Refinishing Fun – Like Rolling in Flypaper

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.

Canoe Refinishing
Canoe Refinishing

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.

kevlar canoe refinishing
This is a 2012 Le Tigre Kevlar Souris River in 2015.   The grey parts are dust from hitting the ground.  I got them out after the picture was taken.

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.

Kevlar Canoe Refinishing
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.

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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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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.


Extreme Canoe Refinishing by Joe

By Red Rock Wilderness Store

Here’s a canoe that has been neglected. This 2001 Souris River Quetico 16 served Red Rock as a reliable rental solo canoe. During the summer of 2001, it found it’s way around the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness taking care of it’s paddler and coming home again, time after time. Then, when winter approached, we set it on top of a relatively obscure canoe trailor for lack of a better storage place on the 4th rung where, for inexplicable reasons, it stayed for all the rest of the years until the present day. It was cruel and I am ashamed…

A customer came along looking for a solo and Curt remembered the Q-16 on the rack. They pulled it down and noted that after spending over 2600 days, exposed to the elements, uncared for, neglected, and frying in the sun for 6 hours per day, the inside of the canoe was in pretty nice shape. The outside was a different story. I’m going to show that story to you, the reader, now.

This is a story of happiness, followed by neglect, then desperation, then joy. OK – no desperation – it’s still only a canoe. This is the tale of a user-friendly, epoxy resin, kevlar solo canoe made by Souris River resting in oblivion, as Mother Nature picked at it unrelentingly. According to all the internet afficionados from the various canoeing bulletinboards, (those self-proclaimed experts of all things “canoe”), this epoxy/kevlar canoe should now…be…dead. After all, epoxy resin degrades in sunlight. It breaks down. It falls apart. (Read this next sentence like Shatner would) It…is…susceptible to the elements, the beast called…the outdoors.

To all the experts, I say once again, BULL. To the masters of misinformation, the worriers of all things canoe, the panickers of performance, I ask once again, “Why don’t you just ALL shut up?” Again, you are talking out of turn and making good people worry with much ado about nothing.

In fact, for those of you who hold out among the last bastion of thinking humans, the following story in pictures will be interesting and helpful. To those blind followers of the vinylester/kevlar walkway, you will be sputtering that this simply cannot be possible because you’ve heard epoxy falls apart with extreme exposure to the elements.

Sorry to crunch your canoe…

Let’s begin:

Here it is. 7 years of Momma Nature hammering this poor, innocent hunk of kevlar.


And, the view from the other side. Note that it is the color of the gravel behind.

This is NOT gravel. It’s the scene of black dirt forming with micro plant life on the hull. Possibly the early throws of life as it begins the evolutionary process along the path to becoming dinosaurs… or asparagus.



Here’s a closer shot of the absolute sign that this canoe should be dead by any other canoe expert standards: lichens! When you can feed your reindeer herd with the plants growing on your canoe, that must mean the bulletin-board afficionados are right about epoxy resin canoes, eh?


Here I sand off the lichens and I’m using (gasp, shock, sputter!) 80 grit sandpaper. YES! 80 grit even if you think – no, believe – it’s too harsh, that is not the case with a used Souris River Canoe! Go ahead, second-guess my technique all day long…you’ll still be wrong.


Oh, my stars and garters! If you look close at this sanded region, you will note that unlike anything Brand X canoes ever made in kevlar canoes, Souris River uses a thin layer of fiberglass on the outside. Guess what? Fiberglass, unlike kevlar, can be sanded safely. You know what it means when you see the fiberglass cross hatches on a SR Canoe? Nothing.


Moved canoe inside after sanding. Way less fiberglass dust inside as a result. Always wear a mask when sanding glass. Makes sharp, itchy dust. Before bringing inside, I hosed down the sanded canoe with a garden hose to take off the dust and let it dry for a day before coating with epoxy resin. Please, ignore messy shop.


Now, I could have just given this canoe two coats of varnish and called it even, but since the fiberglass was fairly exposed on the outside, I applied West System epoxy resin. Epoxy is harder than varnish and really strong. It took about 13 pumps of resin coat this entire canoe. I could varnish this canoe after the epoxy cures for added UV protection although it’s not the end of the world if I don’t.


I used the canoe as my personal paint tray. Just dump and roll.



Here you see more of the rolling process. I used a foam roller because it was the only thing I could find. Fortunately, that’s what I prefer although a low-knapped fuzzy roller would have worked, too.


Here you can see the wet epoxy resin on the left half and yet another clearer view of the fiberglass layer after being sanded with (OMG!) 80 grit sandpaper and washed with a garden hose!!!!


Here is the finished product. Whew, that was tough and extremely technical as you have just seen. Sand, hose, paint. I need a degree in engineering to figure that out. Note the color came back, too! 7+ years of frying, freezing and frickaseeing and this lichen loving canoe is in A1 operating condition.


Interestingly enough, 7+ years of withstanding 100+ degree F temps in the sun down to -45 degrees below (real temp, not that phony windchill stuff) and 24 inches of snow, this Souris River Quetico 16 (epoxy resin and kevlar cloth) is unharmed. Now, I gotta ask what you think would have happened to a vinylester resin/kevlar canoe if it spent 7 years on the top bars of a lonely, forgotten, canoe trailer in northern Minnesota?  I know what would happen, but do the canoe afficionados know it too?

Canoe Stability – If it’s got great secondary stability, what good is it, really?

Sure, you can get used to anything but I have to ask why anyone would choose to buy something that requires the first 15 minutes of using it to get used to it?  I keep hearing this regarding tippy canoes.

“It’s a little tender feeling when you first get in, but after a while you just forget about it.”

“The initial stabilty is a little shaky feeling, but the secondary stability is excellent!”

“It feels pretty stable after we load it with gear.”

OK – here’s a rhetorical question: If drinking or eating something that tastes awful requires you to develop an “acquired” taste to enjoy it, are you a better person after you learn how to like it or just a little dumber, poorer, and have a bad taste in your mouth?   You shouldn’t have to put up with something that’s disconcerting until such time as you “learn” to enjoy it, particularily a canoe. Cigarettes, martinis, fois gras, cigars, raw fish, and onions (I hate ’em) – now these are examples of acquired tastes for us all to strive to achieve, but not canoes. The first five minutes of sitting in a canoe, should be enough to determine if you like the way it feels. It should feel like a pair of old slippers, the Barco Lounger after a long hard day, the wind thru your hair while out riding the hog…

If learning how to get used to a tippy feeling canoe is an acquired trait necessary for handling that specific canoe every time you use it, you need to get a canoe that’s better for you.

Heck, Souris River even makes a tippy feeling model. If you want a canoe that needs a load to feel stable, and when it’s paddled empty it requires your continual, semi-constant attention, get the Souris River Wilderness 18 and most Brand X kevlar canoes on the market. You’ll get to pay attention it all day long. Think of the fun.

When I hear the sales pitch drivel with Brand X about “secondary stability” and all the “blahbitty-blah” used to explain why that particular lake canoe feels jittery plus why that’s a “good” thing, I just shake my head. Pass the fois gras, please.

Until the Souris River Quetico’s came out I’d always heard that it’s not possible to have good primary stability AND good secondary stability all in the same canoe. Oh, sure, you can’t lay a Souris River Quetico over at a 45 degree angle, but you can lean it over pretty far without rolling it over completely. That’s all that really matters because mishaps can and do happen. To me, the word “forgiving” is very important because, like everybody else, I do dumb things on occasion and having a canoe that will catch me when I fall is very important to me as well as to our retail/rental customers whether they realize it or not.

Every canoe can tip over in the right (and wrong) hands and decreasing the odds of tipping is what a good hull design is all about. On top of the safety aspect, I just like the feel of a comfortable, stabile canoe on the water. If you can spend the bulk of your day on the water not being too concerned with the canoe as it sits there, that makes for much better time paddling, fishing, shooting, etc.

Souris River Queticos derive their stabilty from their flat bottom

flat bottom in canoe
flat bottom in canoe

 in the center of the canoe and their secondary stability from the shallow arch

This is a shallow arched bottom
This is a shallow arched bottom

that’s more towards the ends of the canoe under the paddle-stations AKA seat-regions.

Here’s how these two different shapes react with water or even a hard flat surface.

A shallow arched bottom, even when tipped, still has a sizeable portion of canoe being supported by water which is depicted between the red lines on the next image.

This is a shallow-arched bottom tipped
This is a shallow-arched bottom tipped

As long as there is a relatively flat section of canoe resting on the water regardless of being tipped, the canoe resists going over completely and gives you more time to realize that you need to make changes lest ye be dunked. This is an example of secondary stability and how it actually acts on the water. The larger the distance between the red bars – the greater secondary stability that the hull will have.

A flat bottom by itself is not a good thing. When tipped over to it’s chine (the area where the canoe’s side meets the canoe’s bottom – like a rounded corner), it offers almost no wetted, flat surface for support as you can see in this image. The distance between the red bars is smaller and more like trying to balance on a tight rope. When you do begin to go over, you’ll do so suddenly unless you are really quick, incredibly balanced and have great physical wherewithall that allows you to recover deftly. In other words, you’ll need your spider powers.

Tipping a flat bottom
Tipping a flat bottom

The next drawing depicts what a Souris River Quetico’s shape is like when looking at it from straight on. It offers the stability of the flat bottom in the center, the shallow arching in the ends and what we call a sharp “knife” entry in the stem which is the very end of the canoe’s bow (or stern). All Quetico’s are shaped like this but the Quetico 16 has a bit less flatness in the middle of the canoe because that’s how the design lines played out. It has an ever-so-slightly tender feel attributed to having less flat area in the bottom center region. To put it in greater perspective, the Souris River Wilderness 18 only looks like the green knife entry with the red shallow arched part throughout the length of the canoe. The flat blue part in the drawing does not exist in that particular hull.

What a Souris River Quetico looks like from head-on
What a Souris River Quetico looks like from head-on

The next image defines where the flat and arched areas are in a Souris River Quetico.

Stability regions in a Souris River Canoe
Stability regions in a Souris River Canoe

So there you have it. A canoe without stability is a like a hotdog without ketchup. It tastes OK, and you could get used to it, but that ketchup makes it all complete. It may not be the greatest analogy but I do know that tippy canoes and tippy-feeling canoes are no fun. You really need a canoe that has good combination of primary (flat bottom) and secondary (shallow arched) of the two. Personally, I think the Souris River Queticos where designed by Keith Robinson using a little science, a touch of art and a smattering of luck.  These are outstanding canoes and their stability will serve 99% of all paddlers very well.

Why Some Canoes are Wrong for a Lot of Paddlers

I met a guy in our store who was buying a packsack. He was building his cabin over on Farm Lake which is not too far from here and he started asking me about Souris River Canoes and how they handle on the water compared to Wenonahs. I replied with my usual experience-based answers and descriptions regarding Souris River Quetico 17’s along with details of our many outfitting customers to whom we rent specifically Quetico 17’s for various and similar reasons. I also included our retail customer stories of how they often paddled alongside Wenonah Minnesota II’s. I pointed out how I’ve had numerous customers tell me about watching the Wenonahs hiding behind islands waiting for the wind to die down in even a moderate chop while the Souris Rivers just carry on. I indicated that the smarter Wenonah paddlers do this because at one point or another, everyone who’s ever been in a Wenonah Minnesota II has experienced or will experience water coming over the side, or bow, or stern, of that canoe when it’s loaded down with ordinary camping gear. I also told hime that it’s pretty much a “given” that not everyone will admit to having experienced, but it does happen frequently. I know this because I’ve now heard the same story relating to Wenonahs in rough water about 200 times. Eventually, everyone who paddles a Wenonah will notice two things once they are on the water: 1. most Wenonah hulls are difficult to turn in all wind conditions, and 2. most Wenonahs do not have much remaining freeboard left when hauling even a moderately sized load. These details about these canoes that are “great on portages!” are what inevitably stick in people’s minds AFTER they’ve experienced any time in varied weather and water with most Wenonahs. At this point of any discussion I always point out the somewhat morbid truth that “nobody every drowns on the portage”. This discussion with the packsack guy brought a smile to his face and his story to tell.

About 2 days prior, packsack guy’s neighbor came running over to his place and said, “Come on!”.

The neighbor sounded urgent and packsack guy thought he needed help with some heavy lifting as the neighbor, too was working on his own cabin. The neighbor hurriedly lead packsack guy right past the cabin down to the lake and onto the dock. On the dock there was a pile of gear – packsacks, fishing rods, tackle and other assorted stuff. Somebody dumped it on the dock. Just as they made it to the end of dock to the neighbor’s boat, packsack guy saw what was out in the lake a few hundred feet offshore. It was two paddlers hanging on to their rented Wenonah Minnesota II bobbing in the chop. Packsack guy and his neighbor took the boat out and pulled the two well-soaked paddlers out of Farm Lake and towed the water-logged canoe to shore. The paddlers declared that they were never going to paddle one of these particular canoes again in the future. They were very angry with the way the canoe handled and were blunt in offering their feelings toward said canoe. With the drama over and good deed done for the day, packsack guyheaded back to his own cabin. In telling the story to me, he surmised that they were going to drop off their gear on the neighbor’s dock in an attempt to lighten their load and make said canoe float higher in the water. Then they would paddle back to the outfitter on Farm Lake and retrieve their gear on the private dock via threir car. Packsack guy returned to his own cabin and the story ended.

Joe’s Commentary – Well THAT was special! They couldn’t even finish out their canoe trip. I’m going to conclude that the paddlers ran into problems all week long with that canoe. How else would they have come up with the last-ditch idea of attempting to lighten their load by piling all of their gear on the private dock to make a rough water crossing in an empty canoe? Clearly, it appears that they were trying to make that racing canoe sit higher on the water. Unfortunately, this particular rockerless canoe tends to NOT turn as expected. My guess is that with as rough as it was that day, they turned broadside to the wind and could not gain control over the canoe. When you see people in rockerless canoes struggling they usually commit a combination of faux paux’s (fox pox’s or “errors” for those of you who don’t talk high fallutin’ like me). The error’s are as follows:

Error Number One: When going out of control in wind, they first try to make the canoe respond by paddling really hard on one side.

It appears to me that most people who aspire to do a Boundary Water’s canoe trip (at some point in their lives) were introduced to canoeing in a Grumman or Alumacraft canoe. Based on even a small amount of canoeing exposure many assume that paddling hard on the left stern side of the canoe will make the canoe respond by turning to the right and vice versa. And, for a lot of “normal” canoes, this is a correct assumption. To support this point I’ve made, just ask yourself how long bentshaft paddles have been around (circa 1969) and how long straight shaft paddles have been around (circa the dawn of time). And based on how normal canoes act and react to padling, how long has the J-stroke (and other corrective strokes by other names) been around? If the canoe has no rocker, J-stroke necessity is greatly reduced. They also figure that the bow person can somehow direct the canoe’s bow by paddling really hard as well. And, in most normal canoes (normal being defined as the canoe most people grew up with), turning is the result of paddling hard and straight on one side of the canoe, even into the wind. like you see in the picture of rocker here:

canoe rocker
Rocker in a canoe allows the canoe to turn

In the above picture, this is how most aluminum canoes respond along with Souris River Quetico 17’s and 18.5’s. This is not how a lot of plastic canoe respond, however. Old Town Discovery 174’s do not pivot well in the water. They only want to go straight, But Old Town’s Penobscot 16/17’s require a corrective stroke. Some of Wenonah’s royalex hulls do not respond as you see in the picture above. Mad River Explorers do. Mad River Malecites do not. Souris River’s old Jensen Huron 18 does not turn easily because it has no rocker like a Wenonah Minnesota II which is also a Jensen hull, designed by Eugene Jensen. I could go on and on, but my point is that the material that the canoe is made out of is not what determines how it responds on the water. Many people wrongly conclude, based on one bad experience in a strange kevlar canoe that the cloth kevlar is responsible for the way the canoe handles on the water. This is not the case. Hull shape determines what the canoe will do, period.

Summary – Error Number One: The paddlers paddled hard in a tough wind to make the canoe turn and much to their chagrine, the racing canoe took off in a fast beeline broadside to the wind, crashing through, not up and over the waves. They began to take on some water both over the side and over the bow. Racing canoe hulls with no rocker are designed to go fast and straight, parting the waves, not up and over them. The fastest way from point A to point be is in a straight line.

Error Number Two: When the canoe was not responding, the next thing I’ve seen Wenonah paddlers do is put on the brakes with their paddles then they paddle backwards attempting to change directions by weather vaning.

This maneuver demands that the front of the canoe swings with the wind and it does. Unfortunately, Minnesota II’s don’t have much of a stern on them…and like the bow, it does NOT rise up and over the oncoming waves. Guess what? They plunge the back of the canoe into the oncoming waves and take on more water – only this time, they don’t see the water coming in. All they know in their panic is that the water in the back of the canoe is now around the guy’s ankles. But he’s not paying a lot of attention. Remember I’m methodically describing an event that actually happens in about 30 seconds. The stern paddler isn’t payong a lot of attention to his wet ankles as the wind is howling past his head. The extra water weight in the canoe makes it sit lower in the stern and bow-high in the front. the crappy stabililty of that racing canoe is now even further compromised. They neither realize nor actually comprehend the concept of decreased stability. I’ve observed this to be true and the case with most canoe outfitters from around here so I don’t expect infrequent paddlers who rent canoes to understand what’s happening either. It’s like paddling your canoe solo from the stern seat with no weight in the bow. In this position you are riding on a point which is ridiculously tippy.  In any tandem canoe, you almost need to add the weight of one person in the bow to make the canoe stable to maximize “wetted” surface or that part of the canoe which is resting on the water.

After orienting the canoe to go with the wind and taking on more water in the process, they tried to continue forward.  They each took three strokes going with the wind and they ended up sideways to the waves AGAIN.   Only, this time they are sitting even lower in the stern with all that extra water heading to the back.   That in turn, makes them a bit on the bow-high side which automatically decreases any canoe’s stability.    They get panicky and attempt the backwards reorientation maneuver, only this time harder, both on the same side of the canoe because they are no longer working as a team.   Hubby is screaming at wife who is higher up than hubby. Hubby leans as he reaches back for a good, strong backstroke in the raging waters and he takes the whole enchilada into the drink.   Of course, this is now the wife’s fault because he HAD it under control until SHE didn’t do it right!    If he needed to blame something, he’d be more accurate in blaming the canoe and the guy who rented them that rockerless, freeboardless wonder.

Summary – Error Number Two: A good outfitter would ask a few questions before setting up a rental customer with a racing canoe. But, many outfitters simply do not know themselves about the difference of their various canoe hulls.   My experience has lead me to believe that most (not all) outfitters believe that name brand recognition trumps actual function from a user standpoint.

An outfitter who doesn’t give a rip but wants to rent you a canoe, asks very few to no questions about your canoeing experience and abilities. Heck, anybody can be an “outfitter” when they rent out canoes like that!   Wait a minute…that IS what happens in the Boundary Waters!   That’s why I scoff at the term “outfitter” used for some of these businesses around here who simply give the customer what he wants instead of what he needs.   In my opinion, if you only see Wenonahs in the outfitter’s fleet, you gotta wonder about his canoe knowledge.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a customer’s proud (and even sometimes slightly arrogant) declaration that he’s ” been paddling for 25 years”.   There’s a HUGE difference between sloppily pushing a canoe through the water while enduring a 5 day canoe trip in nice weather, and actually knowing what to expect performance-wise from the canoe by merely looking at it. I’ve only met a tiny handful of people who can predict how a canoe will handle by simply looking at its shape.   Guess what – very few of the tiny handful are BWCA outfitters.   That’s why you see people who shouldn’t be in racing canoes being rented racing canoes by “expert” outfitters.   It’s the blind renting to the blind.




Bashed on the Breaker!

This was emailed to me by Marty Cooperman who takes his Quetico 17 out on Lake Erie all time. I’m thinking that Marty is a pretty good paddler (but a maybe little crazy). He sure does use his Quetico 17 and is still alive to tell about it! Here’s his story:
Edie and I took 2 friends in another canoe out in a protected bay adjacent to Lake Erie (Erie, Pa) to see bird and duck migration. We saw 6 ducks for our efforts. Crossing the 4 x 2 mile bay on the way out we had 15 knot winds broadside which was okay. On the way back we had 20 knot winds and 2, maybe 2-1/2 foot waves very close together in this shallow bay, but this time we were trying to angle back into them to get back to the launch area. Canoes seem to want to stay broadside to the waves, at least my friend’s Wenonah Odyssey and the Quetico 17 did. I’ve experienced this before. Both canoes were being pushed sideways towards a metal bulkhead forming the entrance to Lake Erie. My friend is an experienced canoeist, but having suffered leukemia several years ago has not regained all of his original strength. The woman with him wasn’t a very good paddler. We stayed with them for about 20 minutes but all they seemed to be able to do was drift along towards that breakwall making as much progress sideways as forwards. We were doing about the same staying with them. We finally yelled for them to hold themselves against the breakwall while we paddled back to the launch ramp about 2-1/2 miles away. We couldn’t figure out what else to do to help them. Edie and I could barely hear each other over the wind and waves. I was unsure if we’d be able to paddle effectively since I was unable to hold us into the wind with Edie paddling opposite me. We finally gave up traditional paddling protocol and did sweep strokes on one side, got ourselves into the wind and proceeded onwards at perhaps 1 mile/hour with waves and spray coming over the bow regularly. We needed corrective strokes every few minutes but Edie got the hang of it fast and switched sides quickly.

Marty Cooperman on one of his crazy daypaddles
Marty Cooperman on one of his crazy daypaddles in  his SR Quetico 17

I had just purchased and installed one of Dan Cooke’s canoe covers and had snapped it on before the return trip just to test it out. It got a good testing, and after 2 hour’s paddling in those waves we had perhaps a quart of water below. Not bad. My friends in the other canoe managed to call for rescue via cell phone. A paddling enthusiast on the park above the breakwall saw them, realized they were in trouble, and grabbed a paddle to hold them steady until rescue arrived. Eventually the Coast Guard helped hold the boat while the fire department got an improvised ladder down over the bulkhead, pulling them up to safety, their canoe following them. It’ll take some sanding and varnishing to restore the wood gunwale but that’s about all. We could have made a rescue call but in the confusion thought the cell phone was buried in our gear under the canoe cover. It was in Edie’s pocket all along. We’ll have to remember to keep it handy in the future. I don’t know if there was anything we could have done for them had we stayed along side except offer the dubious reassurance that someone else was in the same fix as they. There was no hope of us towing them. The Coast Guard boat heard we were out there and eventually located us paddling half way back to the launch ramp. They were none too pleased to see us.

By that time we had worked the paddling out, knew there was no swamping with the canoe cover and certainly no chance of capsize. We’d been out in bigger waves in Lake Erie but lesser wind. We managed to calm them down and told them we were doing fine and thanked them for their concern. They didn’t believe us and hung off about 3/4 of a mile watching us, I’m sure, through their binoculars. They did manage to yell to us before leaving that our friends were rescued and safe and getting a lift back to their car.

That was a great relief as most of our concern was not for us but for them. They came back about 1/2 hour later in a much better mood, this time realizing that we were doing fine. They told us they were heading back to base and we again thanked them. They seemed impressed with the canoe cover. I guess that convinced them we were not just another couple of turkeys who’d screwed up. We had a great time, learning lots about dealing with higher winds, waves and how the canoe cover works. We’ve got a few alterations to make to it, mostly suspender type straps over one shoulder to keep the spray skirt from slipping down and creating a place for water to pool and pulling it down further.

Edie was constantly getting soaked, and stopping to yank on the spray skirt to get the water off. I don’t remember being scared. It helped to have been out in Lake Erie before. Mostly we were worried and guilty about having left our friends. It was a good lesson in what another boat can’t offer in the way of assistance, and how illusory is the notion of safety in numbers. Our friends arrived at the launch ramp a few minutes after we did, having retrieved their boat. They seemed to be fine and not too upset. I credit them with keeping cool heads. I wonder if what you wrote about the Wenonah canoes being unable to turn into the wind was what made the difference between our experience and theirs. It’s easy to think Edie and I are such fine paddlers that our superior strength and experience got us back under our own power. But my friend is a much more experienced paddler than I am and I’m not sure there was that much of a difference in strength or technique between Edie and the other bow paddler. Maybe our canoe was just a better craft in those conditions. We aren’t about to call it a season anytime soon, so we may have to include an ice axe along with the paddles.

Thanks, Marty Cooperman Edie Antl

Snake Falls – Super Canoe!

Snake Falls – Super Canoe!

This is a Souris River Prospector 17.5 which went for a wild ride down Snake Falls in the Quetico Park. I don’t have the full story yet, but the photos tell a lot. Upon examining this Souris River first hand, it appears that it was pretty much flattened out by the tremendous force of a billion gallons of water pushing it against a rock. This occurred 2-1/2 days travel by canoe from Ely – definitely not close to home. The two guys peeled it off the rocks, kicked it back into shape and paddled it back to Ely. They sealed leaks with duct tape and reinforced the sides with birch saplings where the gunwales were wiped out and headed back home. None of the flexible ribs were torn out of the canoe. All of the ribs still functioned normally. Notice the seats? They are still fully intact with all of the rivets were in place. Even royalex has a hard time keeping its seats intact after a catastrophic event like this. With polyester resin, kevlar canoes (like Sawyer, Wenonah, Mad River, Bell, Nova Craft, Seda, etc.) I highly doubt that the seats would have remained intact, much less useable. Without the flexibility of Souris River’s unique Epoxy resin recipe combined with their unique , I suspect that ANY foam core canoe would have come home via rescue airplane – in a bushel basket. So if you REALLY need to get home, make sure your canoe is truely capable – and for an added plus – stay out of rapids!


Souris River Canoe after being flattened in Snake River Falls
Souris River Canoe after being flattened in Snake River Falls