DIY Floatation and Decking

I took the Discovery 158 to the Big Piney in AR this past Saturday, the weather was great and the water was up. Up over the gunwales of my boat that is… Technically i was up to the challenge but after every swell i was sitting in a bath tub. Whats the best way to go about some homemade deck covering and floatation for my boat, Old Town Discovery 158?

Does the fact that almost no one does
this suggest to you the utility of this?

When you do finally swamp, your screwed-on deck will just allow the river to work the boat that much harder.

With experience, we learn to alter the speed and course of open boats so whitewater does not put in so many cfs.

Or, you can make or buy a lithium battery bailer.

should have been a little clearer
i don’t mean a hard deck, just a spray cover.

DIY flotation
I messed around with it some. But, it didn’t take long to figure out if you don’t already have truck inner tubes or those 2 man inflatible rafts lying around the house, it really doesn’t pay to go out and buy them. Your money is much better spent on real canoe floatation bags. But, if you do have stuff around the house to mess around with, go for it. I use to rig inflatible rafts before I bought specialty flotation bags. But, I already had them. Go price truck inner tubes. They cost a bunch.

As for decking, I’ve seen pictures posted here of round trash cans cut down and screwed on the bow. Or, you can always get a kayak.

4 B’s

– Last Updated: Apr-30-07 11:55 AM EST –

Bags, Bailer,Bilge pump, Backpaddle. I was waiting for someone else to respond. I have seen short bow decks, like a foot and a half or so,they must help with slight bow burials. I just stuff center bags under the seats of my OC-2's now that Aaron and I solo, and tie them in and down.

duct tape
People race the Kenduskeag stream with impromptu decks on their Discos. Just use a little duct tape across the boat. A dozen strips makes about a two foot deck.

It does make your boat a little harder to empty but since this DIY job is temporary it leaks and the tape may actually come off while emptying.

This kept the class 3 waves out of some of the boats. Didnt necessarily guarantee a dump free run.

Float bags have the advantage of occupying space that water cant. It makes the emptying easier, and the risk of getting seriously pinned less.

If I may amend your last statement
Which I surely agree with…

Well secured “Float bags have the advantage of occupying space that water cant. It makes the emptying easier, and the risk of getting seriously pinned less.”

I’m not sure how to anchor the end of the bag cage in a Discovery?

In a royalex or composite boat I’d glue D rings to the floor of the boat. Fill a boat with water and the lifting force against those is pretty powerful. I’m not sure there is anything that will hold to a poly hull?


things to consider first, before
you decide you ‘need’ a spraydeck:


Your canoe should be big enough. I admit this is often difficult to know. Most canoe manufacturers only give maximum load figures with 6 inch freeboard, which does not tell you anything about ‘performance’ capacity, which often can be less than half of that 6 inch freeboard capacity!

(On the other hand, don’t choose your canoe too big, because if you plan to use it (often) without a load, it will be much harder to handle when the wind is blowing!)


Some designs are drier than others. Too thin but also too full ends make a boat wet. Tumblehome can be a negative factor. Asymmetrical (swede-form) boats can relatively be drier. You can write a whole book about these kind of things, but unless you are a good canoe designer, they are hard to tell from looking at a canoe. Better try the boat to really know it. (Even a good canoe designer will do that…)


put every gear as much in the middle of your canoe as possible. On my first canoe trip, I thought the empty space in the bow was a nice place to put my water can (7 kg). The first big wave we encountered, put an end to that idea as my bowwoman got very wet…


trim level. A bit stern heavy makes the canoe going straight easier, but to run dry it must be level in the water. However, do not trim the boat level by placing things from the middle to the front. (A sliding bow seat is useless in that aspect.) It is better to trim level by stowing things from the back forward.


Backpaddling in rapids or slowing down in lake waves, prevents a lot of water coming in. Hitting waves at an angle instead of right on, can help too.

Choosing routes on lakes where wind and waves are less is often a possibility. Paddling early in the morning is usual the best time to avoid (too) big waves and hard winds.

Use a cross-wind ferry to deal with sidewinds efficiently.

Wading with your canoe on the river bank can be a way to avoid the heavy stuff of some rapids.

… maybe rivet a Wenonah-type sliding footbrace in and attache the floatbags to that. Temporarily reinforce the bar as you may think necessary (due to the width of the 158) using a strip of wood fastened to the bar.

Probably a lot of float bags out there in Royalex hulls that are a lot less secure than that would be. … just bain stormin’

Yeah a footbrace or a low thwart
I was thinking along those lines too. I’d want to have it pretty secure though. I’ve had D-rings pull loose without hurting the hull. I’d hate to tear out rivits through the hull!


how about
a better suited canoe for that kind of water instead of trying to outfit the Disco?

If you keep doing rivers like that, you’ll sooner or later get another boat anyway…

Trying to rig the Disco for fast water is like going to a camel race with an elephant.

And like g2d already wrote: you can learn to keep a lot of the water out.

just mho…

Disco is great for Arkansas
Sometimes the water is up. Mostly not. The Disco does a good job overall but needs a little tweaking for big water fun.

I wouldnt buy another boat…

Old Town sells a Discovery Adhesive Kit. It involves playing with a propane torch.

I would also call them and ask if there is a simpler way to bond D rings in for floatation.

all true … but

– Last Updated: May-01-07 11:11 AM EST –

When starting out, a lot of people want know how to work with what they have rather than be told they need to buy something else. So, at the same time you're learning through experience how to keep the water out, you can be learning a little about outfitting too. All while working with what you've got. If you really get into it, you'll eventually want more specialized gear.

That sounds like a great idea. I found an old guide by cliff jacobson that outlines how to make a spray deck, but i’m going to use velcro instead of snaps to hold it to the boat. The adhesive kit sounds great for securing the flotation, all of which wouldn’t be in the boat long as i don’t typically run much big water

Spray Deck in whitewater
Keep in mind that a spraydeck can become a hazard in fast moving water. You don’t want to get tangled up in anything should you swim. You certainly don’t want a big old sea anchor dragging you or your boat down.

IMO good flotation eliminates the need for spray covers.


dvance, could you
provide the link to the deck cover write up you found?


Sorry, no link
Actually its a book i found at a used book store. “Canoeing Wild Rivers” Cliff Jacobson 2nd edition, i don’t have it in front of me but i’m thinking it was done in the late 80s. Be happy to scan and email the chapter on covers, its pretty in depth.

That would be great if you could…
do that. clappt@gmaildotcom

Thanks very much.


sure thing
provided i don’t forget to grab it when i get home today i’ll scan it and send it on tomorrow.

Made a number of covers
I’ve made covers for a Rivers and Gilman Sagamore, Old Town Tripper and Jensen 18. Vinyl covers are easy to glue up and don’t require sewing skills. Lift on the dot snaps are very secure and unlikely to release. Covers are very useful in big water and cold weather. Obviously a cover is not as necessary in a whitewater play boat, but for wilderness whitewater tripping, covers are great.

I initially designed my own and then took some tips from Cliff Jacobson. My Jensen 18 cover is a three piece cover with roll/velcro joints and integral skirts. My Tripper cover is one piece with plastic cockpit rims and separate skirts.