Skid Plate: Repair or Prevention

Recently I noticed some mean looking wear spots on my new canoe (MR Explorer 16 royalex). I imediatly thought skid plates for prevention. However after searching this boards past messages most folks seem to use skid plates after the damage has been done. I hate to see the gouges and wear on my boat… If skid plates prevent damage why should I not use them now?

Skid plates
The number one negative to skid plates is that they markedly reduce the performance of your canoe in straight line speed and, especially, in glide. Canoes that are well-used (and it sounds as if you are doing just that with your Explorer) are going to get dinged up. When the damage threatens to actually breach the Royalex (which is much harder to do than most realize), then go ahead and put them on. Until then, in my opinion, leave them off, enjoy the speed and glide now that you’re certain to lose when the 'plates go on. As your boat gets “less new” you’ll probably be able to see each scar less as damage and more as the reminder of another great canoeing adventure!

Skid plates do prevent minor damage
but, being made from Kevlar felt, they are less effective for preventing major damage. If you wanted to makd skid plates that would prevent much major damage, they would have to be made from at least five, maybe seven concentric layers of S-glass, with maybe some Kevlar thrown in.

The reason Kevlar felt is popular for skid plates is that it is unusually easy to apply to boat ends. You just soak it in the resin, push it into place, bag lightly to get a smoother surface, and voila! A big, ugly skid plate. Glass felt isn’t even as strong as Kevlar felt, and will tend to fall apart when wet out with resin.

So that’s why a few of us go to the trouble of laying up skid plates from multiple layers of glass cloth. Lower, lighter, smoother, stronger, and more easily repairable.

Choice between plates and damage
I’ve been looking to pick up a used Explorer, and I have seen a number of them where the ends are worn through to the foam. Given enough use, the ends of your Explorer will wear through. It will be easier and more effective to put on the plates before the outer layer of your hull is shot.

I didn’t know that skid plates had much affect on paddling speed. I am no expert, but it seems to me that the plates are not going to make much difference. I don’t have any data to back that up, but it seems like we don’t paddle fast enough for the plates to make a significant difference. If you put on the plates, drop me a line and let me know if you notice any difference in the before and after performance.

I’ve seen enough Trippers with the stems worn through that I am glad mine came from the factory with plates. I see the stem wear on heavily used canoes often enough that I don’t understand why they sell boats without them or some other form of renewable protection. I guess it might increase the price and weight of the boats and cause a competitive disadvantage for the sellers.

The only disadvantage I see in adding the plates sooner rather than later is it means you will need to work on the boat, not play in it. But I believe the work will be less if you do it before the hull is shredding inner layers every time you beach or hit a rock. If I was going to keep the boat and plan on using it lots, I’d add the plates sooner.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Maybe this is a behavioral problem?
Is it really so hard to beach and embark in a boat in a way that doesn’t wear through the stems?

Question on Terminology
I’ve always gotten the impression that you had a better idea for skidplates than the method that most people use. I’m not familiar with glasswork, so I’ve been wondering, what are “concentric layers”? Surely it means the layers “share a common centerpoint”, but what the heck is the centerpoint in this case? I guess I must be missing something pretty basic.

When the day comes that I need to apply skid plates, I’d like to use your method.

Oh, and HERE’s a question I just thought of as I was typing. If we are looking for true impact resistance, how about putting some layers on the inside too, and taking advantage of the thickness of the hull as a spacer to create greater flexural strength from less material? Wouldn’t that work?

Oh yes, it is behavioral, but who said anything about a problem?

And it’s not my canoe that has shredding stems. Mine came from the factory with skid plates, which are holding up just fine after ~160 days on the water.

Preventative Skid Plate
Paint on a skid plate with the stuff used for pickup truck bedliners. Durabak is one manufacturer. It is an incredibly tough polyurethane that makes a good sacraficial layer that is also renewable. Just be sure to get the smooth instead of the normal textured bedliner. The textured bedliner (most often available) has rubber granules in it to make a non-skid surface. That is not what you want for a canoe. You want the smooth, more slippery surface. Three coats makes a pretty thick skid plate. Follow the application directions to the letter and store any unused portion in a smaller, airtight container. A half-empty can won’t last long since the stuff hardens quickly in contact with air.

Problem for the boat

– Last Updated: May-08-07 1:01 PM EST –

At least in my case.
I have a tendancy to pole and even paddle through shallow rocky waters. The entire "keel" area on my Explorer has worn through the vinyl and exposed a white stripe of abs. This is above and beyond the natural attraction my bow displays for rocks and bridge abutments. I put kevlar felt pads on bow and stern after a few good hits but now those have worn through at the bottom leaving me thinking about going the S-glass route for the entire stem and "keel" area's. I'll probably remove the kevlar first. Hmm... grinder?


Try heat to remove the kevlar

I used the heat gun to remove the plates from the Chipewan. Keep the heat on the kevlar, and so what if it starts to bubble and scortch because it is going in the trash anyway. Keep working the edges with a putty knife and keep the heat just ahead of where you are scraping. I was surprised how easily they came off, but who knows how well these plates were installed to begin with. But it was definately faster, easier, and less dusty to heat and scrape than grind or sand. Good luck with it.

BTW, what length is your Explorer. Everybody says these are good poling boats and I’d like to get something smaller and lighter than the Tripper for a poling boat. Mostly I see 16 footers available, but I was thinking the 15 footer might be preferable. Lighter. More manueverable. Thoughts?


When I bought my Explorer
They only came in 16’.

Except for that 17’ boat they made special Wickerbut. But then his says Mad River on one side, Old Town on another and Mohawk on the third!

These days Conflatulance doesn’t seem to care what they call any boat. Seems they’re all Freedoms or Explorers, design be damned. So what the heck is a 15’ Explorer really?

I’m not sure you would be happy with a 16’ Explorer. I’ll bet the arch bottom Tripper turns at least as well as the shallow V Explorer.

I’d like to try an Appalachian.

Ed Haydens Coho is 15’6" That’s a boat designed for poling.


My MR Synergy is just starting to wear
through the vinyl under the center seat of the pedestal, after about 10 years of use. Most of the end wear on the Tripper I owned previously was put there by the previous owner, and the cloth and epoxy skid plates I put on were just to make the boat more saleable. The MR Guide I got used has the vinyl worn off the ends. I plan to put S-glass cloth skid plates on it this year.

Skid plates
Other than poling down rock strewn streams and ricocheting from boulder to boulder in a ww rock garden there is usually no need for skid plates for many, many years – if a person treats a canoe with a modicum of care. At least in my humble opinion.

As to whether or not applying skids slows down a canoe, I think it depends entirely on the canoe’s hull material and design. I doubt that even a thick Kevlar felt skid plate would affect the already slow speed of most Royalex canoes appreciably. On the other hand a thick gurgling Kevlar felt skid plate would screw up the glide of an otherwise sleek composite canoe.

I paddle quite a bit and don’t feel like I ‘baby’ my canoes overly. None of my canoes (Royalex or composite) have ever shown enough wear to warrant skid plates – at least as of yet. I never beach a canoe bow first, I try to avoid submerged logs/rocks and I avoid dragging my canoes on land. The nasty gurgling sound Kevlar felt skid plates makes is enough to dissuade me from wanting them. Some people say the sound doesn’t bother them – to me it’s like a big ol’ wad of leaves is stuck on the bow. If I needed to install skid plates sometime way down the road I think I’d use g2d’s multi-layer fiberglass approach. Such a plate could be feathered in, Kevlar felt is thick, gurgles and breaks up on contact with obstacles.

…but of course opinions vary, that’s mine fwiw. – Randall

I used epoxy resin
only, no glass just a thick bead of resin and so far it’s held up real well. And I hit plenty of rocks. Waters real low and I’m going down the Witlachooche again this Saturday. Limestone rocks from Madison Blue Springs to the Suwannee


Upon further research…
I have found that boat manufactureres use the felt to cover the glass and make it look smooth but they consider it to have NO structural value… only cosmetic so the buyer sees smooth layup not rough fiberglass. Interesting.