Roylex/wood gunnels?

My Esquif Echo has this combination which I have never had experience with. I know you are supposed to loosen the screws during winter storage,but I want to paddle it as much as possible this winter. Suggestions?


Very good question. Let’s see if
victims know where the cracks are most likely to occur. West Epoxy has an example, including repair, on their board.

If the cracks occur mostly toward the ends, perhaps you could loosen the screws near the ends, which would reduce the number you have to tighten. But if you load the boat on the car on a subzero morning (and I’ve gone out at 12 degrees F even in Georgia), do you need to keep the screws loosened? When can you tighten them?

I’ve wondered whether one could cut longitudinal windows in the Royalex, converting holes into slots. That would allow the Royalex to shrink when the ash gunwales don’t. Again, I don’t think all the holes would need lengthening, just those toward the ends. And perhaps the amount of lenghthening would not be much.

You should ask Esquif, and also check the Mad River website to see if they treat the issue specifically.

cold cracks
I have a number of Royalex canoes with wood gunwales and I have never loosened the gunwale screws in the winter. I have stored boats in relatively cold climates (NE Pennsylvania for example) in unheated storage areas.

I have had a grand total of 2 “cold cracks”. Both of these occurred at the stem of a whitewater boat. In one of these boats, someone had replaced the original SS gunwale screw with a brass wood screw a size larger where the crack had occurred. They had not drilled a pilot hole (because the outwale had also split, and this may well have been partially responsible for the crack.

I don’t recall where I read this advice, but if cold cracks are a concern, and the boat is to be used in the winter, an option is to remove the gunwales and drill slightly oversized holes in the Royalex to allow a little wiggle room for the gunwale screws. Sounds like a fair bit of work, but probably better than tightening all the screws every time you use the boat, and loosening them every time after.

I thought
that loosening screws was only necessary for aluminum gunwales because wood (and vinyl) can expand and contract with the ABS while alum won’t. Could be wrong - I’ve never owned a boat with wooden gunwales.

Been there, done that
I had big cold cracks in an Old Town Ranger (tripper with wood trim) years ago. Still have the boat. I must say, if it were me and I wanted to paddle all winter I would give some serious thought to a boat without wood trim. But, the suggestion to drill the holes in the ends slightly over size is a good one and I bet it would work. Its funny, but in 30 years it only happened once to me. I live in Vermont. Its real cold here sometimes - like 20 below or more.

in my case
Both the boats that had cold cracks had wood gunwales. I have never had a cold crack in a Royalex boat with vinyl, or vinyl-covered aluminum gunwales.

Wenonah cuts slots…
in dem’s Royalex hulls fer de screws ta “float”… (at least on me Prospector). Yer cood cut yer own with a laminate (or trim) router usin’ a template.


Some useful info here

My Eclipse
I bought this summer had a series of cold cracks. The owners said they had stored it outside last winter on it’s side and it developed them. The canoe is 18 years old, they were the only owners and this was the first time it happened. The canoe is RX lite though and I wonder if that has/had anything to do with it. I also had a Dagger Caper that developed them, fixed them and it did the same thing the next winter. That hull was older than dirt though and looked it so I suspect the RX was on it’s last legs.

I have a number of friends who have RX/wood gunwale boats and never had a problem and I’m up here in central NH where we do get some chilly temps for long periods.

Paddle as long as you can and then back the screws out a little, I guess that is what I would do. This is one reason I have a Pig Boat, Disco 158, for winter paddling!

Good luck.


I have always wondered whether
Royalex gets more brittle with age. We do know that Royalex is a bit soft for at least the first year. It seems plausible that Royalex might get more and more susceptible to cold cracks with time.

In the old days, Royalex wasn’t so soft and flexible when first delivered. Maybe back then, cold cracking was occuring sooner.

Thanks for all the feedback. I contacted the Esquif rep also. Yesterday I disconnected 3’ of the rails bow and stern,and slotted the holes in the royelex 1/8’ in both directions. Then I snugged the screws up and backed them off a little. Duck Soup!


Sounds like that is best for
your situation.

We used to store a wood gunwaled Royalex boat outdoors. Even buried in the snow there were probably significant temperature changes. The expansion rates of wood and Royalex are significantly different (but have not dug up absolute figures). So we loosened the screws.

Then when the boats got their own house, insulated, the temperature changes were more gradual and we never did loosen the screws in later years. The first year was error and the second year because we got away from the first year. Even though the temps outside fell to minus 40 the inside temperature change was gradual.