Drilling holes in my canoe

I have a Mad River Explorer with plastic gunwales. The boat only has one thwart so there are few places where I can tie down my gear.

I was thinking of drilling a few small holes in the gunwales to allow me to hook a bungee or tie parachute cord.

Would doing so compromise the the structural integrity of the canoe or cause any other problems down the road?

Try these

Attach pad eyes to the underside of
the gunwales.


Then lace paracord through the pad eyes and hang your ditty bags etc from the cord via cheap gate hooks…

Not in whitewater…better to attach with d rings on the floor…

Only one thwart…its probably in front of you…You can use long electrical cable ties there and secure them for a place to again hang stuff from

You wont hurt your boat by drilling holes.

I would suggest D-rings on the floor

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 9:48 AM EST –

If you attach a lot of stuff to the thwarts or gunwales all that junk is going to dangle down below gunwale level if you invert the canoe.

This will severely compromise your ability to do a boat-over-boat rescue to empty your canoe if you dump. You also want gear down on the hull bottom to keep the center of gravity low, but you don't want it on a long tether so it is sliding all around either.

Assuming your boat is Royalex, you can get some D-rings mounted on vinyl patches and glue them in using vinyl adhesive (aka Vynabond).

If you must have some light items up of the hull bottom, consider getting a thwart bag like this:

or an underseat bag like this:

More than a few things

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 10:05 AM EST –

I'm not talking about securing a few things, though that thwart bag and underseat bag look good for that. I'm talking about securing large drybags, coolers and other camping gear.

example http://img.geocaching.com/cache/log/b1227e99-4d2c-48c0-874d-60ea711893fd.jpg

I should have asked you
about where you paddle.

My load never gets that big but for three week trips there is plenty…food in a barrel and a big canoe pack.

I do not secure it… I have had better luck with capsizes if the stuff is in dry bags so I don’t have to worry about it. Its rather difficult to empty a boat of water when you have to remove camping gear that is secured. If its floating you take care of your business and then get your stuff. We flipped on Lake Superior and were glad everything floated free…it was not too difficult to reenter the boat and then gather up stuff.

The caveat on running loose is if it can sink it will. You cooler unless water tight will be a rock,

We have to remember that most US paddlers are river paddlers. Their needs are somewhat different.

If you are doing a remote river…its better to remove all that portage it and run the rapid empty…

Securing that much gear in is kind of an exercise in frustration. I would get the amount down. When touring it is desirable to have the load below the gunwales and not above. Even tied in the amount you have is going to make boat over boat impossible even if you can have someone strong enough to lift an end .

For securing a packs or a large load

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 1:58 PM EST –

If you can keep the packs, barrels and containers near or below gunwale level you can secure them with nylon parachute cord lacing like that used by whitewater open boaters to secure their flotation bags in the hull. You can lace this through nylon "inchworms" or padeyes secured to the underside of the gunwales with stainless screws:

You can also drill small holes through the hull just below gunwale level and thread parachute cord through it.

If you have something that is going to stick up above gunwale level, I would suggest that you drill pairs of small holes just below the gunwale at the appropriate locations. Through each pair of holes thread a short loop of parachute cord tied to itself and let the loop dangle inside the boat. These parachute cord loops can be used to secure bungees or cords crossed over the load. If it is a large load I would still put a vinyl D-ring patch at each end of the load. Run a length of 1" wide nylon webbing over the load down the center line of the hull. You can secure the webbing using nylon Fastex quick release buckles.

Whether or not to secure gear inside the hull depends on the circumstances and perhaps personal bias. For lake travel I usually don't, although I might be inclined to secure packs to the boat with a tether line so they can't drift away after an upset on a windy day. If multiple portages are required, all that tying and untying is a royal pain.

For river travel I probably would secure the load on swiftly flowing rivers since things can take off down stream very quickly and tether lines can present an entrapment hazard.

Me to.
I drill holes either thru the gunwales or just below the gunwales and put in loops of parachute cord. I then use webbing straps with fastex buckles to hold down the gear. The fastex is faster than stringing rope or cord. I always hold gear down to the bottom of the boat. All my gear is lighter than the weight of water that would displace its volume, hence it will act as flotation on either moving or flat water.

I paddle both rivers and lakes when loaded with gear, mostly in the Adirondacks.

I have no illusions of being able to do a boat over boat rescue with a full load if I swamp. I guess I just have to keep my fingers crossed that if it happens it happens near shore.

I was out in the middle of Lake George (NY) two weeks ago and there were some pretty big waves and whitecaps.

I admit that swamping there would have been pretty much a disaster.

Bit I want to make sure my equipment (stove, grill, etc.) doesn’t go to the bottom.

Yes where is a good question
Sometimes if you have all packed in dry bags that will float (unless the dry bag holds a two burner coleman stove) its better to have things not too complicated so you can unload fast.

I did a nine dayer on Lake Superior and there were some surf landings… being solo I had to do quick unloads…before the boat got too bashed on rocks.

I did not flip this trip…have before and found that reentry is quicker without dealing with gear inside…but I am not on a river and have no help.

To tie or to not to tie always engenders endless debate…

nylon “inchworms” or padeyes
Do they hold using screws in plastic gunwales or do they need to be bolted into plastic?

may have aluminum inserts
Many of those plastic or vinyl gunwales have an aluminum insert on the bottom of the inwale side. You may be able to check out whether or not yours do by removing one of the machine screws that secures the yoke or a thwart. There may be a pop in hole cover concealing the machine screw.

If you don’t know and are concerned about the stainless screws holding, just substitute short loops of parachute cord for each pad eye. The cord goes through a pair of small holes in the hull just below the gunwale about an inch or so apart. It looks fine and the little holes won’t weaken the boat.

Have you ever had cords break
when they go through holes in the boat? I have an Argosy with lacing but the direct drilled holes are wearing out the lacing cord.

My other boats have pad eyes…are much older and the cord does not tend to cut. The vinyl gunwales actually are vinyl clad aluminum in my case.

I’ve not had it happen
and I have a number of boats with flotation bags secured with parachute cord lacing running through the hull.

I will usually drill the holes slightly undersized, then take a scratch awl warmed with a heat gun and put it through the hole to expand it a little. It makes a somewhat smoother hole.

I have drilled holes on two different…
canoes in the plastic gunnels.

Most of them have been in the bottom to install pad eyes for lacing float bags in.

Jack L

To structural integrity
it won’t do any harm. Firstly, there are already few pairs of holes in gunwales for seats etc. Secondly, plastic gunwales usually have a metal angle underneath. Like others noted, it may cause problems when inverting the boat.

Thanks for that hint Pete …NM