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…
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….
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.
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.