We sell Souris River Canoes. They are kevlar canoes and easily blow all the other brand kevlar canoes out of the water. Souris River’s Quetico 17 in kevlar is THE most user-friendly, predictable canoe on the market and has been so since 1999. You can look at other brands and think they are the same because a “canoe is a canoe is a canoe” but you will, without the slightest doubt, be completely wrong. Now, this isn’t my first rodeo. I have far more experience that the average canoe retailer and decades more experience than even seasoned paddlers when it come to every aspect of Souris River Canoes. I don’t have to make it up and I’m not too worried if you choose to not believe me. And, yes, I do not believe in making a pitch for Souris Rivers by saying that “there are other good canoes out there”, because, comparatively, on many different points, that is not true. Compared to Souris Rivers, I consider other brands of canoes junk.
Souris Rivers are the only kevlar canoes that you can wrap around a tree backwards, then kick out the dents and paddle home. All other kevlars will fail miserably in this situation. But, when would this ever happen to you because you would never end up in a situation like that? I can answer that in two ways. 1. It’s an illustration as to how Souris Rivers differ from all other inferior kevlar canoes made with vinylester resin, a foam core floor, and multiple pieces and layers of kevlar glued together with vacuum bagging. 2. You’d be surprised at how quickly things can go south when you are not counting on them doing so, especially in a wilderness setting. Never going to happen to you? Right….I’ve been outfitting for a very long time…
Effective, Affordable, Food Storage/Protection for Home Sale
It’s simple. Reduce the air exposure, keep water out and your dry goods will last longer. You also keep the rodents at bay unless they can smell through tough polyethylene, sealed plastic. While some rodents are pretty determined, I figure if a bear can’t smell through this stuff, then neither can rodents. We’ve been using these barrels for Boundary Waters canoe camping since the early 90’s. they are nice because around the camp, they can be used to sit on or as a work surface. At night or when you leave camp during the day, you simply stash them by laying them 50 feet away from your campfire , in a slump in the ground. They you throw some sticks and brush over the top of them to break up their appearance and off you go. Bears and rodents walk right by. Pouring down rain is meaningless and short of a flood carrying them away, they are impenetrable. Bears can get into them, but they have to wail on them for a long time because they are slippery even on rocks.
OK, that is the camping use. But, what about the overlooked uses for these barrels that REALLY make them worth owning? They are a ridiculously simple design. They stack. They do not retain any odors. So, why can’t you have a half a dozen of these in your basement or one in each closet of your home as a “go bag” with food, clean-dry-warm clothes, a medical kit, water, and everything you’d need for a catastrophe. Heck, at 60 liters in size, you could pack food for a family of 4 for 7 days with no effort. You could also have another with clothing and one more with a medical kit. Lock up a pistol and ammo. Bugspray. Rope, a small ax, duct tape, a screwdriver, hunting knife, batteries, small radio, small saw, footwear, and stuff that you need to grab quickly and all in one, durable, waterproof, airtight spot. Need to go fast? Grab the barrels and throw them in the box of the truck in the blinding rain. Need to stash them? Bury them in the garden or in a ditch. Come back later for them.
I know this sounds a little extreme, but depending on where you live, a wildfire could wipe you out in a half an hour. You see it on the news all the time. People all over the country being mandated to evacuate NOW. Just think if you had four barrels with everything you need to survive for 7 days all ready to go. Run down in the basement, grab ’em, throw them in the back of the car and get going, now. Given just the wildfires in California of the last few years, is this that crazy sounding or is having a little bit of preparedness, the responsible thing to do? And, I’m not talking about really knocking yourself out doing it. Put the stuff that you would need to get by in a barrel, lock it up, set it somewhere you can find it fast. How hard is that to do, really?
It’s just a thought.
The other thing you could do is have your travel gear all locked up in one spot. If you come to Minnesota every year for a vacation, what if everything you needed to do your trip was replenished and airtight at the end of your trip. Next year, when the time comes, your tackle, reels, travel rod, plus specific clothing and gear are all in an airtight container. Time to go? Grab your barrel and head north or south if you are from Canada.
The point is, these barrels are really, really useful and they don’t cost a lot. And, unless they are filled with gold bullion, they float like a duck.
Who would have thought that something so simple could be so handy, eh?
This is a canoe that has 5 total days of renting on it. It was paddled 5 days and was put into rentals by us when it was brand, spankin’ new. We needed a canoe and this green Quetico 17 did the job. Note the scratches. I can hear you gasping through your computer monitor. I can hear shock and dismay and you thinking that you would never do this to your own canoe. OK, OK – catch your breath. Yes, you would do exactly this to your own canoe if you actually use it in the rock laden Boundary Waters of MN. “No!”, you retort. Well, we could argue back and forth and only the most anal of canoe paddlers would not do this. It takes zero effort to scratch any canoe and it takes even less effort to scratch a canoe in the BWCA. I’m going to be pigheaded about this, but I’ve been renting canoes since the mid-seventies and selling them since 1990. I’ve seen about 5 total canoes that had no scratches in them after a BWCA trip and I figure their owners liked to be wet up to their necks carrying their canoes above their heads to prevent a scratch. Who the heck wants to do that! I want to enjoy the lake, the woods and fishing not obsess over touching a rock. That’s why I only use Souris Rivers. They are immensely tougher than Wenonahs, Bells and all other-brand kevlar canoes, period.
Despite what many have been programmed to believe from the tight-butted, elitist world of canoe paddlers, scratches don’t mean doo-diddly to a Souris River heat-cured, epoxy resin canoes. They are designed to flex under duress and EASILY trump all other so-called “performance” kevlar canoes out there on many fronts from durability to handling on water – the important parts. And then there is hull design, stability, and comfort, all of which are discussed somewhere in this blog as I’ve been writing about it for over 20 years now. I know the canoes inside and out and have spent much time in them as well as rented them to countless very satisified rental customers. In case it is not obvious, my confidence in this particular brand of canoes is unwavering and backed up by a lot of experience.
So, back to the scratches – you can’t avoid them unless you are a little nuts. You are gong to hit a rock that you simply could not see. If you don’t you are very lucky or your canoe hangs lonely in garage and looks out the windows, wishing.
I’m not writing to tell you how crazy some paddlers are, or how terrible some renters are, or how tough Souris River Canoes are in the BWCA. All of that is irrelevant and well-known in the business of canoes. I’m here to talk about “color”. Canoes of color that is, particularly Souris River Woven Color.
The above is a new, SR Woven Color model. What that means is that a layer of kevlar cloth has been dyed spruce green and laid just under the final, outside layer of fiberglass that you’ll only find on Souris River kevlar canoes. Unlike colored Wenonahs and Bells who apply gel coat with color in it which is basically an outer layer of polyester resin with silica sand and pigment of varying thicknesses depending on who was spraying it into the mold, Souris River dyes the cloth and puts in under the final layer of protective, skid-able, repairable fiberglass. The color is therefore IN the canoe as opposed to ON the canoe. You can’t crack, scratch, or or otherwise get to the color of that canoe. The white scratches in the hull are IN THE EPOXY RESIN and fiberglass finish layer. Scratches rarely reach the color. A colored Souris River has no added weight unlike gelcoated canoes of other brands. Just to be clear – Gelcoat all scratches white and looks just like the pictures above. It also cracks unlike the pictures above. Now, you know how the color is applied in a Souris River.
Color is SO unimportant. I almost always advise against a color in a Souris River. You want to know why? Look at the pictures above. That’s 5 days in the wilderness. You can spend an extra $100 bucks for color and this is what your canoe looks like after a week of real use. It looks like it was in a war. Which brings me to a story.
Stretched Kevlar Suit is Bad
Years ago, a couple came in and wanted a green canoe like the one in the photos. We had three in stock. The lady insisted we lay out the three Q-17’s – all identical- and she proceeded for 45 minutes of my time and her’s to go over all three with a virtual magnifying glass. Well, she didn’t have the magnifying glass, but could just as well have held one up. She was a seamstress and looking for the canoe that didn’t have any instances where the green kevlar “was stretched”. I told her it was a canoe, not an Armani suit for $5,000, but that left her undeterred. She said that she was a perfectionist and her husband rolled his eyes. After 14 walk-arounds and canoe flips, I finally gave up and went back to the office, suggesting she let me know when she “finds the ‘good one'” of the three.
After 90 minutes of looking and comparing, she and her hubby finally found “the one” and came in to tell me with jubilance.
“Yayyy…” I thought sardonically as all of those canoes were equal and beautiful, but I was happy to finally have such an important decision come to fruition.
It was a low water summer with longer portages and WAY more rocks in many areas throughout the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. While we finalized the paperwork, the couple mentioned that they would be taking their first canoe trip with it into the BWCA within the week. I asked where they were entering and she said, “Mudro”. I broke out laughing and she looked at me funny and asked what is wrong. I responded with “You just dedicated 1.5 hours of your time to finding the best canoe and you are going to Mudro. Unfortunately, none of your efforts today are going to hold a lot of meaning. It’s a fairly rocky route.”
She said, with a touch of tone, that they would “be avoiding the rocks”. I said, “OK, then. Sounds like you have a plan.”
After all, what could I possibly know about anything? I’ll just wait and see. I continued with my paperwork and placed an order for some gear they wanted to would pick up after their Mudro trip.
10 days go by and here they come with their new canoe in tow on a small trailer. It was scratched from gunwale to gunwale, bow to stern with hundreds of nasty looking scratches of varying lengths. In a spectacular fashion, it looked like the US Marines stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima with it and then gave it back to them after they won that battle. I asked the hubby out of earshot of his slightly scary wife – “So, how did that ‘straight, unstretched, kevlar’ work out for you in your canoe?”
He looked to the floor and shook his head.
My Point In All of This
For many people, the color of the canoe is the important part. For many it simply HAS to have a particular trim and color “because they are spending a lot of money”. So, appearance is their main reason for buying this canoe – not how it handles on water. I’m here to tell you that the color has NO function other than aesthetics and aesthetics have no value in keeping you alive on water. (First and foremost – the canoe’s handling on water is the Number One consideration 100% of the time for all paddlers.) Inside all Souris River Canoes, they all look the same. When you are seated inside them, you absolutely cannot see the color (or if the kevlar may have been stretched). IF you can see the color while using your canoe, you are HOSED! Colors, because they are homogeneous in tone on the canoe will always show scratches FAR more than Le Tigre kevlar canoes. Le Tigre kevlar (same as reg. kevlar but for the little dyed strips), due to the black and gold pattern, show scratches less and refinishes very nicely. Woven Colors and Carbon Tecs will also refinish well, but on your first trip after refinishing, you look like you were in a war zone again.
Now, if you are buying your canoe to make your car pretty or to impress your neighbors with it hanging in your garage, well, then color is VERY important. Worrying about getting your “dream color” is downright silly in my opinion. It’s a canoe. It’s a Souris River Canoe and made to be used physically. Should you ram shore like a Viking making a raid with it because of what you read here? Well, only if you want to be stranded 25 miles from civilization or enjoy spending money on repairs. There’s a big fat line between normal, reasonable wear and tear and kicking the crap out of a good canoe.
How does color effect any of the above? It shows scratches better.
It’s a slow day today and I decided to go refinish one of our older Souris River Quetico 18.5’s. It’s a canoe that I have refinished once before and is in otherwise nice shape other than the outside looking in need of a new shine plus I needed to sand off graphite and epoxy that ran when I did a sloppy skid plate repair 2 years ago to meet an overnight time constraint.
So, just like every other refinishing job for a Souris River, it’s pretty straightforward. Sand the parts that are oxidized and all the parts that are shiny using 80 grit sand paper and a palm sander. I also removed a few clear epoxy runs from my hasty work a few years ago by leaning on the corner on the bump with the sander. You have to keep the sander moving somewhat in order for the sanded epoxy dust to fall away and allow the grit to make contact with the hard, non-moving surface. So, I do little circles on the runs being sure to used other parts of the sand paper on my palm sander. Also note – do not use any other type of sander other than an orbital design. If you use a belt sander you are going to end up in a whole world of hurt VERY quickly. To sand a whole canoe takes about 30-45 minutes depending on your desired end result. Just get it reasonably smooth, take a “sander corner” pass over the length of the scratches and that’s it. I then found my favorite brush that served me for 20 years as an XC Ski wax brush, and swept off the canoe. I usually watch to see the way the wind is blowing and make sure I’m upwind so I don’t breath in the cloud of cured epoxy dust.
At this point, I put on some disposable gloves, grabbed a charcoal-colored foam roller, mixed up 6 pumps of resin and hardener, stirred it up, waited one minute, and dumped some of it on the canoe. Then I drove my roller through the fresh epoxy and I spread it around the canoe. Pretty basic and quick. I rolled right along the bottom edge of the gunwale (which was upside down) and
continued up and down the canoe. Applying resin to a dusty gray canoe makes it go to a pleasant brown with black stripes – or a typical Souris River Le Tigre Kevlar. This improves the look of the canoe about 1000% and I would eestimate that about 90% of all lay canoe paddlers don’t even realize the canoe has even been refinished. Now, that may sound like a high number, but given my experience of the last 40 years of customers, I’ve decided that they are mostly incapable of noticing much at all. They don’t notice crooked woodwork, canoe straps flapping in the wind behind a car with a canoe on the roof turned sideways on to the road below, dangerous waters, or where to park their car based upon all the other “seed” cars in the extremely obvious and easy areas to park in the lot.
What they DO notice is only on a brand new, shiny, unscratched canoe. They go home and take a magnifying glass to the finish to look for the tiniest of imperfections (over every square inch) that don’t mean the most insignificant hill of beans to the operation of the canoe. They also notice the top handle of a canoe paddle as they over-analyze its feel and try to picture using it on the high seas while standing in the store. They also do notice when THEY are even slightly uncomfortable or getting rained on. They do notice hunger, sometimes thirst, and when someone else is annoying them but not the other way around. And that’s about it for 90% of the population of the world.
And that’s a good thing. The main reason being as I was refinishing this canoe (it’s going back into rentals), I had pretty much the whole thing coated with fresh epoxy when it slid off of my horses – in slow motion (Ooooooohhhhhh-Noooooooooooooo!)- and landed upright in the gravel, sawdust, leaves, pine needles, dog fur, old bits of dusty of kevlar, and dandelion fluff. It was very special. I said some bad words. Actually, I repeated a choice four letter word loudly – and with relish. The whole event was like dropping freshly unrolled flypaper in sawdust.
So, upon the universal battle cry of refinishing gone wrong, plus the big booming noise a canoe makes when it hits the ground, Jackie came running out and helped me get it back on the horses whereupon I proceeded to ruin a t-shirt with an epoxy/dirt blend. I then grabbed the roller, finished up the last few areas of that didn’t get covered pre-fall and I shot the pic’s of the finished canoe. For the occasional bits of debris stuck to it, I’ll just knock those off after it cures. I noticed that the digital pictures allowed me to see the dust that I missed when wiping off the canoe after the fall, so I went back and took care of that as well. I couldn’t see it with the bespectacled or even naked eye.
So, my advice to canoe refinishers everywhere: Don’t drop it in the gravel.
If you own a more delicate model of kevlar canoe or maybe a wooden home-built canoe or kayak, you may be somewhat obsessed with never touching the shore with that watercraft for several good reasons. You dread putting a scratch in it or worse, a hole through the side. Whatever the reason you feel compelled to jump over the side into neck deep water to then carry your canoe to shore over your head like an M-16, we have the NEW shoe for you. Why? Because jumping into the lake and landing on a sharp rock is far less good, particularly when out in the woods and far from home.
Wet Feet in Summer Good (as long as they can dry)
Jumping in the water for wading or whatever with tennis/running shoes on can work sort of, but for the rest of the…
We like Striker Brand outer wear. We have a ton of experience with Striker winter suits. They are windproof, waterprof, breathable, warm, and they FLOAT. When playing on the ice as we all do, these qualities are highly desireable and much lauded in the world of winter outdoor recreation. Striker, along with their decent fit including longer sleeves, plus the extra features like pit-zips for ventilating and their incredibly unique, adjustable inseams on the pants or bibs, is the premier outdoor clothing designer in my opinion. You CAN spend more money on a suit, but you won’t be getting a better suit. Let me put it this way: spending more money will not get you a better suit, period. Sure, due to all the different body shapes and sizes, you may find a suit in another brand that fits you like a glove, and that may be your reason for buying it – which makes sense. But, despite having it cost more than a Striker suit, you still didn’t get more for the extra money spent. Now, if it’s the only suit that fits you – wear it and be happy. The point I’m making is that more money does not always mean better quality or function. It just means more money.
This same thing applies to Souris River Canoes – you cannot spend more money and get a better canoe than a Souris River – but that’s a different post.
So, Striker came out with a rain suit. It’s lighter weight than their 3-in-1 Climate Suit that converts into a rainsuit for open water season. The Climate is a heavy suit and gets too hot during the summer months. It’s good for spring/winter/fall. But Strker’s new Elements line is a pretty nice suit. If you would like to find out more about this rain suit, visit our gear review blog at the following link:
This is a response to a comment in Red Rock Outdoors from a reader who uses ankle weights to serve as ballast for a Quetico 16 solo canoe. I thought it would make a great post about canoe ballast and safety concerns, so I added a bit more to it for our readers.
Paddlers seeking to solo paddle, try all sorts of ways to weight down the front of their tandem canoes. The most common is to add a bunch of rocks. Another way is to add a 5 gallon bucket partially filled with sand. One kind reader likes to use up to 4 ankle weights in the bow of the canoe. The point is to add weight to make the bow bite the water to aid in canoe tracking and improve overall stability by the canoe “wetted surface” or the most of the bottom of the canoe resting on the water. The more canoe supported by water, the more stable it is resting on the water. If you are riding a wheelie with the bow up in the air and out of the water, that means that you are decreasing wetted surface and putting more weight on a narrower section of the canoe behind you. Imagine sitting cross-legged on a taut cable with each butt cheek on each side of the cable and your feet resting on said taut cable. Aside from the incredible discomfort, your ability to balance comes down to that fine line and I’m pretty sure that a flying Walenda would be about the only person who could do this. Now sit the same way on a flat floor and see how wobbly you will be. You won’t. You’ll be rock solid -assuming you didn’t sit on the cable first. That is a way to describe the advantages of maximum wetted surface regarding a canoe resting level on the water. That, and improved tracking are what we are striving for when using ballast in a tandem canoe used as a solo.
From a ballast standpoint, any object for weight will do. However, there is a specific reason for using “the Perfect Rock” aka “bag of water”. If you load up a canoe with rocks and it takes on water, it could go to the bottom of the lake. Now, if the canoe rolls when capsized, the rocks can dump out but may not completely fall out due to the lip of the gunwales or maybe getting caught under a seat. A sinking canoe means there is no floating canoe on which to hang while waving the other arm furiously for help. IF you have your life jacket on AND it is summer with warmer water, no floating canoe is a problem but less so. If you are floating in the cold water of spring of a deep water lake, you may have as little as 15 minutes to get to dry land and a fire. Hanging on a floating canoe improves your chances a bit. It is easier to see a canoe’s gunwale in the water than just a canoe bow or stern pointing to the sky and even then barely sticking out of water.
Securing a weight to any part of a canoe guarantees that it will not fall away from the canoe upon its capsizing. This only increases the probabilities of an accident ending badly. I usually recommend that nothing ever be secured or lashed to a canoe. Let it go. Get it later and if you lose some of it, so what? You can always replace gear. In the event of a capsize, righting the canoe with packs and gear hanging out but tied to the canoe during the struggle of being half submerged really complicates self-rescue efforts and also tires one out a lot quicker. There is enough going on without another distracting layer of complications. Tying gear in for a Boundary Waters canoe trip is unnecessary. If you want it to float, just put your gear in a garbage bag or big canoe bag within the pack, twist it closed and tuck it in. Unless you are hauling gold bullion, you pack will float.
That being said, using a water bag means that wherever a canoe can float, there is ballast and lots of it. Crossing portages is really easy. When the canoe capsizes, the water bag is equal in density to the lake water and has no effect on the canoe’s ability to float, whatsoever.
While I agree the ankle weights do the job, they also potentially put you at risk. Someday, when it is warm water, put on your swim suit, life jacket and take the canoe in 4 feet of water and roll it with the weights secured into it on the bow. See what happens. And, whatever you do, resist the urge to do this test in the deepest part of the lake. I’ve always marveled at our canoe demo paddlers who take a canoe and test it’s stability over a 30 foot deep part of the lake, far from other humans. A canoe’s stability can be determined in 2 feet of water just as easily as 30 feet. Your canoe’s flotation compromise, if any, can be determined in 4 feet of water, as well.
My guess is that the one end will sink and the point of the stern will be left pointing to the sky leaving you with very little to hold on to in the event of a capsize. This would not be good. I can tell you a true story about how a similar situation ended very badly in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Just the bow of the canoe was barely there to hold on to and two people drowned. It was very tragic.
This is a video of me repairing a Souris River Quetico 17 that is owned by all of us while residing in the US Forest Service. This canoe had a million miles on it and showed signs of working ridiculously hard during the Pagami Forest Fire of 2011. It was oil-canning and had some major, over-flexed stress marks/cracks that while they were still not leaking, would eventually need attention. On this canoe, I ended up levering the bottom out to close to it’s original shape and then applying reinforcements to the chines (where the side meets the bottom). The damage to this canoe would indicate to me that it was dragged over a fair number of beaver dams or other obstacles. Very reparable and I will be releasing more vids of this repair/restore in the future.
Remember the principle is always the same with applying patches. Clean, sand, wipe the dust, apply resin, stick on patch, apply more resin, smooth out the bubbles, check and re-check.
It’s been a while since I’ve laid out a small dissertation about the differences in kevlar canoes. As years go by and the markets change, people who know the differences are a fading group. I will change all that right here. All kevlar canoes are NOT the same despite looking similar to one another.
Souris River Canoes hulls are all made with kevlar cloth, a few other layers of cloths including polyesters and fiber glass and most importantly: epoxy resin. All Brand X kevlar canoes are made with kevlar cloth, a few other layers of different cloths and important for you not to miss: vinylester resin.
The resin used to hold the cloth in the shape of a canoe is first and foremost, the most important part of the canoe. A canoe could be built out of newspapers or old sweatshirts but the only way that is possible it to use resin. The type of resin used, along with literally the “cut of the cloth” defines the canoe’s overall strength and durability.
I’m going to cut to the chase. Epoxy resin is much tougher than vinylester resin. Epoxy resin used in a Souris River Canoe is a heat-cured epoxy. After the canoe has been laid out in a female mold with wet epoxy resin, they wheel it into a big oven and bake it for several hours. Baking epoxy to cure it makes it runny and it seeps into the multiple fibrous tendrils that make up every kevlar fiber. When it cures (dries – although technically not the same as curing since drying means a solvent evaporates and curing is a chemical reaction that leads to a hardened, non-liquid, state.) it becomes inert “plastic” but not before it bonds all those fibers together to make them more of a single piece of material with kevlar reinforcements running throughout.
Brand X uses vinylester resin which is a resin that costs far less than epoxy. It too, makes a plastic with kevlar reinforcements running throughout when applied to a kevlar cloth. However, the process by which it cures, while still a chemical reaction, is different than epoxy. Vinylester resin used in Brand X kevlar canoes is cured at room temperature or about 74 degrees F. That means, they wet out the kevlar in a female mold, and once saturated with the excess resin scraped out with squeegees, (just like Souris River) the canoes are allowed to cure (dry) at room temperature overnight. The next day, they beat the mold off of the hull with a rubber mallet, install the gunwales, seats, thwarts and yoke and out the door it goes.
At this very point, the two canoe brands have severely parted ways. Inherent with epoxy resin, when it is done curing, it is done curing. It does not age for lack of a better term. What that means is the Souris River, after 10 years of paddling, when you go to do a repair on the canoe (yes, they’re tough, but nothing is as tough or heavy as aluminum, eh? You may need to fix something once in a while), that old epoxy resin is still the same as it was the day it came out of the over 10 years ago. So, when you take out some new epoxy resin to do a repair, you are bonding apples to apples – the same stuff. Doesn’t make sense without the following comparison in the next two paragraphs.
Inherent with Brand X kevlar canoes, the room-temp-cured resin first, did not soak all through those kevlar fibers in each strand bundle that is woven together to make a cloth. When curing at room temperature, that vinylester resin doesn’t have a chance to soak in because it begins to cure and thickens before the soaking begins. That means it ends up encapsulating the fiber bundles. Well, that means, too, that less resin is needed and it makes the canoe lighter. It also results in the canoe not being as tough. If you rip the resin coat off the fiber bundle, water can enter into those fibers through capillary action. Once that happens, an entire region in a canoe can delaminate from other fibers in the cloth or the foam core floor they use in Brand X to keep the floor of the canoe from flopping around. It’s a diamond shaped looking thing with ribs running up the sides. The foam ribs also support the sides of Brand X canoes because they are not as tough with the lesser resin saturation inherent with vinylester resin canoes.
But, it doesn’t end there. Vinylester resin that has been air-cured continues to cure into perpetuity. It’s really not done curing, it’s just not sticky any more. What this means is that this resin gets more and more brittle with each day. The resin is susceptible to UV radiation and that ages it. Now, to be fair, epoxy resin is affected by UV as well but in a different way. It does not become brittle. It sloughs off a little at a time. But, unlike vinylester resin, you can reapply epoxy with great results and a paint roller. Not only is vinylester more brittle in the long run, it is no longer the same vinylester resin it was when the canoe was first built. This means than when you put your foot through the side of a brittle vinylester resin canoe and need to repair that, the company Brand X will tell you to go to the local Fleet Farm and buy some polyester resin and the MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) hardener or organic peroxide which might be the same stuff. I don’t know, I’m not a chemist but over the years, I have spoken with several regarding the advantages and strength of epoxy compared to vinylester and those advantages are very significant.
At the molecular level, vinylester resin links to itself with a relative few bonds when compared to epoxy. Less link ups means less strehgth. Epoxy resin is noted for having many, many cross-linked bonds to that which it is being glued together. For that reason epoxy provides a substantially stronger bond of materials and is also noted for it’s ability to bond non-related materials, such as a copper penny to a piece of wood. Vinylester resin may bond those two together, but then it will let go at the most inopportune of times. The cross linking of molecules in epoxy also give it the ability to flex repeatedly without falling apart or cracking. The whole focus about Souris River Canoes is their ability to flex under duress to minimize damage caused by driving it up on a rock. Brand X, with their foam core bottom can be damaged significant when one drive them over a rock 4 inches below the surface and invisible. Souris Rivers just slide over it with no exposed kevlar fibers resulting from the impact. As you recall above, exposed kevlar fiber bundles in vinylester resin are like tiny hollow tubes that can suck up water and cause delamination at that area. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, you end up with a soft spot that needs your attention or it can continue to spread.
Putting a patch on an older Brand X canoe using their recommended method of applying cheap polyester resin to a piece of fiberglass or kevlar patch and sticking it onto the canoe will, more often than not, result in that patch letting go in six months to a year. But it usually does not all let go. Nosiree – only half lets go and the rest stays stuck to the canoe so you have like an “air brake on the wing of a 747”. Or, you could consider it a water scoop since they usually let go against the direction of travel. In my opinion, polyester resin probably has it’s place somewhere out there in making fiberglass bathtubs with a thick layer of gel coat, but it’s a worthless product for working on canoes. It is also hard to work with as well. It’ll say on the container of resin to add 2-3 drops of hardener. Well, which one is it? 2 drops or 3 drops? Depending on the ambient temp and humidity levels, 3 drops could turn the resin in your pot into a smoking, toxic mess that smells like burning styrofoam beer coolers. (been there, done that – an wow, does it get hot! Epoxy will do the same if you put too much in a con)
Epoxy on the other hand is more precise in it’s requirements for hardener and those different hardeners can affect cure time. West System 205 hardener can set up in 9-12 minutes, but their 207 special coatings hardener can go to 6 hours before hardening the resin mix depending on temps. West System epoxy mixed with either hardener achieves full strength over 7 days. It’s will be dry to the touch and usable before that, but that is when final cure is complete. Polyesters continue to cure (and change as a result) forever. Now, I mention West here because that is what I recommend for repair work mainly because I know it well and have used if for 20 years with excellent success about 99% of the time. There are other marine epoxies out there that are quite good as well, but I just never had a reason for changing. They are all expensive. Note: Souris River does not use West System in the building of their canoes. They use a purer form of resin with two hardeners injected into it at two different temps. Then it is applied by hand in a 94 degree F room and then wheeled into a large oven to be heat-cured. West System has additives to make it cure for repairs without the baking-part required. If I had to be heating up resin and baking it, that would be a pain for me and everybody else who doesn’t have a canoe-sized oven.
So those are differences in Souris River Canoes vs. all the other canoes out there. Sure, there might be a garage-outfit somewhere using West to make a canoe a year, but in the professionally, hand-crafted, production realm of canoe building, SR is the only epoxy kevlar canoe builder of which I’m aware.