Deck option?

I am playing with the idea of adding a small deck to my solo canoe. I have some 1/4 ply from work and was thinking about cutting it to give me a 3 foot (or there about front and back deck for esthetics. I would seal it with varnish and end seal it with epoxy. I am guessing the weight penalty would be under 2 lbs.

Am I nuts or should I proceed?

No coaming?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-12 9:00 PM EST –

I think if I really needed long decks, I'd want some coaming, too. Even if it were strictly an aesthetic choice.

I added a small deck on the front of my 13ft Wenonah Sandpiper several years ago to help keep water from splashing over the front. I made it out of a wooden skim board (beach toy) that I picked up at a yard sale. I cut several strips of ply-board and made vees to direct the water off the sides instead of running straight down the deck into the canoe. It was light weight and worked well for a couple of years. It then began to deteriorate and had to be replaced. Go for it.

The right plywood might look really nice
Our old Moore came with 30 inch light fiberglass decks, mildly peaked, and with a substantial lip at the back end to divert water that might slosh down the deck.

Quarter inch ply sounds kind of thick, unless you need to stand on it. But if that’s what you’ve got…

Kaz, the Millbrook canoe builder, values very light weight, and his decks are laid up of 2 ply FG or Kevlar. They are screwed down to the ash gunwales, and to a short ash cross thwart at the back. Once installed, they are probably strong enough to stand on.

As for other materials folks might consider, I was attracted to the corrugated plastic the Post Office uses to make mail bins. Fairly light and stiff. Probably one of the lightest solutions is stiff closed cell foam sandwiched in Kevlar, which is seen on the decks of some slalom boats. But that’s a custom deal. I would be unsure where to get the foam, and the sandwich dents easily.

skin on frame?
I’ve wondered if you could build a canoe deck using the steam bent wood framing and stretched and poly coated ballistic nylon that the skin-on-frame kayak builders use. It’s a super light and super strong method of construction, and allows for a lot of tweaking in the frame as you build it and before you commit to stretching the skin on.

On the other hand, this local guy in my area came up with a novel solution for his canoe deck: cannibalizing an old rec kayak!

Had a similar thought
This past weekend I paddled a river that was very shallow in many places (Edisto, and the level was low, low, low). There was water to float the canoe, but not much for the blade to get a bite in. This had me thinking of using a double blade, because the low angle stroke doesn’t go as deep. Something I dislike about double blading in a canoe is the water dripping in the boat. If the boat had a deck, you’d have less drippage and less water accumulating in the hull.

I encountered a paddler out on the river one day. He was in a Wenonah Rendezvous and he had it decked with some kind of material that looked to have a hard finish. I remember thinking aluminum or some kind of laminate. But I just looked at a picture I took of him and his boat and I don’t see that the deck had any kind of lip on it to prevent water from rolling into the cockpit. He said he did it because he often paddles open water and the deck made the boat handle better in the wind. But if any water splashed up on the deck it is going for the cockpit. I’m less impressed now than when I took the picture!

I’ve contemplated a deck from a trash can. Cut out a piece to match the shape of the boat. That would give you a deck that is rounded and has a lip on it. But, it might look kind of, well, trashy, and I have no idea how it would be attached. A silly idea, really.

I’ll be interested to learn what you end up doing. Please post back with your result.


make one out of cloth and resin …

– Last Updated: Nov-06-12 7:47 PM EST –

....... you can use a dense foam board (like Dow Blueboard) and shape the mould to fit your deck area . Set the foam board piece over the deck , mark (trace) the deck's pattern on the foam board . Now you have a 1-1/2" or 2" thick (depending on which board you choose) pattern .

You can go several ways from there . You can shape the top into an arch w/ a sander . let the cloth and and resin overlap the sides if desired (this allows the deck cap to go over the gunnels) , you can leave a short ledge at the inside edge of the foam board form (to divert splash water to the sides) .... it's just a form you are designing , and then you lay up the cloth and resin over the form , trim the edges to desired length once cured , fare and round over , gelcoat or paint a finish on .

You are just making a shape that you like and using it as a form to layup cloth and resin over .

The options to make your mould are many , so use your imagination as you see it ... this post is just to give you an idea , where you go with it is up to you . The idea is the dense foam board mould .

Tryin to turn the Passage into a Rob Roy
I’ve got some plywood you can use…

Just remember if you decide to go with some of the other suggestions here that going above the gunwhales might make car-topping it on your racks difficult…

Carbon Fiber canoe decks
are sometimes seen. Marc O of Dog Paddle Canoe works makes them as well as

Also fabric decks are light and functional. At the ends I think the last thing I want is plywood, if you are carrying the boat. Weight out there has a distinct effect on how heavy the boat feels on portages.

Off-the-wall coincidence
This is too strange. A bit of a shaggy dog story, but stick with it, it’s relevant.

I stopped into Annapolis Canoe and Kayak this morning to pick up a replacement foot bar/brace for my Rendezvous. Dave asked me what boat it was for and I told him it was for the Rendezvous because I took the one from the Rendezvous for the SRT and we proceed to have a conversation about paddling, during which he mentions he knows a guy with a Rendezvous, that the guy races it, and does well. So, I ask him, is this other Rendezvous decked? Well, yes. And Dave knows the guy and gives me his phone number. So, how much of a coincidence is it that we were just posting about this and I suddenly discover a connection to the guy?

So I call the guy and we talked about his decks, two pictures of which I have posted:

His decks are made of 6mm okoume plywood. They are attached to, not exactly, but basically, a second inner gunwale. He sanded the okoume perfectly smooth, sealed it and used a poly paint. The bulkhead part of his system is just glued to the hull with 3M-5200. On the edge of the bulkhead where it meets the hull, the okoume is triple layered to provide more bonding surface.

To make the deck lighter, he used a router to remove half the thickness of the plywood in a waffle pattern. The deck and bulkheads are fitted with 6" inspection ports.

How much does it all weigh? He didn’t have an exact answer, but thought it was an even trade off with the air bag system he previously had installed in the boat. He also removed the “tanks” Wenonah installed in the ends, which seemed to me would reduce the structural strength of the stems, but the guy has been paddling the boat for years so I guess it is not an issue.

Does water on the deck roll into the cockpit? Yes, but he didn’t see this as a big issue and thinks it sheds water better than air bags. No doubt. He didn’t fit the deck with a lip or install a concave deck because that would have interfered with racking the boat.

He uses the boat in whitewater and has had it swamped and has never had a drop of water inside his decks. He did mention some sort of bedding compound in which he set the decks, and undoubtedly that is a key element in keeping water out.

Shall we all start building decks now?


Looks good to me.

I am toying with decks to hide the hideousness of inside stem joinering (perfectly good word I just made up) and for windage.

As for interfering with the racks I do not think I have a big enough sppread on my Racks to worry,

Encountered decked Rendezvous again
On the Patuxent today, I met up with the decked Rendezvous, about a half mile from where I saw it in 2009. Claude was going downriver, I was going up. I was in my Rendezvous, too, so it was a rendezvous of Rendezvous, so to speak. We rafted up and chatted for a moment under the Route 50 bridge. Three years after first seeing this boat, the decks still look good and still don’t leak.

It is rare to see another boat on this part of the river, and it is rare to see canoes at all this time of year, though it was a spring-like day in Maryland today. I was pretty astounded to meet up with Claude again.

Just updating. And I am wondering if the OP ever proceeded with decks.