Kate Prince, a boat builder at Headwaters Canoes near Wakefield, Que., asserts that classic wood-and-canvas canoes are more durable than most people recognize—as long as they receive proper annual maintenance. This is an ideal off-season cottage project because an absence of pollen, bugs, and humidity makes it easier to achieve a fine finish on woodwork.
Whether you paddle a regal cedarstrip or a plastic battleship, rinsing the canoe with warm, soapy water is a simple measure that “does wonders to remove the sand and dirt that build up over time,” says Prince.
She lightly sands wood trim and gunwales and refreshes the finish with a coat or two of clear varnish; depending on how often you use your canoe, this is an annual or a biannual task—the goal is to keep the trim bright and shiny.
For composite fibreglass and Kevlar canoes with metal trim, maintenance is minimal. Gelcoat is designed to last, says Marlin Bayes, the owner of Western Canoeing and Kayaking in Abbotsford, B.C. Some diehard paddlers buff the hull of their composite canoe with rubbing compound. Unnecessary, says Bayes. “All you’re doing is making yourself feel better,” he says. “You’re making it look nice, not prolonging the life of the canoe.”
Always store your boat somewhere sheltered, or at least covered. Ensure wooden gunwales and decks are never in direct contact with the ground—resting the canoe on sawhorses is a good option.