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.