Royalex vs rocks

I am fairly new to canoeing, did some as a kid and rented a few disco 169’s a few years ago to float down the river, and moslty kayaking since then but i have a line on a good price for a penobscot 16rx. I am mostly going to be using it on the lake, but this summer we are doing a canoe run down the river and i am wondering how royalex stands up to scraping accross rocks compared to plastic. In past years when we went down the river in the rental disco if you hit a rock you slid off, left a nice green strip on the rock and kept going, not worrying about it. the river has mostly rounded, but not smooth rocks, very abrasive if you ran your hand over it. The river is mostly “moving water” with a few class I rips and one mild class II.

Would the royalex be fine on the rocks for this type of trip? I would like to save on the expensive rental fee if i could. or am i just being paranoid not wanting to scratch up my new boat?

Royalex will be fine
But you’re better of learning to miss the rocks. Eventually the rocks win if hit and run over enough times. Besides, avoiding the rocks is half the fun. Don’t cheat yourself.

you will get scratches

– Last Updated: Jun-10-11 1:15 PM EST –

The virtue of Royalex is that is gives and springs back on hard impact with rocks so it is less likely to crack than many composite boats.

Unfortunately, Royalex is not very abrasion resistant. You will get scratches, small dents, and creases on repeated impact with rocks. Royalex is fine for scraping over the occasional rock but you will leave some "canoe blood" on those rocks.

Serious open boaters who do a lot of creeking (and are doing nothing but scraping over, or boofing over rocks and ledges all day) are tending to give up on Royalex because it is quite possible to wear through into the foam core of the material within a season or less under these conditions. These boaters are tending to go to polyethylene, which is that material the Discovery canoes are made of, because it is somewhat more abrasion resistant, and the rotomolded high-density linear polyethylene can be thermally welded.

For runs on "normal" rivers, Royalex holds up pretty well, but it will not look pristine after scraping over some rocks and ledges.

If we could all miss all of the rocks all of the time there would be no need for Royalex. We would all be paddling lighter, stiffer composite river and whitewater canoes.

That’s a Perfect Answer
Royalex is a popular choice for running rocky rivers, but not because it’s resistant to getting scratched. Its two main advantages are that it can take a hit better than a composite boat, and the material flexes enough that the whole hull need not be lifted very much when scraping over a rock or log. Still, missing the rocks is the thing to strive for.

I wish more beginners had the chance to watch good paddlers weave around among the rocks instead of pinballing off of them or scraping up and over. A lot of paddlers don’t yet know how manueverable their boats really are, or how much fun it is to make a run “clean” instead of bumping and grinding the whole way.

I have a Royalex WW canoe bought
(as I recall) in 1998, and used all around the country since then. There are plenty of scratches and some dents on it, but the only place where scraping wore through the vinyl, exposing the ABS structural layer to UV, is right under where I sit when paddling solo, on the minicell saddle. I skimmed off more vinyl with a chisel and put on a two layer S-glass/epoxy patch, which has stood up very well for three years now.

Think of vinyl as an ablation layer. It intercepts UV which would harm the ABS underneath. It’s fairly slippery. The vinyl usually wears down gradually, and some may use a canoe for years without wearing through the vinyl. The vinyl layer contributes very little to the structural strength of the Royalex, so there are no strength issues as it wears thin in place.

Mad River has an excellent article comparing Royalex with their 3-layer poly for canoes. I don’t have the link at hand, but I’ll return and post it, probably later today if my Halfheimers doesn’t cut in.

I’m not supposed to hit the rocks?
Whoops :wink:

I’d bet on rocks
Rock beats Royalex, paper, and scissors. Rock has more experience.

That said, Royalex is one of the toughest materials out there, and, while a bit softer than poly, is just the thing for what you describe. It is also repairable with epoxy, which is much harder to do with poly, and weighs much less.

Aluminum is more abrasion resistant than either, plus it makes a sound that lets you know you have erred, which is a good learning device. Try this, bring a little slate and run your nails down it when you hit rocks in your Penobscot - best of both worlds!

I like our OT 169 because …

– Last Updated: Jun-10-11 10:20 PM EST –

...... I don't worry about it and river rock , to me that's one of things it's made for .

On the other hand , I avoid river rock as much as possible in our OT Royalex canoe , because it's thin green vinyl skin won't take the beating near as well ... and I prefer to keep that skin in tact as opposed to shredded .

Scenario , I got 4 downriver miles to cover and I want to see the take-out before it gets pitch dark . The water's skinny today and 3 of the ledges just barely have enough water flowing over them to get the canoe through . I don't want to slow or stop at each ledge and tiptoe pick my way through . It's time to haul ass and make the jumps at full speed , besides it more fun that way . There's also a shallow stretch which would require zigging and zagging all over the river to avoid bottom contact as much as possible ... if I haul ass right down the center I'm going to scrape a few times or more ... so what , our 169 don't mind why should I .

The three-layer poly is definitely somewhat more abrasion-resistant than Royalex. It’s also cheaper.

But neither is immune to rock damage. Both will wear out. The poly will probably last longer. The question you have to ask…is the lighter weight and greater ease of repair of Royalex worth enough to offset the cheaper price and greater durability of poly? And one thing that might complicate that question is, when considering a canoe like the Penobscot, it’s probably a better canoe design than anything you can get in poly.

To the original poster…I’ve owned two Penobscots along with three other Royalex canoes, I do a lot of really skinny, rocky creeks, and I make absolutely no attempt to protect the bottom of my boats–I sure don’t baby them. Just guessing, I’d say I get in about 200 miles of bony streams before I have to do the first little repairs where the outer vinyl skin has worn through to the ABS solid layer in small areas. I get in another 500 miles of stream before having to do something major like a large patch or even skid plates. The Penobscot I have now is my older one, which was originally bought close to 20 years ago, went down maybe a thousand miles of streams of all sizes before I added skid plates, then I sold it to a guy who used it once in two years, meanwhile letting it sit out in the middle of his yard half on its side in the sun and elements, then I bought it back from him and have put in another 500 miles or so on it. Right now it has a patch about 3 inches by 12 inches toward the middle from the rear skid plate that needed a big plastic epoxy patch, the cane in the seats rotted away and I’ve got a temporary duct tape job on the seats until I can order a couple new ones, and the wooden thwarts also need re-finishing…but it’s still a perfectly usable canoe.

vinyl layer
Anybody else think its weird we get so concerned about uv on the bottom of our boats. It’s not like we store them on the sun. Last I checked the least amount of sun is in the water.

On topic, just wear it out and fix it later. Bring duck tape.

Ryan L.

Some boats stay on the roof rack much
of the paddling season, thus the bottoms experience a lot of UV.

bad link?

– Last Updated: Jun-11-11 6:29 AM EST –

I can't get that link to work.

Is this the article, Gary?

Royalex vs Poly
I pretty much agree with the above. I have had Royalex whitewater boat wear through into the foam core beneath the pedestal, and I have seen some that had completely worn through at the stems.

The first whitewater canoe I owned was a Blue Hole Sunburst II I bought from Carrie Ashton that had had an enormous ABS solid plate epoxied to the hull beneath the saddle where it had worn through. Both stems of that boat had completely worn through as well, and had been replaced with fiberglass and epoxy to the extent that the ends of the boat were actually translucent. It made the rocks easier to see as you hit them. When I asked her how the canoe got that way she said “too many trips down the Tiny Piny”.

It takes pretty extreme usage or a lot of miles on your typical bony river to do that to a Royalex boat, though. The article linked above gives a good description of the manufacturing process involved in Royalex and three-layer poly boats. Some things have changed, however.

One is that WEST Systems has introduced G-Flex epoxy which bonds to polyethylene much better than prior 2-part epoxies have done. It also has a higher modulus of elasticity so that is matches the flexibility of poly (and Royalex) better.

The other thing is that small, one-layer rotomolded polyethylene canoes have become increasingly popular for whitewater use. In the past, the only single layer poly canoes required internal keelsons and bracing like the Colemans and Pelicans. These newer whitewater boats, such as the Esquif L’Edge or Spanish Fly, or the Prelude, are relatively short and some have sizable partial decks which add stiffness to the boat.

These one layer rotomolded poly boats can be successfully repaired by thermal welding (unlike the 3 layer poly boats) and the universal opinion seems to be that this material stands up better to the abrasive abuse of serious creeking than does Royalex.

mine are upside down in the yard

– Last Updated: Jun-11-11 7:25 AM EST –

and get a lot of sun.
These pix are of 12-20 year old Royalex boats that get beat up big time, poling rocky shallow water or running rock infested rapids. I keep them going with abs/acetone slurry, and now have developed a real love for g-flex.
Hack job g-flex repair after seal launching into a rock with a 20 year old Encore,
Repair is working great.
12-20 year old royalex boats, repainted with krylon fusion, recoated with ABS slurry from time to time.
Where these boats are primarily used...often. Paddled and poled.

last year i ran the smith river in montana…first canoe of the season. the cfs was only 147cfs…in my mad river royalex we scrapped and dragged for 85 miles!!! I was glad to have had the boat…however (no big deal to me) there were thousands of scrapes…not dug into the boat but sort of like if you run your fingernail down the sides of a cardboard box etc…lines of indentations the entire length…

the boat did what it was suppose to do…

i love royalex!!!

Yes, sorry, I know what happened. I had
posted the link on a UK site that clips some of the link so that not all of it appears. Apparently that also meant that when I wiped and copied, I got only what was showing,

It’s those clipped British accents.

That’s not what I say
when I bounce off 'em.

What a great place for a downriver
kayaker to improve his route planning and maneuvering skills!

Royalex is fine
I know an awful lot of people who have had Royalex OT Trippers for years. Those boats are run and used by guiding services in Maine and are in use most of the non hard water season. And Maine is the rock capital of the world.

Polers like the flex and the abilty to run eight foot drops. The technique is to stop the boat at the lip and then drop down… They also use wedging the boat against rocks to their advantage…they can squeeze a three foot wide boat through a two foot wide gap… There has to be some chafing there.

However not every piece of Royalex is the same and you cant make a blanket statement of its performance as every manufacturer can specify how thick it should be.