Rotten gunwale restoration

I just scored a great deal on a royalite 1995 almond colored Dagger Sojourn canoe. Hull is in very good condition and it has the original wooden gunwales that are useable (in my opinion) but have an area about 10 inches long on one outwale with about 30% rottage (I know that’s not a real word)! The remaining wood is hard and stable, not crumbly or soft or brittle. The previous owner had oiled them for years but age had taken its toll SO,… I want to fill in the rotted recesses with the best stuff and method possible. Then resand and probably spar urethane varnish the wood. Its not a canoe I intend on banging around rocks and racks so I am leaning towards the varnish. I have had good experience with Helmsman Satin Spar Urethane varnish. Anybody out there have some pointers and advice on the best way to fill lightly or moderately rotted wood gunwales? Many thanks

rotten gunwale
You should replace the whole gunwale if possible. It is hard to find long pieces of clear wood like Sitka spruce that are suitable. You could take out the bad piece and scarf two joints for the replacement.

It may be easier to splice in a segment
I would try sanding the damaged segment of gunwale. If as you sand it, the wood feels at all “punky” I would cut out the damaged segment and splice in a new piece.

Harmony Gear sells a 4 foot long ash gunwale segment for this purpose:

You can get it kerfed or non-kerfed. I suspect that your Royalex Sojourn has the hull sandwiched between the inwale and the outwale. If so, you would want the non-kerfed.

There are some instructions for splicing in a new gunwale segment toward the end of this pdf:

Mad River suggests using a 30 degree scarf joint. If you have the facility to accurately cut a longer scarf (more acute angle) the joint will better conform to the curvature of your hull.

Scarfing in a new gunwale segment can result in a slightly flat area along the curvature of the hull at the joint, but if done correctly on a Royalex hull this will be minimal.

Will install new gunwales BUT
I will be installing new Southern Yellow Pine gunwales maybe next year but want a decent looking Band Aid job using whatever is considered the best filler method now cuz I wanna paddle the Royalite Rocket asap. Anybody got ideas?

quick fix
Remove the gunwale from the canoe. Use a paint scrapper to clean off the rotten wood. Thin out polyurethane and apply as much as you can get the wood to absorb. Repeat several times sanding with course sandpaper in between each coat.

Be prepared for the gunwale to fail at just the wrong time.

Order a gunwale kit from eds canoe. Fast and cheep.

Got your fix

– Last Updated: Aug-04-14 9:26 PM EST –

Yatipope, I was watching This Old House a while back and they were repairing rotted outside window sills. They were using I believe a two part epoxy . After removing rotten wood you can fill concave areas or if you have a chunk missing on outer edge you can build up with this stuff. Mix it, fill it , let cure ,shape it with rasp, course sandpaper to fine and finish. Home Depot / Lowe's may have it.

yatipope I have epoxy and wooddust
That is ised for fillet when I made a kayak. If you want come and get it. Hopefully I will be coming home tomorrow. So call me if you think you would use it.

Thanks Doug
Thats great. I am looking forward to visiting your boatshop and hope you are back home very soon. Btw are you sure you are willing to part with that lovely epoxy that you have had so much fun handling. Haha

No flex to that
Epoxy is going to have no flex to it and potentially make the gunwales even more prone to snap.

Gunwales are structural. Replace.

gunwale repair
I have a 1951 OT Guide 18 in red cedar and canvas. I bought it with a few flaws and repaired them to get the boat back in service. The outer gunwale that was repaired with epoxy mixed with wood dust has performed just fine for over 15 years and thousands of river miles. Use a syringe for places that are hard to reach.

I have often considered restoring the boat but have always feared making it too pretty and not suitable for tripping rivers.