Composite Durability

What did you not understand?

– Last Updated: Oct-21-10 9:13 PM EST –

I said that an extremely minor bump caused noticeable damage to the stem of one of my composite boats. There's no "give" when the impact is straight on, and the force is absorbed by an extremely small area, meaning by definition, the stress is very great, and this situation is amplified by the fact that the shape of the hull at this location prevents the energy from being cushioned by flex. That's why it's easy for something to break at that location, and that's exactly what happened in my case.

The same type of damage occurred to the boat during shipping, when one end of the boat was in contact with the wall of the truck during transport, and I saw another boat of the same design which had both stems severely damaged due to the same cause (and there was no damage EXCEPT at the point of contact with the truck walls, as if that even needs explaining).

I'll try to make this easy: What's a more likely situation causing material failure, transmitting the force of impact through several square feet of hull material connecting the overall mass of the boat to the point of impact, or that same force at the point of impact where it is concentrated within two square inches? There is nothing about my caved-in stem experience that goes against logic, common sense, or laws of physics. By the same token, one of my Royalex boats has a dent in the stem caused by a low-speed collision with a log, and the same impact would not have left any mark at all had it occurred at any other location on the boat. this was just another case of a fairly small force creating very high, localized stress for reasons just explained.

It would have been easy to relate your story in a way that shows what can happen in other circumstances with a different boat, but instead you chose to imply that my statement was just plain wrong (and I wouldn't have given it much thought or even bothered to respond if this weren't your modus operandi). What's up with that?

Me too
I’ve got tears in my eyes too. Just got an e-mail that the Northwind was sold out from under me. The guy didn’t tell his wife it was spoken for and she sold it to someone else. Now I’m looking at a 10 hour round trip for just one boat instead of two. Hopefully something will come up in the next couple days.

I looked for that Prospector and Penobscot again and they must be sold, not listed anymore.


What you need to do…
…is convince a Brit kayak manufacturer to start building composite canoes. Of course, the canoe will weigh 100 lbs, but the layup will withstand anything that comes its way.

Its the way you read it
in no way did I intend to insult you. Just ignore it its a story to simply point out the potential failure of a foam cored canoe.

Well, Bob…
…I say Ginger in nice, soft, squishy Wenonah Royalex! WW

Brit canoe (not kayak) manufacturers…
Already build open canoes… and some of the fibreglass layups are pretty beefy!

I’m not convinced anyone in North America is missing anything though: I’d rather have access to Millbrook, Hemlock and so on!

Of course, if the folk who make the Valley sea kayaks would get together with David Yost or John Winters on a range of solo hulls… that might be a different matter :slight_smile:

Well TW, I’d say…
…Royalex just went and got itself and you into the “high maintenance” category. (You can get Royalex in a sequinned finish?) And remember, with this newer, “squishy” Royalex, be careful with all your rooftop-and-rack bondage games, for the straps and ropes leave marks.

Now, just what kind of expedition is Jeff plannin’ for himself and that pig-tailed-paintered, bullet-proof wholesome hull?

A scrimshaw shows

neath my Mad River,

the paths I take for granite,

a red gelcoat whirled

in those squirrely lines,

wasn’t always way I planned it,

thus misaligned

I sometimes rock,

and roll over in a drop,

boat nor I have quit

though in looking glass,

there reflects patch of time spent in the shop

Never thought of looking at the bottom of those holes and thinking “Scrimshaw,” telling me stories of where I’ve been (LOL)!

I agree that Ginger is “squishy”, like Wenonah Royalex.

I’d have to go with Mary Ann.


If a composite canoe is built to a
weight close to that of a Royalex boat of the same dimensions, using good materials (Tufweave is good enough), then the gap in damage vulnerability is relatively small. Still, if I am going to run a punishing stream, I will take my Royalex MR Synergy rather than my Millbrook.

If I lived in the Ozarks and wanted a general purpose canoe, I would probably get a Wenonah in Tufweave. But we use our Bluewater Chippewa on shallow gravelly streams, and on streams where most rocks are easily dodged, and we don’t worry about it. The boat is glass over Nylon and Kevlar and is pretty strong. It also weighs only 48 pounds, important at my age.

You have to know how klutzy or ham-handed you are. I have never been very hard on boats, not even when I was running the Ocoee every other weekend.

One thing about Royalex— that vinyl topcoating hides damage to the ABS. If you could see the ABS, I’ll bet you would see whitish stressed areas where the canoe had thumped down hard when running a ledge.

On stems, I have not found stems on composite boats to be super-fragile, though I have repaired a few. Royalex stems can get crumpled, and then they are hard to get back into shape.

Gravelly streams— composite can be fine, if the layup is ok, and composite is easily fixed. Big drops, rocky streams, marginal paddler skills— probably should go with Royalex, or maybe poly.

well it’s that time of year again …

– Last Updated: Oct-22-10 10:50 PM EST –

...... the river's low and the dang ledges are in my way , the shallow stretches force me to use my paddle as a pole ... what the hell , I'll just power through those spots and be on my merry way !!

Can't be worrying about the battle grounds and what it can (and does) do to my canoe ... after all , this is a mountain river and we're on it , nothing's gonna stop me , I'm a paddler and the fish are waiting over there in the deep spots !!

Same with expensive (and pretty) Land River or Mercedes 4 wheeler models ... let's check it out in the woods (we'll use yours) , I'd love to check it , we can go tearing up the 4 wheel mountain ridge trails with it . I'll bet it will do a bang up job of taming those trails .

Why not use an expensive (and pretty) 2-3 grand canoe to tame the river and it's rocks ... it paddles better doesn't it ?? Worse that can happen is it's gets "CHEWED" up ... that's what it's made for , right ??

"It’s not the stems - they are pretty strong" seemed like a contradiction, and frankly didn’t seem unusual, so I assumed the worst. So I’m taking it back. Sorry.

The fact is…
If you paddle shallow, rocky rivers no matter what your boat is made of it’s gonna get beat up. Learn to be a good paddler and your boat gets beat up less. If you’re into doing repairs and you want to paddle a composite boat, get a composite boat. If you aren’t into doing repairs get a royalex or poly boat and when it gets beat up get another one. Just get out and paddle.


I’ll take both Ginger & Mary Ann.
Different crafts for different journeys.

Never Owned a 2-3K Composite

– Last Updated: Oct-23-10 3:48 AM EST –

Don't think anyone here is recomending that be used as a beater boat. But Wenonah Tuffweave and other reasonably priced and/or used composite boats will handle rocky streams as well as, if not better than royalex. And the price is pretty much the same. WW

I don’t kayak rocky streams but I do kayak over and sometimes into oyster beds in the gulf. The plastic shaves up a little, but the composites and fiberglass are not as forgiving. If you know you are going to be hitting rocks and you add in the current, I would say the polyethelene or royalex would be a good choice. Chech for a used canoe or kayak, test paddle it. All my kayaks have been paddled into oyster bars and none have ever cracked from that. John

Actually if the outer surface of a
composite boat is glass, or better yet, S-glass, oyster shells will not do much damage. I think it is the sound of a “glass” boat going over shells or sharp gravel that is unnerving. The actual loss of material is no more significant than for a poly boat. And, a “glass” boat can be resurfaced, if one has not sold it by the time it wears thin.

My Millbrook sounds absolutely awful when the current drags it over a sharp rock, but later inspection shows the scratch has hardly bit into the outer S-glass layer.

I was thinking the same thing

– Last Updated: Oct-23-10 12:51 PM EST –

I cringe a whole lot more when scraping a composite boat over sharp rocks, but inevitably when I check the damage, the the scratch is much more superficial than what I ever see happen on my Royalex boats. I can't see how oyster beds can be any different, since we are STILL comparing the oyster's ability to cut a soft material (Royalex or poly) compared to a hard material (fiberglass). It makes sense that even going over sharp oysters, the a hull made from a hard material will fare better.

By the way, the composite boats I have this experience with have no gel coat, and that might make a difference in the "visual effect" of scratches. Gel coat is pretty soft compared to fiberglass.

The amount of material actually abraded on a composite boat is typically much less than on a Royalex boat. It takes a really ugly scrape to penetrate the gel coat.

It makes a difference if one is talking about the occasional scrape over a hard object or frequent scraping and dragging over hard surfaces. In the latter case, Royalex can wear through the outer vinyl layer and through the outer solid ABS substrate relatively quickly.

I agree with Terry. A decent fiberglass boat often costs very little more, or no more than a Royalex one, and is generally a little lighter, and much stiffer. It will be more abrasion resistant than Royalex.

I’m not anti-Royalex. I have quite a few Royalex boats and they are my choice for shallow creeks where unanticipated impact with rocks is to be expected, or where sharp impacts to the stern stem going over ledges are common. But I accept the fact that the boats are going to have a finite life-span under these conditions.

If you can’t stand the thought of getting scratches on the bottom of your shiny, new composite boat, stick with Royalex. If you anticipate only the occasional scrape over rocks, either material will hold up, but composites will paddle better. If very hard impacts with rocks are to be expected, a Royalex boat might survive them better than a composite one.

gelcoat?!? We don’ need no steenking
gelcoat! More filling, less taste!