Posted by Darren Bush on 4/30/2013
Canoes are beloved mostly because they’re elemental…just a boat, a paddle, and a PFD and you’re off paddling. With a canoe, you just go.
Canoes outfitted for a trip into some remote corner of the globe, however, can have some pretty tricked out and high-tech gear. From the simple kneeling pad (who doesn’t want one of those?) to the full-on canoe cover, you can make a canoe as custom as you like.
The canoe itself…
There is a canoe guru out there (I won’t mention names, but his initials are CJ) who believes in fine-tuning a canoe to the point where you’re moving thwarts and seats and shifting things around a whole bunch. Not a bad idea, but it does leave your boat with a bunch of holes that are cosmetically challenging and sometimes just plain sharp and ugly. Not that you shouldn’t adjust things to fit you, but don’t take a brand new boat and start disassembling it because you read somewhere you should. Even if it is Cliff…(sorry Cliff, you and I are going to have to part company on this one)…
Of course it makes sense to add thwarts if you think you’re going to be using your boat under abnormally tough conditions (like Camp Manitowish for instance). Yes, add skid plates first because you know you’re going to want them eventually. Add deck lines and painters and a fastening system for those painters. Use good rope. Sand the wood gunwales, if you have them, until you’d slide down them naked without flinching. Smooth as a baby’s behind is a good thing with new gunwales, and most factory finishes are not perfectly sanded.
The Canoe Glove Compartment
Every canoe should have a thwart bag. This simple accessory attaches to the thwarts (or sometimes to the gunwales if you have slotted wood gunwales) to allow quick access to frequently used items. A good example is the Granite Gear Wedge Thwart Bag or North Water Thwart Bag. They’ll hold a small camera, a bunch of Clif bars, a bottle or two of bug dope and sunscreen, and the pine cones your kids find on the trail (yes, you have to carry them home or you will suffer Kid Karma). Either way, it’s better than digging through your pack or grabbing stuff rolling around in the bottom of the boat.
If you want something under your seat you can always opt for the Granite Gear Stowaway Padded Seat Pack. Reinforced so it doesn’t sag down into the bilge water, it’s a good place to put stuff that you want quick and easy access to. Also, I don’t like to use them if I’m kneeling.
Yokes (see 2 Corinthians 6:14)
“Be ye not unequally yoked…” Even taken totally and completely out of context (hey, if Oral Roberts can…*) it’s still good advice. Almost all canoes have yokes either installed from the factory or added to make it easier to carry later. A standard ash yoke is a perfectly fine place to start. For lightweight canoes infrequently portaged, you might get by with just a yoke (don’t forget hardware). If you carry heavier boats or you frequent long portages, you should definitely consider yoke pads. Chosen Valley make a more high-tech aluminum-framed pad, and Superior Portage Pads makes what looks like a little ottoman that is huge and cushy. Just depends on your style.
Okay, so you take some felted Kevlar (the bulletproof stuff) and affix it to the bow and stern of your canoe, right where the boats take the brunt of their abuse. Good epoxy resin does the trick, and you have a canoe equivalent of the 5 MPH bumper. Except it’s stronger.
All skid plate kits are the same, but we get ours from Bell only because they’re close and easy to get, and they do go off chemically, so we need to keep them fresh.
Cover it up…
If you want to go under cover, we do have an option. Northwater Rescue Expedition Covers allow you to paddle in some serious water and keep most of it outside the boat. They’re not cheap, but for me it was the best $300 I ever spent. My canoe became as weather tight as a kayak, only much easier to load and unload, and it keeps the black flies from chewing on your ankles (assuming you keep them out in the first place). Not for everyone, but I can tell you not enough people have them.
*Yes, he does. All the time. Even at the University.