Canoe Repair Adventures of Duncan Crawford (and his wife)

It began with this branch, somewhere in Florida. This is Duncan's Story as told by him.

Duncan's wife and the offending tree


Guess it had to happen sometime-- the Quetico 17 I picked up from you  last May (I'm the guy who brought you the explanation of the  prismatic coefficient :-) had an unfortunate encounter with a low- hanging branch in Florida last week while on the top of my truck  camper .  12K miles on the camper with canoe, Florida to Price Edward  island, as far west as Montana and 149 miles paddling down the  Missouri-- and then in three seconds... <heavy sigh>

The tree won the skirmish-- the canoe took away a lot of moss and a  bark sample, so I know for a fact the tree was a live oak.  Whatever,  the encounter was at 10 mph but it cleaned the canoe off the Yak  towers (took the control tower mounts right off the tracks screwed to  the camper roof), bent the Yak front bar, dished in the gunwales about  1.5 inches (both inward and down into the canoe) ahead of the front  seat on the starboard side, and left a shallower dent opposite as the  front bar twisted and the gunwale clamps dug in.  The branch proceeded  down the starboard side of the boat, cracking ribs.  The outboard  rear Yak track was peeled off the camper roof as well.  All told  there are nine ribs with damage-- no through holes, the boat indeed  bounced back into normal shape (except for the gunwales), and it would  have gotten us home were we out on the water.  In this case we hiked  during the week instead of paddling and the canoe went back on the  roof after I fixed the racks (and the roof track/holes).

Pictures attached-- I've already straightened the gunwales  (fortunately they weren't cracked; see photo of the sophisticated  tooling required for repair), so now I'm in need of kevlar,  fiberglass (perhaps) and a bit (OK, bucket) of epoxy.  When I'm all  done I'll do a cosmetic scratch job for good measure, so I'll also be  wanting varnish and 333 stuff.

What I hope to be able to do, and your advice is needed :-) is use  fiberglass on the outside to preserve some of the Le Tigre look, then  do as many yards/layers of kevlar as required on the inside.  The  damage, except for the one gouge where I removed the bark and the  chipped-out fiber layers, is all cracks, no holes-- hence the hope  for outer fiberglass at least above the waterline.  The one shot  showing the outside, at the front seat, is typical-- three places  like that above the waterline.  If it needs to be kevlar on both  sides, above/below the waterline, no big issue-- just my pride will  suffer when our usual canoe buddies give me a hard time about my  driving.  Of course, they won't hear the camper story right away,  just the one about the 8 foot sleeping alligator we surprised while  photographing the alligator nursery on Myakka lake...

Click on the picture for a bigger version

Stress Marks after being torn off
the truck by a large branch
Duncan's innovative levering
technique for gunwale
More Stressmarks due to
extreme compression of hull by
heavy truck and non-moving branch
Deep Gouge through fiberglass
and Le Tigre kevlar
Note: STILL did not leak
Beautiful Rib Patching
Another view
Patch Closeup
Patched ribs
All the patches on the bottom
Two big scratches
Same scratches now coated
SR Q-17 Back from the dead

Definitely NOT "Brand X" canoe country.
Rolling the canoe is even worse in these waters.


Well, it's been an adventure, and I'm now completely convinced of the  durability of kevlar epoxy construction...

Last week the weather was finally warm enough to work on my boat, the  LeTigre Quetico 17 that 'ate' a low-hanging live oak last December on  a Florida trip, while riding atop my truck camper.  You may still  have the "before" pictures of the damage somewhere in your email  archives.   It took three longish days (counting drying/setup time)  to complete the job, plus the 4 hours or so this winter to straighten  the dished-in gunwales, but as of last Friday morning the boat was  done, 34 patches in place and the bottom sanded/varnished for good  measure.  Looked almost like new if you maybe closed one eye a bit  and still smelled a bit of new varnish.  My wife and I were set to go  on a weekend trip to the Maryland Eastern shore that afternoon as  soon as she could get home from work.  About 10 am I was ready to  load the boat on top of the truck camper... camper roof was dry, wind  had died down, sun was out-- time to go for it and be ready to move  out as soon as my "bow babe" got home.  I can't remember how many  times over the years I've done this, always without incident.

<sigh>  I leaned the bow up on the camper, gunwales up a couple of  feet on rear of the camper, made sure everything was stable, and  started up the rear ladder next to the canoe.  As I was crawling onto  the top, the wind came back... blew the boat sideways, out of reach,  and dropped it onto the blacktop driveway... about 11 feet down.   It's a big camper, if you recall from when we picked up the boat in  Ely last year, and up on a F450.  The boat bounced a couple of feet  then skidded sideways on the pavement, leaving a bit of road rash on  the port side of the stern, and the bottom seam of the bow buoyancy  insert de-laminated from the bottom-- but no other damage, not even a  scratch, on the outside at the bow.

So, after a bit of muttering it was boat back into the garage and up  on the sawhorses... two more (fiberglas) patches to repair the insert  and glue it back to the hull, with a bit of Saran wrap taped in place  to prevent sagging, plus some touch-up varnish on the stern rash.   About three hours later my wife came home, chewed me out thoroughly  for not waiting for her help, and we loaded the boat on camper,  plastic wrap, mildly tacky varnish and all.  Three hours after that  we were at our campsite, but the plastic wrap had gone missing  somewhere enroute... leaving a nice smooth finish, but possibly  annoying one of the usual speeding tailgaters.  Saturday and Sunday  were on the water.

At any rate, there are now a grand total of 36 patches on this beast,  and no leaks.  For that matter, there were no leaks after the initial  crushing by the tree and had we been afield on a remote river we  would have been able to paddle out without even duct tape.  I used  fiberglas on the outside above the waterline (four places, mild  stress cracks), some fiberglas on the inside between the ribs (4  places) and fiberglas on the bow tank (2 places).  Everything else--  the serious cracks below the waterline inside and outside-- is  patched with LeTigre fabric from the pieces you obtained for me from  the factory.  If there were a crack that got fiberglas inside, the  outside got kevlar.

The repair directions/pictures on your web site were more than  sufficient, and the Saran wrap/roller trick indeed gave a nice  feathered edge and gloss finish where I used it on the outside.  On  the inside, where I didn't care about a glossy finish and had the  ribs to deal with anyway, I simply brush-smoothed the epoxy, doing  two thiner coats, then sanded and hit the patches with a satin marine  spar varnish to get a uniform inside appearance.

I've attached a couple of pictures of the repairs, taken shortly  after wiping things down following this weekend's trip-- it's been  raining here and the slight cloudiness on the edges of the inside  patches is due to that-- nice and clear when dry (might be the  varnish).  I've just applied a second and final coat of epoxy to the  bow tank patches, and tomorrow I'll tip the boat over and do a bit  more sanding/varnishing to eliminate the unsightly scratches on my  new patches.  I'll also apply a couple of bow decals I'm making, now  that the boat has earned a proper name (we won't discuss what my wife  named me).  At least for the next trip in a couple of weeks I'll have  a "new boat" (likely waiting for wifely assistance in loading)... and  no more anxiety about getting that "first scratch" or doing  irreparable damage on a trip.

Joe's Summary: If I was hiring a canoe repair guy, Duncan would be on the very top of the list. Just by looking at our web pages and using his excellent common-sense approach, he did a SPECTACULAR job on these canoe repairs! I've got nothing over him and in fact, I learned a new technigue for gunwale straightening. I'm looking at it asking myself why I didn't think of that? You learn something new everyday! Duncan's weak point: Canoe loading in the wind. :-P


See Duncan's new logo for his Souris River Quetico 17

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Updated on May 9, 2008