canoe cover

I’m considering a canoe cover from Dan Cooke for my solo. In his description, he’s placed a warning about covers and their potential obvious hazard. I’d like to hear opinions about this and what the strategies are when disaster strikes. How will the canoe react if capsized; how is using the boat for personal flotation affected; how does any on-board gear play into that scenario; and of course, recovery? Thanks in advance.

Fabric decks
That warening and the reason for it is why I stopped making the things fifteen years ago. I kept having a dream about a body pulled from the Green with the center section of one of my decks wrapped around it.

They work wonderfully in rain, spray and light waves, but failure is a big, nasty deal. If you need a decked boat to run whatever, get one.

Thanks CE…
for your input. I’ve read some archived postings on this and decided I need to re-think this cover idea.

I have been using a Cookes spraydeck

– Last Updated: Mar-03-07 7:04 AM EST –

I bought one for my bell wildfire. I don't use it very often but when I do it makes me glad I paid the $295. I don't really really choose my paddling days around the weather so having a Cookes cover makes for a warmer drier option on days that are less than optimal. In crappy weather it is worth its weight in gold. Snaps on in a minute or two and stows in a small stuff sack. When installed there is still easy access below and it would be easy to simply fall out of it in the event of a capsize. The tunnel will reach to just below the armpits and has a velcro fastener making it easy to loosen in a hurry. It opens to a huge hole.
I can think of quite a few rain storms that I wish I had one with me but didn't.
It keeps all the twigs and spiders out of my shorts too!
When i use the spraydeck I try to remember to use full floatation as well. I am sure the cover could hinder a recovery just as easily as accelerate one.

Canoe covers work great
during a capsize in keeping the gear in the canoe. Read the section in Cliff’s Jacobson’s book Expedition Canoeing where he talks in detail about canoe covers. In fact Cooke uses his design for making some of his covers. I used his design from his book to make my own – not very hard.

I use mine almost every time I paddle
the Voyager. I have never used the tunnel, just roll that part up and fasten it with the built in straps. It leaves me with a large cockpit . The cover makes the Voyager much more manageable in the wind.


My CCS cover stays on the canoe. Only come off if I have to portage in a rainstorm [rain runs down the hull and under the snapped cover]. Helps a lot in the wind, does not get in the way when I’m fishing. Kept my gear in and most of the water out when I dumped a few years ago.


Cover Thoughts
I do not own a cover, but I will. The advantage on windy and rainy days is obvious. I question any advantage in rough water.

If I did use one on whitewater of any sort I would NOT use the tunnel. The thought of swimming rapids or surf while trying to get out of that sea anchor is pretty scary! I would roll it back and leave the cockpit open.

The rescue question is interesting. I had not considered that before.

With no cover the gunnels provide pretty good handholds the length of the canoe on both sides.

With the cover on I’ve got the painters and possibly the cockpit area only. Kind of like a kayak with no deck rigging. It might be worthwhile to run a perimeter line just below the spray cover similar to a seakayak.

Good question, Thanks


You have options if you’re cautious…
…About this danger. I think Dan includes that warning for liability reasons, but it may be something to consider.

I have a Voyager with one of his covers, and I really love it. It’s really well designed, and the quality is great. But when it comes to safety, here’s a detail to keep in mind. You have at least three options in terms of how far up you want to roll that cover.

Most of the time, I use mine rolled all the way back to the thwarts immediately in front of and behind the “paddler area” in the center portion of the canoe. On windy flat water, this greatly reduces the windage, and it keeps waves from slopping in. On moderate whitewater, it also keeps water from coming in at the bow. But your legs are still cool on a summer day.

For just a little more coverage, you can snap the front portion of the cover onto the canoe for about another foot toward the rear.

But the next major level of coverage would be to snap the front portion of the cover all the way down, but with the skirt–to use kayak terminology–lashed all the way back. Now your solo canoe is something like a kayak without the skirt on. (A little taller, obviously, so there’s still going to be more windage.) This “setting” is great for big wind, big whitewater, or a cold drizzle.

The final level of coverage would be to pull the skirt up around you and pull the velcro over. Nice for more wind or rain. In theory, you could still pull the strap and get out pretty quick. But if I were going to be paddling in really heavy whitewater, I wouldn’t go to this final step.

PUlling up the skirt might provide maximum protection from swamping. But if I were paddling solo in shallow but serious whitewater, I’d be a little uneasy about the possibility of being stuck for just a little too long as I was being swept sideways with my head banging along the bottom of the river.

Still, there’s that level of coverage just before this that provides quite a bit of protection from swamping, and yet allows an effortless bail-out. So you still have that option.

I think these covers are great; even if you’re not on a big expedition or paddling through major whitewater, it’s something that any solo canoe could benefit from. Makes paddling in the wind or mild whitewater more pleasant. Also nice in the cold rain.

And if you’re nervous about entanglement, you do have those in-between options.


I’m not worried that I’ll have trouble getting out of the boat with a Cooke style cover.

I’m concerned that, with the snug skirt around me, I may well take the cover with me and be swimming with 6’ to 9’ of fabric more or less attached to some part of my body. Not my idea of a good time.

With the cover rolled back I really don’t see a problem though. I think those can be tied off open as well. Again I don’t foresee a problem.


I have used my cover fully buttoned up
once - a windy ,cold day. Very cozy.

Voyager in rapids? You are a better canoeist than I am. The Voyager turns like the Queen Mary.

Not necessarily…
Maybe just more used to that sort of canoe. I’ve paddled solo racing canoes a little, so the Voyager seems pretty maneuverable. And to be honest, mine rarely sees whitewater. Little riffles once in a while, that’s about it.

I was more speaking hypothetically, for people who would be using their solo canoes in heavy whitewater with CCS covers. With way fewer words, you got to the point I was really trying to make.

You get most of the benefit without buttoning that cover all the way up. Most of the time you won’t. So maybe we don’t have to worry so much about getting tangled up?