Sometimes, it’s the little things we do that best show our affection. In celebration of Canada’s most beloved paddling vessel, here are three easy ways to care for your canoe that will boost its longevity.
1. Install skid plates
A canoe’s stems, the curved ends, see more rough treatment than any other part of the hull, especially if your paddling style involves scraping over rocky river beds or running ashore. When the gelcoat wears thin at the bow and stern, or if you’re planning some abrasive whitewater paddling, it’s time to install skid plates—strips of Kevlar felt, applied with a two-part resin to reinforce and protect these vulnerable areas. It’s a job that you can do yourself with kits available from your canoe’s manufacturer. The plates prolong the life of the canoe while minimally impacting weight and performance.
2. Apply a protectant
As with human skin, UV damage will age a canoe’s gelcoat. Canoe manufacturers suggest applying a protectant to the exterior of your hull to reduce fading and cracking at least three times a season. Nova Craft Canoe, a canoe manufacturer in Ontario, recommends 303 Aerospace Protectant, a water-based formula that works like a spray-on sunscreen, protecting surfaces from UV rays. It can also be used to protect paddling gear, including life jackets, helmets, and neoprene wetsuits.
3. Oil the gunwales
Glistening brightwork makes the heart sing, but that gloss also protects exposed wood. Left untreated, wood gunwales—which are usually ash—weather to a rough, grey surface that eventually rots. Don’t use polyurethane here; gunwales need to flex, which will cause varnish to crack. Instead, use boiled linseed oil or hemp seed oil—Canadian-grown because you’re feeling patriotic. Start by sanding off any grey. Apply two or three coats of oil using a lint-free rag, allowing the finish to dry overnight between coats. Freshen three or four times a year by running an oiled rag over the rails.