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Boat Winterization Tips

Posted by Rutabaga Staff on 10/1/2013 to Canoe Care, Repair, & Replacement Parts

Winterizing Tips for Canoes and Kayaks

As the leaves change and fall leads into winter, it’s time to get your canoe or kayak ready for storage.The construction material used in your craft is the determining factor as to what care the boat needs to be properly winterized.

For boats made of plastic materials, such as polyethylene or Royalex, keeping the boat out of the sun is most critical. Ultra-violet radiation has many negative effects on plastic; most notable are fading, oil-canning (denting in the hull), and brittleness. To avoid these pitfalls, store your boat indoors, out of reach of the sun’s harmful rays. If this isn’t feasible, then a pair of sawhorses and a tarp can make a decent shelter.

Cold can also have an impact, especially on boats with wood trim. Because wood and plastic shrink and expand at different rates, it’s important to loosen and screws or bolts connecting wood to plastic. If this isn’t done, cold cracking may develop. Another, much smaller, risk associated with the cold is dropping your boat on a hard surface on a very cold day. The boat could shatter into thousands of tiny bits! (Of course, why would anyone need to move a boat on a day like this?)

Small craft made of Kevlar, fiberglass or carbon fiber are not as susceptible to the sun. However, they will fade, or in the case of Kevlar, darken, when exposed to direct sun. This doesn’t affect the boat’s structural integrity. To keep boats from fading, apply a UV protectant to them regularly. McNett UV Tech is like an SPF 40 for your gear, and it can be applied to anything.

The most critical thing for composite boats is the condition of the hull. Patch holes with fiberglass cloth and touch up the gel coat.

For those lucky enough to own a wood boat, a bit more care is involved. The main thing to look for is places where water can get in and cause rot. This means spot sanding any place that has been scratched down to the wood, and using a high quality spar varnish or marine paint to touch up these spots. Most importantly, be sure the boat is completely dry before storing it for the winter. Inside storage will significantly extend a wooden boat’s lifespan. I have a wooden canoe that is more than 40 years old and in very good shape, because it has been well cared for and received a storage spot in the former owner’s garage.

Anyone owning an aluminum canoe gets off the maintenance hook easy. Aluminum does not fade, rust, crack or rot, so just drag it out of the water and flip it over.

By following these guidelines, you can be sure to get years of satisfying use from your canoe.

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