Repairing FREE Wenonah Adirondack Ultralight Canoe

I picked up on Craigslist free this beautiful Wenonah Adirondack ultralight aramid canoe. The original owned had it cartopped when a cam buckle strap got caught in his car wheel and pulled out the gunnel on one side. The kevlar fabric beneath the bent gunnel has some stress lines but is still intact.

Any suggestions on how I should best approach the repair? I am generally handy but have never worked on a canoe before. Is it worth trying to tap the gunnel back straight with a rubber mallet? And then patching the stressed kevlar with fiberglass?

I’d love to drill out the rivets and replace the whole gunnel but acquiring a 16ft gunnel seems like it could get expensive


Aluminun gunwales have a lot of memory. It is difficult to hammer and prod them back into shape. You can get close with some patience. It would be best to replace the gunwale. Pop rivets are easy to work with. Just drill out the old ones and add the new ones. Then you will return the canoe to the right shape.

Use fiberglass cloth and marine epoxy to repair the crunched section. The simple approach would a layer (maybe 2) over the whole bad section on the inside of the boat. Try to get it back into its former shape as best you can. You can paint the inside of the boat when you are done. For a free boat it will be quite serviceable although not as beautiful as before . Good luck.

You will need to pull the bent gunnel off to straighten it. You will need some fixturing to bending to something that resembles a fair curve. It doesn’t have to be anything exotic. I used the frame of an old (and well anchored) swingset to straighten gunnels from a Sawyer Cruiser that had an unfortunate incident on the Jordan River.

I have straightened bent aluminum gunwales without removing them from the canoe by using pipe clamps or bar clamps as spreader bars. You will almost certainly have a permanent crimp in the gunwale no matter how you work it back into shape, but it probably won’t affect function.

If you have a divot in the gunwale, you can improve the appearance and restore strength by bonding some fiberglass cloth over the damaged area using G Flex epoxy which binds well to aluminum. I mix graphite powder in the epoxy to give it a black color but you can also paint the cloth after the epoxy has cured.

After restoring the gunwale to as close to its original shape as possible, I would try to coax the damaged hull back to as close to normal contour as possible. As the damage is above the water line, some deformity is unlikely to affect function much. If you use fiberglass with conventional epoxy (not G Flex) patches will be relatively transparent and less noticeable. I would apply at least one layer of cloth to the outside of the hull over the entire area of damage and a couple more layers on the inside.

Kevlar fibers usually do not fracture but the light colored lines indicate where the fibers have disassociated from the resin matrix so the hull structure is definitely weakened in those areas. The cosmetic result will be far from perfect, but I am fairly confident you can restore the boat to a fully functional state with a little time, work, and ingenuity.

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Just FYI it looks like you could get a pair of new Wenonah profile aluminum gunwales for a bit over $100 plus shipping.

Since I am a fan of wood gunwales, I would say to pop them off and put wood in its place. Get four pieces of 3/8 x 3.4 wood and uses thickened epoxy to glue them on. Use a few screws to strengthen it and them finish them.

The wood would help straighten those folds in the free-board.

You’ll spend much less time and energy just getting a new gunwale from Wenonah and replacing what’s on there. Heads up that the black rivets are sold separately, and you’ll need short ones for attaching the thwart to the bottom side of the gunwale. Not expensive, not a difficult repair, and it should return the boat into, if not factory new, than at least serviceable condition.

The shipping will cost you a small fortune since shippers will charge by the “linear pound”. Shipping long gunwales typically costs at least several times the cost of the gunwales in shipping charges. The only way to get gunwales shipped at a reasonable cost is to find a Wenonah dealer that is anticipating a shipment of boats and ask that the gunwales be shipped to that retailer.

Canoe retailers are much harder to find than they once were. If you can find one willing to receive a set of gunwales for a nominal charge, you will then need to wait for them to place and order for boats and receive shipment, and will then need to go to that retailer to pick them up.

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I did this! Wild Meadow Paddlesports on Lake Winnipesaukee is finalizing an order of boats this week and was able to add a set of black aluminum gunwales to my order for $125. Seems like a better fix than my trying to bend the damaged gunwale back in place

Now I just need to buy the rivets!

That was good luck.

When removing the damaged gunwales you do not need to drill all the way through the rivet. Use a bit a little bigger around than the diameter of the pin itself and drill off the head of the rivet on the outside of the boat. Once the head spins off, the pin itself can be easily pushed out to the inside.

I don’t know if your replacement gunwales will have pre-drilled holes or not. Whether they do or don’t it is usually not possible to precisely line up the new gunwales with the existing holes in the hull. If the gunwales have pre-drilled holes, your new holes are going to wind up where they happen to fall. If they don’t, I would arrange to have the holes for the new rivets off-set from the old holes in the hull by about an inch or more.

:+1: :canoe_red: