canoe spray deck project - long

-- Last Updated: Oct-19-08 2:01 PM EST --

A few folks have asked me to post photos of the home made spray deck I had on my Wenonah Wilderness solo canoe at the Raystown paddling event this month. Before I post the photos and write up, I’d like to make a couple of comments.

First, why do you need a spray deck on a canoe? Most people will never want or need one. I use one because it reduces the effect of the wind on the boat and because I am likely to be out in fairly windy conditions. A bit of protection from water splashing onto the boat is secondary, The cover catches more water from paddle drips than it ever has from waves.

Second, why not just buy one? I make _some_ of my own spray covers because I like to try different ideas. It is very time intensive, especially if you, like me, do not own a sewing machine, and the results aren’t always very good. If you want a nice cover and are not a glutton for punishment, I recommend contacting Dan Cooke at I’ve only owned one of Dan’s covers, but it was far superior to anything I’ve ever done.

Design considerations:
The reasons I designed and built some spray decks were because:
1. I wanted to use something other than snaps for an attachment;
2. I wanted to use fabric that didn’t sag when wet;
3. I wanted something that left out the section between the thwarts, although I have designed my covers so that this could be added.

This led me to use/not use the following materials or elements:
1. Bungee/shock cord lacing knobs in conjunction with a shock cord perimeter line to hold the fabric taught;
2. Something other than silnylon for the fabric. It is an outstanding material, as many can attest, but it sags when it is wet and it collects water.
3. An attached coaming to divert water to the sides and to give me something to attach a center section to if I ever decide to add one.

Here are two views of the finished cover, one from the bow and one from the stern:

This is a view of the front deck with a molded-in gps holder:

This is the rear deck and it shows the stitching that attaches the coaming to the fabric:

Here are a couple of shots showing how the deck is attached to the cover. The top row of stitching was done first and is what you saw on the inside of the coaming in the previous photo. The webbing was then basted to the cover using the center stitch location. Step 3 was sewing the webbing to the cover with the front row of stitches. Step 4 was removing the basting stitches and sewing the webbing to the cover with the center row of stitches.

This shows the kydex molded over the gunwale on the outside. Note that this clip is part of the deck. It is also molded to the gunwale on the inside. That part of the clip can be seen in other pictures. Small diameter cord is used to attach the shock cord that tensions the cover to the glip. This is where you adjust the tension on the shock cord to get it how you want it.

This shows two of the molded kydex clips that hold the deck to the thwart. These are part of the deck. Shock cord around the front of the boat helps pull the coaming forward and helps seat the clips. However, the combination of the gunwale lips, coaming shape, and thwart clips are sufficient to hold the deck in place without any other attachments.

The deck is tensioned using shock cord hooked under lacing knobs. These are offered by various retailers under different names. They come in two different sizes. I used the larger size on this deck. To attach a knob, a hole is drilled in the hull, the stainless steel machine screw is inserted through the knob and through the hull, the fender washer is placed over the screw on the inside of the hull, and the assembly is secured using a nyloc nut.

I use twenty knobs total. This shows one set of five. The knob closest to the end is mounted just behind the flotation tank. The knob closest to the center is mounted approximately 6" between the thwart and the end of the boat. The center knob is halfway between the two end knobs, and the other two are midway between the center knob and the end knobs.

I added clips formed from kydex to the inside of the boat. These are not necessary, but are there in case I want to lash in flotation bags or gear. The second reason for doing them, and doing them myself, was to one-up my friend MikeMcCrea, who was my source for the idea. He got the idea from Dan Cooke. Thanks, guys, and it would have been a lot less work if I had just copied your idea. I did two versions of the inside lacing clips - this is the first version.
And version two, which doesn't allow for popping the lacing cord out of the bottom of the fitting, but which is less bulky and less visually intrusive when the cover is off of the boat:

And showing a set of five inside the canoe:

And showing the shock cord attached to the outside of the canoe:

And finally, the cover in action. Normally the cover would lie flatter, but I screwed up on this one and got some ripples in it. Still, I'm pretty satisfied with how it turned out:

fabric: Beats me, but I often order from Seattle Fabrics
kydex: Interstate Plastics. I used .125" thick kydex this time, but will use .093 for the next cover. .125 was overkill.
stainless machine screws, fender washers, and nyloc nuts: Jamestown distributors
shock cord lacing knobs: Sailrite and Annapolis Performance Sailing
sewing supplies for hand sewing: Sailrite

As an Iranian would say to the cook of
an excellent meal, “May your hand not give you pain.”

Your Kydex work is excellent, and my only reservation about the knob connection system is that, in whitewater environments, the knobs would be more easily struck off by rocks than snaps. But I think the knobs are more secure.

Wow. Thanks, c2

– Last Updated: Oct-19-08 8:00 PM EST –

Your efforts are inspiring. If you don't mind, I've a few questions:

How did you heat the plastic and was it formed in place?

are ness's covers held on with the knob system too? ( I think 'twas you who made them?)

When are you getting a sewing machine? Seems like you might be ready for one.

Edit: Oops! I just read my answers over on the 'heat-molding' thread.

some answers

– Last Updated: Oct-19-08 10:51 PM EST –

I'll be posting a concept cover project about 9:30 or 10:00 and it will answer most of your questions.

The quick answers are:
The inside-the-boat stuff was heated in the oven and molded on a cutting board. The decks were heated with a heat gun and formed over a wooden cutout in the garage. It wasn't fancy enough to be called a mold.

I used the small knobs on Ness's boat when I worked on it at Raystown. They replaced the jewelry box knobs I used when I first put the deck on and didn't know about the stuff I am currently using.

A sewing machine is starting to sound like a really good idea. I'm doing several boat storage covers and, between them and the spray decks, the allure of hand sewing is beginning to fade.

Anyway, look for another post dealing with canoe spray decks to appear later this evening. It will be a slightly different style attachment, but it will go through the bulk of the cover construction process.

well done Dave
Thanks for taking the time to post the descriptions and pictures of how you did it. It truly is a thing of beauty to see in person, but seeing the close up pictures reveals even more design elements. I don’t know where you get the head for this stuff.

Now I’ve got to go try and look up what “basting stitches” are.

I am not worthy!

– Last Updated: Oct-21-08 9:09 PM EST –

Dave, I have a long way to go to match your cleverness. Well done!


PS: The use of staples instead of straight pins is golden! I wish I had thought of that years ago. It would have saved me countless pin sticks.

staples, pins, and needles
I was in the office supply store last night and realized that I had never tried binder clips and jumbo paper clips. They may replace the staples. But like you say, the staples were a huge improvement over pins. I think I probably got the idea from the Sailrite website - I think they sell a stapler for working with canvas. Regardless, it’s fast and easy - something I really like.

Speaking of SailRite
I lust after one of their sewing machines. Sigh. I guess I will have to make due with my 1930’s Singer.


sewing machine
I’ve almost bought one of them several times. I’d probably just get the apprentice, but a roping foot sure would be nice, and I think you have to get one of the fancier machines to get one of those. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll hold out, though. The hand sewing is starting to get old.