the Internet.

As for resins, your choice will usually come down to polyester, vinylester, or epoxy. Most performance boats are built of either vinylester or epoxy. Both are significantly stronger than polyester (and more expensive). Polyester resin is adequate for the majority of repair work and bonds well to whatever resin may have been used originally. For extensive repairs in critical areas of the hull you may want to consider vinylester (has the advantage of being slightly more elastic and is less threatening to work with) or epoxy (stronger and lighter but more hazardous).

When it comes to fabrics, avoid fiberglass mat. Mat can be identified by fibers running in random directions with no semblance of a weave or pattern. Mat has the advantage of being able to easily conform to tight curves and corners but provides little or no strength, as the random fibers are not linked to each other. It is serviceable to use as a filler on the outside of a hull beneath the gel-coat or if you're trying to build up a repair right up in the nose of your boat but other than that you'll be better off going with a woven fabric.

Woven roving is characterized by a coarse weave consisting of large fibers. It has the advantage of providing substantial stiffness over a large area but tends to be heavy compared to more tightly woven fabrics as it collects substantial amounts of resin within its large weave. Its best application is to restore stiffness across the interior of the bottom of the hull. It does not conform to curves and corners very well.

"True" woven fabrics come in a variety of weights, usually measured in oz. per yard. For most repairs, a 6 oz. cloth will work fine. Its relatively fine weave provides a good resin-fabric ratio, it conforms to hull curvatures well and has good strength to weight characteristics, especially when used in multiple layers. Lighter weight cloth may be called for when you're working in an area with a tight curvature and need a more flexible cloth. Heavier weights such as 10oz. can be used where stiffness is desired or where you've got a fairly large area to restore. Many builders use a mix of different weights for best results.

In addition to weights, you'll also encounter different types of fabric. Your basic fiberglass fabric is called "e-glass" and is perfectly adequate for most applications. "S-glass" fabric does provide a higher level of abrasion resistance but is harder and stiffer to work with. If you're repairing the end or keel line of your boat and you feel like you have to reinforce the exterior of the hull, s-glass would be a good choice. Many manufacturers use it as the outside layer on their Kevlar® or graphite canoes for this reason.

Beyond fiberglass, one encounters the more exotic fabrics such as Kevlar® and graphite. Kevlar® has a well deserved reputation for providing lightweight durable canoes. It can be more difficult to work with as it is lighter than fiberglass cloth and may tend to "float" a little more in the resin, making it harder to get it to lay down in the center of a curvature such as the stem of your boat. Kevlar® also does not take to sanding very well as it tends to "fuzz" as you sand it. Graphite is rarely used in hull repair. It's a very stiff fabric that doesn't take well to being bent or forced to follow a hull's curves. It's also difficult to wet out with resin and hard to tell when it is sufficiently impregnated.

No. Since it’s the resin that bonds fiber to fiber, it's certainly feasible to use fiberglass cloth to repair localized damage on a Kevlar® hull. As mentioned above, many Kevlar® boats are built using fiberglass layers for good reasons such as added abrasion resistance. If your damage is relatively concentrated and doesn't require a lot of material, you'd be unlikely to notice the few ounces of added weight incurred by the use of fiberglass cloth. On the other hand, if you're repairing a wider expanse of the hull, you'd probably be better off using Kevlar® fabric to maintain a more consistent flex pattern throughout your hull.

When sanding the fiberglass or other fabric, always wear a dust mask at the minimum, along with eye protection, and long sleeve shirt and long pants. Better yet would be a NIOSH approved respirator with an organic vapor cartridge. The primary dangers involved with composite boat repair are the dust from sanding and the vapors emitted by the resin used. Take necessary steps to minimize your exposure to these influences.

Fiberglass fibers are no fun to get onto your skin. They itch like mad so keep covered and when finished, wash the clothes worn while doing the work separately from other laundry or simply dispose of them outright.

The best location for doing this type of work is outdoors with the temperatures in the 65-75°F range and a light steady breeze blowing. If that is not possible and you must work indoors, make sure there is a positive ventilation flow by turning on a fan or two. Vacuum up all dust generated and dispose of used materials properly. Particularly make sure that any unused resin completely cures to a solid state before disposing in any closed or sealed container.

Follow instructions provided with repair materials carefully. All resins have a "working time" and repairs should be adjusted to fit within that time frame. Working time will vary with temperature, becoming shorter the warmer it is and longer when it is cooler. Do not undertake repairs when the temperature is 50°F or less unless you take steps to warm the resin mix and the curing resin/fiber patch with a hair dryer. Do not use a heat gun or open flame under any circumstances. If temperatures are warm, plan on mixing smaller and more frequent batches of resin to avoid a larger batch kicking over to a solid before you are finished with the work.

Royalex FAQs

Royalex is susceptible to shrinkage when exposed to freezing temperatures. A sheering fracture (cold cracking) is a potential hazard if you live in area with rapid fluctuation or freezing temperatures, particularly canoes with wooden gunwales.

To avoid this hazard, consistent application of Gunwale Guard oil finish will minimize chances of cold cracking. Cold cracking is not covered under the canoe’s warranty. Cold cracks, should they occur, are repairable by contacting your local dealer. Synthetic Gunwales are less prone to cold cracking, but covering your canoe with an insulator such as a moving blanket can help lessen the chance if a severe drop in temperatures occurs.

Not if the vinyl skin is intact. Over time there will occur some color fading but this can be prevented by periodic treatments of a UV protectant such as 303, available from Harmony. The application of a UV protectant will create a slippery surface for a limited period of time.

One of the reasons we like 303 is that its water based and makes for a less slick surface. Nonetheless, when/if you treat the interior of you boat be cautious when you next use it to avoid slipping and losing your balance.

Yes and no. Very extreme heat can deform the canoe but the temperatures must be very high and very sustained. This is usually not a problem unless the canoe has been placed in a clear polyethylene sleeve or bag and left out in the sun. This can deform the canoe permanently but most people don't keep their canoes in a plastic bag. The problem occurs more often when new boats are delivered to a shop or customer and left outside in their packaging materials.

Royalex® is much more resistant to heat deformation than canoes made of polyethylene. Cold temperatures can pose a bigger threat. Royalex® canoes can be susceptible to cold cracks due to hull contraction and expansion. Wooden railed canoes are more prone to this than those with synthetic gunwales. Most canoe manufacturers have taken steps to minimize the possibility of cold cracks and include tips on how to store your boat for the winter season in their owner's manuals. More information on cold cracks and repair can be found below.

ABS Royalex® is an incredibly durable material but it is not indestructible. Back when Royalex® started to show up in canoes, it was nothing short of a revolutionary advance in canoe materials. Its functional durability put it in a class by itself compared to other available technologies of the time such as aluminum or fiberglass or wood.

Canoe manufacturers could be forgiven if they got a little too carried away with this almost magical material. Images of canoes sailing off factory roofs or falling from airplanes and surviving contributed to the growth of Royalex®'s reputation for being "indestructible."

Not particularly. Royalex® repair often consists of restoring damage caused by an accumulation of wear and tear and this type of repair is not difficult or complex. It does get more challenging if you're intent on repairing a boat that has been wrapped or severely distorted to the point where the hull has torn. The difficult part is not the actual repair of the hull material but in restoring the original hull shape. In situations like this, you are usually also facing replacement of the gunwales or rails as the hull can be distorted far more severely without permanent damage than can these structural members.

Repair of dents and deep scratches involves filling with Royalex® repair resin. Repair resin is a puttylike 2-part resin that cures to a hard finish. Some sanding will be required as well. Repairing tears or cracks requires multiple layers of Kevlar® cloth laid in and covered by the repair resin. Fiberglass cloth can also be used but the inherent flexibility of Kevlar® better matches that of Royalex®. Structural repair is generally done on the interior of the hull.

The outer (and inner) layers of a Royalex® hull is vinyl. There're there to provide UV protection for the underlying ABS plastic layers that in turn surround the foam core. The ABS layers are quite susceptible to UV degradation. The vinyl layers block that potential damage. Over time and considerable use, it is not unusual for that vinyl layer to be worn away. As the vinyl wears, you'll start to see a new color appearing. The vast majority of Royalex® material has been made with the ABS layers of a differing color than the vinyl skin. This makes it easy to gauge the wear on the vinyl layer.

While the canoe is still structurally intact, it is wise to restore that layer of UV protection to your hull. If the ABS has not been too deeply scratched or gouged a simple, albeit temporary, solution is to simply paint over the exposed layers. Most canoe manufacturer's provide color matched ABS Touchup paint You can expect to have to paint again in the future as the paint is abraded away. A more permanent option to consider if the wear is concentrated at the ends of the boat and the underlying layers are in good shape is to install a skid plate kit.

This will not only protect your hull's integrity but will add strength to the hull. If the ABS layers have been scraped or gouged you may need to consider filling with Harmony Royalex® Repair Resin and then painting over the new material. Repair resin is a thick paste that spreads easily and cures to an extremely hard finish. If properly installed, it is unlikely to require additional repair in the future.

Probably not, especially if the outer skin is not cut or missing. Flip your boat over and look inside the hull. If you don't see a corresponding crease on the inner hull surface most likely the damage is cosmetic. Structurally, the hull is fine unless you see that corresponding crease. This indicates the damage extended first into the foam core, compressing it, and then through the inner ABS layers.

If the boat is used primarily in milder waters, you can probably live with this damage if not too long or large in scope. If you're paddling demanding whitewater or going to remote locations it'd be prudent to repair it as this depression can become a "hinge" in event of an "incident." Some shallow dents can be repaired by heating the area with heat gun. This can re-expand the foam core. If necessary, structural repair would consist of reinforcing the damaged area with a matrix of repair resin and glass cloth applied to the inside of the hull.

Paddlers living in colder regions or in areas subject to rapid temperature fluctuations have learned that Royalex® canoes can be subject to what are called cold cracks. Cold cracks occurred when temperatures reached the teens or lower and/or there was a rapid temperature swing of 20-30 degrees in a few hours. Royalex® is an elastic material and will shrink or expand slightly due to temperature changes.

At colder temps, the material has a tendency to contract. When that contraction occurs at a different rate than that experienced by the gunwales, the hull could crack at the screws or rivets used to attach the gunwales. These cracks would often extend up to 8-10" down into the hull of the canoe. Contrary to most damage incurred by paddling, cold cracks can be identified by their vertical orientation. In severe cases, one could encounter a series of 6 to 8 or more cracks originating at a succession of attachment points. Royalex® canoes with wooden gunwales were somewhat more susceptible to this problem than those with synthetic rails. As canoe manufacturers became aware of this problem, they took steps to reduce its occurrence.

Steps recommended for the user to take included backing out the screws in the ends of the boat as cold cracks tended to occur more frequently in these areas. Steps were also taken in the production of the boats to make this problem less likely and these precautions have appeared to have had an impact as incidents of cold cracks have diminished. Still, its possible to experience the problem or to find a canoe for sale with the problem. Indeed, if you are fortunate to find such a boat, you will often find a bargain as the damage looks worse than it is.

As cold cracks are found up near the gunwale, they're located in a less critical area than if they were found below the waterline. Repair consists of removing the gunwale, aligning the hull parts and reinforcing the interior hull with Royalex® repair resin and cloth. Cosmetic repair of the hull exterior is accomplished by slightly widening the crack and filling with repair resin.

Unless it's big the hole can be fixed pretty easily by taping a piece of cardboard with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap on the outside of the hull and then building up the gap with layers of fiberglass cloth and Royalex® resin.

You may need to build a "jig" to reshape the canoe to its original form. This can be done with duct tape, cardboard, and wood as well as any other materials that come to mind if they'll do the trick. Be creative. If the damage is confined to one side of the boat, you can force out (or in) the damaged side by bracing temporary cross-members off the sound side of the boat. Run a line of rope or cord down the center of the boat from end to end and sight down the line to assist in making the boat as symmetrical side to side as possible. Gettinag the two sides of the crack to align can be trickier.

Any bracing or jig should be applied to the hull exterior since you'll be doing the repair primarily on the inside of the hull. Taping lengths of cardboard or thin bendable wood strips will often help the hull take its original "fair" curves or close to it. It can be challenging to conform the crack should it extend through the chines (where hull side transitions to bottom). Again, be creative. You can force a hull "out" by running a down brace from a thwart or yoke ending with a plywood or foam pad against the hull. If a thwart or yoke is not in proper position, make a temporary cross member and wedge it under the gunwale to anchor your down brace.

If you're faced with bringing in part of the hull to conform, it's a bit more challenging. It may sound counterproductive but you can drill two small holes close to the crack and run a line through them and up around a thwart or yoke and tension the line to conform the hull. In most cases the drilled holes will ultimately be covered by repair material so no further damage has really been done.

Probably what's happened is due to the adhesive or the amount of adhesive you used. Contact cement in particular emits styrene as it cures and if too much adhesive was used or the adhesive wasn't allowed to "flash off" before the outfitting was installed, the styrene will migrate into the hull where it can soften the ABS layers and break down the foam. The result is a soft wrinkled area in the hull.

This should be repaired as it is a weak point and can be the starting point for more excessive damage. Repair will involve removing the softened material and replacing it with successive layers of fiberglass cloth and repair resin. This is an entirely avoidable type of damage. Proper selection and use of your adhesive will prevent its occurrence.

Contact cement is commonly used as its simple to use, inexpensive, and it works. Use as little adhesive as possible, just enough to "skin" or cover the two surfaces to be bonded. Most adhesive damage comes from using excessive adhesive.

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