Canoe material question

We’re in Tennessee with our rocky rivers and looking at the possibity ofbuying a canoe made with e-glass/kevlar mesh, but I’m wondering about durablility because it will get scraped/banged around when our rivers a shallow. I know canoes such as the OT Discovery 169 hold up well with its “Superlink3” construction, which I’m assuming is some form of sandwich polyethylene. Also, we’re beginning canoeists, so we’re going to make some mistakes on the river causing more scrapes, I’m sure.

Thanks in advance for any info.

Canoe material question
Correction: polyester and E-glass, not kevlar and E-glass.

Materials for rocks
You would find that the sandwich construction of materials like Royalex work better for round rocks. For sharp rocks and oyster beds nothing is really impervious, although aluminum comes out better than anything else.

gets my vote for durability and weight. Superlink is tough but these canoes are about 23 pounds heavier than their counterparts in royalex. This can be crucial launching down mud banks, portaging etc…

I second the Royalex.
I have an OT Disco with the cross linked poly construction and I also have a kevlar canoe, but for rivers where you will be scraping the bottom I would go with Royalex.

Also it is much lighter than the poly canoes.



I’ve been looking at a used canoe

– Last Updated: Jul-12-05 3:11 PM EST –

in my neighborhood. The ID plate is unreadable except that i know it is a Wenonah. Do Royalex, kevlar and fiberglass tuffweave all look similar on the inside of the hull. The owner believes it is approx 20 yrs old.

Inside look of materials
>Do Royalex, kevlar and fiberglass tuffweave all look similar on the inside of the hull.<

Royalex is smooth vinyl, typically grey color on the inside.

Kevlar is fine weave cloth texture, always gold in color.

Fiberglass is fine weave cloth, color is usually off white unless it has been painted.

Tuffweave is somewhat coarse weave cloth, color same as fiberglass.

Thankyou very much (no msg)

Wenonah hull interiors
Wenonah has not made Royalex canoes for 20 years.

The 20 year old models were laid up in several composite constructions. All Kevlar canoes are kevlar cloth on the inside and will have either a core bottom reinforcement with foam ribs laid into the hull, or cross ribs or a center rib laid into the hull. These reinforcements are quite a bit thicker than the rest of the hull and are readily visible. The interior color is natural kevlar which usually darkens as the hulls age.

In the fiberglass/Tuffweave construction, in addition to the cross-rib and center-rib lay-ups an additional low cost construction was offered called ‘extra stiffened’. It had multiple layers of fiberglass roving laid into the bottom of the hull which gave thickeness and stiffness. The interior of these hulls had a much coarser weave to the cloth and were painted a sand color. The only fiberglass/tuffweave lay-up that was not sand colored was the rare fiberglass/tuffweave core bottom hull. Without a gel-coat exterior these hulls are transparent except for the core areas. Most of the core bottomed hulls had gel coat. They are as light as most other manufacturers kevlar boats and were quite a bit less expensive.

Hope this helps you figure out what you have.


We-no-nah DOES make Royalex
Not to be contrary Bill, but Wenny does indeed still make Royalex canoes. The Sandpiper, Rendezvous, Solo Plus, Vagabond, Spirit II, Aurora are a few examples of Wennies that are available in Royalex. Perhaps they aren’t popular in your area, but they are available. Randall

Depends on the boat design.
Once there were builders who could do an outstanding job with e-glass, polyester cloth, and vinylester. I do not know of a builder using that combination now, so I would be wary of a boat so constructed unless the design was really so outstanding that I was willing to take a chance on the layup.

“Glass” boats can be quite durable, if the cloths and layup are properly selected, and while they are a bit more easily damaged than Royalex, they are also fairly easily repaired. Check out Millbrook to see a wide selection of outstanding, light, durable whitewater designs. Prices quite reasonable also. In Tennessee, Class V offers a few sophisticated composite WW boats. Go to and check the various manufacturers listed on the home page.

I am a heavy paddler, I paddle rocky Georgia rivers, and I own both composite and Royalex boats. Much of what you hear about the supposed fragility of composite boats is not said out of personal experience. Be careful when you read comments about composite boats that the source has personal experience.

I believe Bill’s say’n that…
20 years ago Wenonah didn’t make canoes in Royalex.

That is what you’re saying, right Bill?

If so, when did Wenonah start using it?

Who used Uniroyal’s Royalex, or a similar ABS-foam-vinyl sandwich first, and what comparable buoyant-flexible polymers have come and gone or remain upon the molded hull scene?

It’s hard enough keeping up with Old Town’s Poly-Cross-Super-Link offerings, and what variations in materials and lamination-directions sets one apart from the other.


“Who used Uniroyal’s Royalex, or a similar ABS-foam-vinyl sandwich first…?”

According to the book “The Old Town Canoe Company – Our First One Hundred Years” by Susan T. Audette the first company to market a canoe made of Royalex was the Thompson Boat Co. The date was 1964. Randall

1964! Man Oh Man, but I’m…
… nearly an old man. (Nearly, I say.)

So about the time I was a pup at 5 years of age, and the rubber giants Goodyear, B.F. Goodrich, and Uniroyal (or was that Uni, Roy and Al) were competin’ to wrap the hearts and soles of American adolescents (I made the switch from P.F.Flyers to Jack Purcell’s -those bulky rubber fish heads took a beatin’ on many a stream amphibian hunt), somewhere a more pliant hull was slipping out on the water between the Grumman tintinabulating rock-rammers that many a young Boy Scout learned within. I don’t recall seing my first plastic boat till about 1973, and even then it was an ugly duckling oddball amidst sleek, shiny fiberglass hulls on a Florida lake.

Thanks Randall,


Hey Bill…
I know your expertise and knowledge is far superior than mine on canoes, but I think you erred on this one.

One of my many daughters has a beautiful little Sandpiper (by Wenonah) which I recently took second place in a down river Class I race, and I am quite sure it is made of Royalex.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I’ll go beat the mess out of her for lying to me!



g2d - Specific canoe
The specific canoe we were looking at (just initial search) is by Ranger ( because they have a 16’ polyester/e-glass, weights 56 lbs (if I’m remembering correctly) and MSRP is right around $1,000.

Main reason we went with Royalex…
The ability to crawl over logs and rocks without cracking is where Royalex shines. Composites will scrape over rocks and gravel and can actually be resurfaced easier than Royalex. But the need to resurface/repair is greater if you are bending the boat over logs and rocks. Composite boat owners often call it abuse, but we ride 'em and slide 'em if it’s Royalex. We get cuts and scratches and live with something less pretty but more functional for our use. 303 helps the hull look better and protects from UV damage, but battle scars are evident. I use ShoeGoo for gouges and on the wear areas at bow and stern. Patch kits are available for Royalex, but we haven’t felt the need yet.

Our 16’4" Penobscot weighs 54lbs, so the composite you’re considering is not light.

If you don’t mind the weight
Old Town now makes a poly version of the penobscot that is even more durable but about 75 pounds.

I think it would be an ideal river runner for your area.

I pulled an 85 pound, 18.5 foot glass
supercanoe over about 40 logs on the Loxahatchee in Florida, and it took no discernible damage.

People seem to believe that Royalex canoes do not sustain damage, just because they can’t SEE the damage. When you work the ABS layers, they are weakened. Load your boat down and pull it over logs, and the Royalex is weakened even more.

I give a small edge to Royalex over the best composite layups, though if the composite builder is allowed to add more layers up to the same weight as the composite boat, then the advantage disappears.

20 years ago Wenonah didn’t use Royalex
TW had it right about what i wanted to say. Wenonah makes a ton of Royalex hulls today, in some models Royalex accounts for the majority.

The early Royalex that people like Thompson used was not the sandwich we know today. The first Royalex did not have the vinyl skin of todays sandwich and the hulls suffered from UV damage in a big way. Some of the companies went under from those disasters. Old Town lost a bunch of money replacing early models, luckily they made canoes and kayaks at the time from other materials and that income helped cover their loses. Lab tests just can’t duplicate all the conditions of real world usage and it often takes several years before a major flaw is uncovered in a material. How long did it take to discover how dangerous asbestos could be?

Remember how bad the early fiberglass hulls were to paddlers? My first outing in a glass hull, by a still active company, left me with fiberglass splinters in my knees and the tops of my feet. Boy Scouts in 1961 had to kneel in canoes, and the early chopper gun lay-ups had no inside coating over the fiber ends. Burlap bags to kneel on were soon standard equipment at camp.