Applying a Patch for Stress Reinforcement

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.

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Basswood Falls 2 – The Revenge

Sometimes, (well, all the time) it is better to take the portage.

This is an actual, true canoe story (Late July 2010). It’s for whoever wants to read it, but I especially like to dedicate it to all of the naysayers, internet experts, and “in-your-own-mind afficianado wannabes” of all things canoeing/Red Rock related. So many of you elitist internet opiners purport to “know” so much about Souris River Canoes and claim that I do not, this story’s for you. I invite you to drink it in, epoxy resin and all. I am particularly amused by those of you who go through our website with a fine tooth comb and pick on details which have been evolving since 1998 or so. I admit that some of my older stuff is not up to date and may vary from my current way of doing repairs and discussing the differences between canoes, canoe construction repairs and etc. However, for the most part, it’s pretty close to being right on the money.   I enjoy the opportunity to, yet again, demonstrate why one would want to own a Souris River Canoe in kevlar over all the other less worthy canoes out there.   No matter how you choose to pick at my writings and opinions, if you don’t paddle a Souris River Canoe for wilderness/boundary waters use, you might think/believe you’re in a good canoe as long as the weather is nice and nobody screws up in a big way.   Change the weather or contribute boldly to the “screw-up factor” and you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle in the middle of nowhere. Now just to be clear, a Souris River may not always be your saving grace either so don’t be stupid intentionally, but based on what you are about to see and read, I remain convinced that it absolutely can’t hurt to own one.

Here is a case of one of our rented Souris River Quetico 17’s that took a little trip between upper and lower Basswood Falls, Summer 2010. What is it about those falls…?

From what I could glean from our rental customer was that he and his son were crossing a fairly quick moving stretch of not-too-deep water trying to get to the other side of the river for the benefit of a shorter portage on the Canadian side of the river. They were between Upper and Lower Basswood Falls.  As they were crossing, the lad developed a limp wrist (or something) and his paddle turned broadside to the swift, but flat current. My guess was that the water then pushed suddenly on his paddle blade which see-sawed the blade under the canoe using the canoe’s side as a fulcrum. The kid, upon noticing his paddle being sucked under the canoe fought back. He reacted by pulling on the paddle handle in a pry which caused the canoe to lay over on it’s side and dunk the upstream gunwale below the water’s swiftly moving surface.   The canoe filled instantaneously with water as it acted like a big scoop catching the flowing current. This resulted the canoe suddenly ejecting the paddling duo and their associated contents up into the oncoming current as the canoe pulled away.   It was heading broadside downstream towards Armageddon…The end of days…

And, Armageddon struck quickly.  It consisted of a large, unmovable rock sticking out of the water and it was determined to cancel this canoe. The canoe agreed with the rock and wrapped right around it in the blink of an eye. Nothing like 5 MPH water to flatten out an obstacle – or a canoe.  The sides splayed out like a candy wrapper as the canoe went from being a curved vessel to a large, flat-in-the-middle, piece of kevlar which caused the yoke to complete rip the bolts through the wood where it is attached on each side of the canoe.  That had to make for some nasty tearing/popping noises. From the looks of the nine cracked ribs (two of them rather badly) and the stress marks below the seat and along the rivets of the bow seat, I’ve concluded that the bottom of the canoe met the bottom of the front seat with the help of the water and the rock.  If the front seat had not been there or if it had given way, the canoe might have turned inside out.

Our misfortuned paddlers were able to wade in and peel the canoe off the rock.   Remember, (and don’t forget it for a minute) they were in the middle of nowhere and their kevlar canoe has just wrapped around a rock like a piece of foil around a chocolate bon bon.   In most situations, this is bad, very-very-bad. Bleak.    Definitely not good.

After our guys waded out and peeled the large kevlar candy wrapper off the rock and dragged it back to shore, it had no wooden yoke in the middle because the sides of the canoe flattened outwards as the water pushed it against the rock. For a short time, the canoe went from 35″ wide to 58″ wide with not much remaining freeboard. In order to make it look and function more like a traditional canoe, they took a rope and tied it around the outside middle of the canoe and pulled the sides back into normal. Presto, chang-o! The canoe came back into it’s normal shape broken gunwales, cracked ribs and all.

The canoe looked canoe-like. They set it on the water with their MacGuyver-esque rope-fix.   Wouldn’t you know it: it floated and paddled just like a regular Quetico 17…WITH NO LEAKS!!!!!!!!

They paddled it for three more days in fact. Out of the woods and back home to Red Rock. Not too many foam-core, kevlar canoes or aluminum canoes or plastic canoes that could actually do this. In fact, an outfitter just last year was posting pictures on one of those canoe bulletin-boards of a Brand X kevlar that suffered the same initial fate as this Souris River. Only it was carried home as a pile of styro-foam and crap. Their rental party got out of the woods by begging for rides and then they had to buy the styro-crap-pile from the outfitter. Our party paddled their Souris River Canoe out in one piece… proudly. And now it’s back in rentals. I don’t know about you people who actually retain the ability to reason and think, but this type of story always sells me on Souris River Canoes. All the rest of the styro-crap out there is just that – styro-crap. Based on this type of experience, I wouldn’t personally own styro-crap.   And, I haven’t even talked about how Souris Rivers handles on the water compared to stryo-crappers.   A trip just came in last night with the two rental customers raving about what a great canoe the Quetico 17 was for them. When you hear it over and over from countless customers, it must be true.

The adult responsible in Basswood Falls II – the Revenge was all upset for a number of reasons of which I guessed might have included the possibility of having to buy and take home a rather destroyed canoe.  I mean, it wasn’t really suitable for additional rentals when he brought it back.   I didn’t get too excited.   This wasn’t my first canoe repair rodeo with a seemingly destroyed Souris River Quetico 17.  I figured out the cost to fix this canoe back to canoe shape and charged the guy’s card an additional $833 for the damage. Ouch – that was an expensive rental for him but if it were a styro-crapper, I’m pretty sure it would have ended up a lot worse. Good thing he was in the Souris River. It was so much better on SO many fronts.

One of the first things a canoe expert will always notice about the strength of a canoe is whether or not the seats remained intact after a whitewater wrap. It is not unusual for them to tear out partially or completely. NO rivets pulled out of the kevlar in the sides of this canoe. I’ve yet to see the rivets ever pull out of a Souris River with one exception and that canoe was driven into two ash trees while falling off a truck roof at 30 MPH. One rivet pulled out in that case… and there was other damage…a “smidge”. Trust me (and I know some of you believe I’m making this up for vast personal gain and all of its trappings and benefits), epoxy resin is substantially stronger than the cheap stuff used by every other canoe manufacturer. I don’t care if you disagree with me – I got MY proof right here – and for the umpteenth time. The resin is what holds the kevlar cloth in the shape of a canoe. Strong, high-quality, epoxy resin (epoxy – not vinylester resin) won’t let the rivets pull out of it in most situations. Yes, I’m sure there is some extreme test that could be applied to make my statement wrong and I’m sure some self-appointed internet afficionado will pick apart every letter I type here to point out my untruths and my lack of footnotes referencing supporting articles by intelligent elitist canoe snobs…(oops! Drifting, drifting…pull back, pull back!) And yet, I am completely aware that there are many outfitters who will tell you naysayers about how “some big feller sat too hard in front of a Brand X and the rivets pulled right through the sides” – no whitewater needed, just a big butt. But, you naysayers – you are right – I’m embellishing beyond belief just to sell a canoe… and so you can sleep at night: all the images are photoshopped. None of this actually happened. I drew in the broken gunwales with my stylus and Wacom tablet. It was an episode of Lost they didn’t play.

Another interesting point in this particular wrap was in the external damage that ensued when the outside met the rock. Nine ribs were cracked inside from being bent backwards. Some of them had mutiple breaks. On the outside, there were about 3 areas where the fiberglass outer layer and first kevlar layer were cracked (rather severely) right down to the polyester layer beneath. The polyester layer and the internal kevlar layer was not cracked but stress marks from severe bending were obvious on the inside. You could see how far the bottom flexed (far). In areas of damage, I reinforced with fiberglass tape, kevlar or both in combination.

Another detail that a canoe expert might notice is the absence of where the additional pieces of kevlar were spliced into the sides of the canoe, over the foam on the floor, etc. and how they separate when folded in half backwards. An expert would also notice that all four sheets used in a Souris River Canoe tend to hold together without tearing apart because the Souris River is made up of 4 complete sheets. There are no seams in canoe except for the very ends. (Gotta end somewhere, eventually) Beginning from the outside there is: one fiberglass cloth sheet (for scuffability and sliding over rocks – kevlar doesn’t slide well) , the next layer kevlar cloth, the next layer is polyester cloth, the final inside shieet is kevlar cloth. Four intact, full sheets, bow to stern, gunwale to gunwale make this canoe a survivor. Check it out for yourself. Look at all the pieces the other guys use to glue their canoes together. Side strips, floor sheet, reinforcers, etc. Are joints stronger or weaker than non-jointed materials? Do you want your parachute cord to be knotted together here and there or would you prefer one continuous strand for each strand (from your shoulders to the chute) as you are desending to earth? Sure, they are strong knots, but if you didn’t need them, why put them there? Less splices is better for a lot of reasons, strength being one of them. Enough with the canoe blather…


Still looks like a canoe. Minus the carrying yoke.
kevlar canoe repair

Broken gunwale, crinkled sides, in-tact seat rivets.
kevlar canoe repair

Gunwales never hold up to this kind of bending.
kevlar canoe repair

Other side broken gunwale. If you bend one side, the other side bends as well due to the thwarts & yoke (cross-bars & yoke) for those of you not familiar with proper terms.
kevlar canoe repair

Center of canoe where thwart should be. Note the cracks which are in all the ribs.  Despite that, the ribs still supported the bottom as this canoe remained seaworthy even after this horror!  I’d like you to name a “foam-core” canoe that could be smashed like this and then still paddled home.  Nothing? …..yeah….that’s what I thought….
kevlar canoe repair

Hard to shoot in pictures but the sides wanted to stretch outward with no rope holding them together.
kevlar canoe repair

Another deep crack – no leaks!!!! All those scratches are what the canoe looks like normally after one summer of rentals. This canoe was put into rentals at the beginning of June. Most others around the middle of June.
kevlar canoe repair

Big crack below front seat, stress mark along the rivets that hold seat bracket in place. Not what will happen to the scatches after I recoat the canoe with West System 207/105 epoxy.
kevlar canoe repair

Ribs that have been repaired inside. The gunwales were already replaced in this pic as well.
kevlar canoe repair

Note the repair under the shine
kevlar canoe repair

Another crack gone. Note the lack of scratches. SR’s refinish beautifully.
kevlar canoe repair

This was the same crack as above where there was stess mark along the seat bracket rivets.
kevlar canoe repair

Symmetry has been restored. And a new yoke…and new gunwales…and new endcaps…
kevlar canoe repair

Here I recoated with West 207/105 hardener/resin mix. That is AWESOME stuff.
kevlar canoe repair

Humpty Dumpty is back together again and since this repair has been on the water now for at least 15 days. The scratches are all back.
kevlar canoe repair

All these repairs resulted in maybe a pound of added weight due to resin being applied.  This canoe rented for the rest of the season and was sold for $1800.  The guy who bought it used if for two seasons and came back later to tell me that it was still performing magnificently and had been on several major canoe trips with him.  Epoxy resin canoes (only Souris River) hold up where other canoes have difficulty mainly because of the superior resin.  Epoxy blows vinylester resin out of the water.

Basswood Falls 1

Basswood Falls I

Why I’m Such a Souris River Canoe Fan (an essay in words and pictures by Joe)

Every now and then, as a BWCA outfitter for well over 30 years, I get to experience a customer who just can’t figure out that there is massive inherent risk in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and dying is a reasonably strong possibility for all who enter. As It type, I can feel the some readers begin to vibrate as their hairs stand up bristling on the back of their necks. Just because they may have never encountered a problem for their measly 5-14 day, big BWCA adventure, doesn’t mean that bad (stupid) things can’t/won’t happen. If one can’t figure out that falling off a log, slipping on a rock, cutting your thumb/shin bone with an ax/knife/saw, pouring boiling water on your leg, starting the woods on fire, getting a hook in your eyebrow, and getting hit by lightning are all distinct possibilities that could occur due to lack of experience & bad luck, I can’t help that guy. The BWCA is a harsh, rocky, slippery, jaggedy, uneven environment and that’s just the first 10 feet of the first portage. It can get rougher and tougher when you factor in the wind, waves, rain, cold temps, hot temps, and other idiots in the woods. (Incidentally, those of you who live in Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and pretty much every other state; you have absolutely nothing over us in the area of rough, rugged, rocky, unyielding terrain. And yes, a Souris River Canoe will do fine in your neck of the woods. I had to say that because I’m constantly hearing about how “tough” and “special” the rocky terrain is everywhere else on the planet regarding “challenges” a Souris River Canoe might face.)

So, after all these years, I still find myself incorrectly concluding that my customers are getting smarter, because I do have many “with-it” customers who sometimes surprise me at how well they really perform. This is despite the fact that most of them pilot a desk or do things totally unrelated to the BWCA and outdoor living for the other 359 days of the year. Some, however, look like they’re gonna be fine, but then, their actions bring out my cynical, old-canoe-outfitter side. All I can do anymore is relish in the fact, that unlike other outfitters, we only outfit Souris River Canoes. There’s a reason for that and it goes WAY beyond our being SR canoe retailers. While some may have concluded that I am simply biased and prone to making outrageous claims in the many pages of, I believe that this true tale might drive home, why I’m such a Souris River Canoe fan. I won’t waste any time on any other canoe. For the safety of my customers and the performance that I know and understand about SR’s, all the other canoes are simply pretty toys with a great marketing plan. Too strong? I don’t think so…

The Event

One of our rental customers brought back a canoe that he rented for 6 days or so. It was a Souris River Quetico 17 that was in fine shape when it went out, but for a zillion scratches, but we all know that scratches on a Souris River are relatively meaningless. I went out to look at the canoe and to move it into the canoe return area so some crazy fool doesn’t drive over it in the yard with his Prius.

When I got outside, I spied the canoe….ooooooh…..not so good. I went up to the guy and his friend and he suggested that I may want to look it over. I didn’t have to look really close. I found it to be reasonably obvious. In fact, I’m pretty sure my dog could have identified issues with the canoe, and he’s a desk pilot, totally. Sleeps under a desk in a foam cup, day-in, day-out. That’s those dang wiener dogs. Lazy little guy. He’s more like a bratwurst now and getting that stinky, old-dog smell. BUT, I’m sure Rex would have noted the unsual shape of this Quetico 17. He’s been around a lot of canoes.

The Cause

I didn’t even get angry. I’m noted for having “Incredible Hulk-like” tendencies when I witness potentially brazen stupidity exercised on our rental gear, but this day was different. I calmly asked him for details. He said that the canoe went down Basswood Falls which is about 8 miles slightly northwest from Red Rock. Knowing that at least 5 people have died in the upper Basswood Falls in the past 8 or so years, I inquired if it was an accident. I mean, surely nobody would choose to end it all by choice. Who would do that? These are ferocious falls and I can think of many better ways to die. In fact, having the word “Falls” in the name is really an indicator as to why you should take the portage with your Le Tigre kevlar Souris River Quetico 17 that weighs a paltry 43 lbs. Other reasons for not intentionally going over the falls would include the fact that you are in the middle of nowhere with everything you own and need to survive – in your canoe. Walking home is not an option – at all, period. One final reason for not taking the falls would be the fact that you are in a rental canoe. Do you really want to buy the canoe and pay for recovery costs as the outfitter may have to hire a dive team to go risk their lives to peel somebody else’s canoe off a large boulder? I think these are only a few of the reasonable questions that need to be entertained by anyone who experiences an urge to commit a “moment of shear stupidity”.

Nope, rational thought on the part of the customer gave way to – I’m not exactly sure what. The guy had the foresight to have his partner take all of their gear down to the bottom using the nice portage that is there. Then he got in the canoe and SHOT THE FALLS!!!!!!!! Still, to my own surprise, I did not have that shirt-tearing-off-my-back feeling with my skin turning green. (Ever notice how the Hulk’s shorts always get bigger and never tear off as he expands? He goes through shirts, but never shorts. Very odd.) I didn’t have to utter the warning, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”, or anything like that at all. I calmly asked him what thoughts guided him in such a decision and he honestly and with humility, shook his head gently, looked at the ground and replied, “…a moment of shear stupidity.”

I went, “Ooooohhhh!”. Still no green skin. I think it was because unlike a lot of customers who do moronic things to our gear, this young man was neither defensive nor a jerk. He didn’t try to tell me that he received the canoe “in this condition”. Yes, some of our renters ACTUALLY think they can pull this off – “Hey man, that’s how we got it. Those folds and dents where already there. We pointed it out to the lady at the front desk when we first signed for it.” Or, in the event that they destroy the rental canoe, “Quick! Just cover it up with a little dust and Joe will never notice.” Plus, another factor that made it less shocking is that I’ve developed a great deal of confidence and skill in canoe repair over the last several years. It looked bad, but I felt very up to the task of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again sans “all the king’s men”.

I asked him if the side of the canoe met a large rock because the gunwale was pretty wiped out and the rivets were broken out at the rear thwart. He said he didn’t know because he wasn’t in the canoe. It went on without him and disappeared under water. Meanwhile he was testing out his lifejacket and probably meeting up with a rock or twenty along the way. Astonishingly, he did not have an apparent scratch on him and he wasn’t limping. My guy Curt here wondered upon seeing the canoe if the man changed his mind about running the rapids about halfway down. I’m thinking he wanted to get out after about the first ten feet of roaring white water. In any case, we were very fortunate that we didn’t have to bring the guy home in a body bag. Had that been the horrible case, ironically, his last ride in a canoe probably would have been in a Souris River since those are the only canoes the Lake County Sherriff’s department and Rescue Squad paddle. So bear that in mind as the “woodpecker of shear stupidity” tries to drill it’s way into your brain. Your last ride home will most likely be in a Souris River, not some crappy Brand X canoe. It’s pretty likely that you, of course, may not see much. This guy was incredibly lucky and it seems that there are more unlucky people than lucky ones out there based on the current body count for Basswood Falls.

Anyway, the guy went on to apologize for the canoe and increasing my workload. I told him I’d have to charge him for repairs and just over $600 would cover it. It was far cheaper than replacing the canoe and he noted that the canoe did not leak despite some major damage to the sides and a ripped out rear airtank. He also said that it handled very well and they paddled it as you see in the first picture for three more days. They were able to finish out their trip despite a crooked-on-top canoe. They tied the rear thwart in place and pulled the gunwales out a bit because I could see from minor stress marks to the ribs that the canoe was severely crushed inward which is not the usual way for the ribs to flex.

Tremendous current with a billion gallons of unyielding water and pressure. Sure, we can do that! It’s a rental canoe!


Ouch(!) was my first impression of the canoe. It’s a Souris River Quetico 17 in Le Tigre kevlar. Pretty banged up. Also note: the seats are intact. Most other brand kevlar canoes will experience some degree (or complete) rivet pull-out even without going through rapids upside down and sideways. I’ve yet to see an SR in which the seats rip out when all hell breaks loose. It’s called epoxy resin, for those of you who think SR’s are just like all other kevlar canoes. SR’s are in the highest class of kevlar canoes and all by themselves at the top. It’s lonely up there.canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

It took the hardest hit in the back air tank. Looks like the end of the canoe was wedged between two rocks and then the rapids took the unwedged end and tried to pry the two rocks apart. I’m thinking the rocks didn’t move. The gunwales sure did, however.

It doesn’t look so bad here due to lens distortion working in the damage’s favor. But you can see the important part – the bottom of the canoe is still in perfect alignment. Any bending/flexing in the parts that are really critical simply pops back into it’s resting shape. Let’s see any Brand X do that! Oh, that’s right – the foam core snaps in two or cracks down the middle in other kevlar canoes.
canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

There was damage like this in several places along the canoe. The outer fiberglass layer was damaged and completely broken, but the two bottom layers of kevlar remain intact and more importantly, un-leaking!
canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

See how the patches turned out?

canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

Symmetry at last. It’s amazing what new gunwales will do to a canoe that naturally wants to spring back into shape.
canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

Here’s the final canoe in the sun. Patches,
new gunwales, airtank re-built, and back into the
woods it went for another 20 days of rentals.
Nobody has shot the rapids with it again.
That’s good, because “you wouldn’t like me
when I’m angry.”
canoe repair - souris river kevlar canoe

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Skid Plate Repair on a Souris River Canoe

Skid Plate Repair by Red Rock Wilderness Store

Many folks get all bent out of shape when they see that their skid plates have worn in the wear zone of their canoe or a canoe that they are about to buy used.  That’s almost always a small area on the bow and/or stern and it is unique to the specific hull of the canoe and how the canoe was slammed into shore during its indentured life in a canoe livery.  As a private owner, an easier way to avoid this type of repair would be to not plow your canoe into shore like a farmer sinking a plow blade into black dirt preparing for this season’s corn crop, but some folks never quite figure this out.  I’ve seen evidence of that at the canoe landings and particularly enjoy watching Brand X kevlars slamming into the gravel at Lake One, Moose Lake and Fall Lake.  They don’t hold up like Souris Rivers and in fact I saw a Brand X canoe that had a bow which looked like shark bite in an Oreo cookie.  Nontheless, this example is for those among us who need to solve this skidplate wear problem because we haven’t figured out that the massive grinding sound we hear is made by the bow when 240 lbs. of  “Bubba” slides up 30 inches onto shore at about 20 MPH.  The answer is not necessarily to install an entire new skid plate, however.  In most cases, you can simply add a little piece to the boo boo and go back to plowing Bubba into shore again.  In the example you’ll see below, I’m actually going to build a stronger reinforcement that matches the existing black skid plate of the canoe.  It’s a Souris River, Le Tigre kevlar,  Quetico 18.5 three-seater, and after a whole summer of “Bubba-Paddle-Harder x 3 – PLUS gear”, this front plate has finally shown a little wear.  The wear is indicative of making portages shorter the hard way.  I’ll also refinish the canoe with a coat of varnish so you can see how nicely a Souris River handles a beating and then recovers minus the patches you’d see on those Brand X canoes which simply can’t hack paddler brutality as well.

SR Quetico 18.5 with worn strip in the front skid plate. This is no where near the end of the world.
kevlar canoe repair - skidplates


This is what the wear zone looks like.  You can see the Le Tigre kevlar beneath the black plate. Most folks would now put a new skid plate right over the top, but the rest of the plate is fine.  They usually only wear in one spot, so why replace the whole thing?

kevlar canoe repair - skidplates

This is what kevlar felt looks like.  It is simply felt which is made of kevlar fibers. I just cut a little strip to start. BUT, the key is in the cutting.  You’ll need really sharp, good quality scissors.  Kevlar is unbelievably tough to cut and also comes from Texas Tea.

kevlar canoe repair - skidplates

Here I’m just placing the piece of felt with the ends trimmed to points.  The points make it lay down over the old skid plate better.  If you had a non-black skid plate and were doing this, you’d be skipping the next steps with the aluminum powder and graphite.
kevlar canoe repair - skidplates

Here’s where the felt will end up after you soak it in resin.
kevlar canoe repair - skidplates

Here’s what you need to start.  Epoxy resin, cup, stir stick, rubber gloves – for a regular skid plate canoe.  Add aluminum powder and graphite for a black skid plate canoe.   I use larger containers of 105/205 resin/hardener by West System.  You would not need to use these because they a cost a lot of dough and are WAY more resin than you’ll need.  I’m just trying to scare the tar out of you with this intimidating looking junk.  You can use a couple of West System repair packets which cost only about $16 for a 6 pack.  Two of those packets would work just fine. You DO need the disposable blue glove, a stir stick and the plastic cup.
west system marine epoxy

Mix the resin
Put the resin and hardener into the cup and mix well. I would use two packets of resin from the 6 pack (not pictured because I’m using the pumps)
stir epoxy resin

Now here’s where I get technical. Add a teaspoon of aluminum powder and mix it into the resin. It’s not super critical about the amount. This stuff makes the resin harder by adding microscopic (or at least really fine) aluminum dust to the resin.  When it cures, you can see little “sparklies” in the black epoxy which help reduce wear caused by the Bubba factor.
graphite and aluminum powder

Add a teaspoon of graphite powder.  This stuff is REALLY messy.  Don’t do it when it’s windy outside.  Stir it in as well.  This secret ingredient makes your skid plate slide more easily so that big honking rock has a harder time connecting with the resin.  The fresh rosemary adds that delicate hint of spring and and goes good with a white wine.
graphite and aluminum powder

Mix well and you’ll end up with black goo, Texas Tea, or at least this stuff is made out of Texas Tea – epoxy resin is a petro chemical.


Kevlar Felt
This is what kevlar felt looks like.  It is simply felt which is made of kevlar fibers. I just cut a little strip to start. BUT, the key is in the cutting.  You’ll need really sharp, good quality scissors.  Kevlar is unbelievably tough to cut and also comes from Texas Tea like epoxy resin.  Without oil, we’d all be paddling birchbark canoes and trust me, the repairs are much more difficult in birchbark – let alone the crazies who’d be protesting and beating tom-toms at the canoe landing for your using a tree improperly. And then, there’s the stepping on helpless, baby protozoans in the parking lot as you carried your birchbark canoe to the water, issue.  How insensitive!!  We need more laws to stop this!!!

Trim the Felt
Check the felt for size by laying it over the boo boo. I like to cut the ends of it into points to make it lay down more neatly and make a smoother bump.  There will be a little bump because the felt swells up with resin.  In fact, that is what we are trying to accomplish.  The felt allows us to make a thick layer of resin reinforced by a zillion kevlar fibers to prevent it from shattering on impact as a thick layer of resin minus the felt fibers will do.  It acts just like reinforcement rod in concrete.
kevlar canoe repair - skidplates

Put the strip in the black goo and stir it.  You goal is to get it completely soaked in resin.



Looks like a synthetic blood sucker.
kevlar felt in resin

I like to squeeze out some of the excess goo so it’s not too drippy on the canoe to try to prevent it from running down the sides.  Note the gloves.  Since this is epoxy resin and since epoxy resin can be a skin sensitizer to some folks, you want to wear gloves and minimize your skin contact with the stuff lest ye develop an allergic reaction to it.  It can bother some people like a  bad bee sting reaction and we suspect that it bothers women more than men. Well, that would make sense given men’s superiority when compared to women – KIDDING!.  Actually, the folks at Souris River are who let us know about the allergic reactions of epoxy in men vs. women and found (anecdotally) that women appeared to be more sensitive to the epoxy resin (and a whole other bunch of issues that we won’t cover here – Kidding, again!)  Anyway – wear gloves no matter what your gender.
kevlar felt in resin

Simply set the gooey strip onto the boo boo area.
kevlar felt in resin

Not hard to do at all, in fact I’m doing this in one of my very best, slightly wrinkled T-shirts.
skid plate repair kevlar canoe


Making it Smooth and Shiny
Next you cover it up with Saran (or other) plastic wrap and use some tape to stretch it smooth.  Kind of like stretching a high-tec beaver hide.  Squeeze out the air bubbles under the plastic with your now ungloved thumb.  Work the air bubbles to the edge of the resin under the plastic.  Try not to squeeze the black goo down the sides of the canoe.  After you are done with the air bubbles, flip the and rightside up and not on the new resin and allow it to cure for about 5 hours.  After 5 hours, flip it back over and peel off the plastic.  Take a sharp knife and you can carefully slice off the excess resin which may have run.
skid plate repair - canoes

Skid plate is done – on to varnish.
repair completed

Applying Varnish
You can now sand down the canoe with 120 grit sand paper to somewhat smooth out the scratches. An orbital sander works best. You should wear a dust mask for this because it gets dusty.  Then wipe down the canoe with a brushing thinner and follow it immediately with a good quality UV blocking,  marine varnish by either wiping it on with a rag or with a foam roller.   The rag will initially do a nicer job.  Wear disposable rubber gloves and  clean up will be a snap.  Allow it to dry two or more days then sand down with 200 grit sand paper, wipe down with thinner and recoat the canoe either with a foam roller or rag.  I prefer the foam roller here because it’s a bit easier to control a uniform coat.  If you do use a foam roller, once the canoe is coated in varnish, grab the roll to prevent it’s rolling and drag it uniformly over the canoe (called tipping) to knock out the little air bubbles that the roller leaves.  Allow canoe to cure for two days and then paddle with abandon or even a friend or family member!
finished canoe repair

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Canoe Patch – The Principles are Always the Same

Repairing a crack in a Souris River Canoe
by Red Rock Wilderness Store

Note:  This is an older post from years ago.  You will see me vary my technique here and there throughout this website.  Don’t get all excited.  The principle always remains the same.  If you don’t have a squeegee or a little roller doohickey, it doesn’t matter.  Use something else to arrive at the following list of procedures.  The tools do not make the result.  The principle does.  I have esxplain this because people go into a tizzy if they can find a squeegee.  You could also use a soft sponge over the top of the plastic wrap to aid in pushing out the air bubbles from the resin.  Be inventive.  Be MacGuyver.  The basic principles to applying a patch to anything (talking about kevlar canoes here) are as follows:

  1. Sand
  2. Stick on patch
  3. Wet out with resin
  4. Cover with plastic (outside of  canoe only) 
  5. Squeeze out air bubbles
  6. Let cure
  7. Peel off plastic
  8. Paddle

Installing Skid Plates on your canoe?  Click Here

This CAN happen!  This Souris River Wilderness 18 in kevlar was whapped into something so hard (flew off a canoe rack when some clueless individual didn’t bother tying this 46 lb. canoe down) there was a big dent in one gunwale and a 14″ stress mark in the side. The crack you see below did not leak a drop and the canoe actually went out on a 7 day canoe trip in the stressed condition which is way more than you can expect to see in other non-flexing, foam-core kevlars made with vinylester resin. The majority of name-brand, non-epoxy-resin canoes would have been unusable-until-repaired with this damage.  Nonetheless, this Souris River did need to be repaired to prevent further fiber breakdown in the future so here’s how I did it using West System Epoxy resin that we sell here at Red Rock.  This is how you would repair most cloth-layup canoes with cracks or punctures as well, only you would need to apply the same patch on the inside (minus the plastic wrap).

1. Sand area of crack with 80 grit sand paper.

1sandarea (1)

2. Cut a piece of kevlar to cover the cracked region.

3. Further refine your cut if desired to fit repair area.

4. Mix up some epoxy resin and apply with disposable brush evenly over entire patch area.

5. Stick on pre-cut patch. Make sure you center it over the damage.

6. Apply manageable amount of resin to patch.

7. Use a squeegee to wet the cloth completely with resin.

Be careful at the edges of the kevlar cloth because it likes to fray

8. Cover patch with plastic wrap and stretch it tight with tape.

9. Roll out all the air bubbles by forcing them to the edge of the plastic with a little wallpaper roller. Let it sit to cure.

After 5+ hours, peel off the plastic. Wait’ll tomorrow before putting it on the water. This patch turned out well with smooth “ramps” of resin along the edge of the patch, minimizing resistance in the water, or more importantly, obstacles such as rocks, etc.

One Tough Canoe

Souris River Canoes are simply tougher than the average kevlar canoe. Here’s more proof.

When you ask the question about how Souris River Canoes are different from all the other kevlar canoes, I’ll first define the other guys. These other kevlar canoe brands would include but are not be limited to, Sawyer, Old Town, Wenonah, Mad River, Bell, Swift, Novacraft, Sawyer, Clipper, Scott and any other canoe that uses vinylester resin and a sheet of styrofoam used to stiffen the floor (called a foam core – Old Town used to use parkay balsa wood in stead of foam). The foam is usually sandwiched between 2 sheets of kevlar cloth or some derivation of cloths – could be fiberglass cloth, kevlar& fiberglass combined, carbon fiber cloth, spectra, etc. Regardless of the cloth used, the foam core offers stiffness but not a lot of strength. This is not a flaw and is intentionally designed into those kevlar canoes because to several of the above named canoe companies hull efficiency means stiffness as it pertains to making the canoe go fast on the water and not how it holds up to impacts on the rocks or obstacles. Souris River, on the other hand, regards hull efficiency as good speed on the water, with excellent seaworthiness in rough water and incredible durability to get you out of a sticky wicket for when that time comes. It appears to me…and I may be wrong…that the other guys worry more about winning races and selling “sizzle” to paddlers. Hard to win a race if your canoe is full of water OR broken in two. And for those of you who proclaim that this will never happen to you, all I can say is, HA!

Below you can see what happens (in most cases) to a Souris River in a catastrophic event. In this case, a Le Tigre kevlar, Quetico 17 was almost chopped in half by a very large tree. This type of folding in half backwards is very similar to what happens in a whitewater wrap. In a WW wrap, the canoe gets folded in half backwards around a rock as the river current forces it around an unmoveable object. You can pretend that the tree is a rock in a river and the canoe is folded around it because of the water current. Looks the same and the end result is the same. Most foam core, non-epoxy resin canoes would be turned into two shorter canoes in this situation.

Tree on Canoe
Tree landed across this Souris River canoe.  Ouch.

 In the following photo, you’ll see how the above pictured canoe looked when it actually arrived at Red Rock to be repaired. The owner had pulled it straight so he could haul it on his car all the way from Illinois. Upon closer inspection, the canoe’s hull was not broken through to the inside from the tree. In fact, it pretty much popped back to really close to it’s normal shape. What does that mean to the guy who is stuck out in the woods? It means that with just a teeny bit of duct tape this canoe could have been paddled home safely. If you choose to believe for one second that every kevlar canoe can do this or even that an aluminum canoe can perform like this, then I’ve got some swamp land in Florida that you might be interested in buying.

Souris River Quetico 17 in LT kevlar
Souris River Quetico 17 in LT kevlar

Not a really big deal…

This canoe needed to have the gunwales replaced. Unlike epoxy resined kevlar, they don’t pop back to their normal shape. The aluminum stretches when it bends. They were slightly cracked on the worst side. As far as the hull, there were several stress marks and exposed fibers within the cracks of just above the chines (when the side meets the bottom). I removed the flaked fiberglass at the edges of the cracks with a sharp knife so the patch would be less bumpy. This allow me to completely wet out the entire damage area with resin. Because the damage did not actually go through the hull, I used 10 oz. fiberglass over the damage on the outside and a sheet of kevlar cloth on the inside for reinforcing. As a result, the outside damage was sealed up, reinforced and pretty invisible. The kevlar reinforcing patches on the inside were more visible but will eventually “brown-up” like the rest of the canoe and become much less visible.

To make the repair, I used West System Marine Epoxy Resin. And, despite what competitors say about the “danger” of epoxy resin, I feel absolutely fine. No dizziness, no pain, and no extra hand grew out of my forehead. I also wore rubber gloves and didn’t lick it when it was still wet. Like anything else, common sense applies. Some of those kevlar, foam-core, canoe salesman will say anything to try to turn you away from an absolutely better product.

Here is the finished repair the next day. Of course, since it was required by Mother Nature that we be rained on for at least six weeks, the photo was thus shot in the rain and it makes the gunwales mottled looking in spots even though they were brand new and otherwise satin finished.

repaired kevlar canoe
Souris River Quetico 17 in Le Tigre Kevlar

Looks like a Souris River Quetico 17 in Le Tigre Kevlar. You can see the long narrow patch under the front thwart (cross bar right behind front seat). When I was done the repair was unremarkable, which is the way they should be. Oh, I’m sure somebody will make some remark – somebody always has to be cute and make a remark.

To see how I do a repair like this, with all the steps and necessary parts, click HERE. The repair process is always pretty much the same. Only the damaging technique changes. Another reason that this canoe held up so well in this extreme situation is because of it’s full sheet construction.


Canoe Repair Adventures of Duncan Crawford (and his wife)

It began with this branch, somewhere in Florida. This is Duncan’s Story as told by him.

1 offendingbranch
Duncan’s wife and the offending tree


Guess it had to happen sometime– the Quetico 17 I picked up from you  last May (I’m the guy who brought you the explanation of the  prismatic coefficient 🙂 had an unfortunate encounter with a low- hanging branch in Florida last week while on the top of my truck  camper .  12K miles on the camper with canoe, Florida to Price Edward  island, as far west as Montana and 149 miles paddling down the  Missouri– and then in three seconds… <heavy sigh>

The tree won the skirmish– the canoe took away a lot of moss and a  bark sample, so I know for a fact the tree was a live oak.  Whatever,  the encounter was at 10 mph but it cleaned the canoe off the Yak  towers (took the control tower mounts right off the tracks screwed to  the camper roof), bent the Yak front bar, dished in the gunwales about  1.5 inches (both inward and down into the canoe) ahead of the front  seat on the starboard side, and left a shallower dent opposite as the  front bar twisted and the gunwale clamps dug in.  The branch proceeded  down the starboard side of the boat, cracking ribs.  The outboard  rear Yak track was peeled off the camper roof as well.  All told  there are nine ribs with damage– no through holes, the boat indeed  bounced back into normal shape (except for the gunwales), and it would  have gotten us home were we out on the water.  In this case we hiked  during the week instead of paddling and the canoe went back on the  roof after I fixed the racks (and the roof track/holes).

Pictures attached– I’ve already straightened the gunwales  (fortunately they weren’t cracked; see photo of the sophisticated  tooling required for repair), so now I’m in need of kevlar,  fiberglass (perhaps) and a bit (OK, bucket) of epoxy.  When I’m all  done I’ll do a cosmetic scratch job for good measure, so I’ll also be  wanting varnish and 333 stuff.

What I hope to be able to do, and your advice is needed 🙂 is use  fiberglass on the outside to preserve some of the Le Tigre look, then  do as many yards/layers of kevlar as required on the inside.  The  damage, except for the one gouge where I removed the bark and the  chipped-out fiber layers, is all cracks, no holes– hence the hope  for outer fiberglass at least above the waterline.  The one shot  showing the outside, at the front seat, is typical– three places  like that above the waterline.  If it needs to be kevlar on both  sides, above/below the waterline, no big issue– just my pride will  suffer when our usual canoe buddies give me a hard time about my  driving.  Of course, they won’t hear the camper story right away,  just the one about the 8 foot sleeping alligator we surprised while  photographing the alligator nursery on Myakka lake…

Stress Marks after being torn off
the truck by a large branch
2 insidestressribs

Duncan’s innovative levering
technique for gunwale
2 gunwalefix

More Stressmarks due to
extreme compression of hull by
heavy truck and non-moving branch
3 ribstressother

Deep Gouge through fiberglass
and Le Tigre kevlar
Note: STILL did not leak
4 deepgouge 

Beautiful Rib Repair
5 canoeribpatch

Another View
6 finbackinside

Close-up of patches
7 finpatchclose

Patched Ribs
8 repairinsidelong

All the  patches on the bottom
9 outsidepatches

Two Big Scratches
10 unfinscratch

Same scratches now repaired
11 sidescratch

SR Quetico 17 – Back from the dead
12 final

Glad we don’t have these in the BWCA of Minnesota
13 gator


Well, it’s been an adventure, and I’m now completely convinced of the  durability of kevlar epoxy construction…

Last week the weather was finally warm enough to work on my boat, the  LeTigre Quetico 17 that ‘ate’ a low-hanging live oak last December on  a Florida trip, while riding atop my truck camper.  You may still  have the “before” pictures of the damage somewhere in your email  archives.   It took three longish days (counting drying/setup time)  to complete the job, plus the 4 hours or so this winter to straighten  the dished-in gunwales, but as of last Friday morning the boat was  done, 34 patches in place and the bottom sanded/varnished for good  measure.  Looked almost like new if you maybe closed one eye a bit  and still smelled a bit of new varnish.  My wife and I were set to go  on a weekend trip to the Maryland Eastern shore that afternoon as  soon as she could get home from work.  About 10 am I was ready to  load the boat on top of the truck camper… camper roof was dry, wind  had died down, sun was out– time to go for it and be ready to move  out as soon as my “bow babe” got home.  I can’t remember how many  times over the years I’ve done this, always without incident.

<sigh>  I leaned the bow up on the camper, gunwales up a couple of  feet on rear of the camper, made sure everything was stable, and  started up the rear ladder next to the canoe.  As I was crawling onto  the top, the wind came back… blew the boat sideways, out of reach,  and dropped it onto the blacktop driveway… about 11 feet down.   It’s a big camper, if you recall from when we picked up the boat in  Ely last year, and up on a F450.  The boat bounced a couple of feet  then skidded sideways on the pavement, leaving a bit of road rash on  the port side of the stern, and the bottom seam of the bow buoyancy  insert de-laminated from the bottom– but no other damage, not even a  scratch, on the outside at the bow.

So, after a bit of muttering it was boat back into the garage and up  on the sawhorses… two more (fiberglas) patches to repair the insert  and glue it back to the hull, with a bit of Saran wrap taped in place  to prevent sagging, plus some touch-up varnish on the stern rash.   About three hours later my wife came home, chewed me out thoroughly  for not waiting for her help, and we loaded the boat on camper,  plastic wrap, mildly tacky varnish and all.  Three hours after that  we were at our campsite, but the plastic wrap had gone missing  somewhere enroute… leaving a nice smooth finish, but possibly  annoying one of the usual speeding tailgaters.  Saturday and Sunday  were on the water.

At any rate, there are now a grand total of 36 patches on this beast,  and no leaks.  For that matter, there were no leaks after the initial  crushing by the tree and had we been afield on a remote river we  would have been able to paddle out without even duct tape.  I used  fiberglas on the outside above the waterline (four places, mild  stress cracks), some fiberglas on the inside between the ribs (4  places) and fiberglas on the bow tank (2 places).  Everything else–  the serious cracks below the waterline inside and outside– is  patched with LeTigre fabric from the pieces you obtained for me from  the factory.  If there were a crack that got fiberglas inside, the  outside got kevlar.

The repair directions/pictures on your web site were more than  sufficient, and the Saran wrap/roller trick indeed gave a nice  feathered edge and gloss finish where I used it on the outside.  On  the inside, where I didn’t care about a glossy finish and had the  ribs to deal with anyway, I simply brush-smoothed the epoxy, doing  two thiner coats, then sanded and hit the patches with a satin marine  spar varnish to get a uniform inside appearance.

I’ve attached a couple of pictures of the repairs, taken shortly  after wiping things down following this weekend’s trip– it’s been  raining here and the slight cloudiness on the edges of the inside  patches is due to that– nice and clear when dry (might be the  varnish).  I’ve just applied a second and final coat of epoxy to the  bow tank patches, and tomorrow I’ll tip the boat over and do a bit  more sanding/varnishing to eliminate the unsightly scratches on my  new patches.  I’ll also apply a couple of bow decals I’m making, now  that the boat has earned a proper name (we won’t discuss what my wife  named me).  At least for the next trip in a couple of weeks I’ll have  a “new boat” (likely waiting for wifely assistance in loading)… and  no more anxiety about getting that “first scratch” or doing  irreparable damage on a trip.

Joe’s Summary: If I was hiring a canoe repair guy, Duncan would be on the very top of the list. Just by looking at our web pages and using his excellent common-sense approach, he did a SPECTACULAR job on these canoe repairs! I’ve got nothing over him and in fact, I learned a new technique for gunwale straightening. I’m looking at it asking myself why I didn’t think of that? You learn something new everyday! Duncan’s weak point: Canoe loading in the wind. 😛

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