Canoe is too pretty to paddle

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but there’s some truth in it.

I inherited a new Old Town fiberglass one person canoe, sky blue. It is beautiful.

When I look at my battle scared 11 year-old plastic kayak, I can’t see subjecting this new canoe to the same kind of use.

I tell myself a pretty boat is an unused boat.

Still… Those first deep scratches are going to hurt.

On the Old Town website, I read up on the care of fiberglass boats.

I have the feeling that fiberglass will not take the abuse that plastic will.

My question to those of you familiar with them, are there limits to where you would willingly take it?

I have in mind things like avoiding rocky streams and sticking more to quiet mucky waters like estuaries.

Any advice?

My glass boats
go the same places the plastic ones do.

Rocks, logs, it don’t matter. It’s pretty tough stuff actually. Easy to repair if you do happen to smash a hole in it.

I tend to baby my composite canoe.
I will not knowingly take it into rocks, oyster shells,and the like.Sometimes that is unavoidable and composites are easy to repair.

It depends on use
Plastic boats like polyethylene and Royalex have more give, tend to indent and spring back, and are less likely to crack than composite boats. But plastic boats are more prone to wear out from abrasion, scraping over rocky stream bottoms, or dropping over rocky ledges, or from abuse such as extensive dragging.

Your composite boat will get some scratches through the gel-coat and these appear off-white in color. Composite boats are quite tough, however, and may well outlive plastic boats when used for anything short of all-out rock bashing.

I bought a new Prism in 2000…
I bought a new Wenonah Prism, beuatiful solo boat in 2000, bought it in kevlar, weighs 39 pounds. My first trip with it was the Everglades Wilderness Waterway, tried my best to keep it scratch free, but with barnacles, oyster beds, landing on shell beaches, it came home with some scratches…

Ten years later, I still try not to scratch it when landing, but after ten years and many trips there are scratches in abundance. The worst thing that has affected the boat in those years is sun fading of the gel coat. Try to protect your boat more from the sun, and let the scratches happen…

And, make sure to cushion the boat on your roof rack. Carrying the boat on a wooden un-padded rack over the years caused the rivets holding the aluminum gunnels on to wear out from road vibration, I had to replace all the rivets. This was from probably 50,000 road miles, 10,000 miles in one summer. I now make sure the boat has cushions to protect it.

Load with care
Good advice about loading the boat.

Some of the worst scratches on my plastic boat didn’t happen on the water.

Goal: wear the bottom off
If you wear the bottom off the canoe, you’ll know you did quite a lot of canoeing. Make that your goal. Get on a rocky stream with the boat right away and start the wearing process. Look at the scratches as progress.

But I know what you mean. I’ve bought some boats used that were in great shape. As I looked them over, my usual thought was “this boat is too nice for me”. But I just put those thoughts out of my mind and go use the boat for what the manufacturer made it, and I bought it, to do. The most shameful thing is an unused canoe. Only the first few scratches hurt. After that, I don’t think about it too much. So, my advice is to go get the first scratches out of the way.


A Pretty Paddle
A pretty paddle’s seen

scanning starboard to port,

not in a pristine hull beneath

unscathed to your comport,

for the true beauty

with a paddler’s transportation,

tis not its showroom sheen

but scrimshaw of linear narration,

of outrageous slings and arrows,

met rocks and timbers causing shiver,

those misdirections with their catch

of hull and eye in removed sliver,

reminding boat’s occupant

not all journey’s flow is smooth,

but you’ll come to smile at their reminder

how you and boat came into groove.


1991 Mad River Explorer in fiberglass.

She ain’t all that pretty 'neath the surface, but she and I have had some beautiful history!

Well, however ya scratch-n-scrape or glide-smoothly-in-escape (Northern Light, is she?), happy peaceful - with some eventfullness - paddles to ya,


Break in process
as soon as the ink is dry on the check or cc signature, tie the boat (canoe or kayak) to back of vehicle on the ground and drive 50 yards on the parking lot surface.

Stop, pick up boat and strap to rack.

no more scratch trauma.


dont treat it like a plastic kayak
treat it like a pretty blue canoe …but by all means go out and use it…wear it out… wear it out some more …then when its gets ugly…really ugly… buy a new one and do the same thing to it… it will all be worth it

Have you worn through your royalex
canoe yet? The last time I saw it, it looked like you were working hard to wear it out as soon as you could :slight_smile:

Way to show it that you love it, spending quality time with it.

Have to agree with Roy
although perhaps it wasn’t all that dramatic. I’d just build a Pygmy Coho kayak and finished it to a buffed, Magheer’s level shine. Took it off the car at the lake for the first paddle and set it down in gravel. Instant scratch.

Wife says “I hope you meant to do that”.

I replied “Yup, now I don’t have to worry about it.”

Another new canoe story…
In 1982, I bought a brand new Mohawk fiberglass solo canoe, a Jensen designed 14’, it was a pretty yellow, had just the right amount of tumblehome, a real pretty boat. I was dating my now wife, and she was jealous of the time I spent in this solo boat, we got in our first arguement over it, “Why did you buy a solo canoe?” “Why do you spend so much time in that stupid boat?”

This boat spent it’s whole life outdoors, racked up off the ground, but outdoors none the less. I loaned it to my Mother for a number of years while I was in the Navy, spending a lot of time deployed overseas. I built her a canoe rack for it, she would cover it with a tarp, but still spent most of it’s life exposed to the Florida sun and elements.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she would escape in that boat, getting away from doctors and Chemo-therapy, I found journals after she passed that stated time spent in that canoe made her forget she was sick…

She passed in 1991, and the canoe came back in my possesion. By this time it was looking fairly poor, but still solid. I painted the canoe olive drab with spray paint, spray painted all the aluminum trim with flat black paint, and used it for wildlife observation. I once snuck up on a deer drinking from a stream, I grounded the boat just 6’ or so from the deer, a doe, she never saw me until the boat scraped the bottom, you’ve never seen such a surprised animal!

Today the boat is still in use, here’s a picture of it with a first time solo paddler, a college student from Virginia Wesleyan College on a trip I led across the Okefenokee Swamp in 2005:

In the above picture, it is loaded with about 350-400 pounds of gear, water and paddler.

Another picture:

Bottom of the boat, showing a snake, and the blend of yellow fiberglass, black spray paint, duct tape and all the things that make an old fiberglass boat great!

Me with my faded Prism, also loaded with 400 pounds plus of gear and paddler:

A New Wilderness Composite
is hanging in my garage, as yet unused. I use my Royalex Argosy for the rivers around here, with skid plates installed because there’s always some butt dragging and gravely takeouts. No, the Wilderness will hang until I go solo tripping, possibly not until hunting season rolls around. I’m sure it will get it’s dings, but I’m not in any hurry to go against the grain with it. Man, that new Gelcoat sure does look purdy.

beaching up…if not too punishing…

– Last Updated: May-02-10 7:40 PM EST – and there, to do a little walk/hike...or whatever....can be really fun, given that you're not on top of a gator's rolleyes).
The canoe is made to enjoy nature enjoy it.

Get Rid of It Then
Any boat that’s too pretty to paddle ain’t worth having.

Get a real boat. Paddle it.

I just bought some enamel to repaint my old beaters if I decide to take a break from scratching them up.

While not a perfect, solution you can always fill gouges and repaint a fibreglass canoe.

I have three furniture grade
wood dacron boats. Some hang them from their ceiling. The maker wanted the boats to be used.

So they get used. I paddle them with awareness as to not break the planking…though it happens. They are repairable.

Its not about the boat. Its about the pleasure the boat brings you. Of course you wouldnt take a four thousand dollar composite canoe down class 3. But if you get pleasure from admiring it to each his own.

Having paddled the same solo for 16 years each summer on extended trips, the bottom was in pretty rough shape but it looks new when wet. The boat is semi retired only cause I got old and weak.

Pretty boats
I have a couple of Blackhawks in my fleet. I also own a bell Mystic. I love ‘em dearly, think they’re beautiful, polish and fill scratches at least once a season (often more), oil the gunwales perhaps a little compulsively. But they’re no longer made. I think of them as pieces of local canoeing history. When they’re gone, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever be able to replace them, at least at a cost that I can afford. Seems like if I buy a boat there’s a better than average chance they will go out of production soon.

So they’re definitely not disposables. (One Blackhawk I got at a large discount because some doltish person at a demo tried to land it on a breakwater on Lake Michigan. It had a pretty bad ding, a soft spot. I retouch the ding occasionally and have paddled it happily for 15 years.)

Boats like that work well enough for me because most of my paddling is over sand or on lakes. 99% of the time there’s no worry at all, if I slide over sand it just “buffs” them a bit. But the last 1% of the time I’m landing on rock ledges, along rip-rapped banks, or paddling rocky streams. I’m very careful with them there, but sometimes not careful enough.

It tempers my decisions about where I’ll take them. Most low class II, no problems and no worries. I will take them into rocks, through logs, etc. They’re boats, not objects of religious veneration. All have their share of scratches and some of the scratches make me smile when I see them, remembering when and where I got them.

But I won’t take such pretty boats them into anything where I think they might get “tacoed” or "pinballed’ between boulders. I have a royelex Prospector for that. Works great.

This is just the sort of thing that can drive a person to multiple boat ownership.

Thanks to everyone for your replies.

You gave me a lot of perspective.

I’m going to paddle it, enjoy it, and not obsess about the scratches that will inevitably happen.

But I’m not paddling it where its likely to take a beating.

Some great stories. Thanks.