Royalex Longevity

I have a Royalex canoe that was manufactured in 1993. I bought it used and it had been stored outside in the sun, so some fading of the hull color has occurred. The hull still flexes easily enough, the hull does not appear brittle at all. I hit it with 303 a couple or three times a year. Just wondered how long I could expect a Royalex boat to hold up before it cracks and splits open on me in the middle of a lake?

Depends on how much sun
Other environmental chemicals can hurt it as well. But you are way up North where the sun is week so it may last another decade or more. It will start to crack a little at first so you’ll have time to buy a new one.

The outer vinyl skin intercepts the UV.
The ABS layers are very quickly degraded by UV, but as long as they are protected by the vinyl, they’re OK.

Some of us are of the opinion that ABS gets stiffer and eventually brittle with age. But this happens quite slowly. For lake use, you do not need to worry about it. For whitewater use, I would guess that at about a dozen years old, the ABS may have lost enough ductility to make cracking more likely.

I once saw a rather old ABS Mad River ME slide down a slope and into a tree, splitting right down the stem. The nature of the split made it clear that it was a series of fractures, not a tear, so loss of ductility was clear.

There might be a way to go along the outside, and then the inside, of an ABS hull with a local heat source, heating the ABS to the softness point, and then letting it cool again. This is annealing the plastic. But it would be a very tricky procedure. One might well end up with a lumpy boat.

25 years +
I have an Old Town Acadia that left the factory in 1981. Was bought by a Canoe rental outfit in Maine then went to an outfitter in New Hampshire. When the outfitter went under I got the boat at auction in 2000. Has seen a lot of miles since and is still going strong. Outer skin was fading so I spray painted it last year with one of the new vinyl paints. Also added skid plates to cover wear on bow and stern.

28 year old OT Tripper
Wha Ho, Pilgrim;

Me Tripper is 28 years old an’ still going strong.

Fat Elmo

Cold Cracks
I’ve heard of cracking occuring in Royalex due to being exposed to cold temperatures (being stored outside through winters), but I haven’t heard of any reports of cracking due to too much sun.

I had an Old Town Tripper from the late 70’s, sold it and wish I never had. I just purchased a similar vintage Old Town Tripper in excellent condition (stored indoors) and I look forward to putting it through some wilderness whitewater later this year. 303 really helps for cleaning and protection from UV, adding skid plates and then using West System’s G-flex expoxy for ABS for any needed filling to ensure minimal exposure past the exterior vinyl layer. I expect this canoe will last 10-20 plus years. Like most canoes (I have a vintage 1921 Sprague Grand Laker wood canvas and a Northwoods Atkinson Traveler) they last a lifetime when managed – both stored indoors and both with custom covers.

Who knows. All there is in anecdote and conjecture. If in good shape, would last a very long time, If not, not. I would guess any kind of failure will be gradual under most circumstances… and like an old car you can probably nurse it along for years.

I’ve owned and paddled, 2010-15 royalex boats manufactured in the 70’s. The royalex was fine, although some oil-canning on the bottom. One of them, an OT Chipewyan, had been abused in whitewater for many years and was a real wreck when I got it. I fixed it up and paddled it for a few years. It was over forty years old when I passed it on.

I wouldn’t worry at all about a ‘93. I expect it’ll be good for another 10 or 20 years.

My Kennebec is 38 years old and other than normal wear and tear it has no issues. I have had several that were over 20 years old and were just fine as well. More than anything it seems that keeping it clean and out of the sun are the keys to longevity.