Removable canoe float bag rigging?


I recently purchased a Nova Craft Supernova, and would like to install some float bags. While I will mostly be solo in the canoe, from time to time I would like to take my 5yr old daughter with me in the bow. Is there a secure way to install the float bags without having to un/redo the lacing every time?

Also I would appreciate a recomendation on float bags. I am considering the NRS bags, as they seem pretty tough and are reasonably priced…but open to suggestion.

Thanks in advance,


Gaia bags
Gaia makes decent bags and they are sold by Nantahala Outdoors Center outfitter’s store, and other online sources. Mohawk canoe sells vinyl-coated bags that are of good quality. My favorite bags are nylon Voyager bags, but Voyager got dropped when Mad River Canoe got folded into Confluence Watersports and I have not found a current source for those bags.

One can easily rig a nylon keeper strap with plastic Fastex quick release buckles that go over the bag and use D rings on the canoe bottom to tie the ends of the bag down to (the bag corners usually have grommets) but the bag will still float up out of the hull without gunnel lacing. I suppose you could make small nylon gunnel loops and clip lightweight bungees across from gunnel to gunnel over the bags, but it really doesn’t take that long to rethread the lacing, and that’s what I do.

Mad River may still make a canoe “bra” that covers the bag and maybe that could be rigged to go off and on more quickly

Some lacing methods would allow
you to extract the bags, and then pull back on the lacing to get it out of the way. I drill my hull below the gunwales for lacing, and I left enough slack in the ends of the laces that I could withdraw them to leave room for a 5 year old. To bind up the lacing, you can use Radio Shack or similar wire ties of the easy release and re-use kind.

There are lacing kits available that have little plastic thingies with two screw holes so that you can attach them to the gunwales. These plastic attachments allow the lacing to slide more easily. However, I don’t like drilling holes in gunwales.

When you do your lacing, note that the lacing up in the narrow part of the bow need not be as close together as the lacing toward the middle of the boat.

gunnel loops
I too drill holes in the hull just below the gunnel line for bag cage lacing at least on whitewater boats. But in that case, threading the lacing is more cumbersome. But you can drill a pair of holes at intervals along the gunnel line, and run a small loop of parachute cord through each pair. The loop then functions like a plastic or metal loop or eye screwed into the gunnel would. And it is much easier to thread the bag cage lacing through quickly.

I did something similar
I used to have a pretty standard lacing system, with evenly-spaced holes through the hull with lacing running back and forth across the boat. Using those same holes, I now have a separate line that zig-zags down each side (not across the boat, but alternating inside and outside the hull just below each gunwale). Pulled tight, that line is practically invisible, being tight to the hull along the whole series of holes. Loosened the proper amount, each length of line running through the holes is slack, allowing a loop to be formed at every section where the line is on the inside of the hull. I thread two larger ropes back and forth between the loops on each side to form the bag cage. Lacing or un-lacing only takes about a minute or two for each end of the boat, and pulling tight on each line that zig-zags through the hull after unlacing the cage ropes eliminates any loose loops that might get stuck on tree branches, etc.

I keep saying I’ll post photos of this someday, but still haven’t gotten around to it.

Hopefully some others will reply
Did a trip with friends over the weekend of 4-25.

Two of the guys have really well thought systems that allow removal/install in 10 minutes. Look for the Pnet names of Mike McCrea and Nightswimmer. Ask for pics, tips, explanations, Nightswimmers boat is a Prospecter style hull and was remarkably well done without big $$.

Lacing through the hull
seems to be the best way to go I guess? This is my first “bagging” project, and seems wrong to drill holes through the hull. I understand that the vinyl gunwales on this boat do not have aluminum re-enforcement, so it probably wouldn’t be that substantial mounting to the gunwale anyhow.

Thanks for the tips, the loop lacing makes sense and is a good idea I might give that a go. Is there a good reference online for hole positioning and lacing? (I assume there is an optimum place to drill the holes to minimize the chance of cracking etc.)


– Last Updated: May-06-09 11:44 PM EST –

Check out the Mohawk Canoes website.See whitewater outfitting.

They have instructions/illustrations for installing a lacing system to secure flotation bags in a canoe.They also have all the material you would need for sale, at a reasonable price, in their on line store.

If you would like to see examples of the float bags/lacing installation that I did to 3 of my canoes; email me & I'll be happy to send you photos.


making holes in boats
I’ve spaced the gunnel laces anywhere from 4 inches apart to 8 inches apart, depending on the length of the boat and the intended use. I’ve found that 3 mm diameter nylon cord is plenty big enough to construct a bag cage with. You can use bigger but it’s overkill.

If you make the holes in the hull barely bigger than the cord, little water leaks in, although that really isn’t an issue and actually having holes just below the gunnel line helps drain water that otherwise tends to collect on the underside of the inwales when the boat is inverted.

The holes in your hull that the gunnel screws or pop rivets go through are much bigger so I wouldn’t worry about weakening the hull. Be mindful when you drill the holes of the angle of your drill bit. Sometimes drilling from the outside just below the outwale at what seems like a perfect right angle to the hull will result in you drilling into the inwale.

Supernova reality check
In my humble opinion the Supernova is not a very appropriate craft for taking a child along as a passenger. I’d give the idea more thought. My 2 cents… - RK

I’d take my grandson in my Synergy
or in my Millbrook Big Boy. It’s a matter of choosing rivers I am absolutely confident of handling without mishap, and there are a lot of such rivers in north Georgia.

Safety issue
I think it’s irresponsible to advise a novice canoeist to take a child as a passenger in a solo canoe with little initial stability. You are advising a less experienced canoeist and a CHILD to do what more advanced paddlers occasionally do. Very bad advice.

There is very little here to address

– Last Updated: May-07-09 12:19 PM EST –

making an easily removable bag cage. Here is a different take on previous suggestions. You can drill your holes just as if you were going to alternate the lacing except at each hole only a piece of lacing with stopper knot on the outside and a small loop tied on the inside or a plastic/stainless steel ring is tied to the inside is used. Then a piece of cord with small plastic or stainless steel clips on the ends is tautly clipped to the opposite loops or rings. If you want longitudinal lines to run between the keeper strap and the gunwale two small D-rings can be glued on the floor and loops or rings appropriately positioned near the ends. A keeper strap like the Mohawk has nexus buckles so it can be removed.

Here is a diagram of regular lacing scheme the same hole pattern can be used with the above cage system. Many people just use 6" spacing, others less, others more.

An honest thank you to those concerned
about my daughters safety…I appreciate it, nothing is more important to me.

Let me make you all feel better by saying that she will NOT be in the Supernova while in moving water. Right now I am spending a lot of time on our local lake practicing with the boat. Since I enjoy nothing more than spending time with my girl, and she is a swim-fish and loves the water, when the water warms sufficiently it would be great to have her tag along on my afternoon practices. This could not happen with the bow bag in place, which is why I would like it to be removable. I also have a MR Explorer that we take on a moving flatwater stretch, which right now is the limit of her river exposure that I am comfortable with. The rest of the time is spent on lakes playing and camping. She has her own paddle, and is very good at “helping”.

Glad to see you have…
…safety in mind. Also good that you have a true tandem to take your daughter out in on a more regular basis. Spending time on the water with your child – what could be better? ;^)

Among several other canoes I have a Supernova, so I am quite familiar with its handling characteristics. The SN has a very rounded bottom which would be my area of concern with a child on board. Where many canoes are V-bottomed, shallow arched or elliptical the SN really is almost fully round in cross section amidships. While the secondary stability is fairly solid it possesses very little initial stability. It’s a rolly boat. Yeah, we’ve all heard the old saw about “canoes ain’t tippy - people are tippy” yadda-yadda. The fact is the SN takes some real “gettin’ use to”. No doubt you will see what I mean when you spend some time with it. Anyway… –just my two cents worth. Enjoy your new canoe! – RK

Getting used to it…
Yeah, I was a bit suprised when I went on my initial outing…it is VERY rolly, especially compared to the Explorer. It is a bit of a handful for me right now, but I am enjoying the challenge…and I am finding sore muscles that I didn’t even know I had, (that don’t get used while paddling the Explorer.)

I bought the boat used, and going by the boat review on CanoeColorado which says it is the most stable out of the other boats they tested (Wenonah Rendezvous, and some Bell WW boats), I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. But if it is truly more stable than a Rendezvous (which was what I was initially looking for), I am glad I didn’t end up with one of them…

I thought by the time things warmed up around here I would have it pretty much under control, but if I read you right, you are suggesting that adding a squirming 5yr old to the mix might be too much to handle?

Thanks for your input.

Yes, adding the squirming 5 year old was my concern. My point was that I think you’ll find it really is best used primarily as designed: as a solo canoe. I’m sure you’ll get a handle on it and enjoy this canoe.

Please see private e-mail. -RK

bunch of small D-Rings = works

– Last Updated: May-08-09 5:03 PM EST –

I once put in a bunch of smaller D-Rings(using straps) around in the strategic places....worked really well I thought. Makes for an easy & quick change...should she wanna bail at some point..;-)