soft decks for canoes

I have a Bell Yellowstone Solo in Royalex. I have had it for about a year and it has performed wonderfully. For the lakes and rivers in the NY area it is great. However I have been thinking about traveling some of the larger lakes and was concerened about about larger waves. I have seen a few references to covers for canoes that turn them into British style with a soft deck. There doesn’t seem to be many people that offer it and I can’t seem to find much info construction.

If anyone has some links or info I would be appreciative.

Any reccomendations to just get a sea-kayak I will just groan over, since I plan to one day but not anytime soon.


Cooke Custom Sewing
Here you go:

Spray decks
The Cookes deck looks pretty nice as does the Northwater.

But they won’t turn your canoe into a kayak or even a decked canoe. Bury the bow or stern or even a gunnel in a wave and the water will come in.

A thought:
Do what some of the WW down river racers do.

Get a fairly large piece of stiff plastic such as a no trespassing sign or equal. Shape it to go across your bow and then glue it to the gunnels with epoxy or whatever.

Then you can either make spray rails (triangular foam ) or buy them from J & J Canoe and form a V with them on top of the sheet of plastic which will divert any water that comes over the bow.

Naturally you won’t keep humongous waves out, but it will divert a bunch of water.



Yellowstone Solo Deck
Here is another option:

Bell lists this on their website, I emailed them a couple months ago and they said they do not sell it anymore. It is made by Cooke custom sewing in the post above and I’m sure he would be willing to make it for you.

I have paddled my yellowstone solo in large lakes with a weeks worth of gear, 2-3 foot waves and did not have any problems without a cover.

Some of 'em
use a piece cut from a large plastic garbage can. Already has a nice convex arch.

piragi’s sells
custom made covers.Look them up(my catalog is at “work”;-)). They have a fair equipment list in their catalog, all canoes .

Second Northwater

– Last Updated: May-26-06 10:58 AM EST –

Northwater is, in my experience, a fantastic company producing very high quality products. Their lashing system is strong. Avoid snaps as they don't allow for any stretch of the fabric in heat/cold or with an oversized load - and they occasionally hit your thumb or knuckles.

While your canoe will not be a sea kayak, you can punch through some very large standing waves with a well secured spray deck. It will also keep you warmer on cool days.

Do it Yourselfer?
Cliff Jacob’s “Guid to Solo Canoeing” and a few of his other books have directions on how to make your own Cooke style spraycover.

I’m not 100% sure I got the title right. something about solo canoeing and its by Cliff Jacobs

Bell Yellowstone … not a WW boat
I have a friend with a beautiful Bell Yellowstone. He fitted it with float bags and a harness. He is an experienced white water paddler. ACA instructor, all that stuff…

On a Class III stretch of river, that boat kept filling up. It could not ride up the waves, it kept punching through them.

It is a very nice boat, but there is a limit to the waves it can handle. A different boat might work better.

Jay H

wave technique
I paddled a MR Fantasy for whitewater for several years. It has a rep as a wet and tippy boat, and waves were always a problem for me. Supposedly, the paddler can survive waves by slowing the boat down, giving the bow more time to float up the wave, tipping the boat away from the wave to block the splash, and angling the boat slightly.

Unfortunately, this is also a pretty good recipe for capsize, so there is a fine line. The most stable way to get through a wave is straight on with power, but that is also the wetest way. If there are a lot of waves and no eddies for bailing, you swim. I did get better at it with practice, but waves were always a problem in the Fantasy. I am now paddling an Encore, and it is much dryer.

I have not paddled with a spray cover, and always thought it would help. The problem of course, is any water that does get in, stays in…hard to bail.

A compromise I would have tried had I kept the fantasy is extending the deck plate with a trash can. I have seen this on other boats and it definately helped. You buy a round trash can and cut a pie shaped slice of the side to fit onto the bow. Leave the rim of the can to strengthen and neaten the trailing edge. Not sure how to fasten it on…, probably varies by boat. Pop rivets? Liquid nails? Maybe duck tape it over the gunwale and to the side of the boat until you have it figured out, then make some sort of permanent joint. Or maybe just the tape if you know you will want to remove it later.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Decked Wildfire ?

– Last Updated: May-26-06 3:26 PM EST –


I'll put in my two cents, since I previously paddled a Cooke-covered Rx Wildfire (now Yellowstone) and currently paddle a Cooke-covered composite Wildfire. It is likely obvious that I like both the boat and its cover, having bought each twice now!

I believe that original poster was asking about lake travel and waves, rather than whitewater and rapids, yes?

The Cooke cover is well made and pretty rugged. I personally have no problem with the snap-on attachment method, and have found it to be both convenient and strong enough. I have not paddled a boat with the Northwater type attachment system. You have to drill your boat either way. I can agree, however, that the cover will change size slightly with temperature extremes, so you must be careful not to fit your snaps when it is too warm - or you will find the deck too tight on a cold day.

It has been my experience dealing with CCS that it really is Cooke CUSTOM sewing, and I think Dan will make most anything you'd like for you. The Bell-sold cover appears to be just the fore and aft third pieces of the standard Cooke cover. Note that you can roll back the standard 2-piece cover like this, leaving the mid (seat) third completely open in mild (or warm) conditions. The standard Cooke also gives you a cinch-up middle section, much like a loose spray skirt. This bit is necessary to really get full advantage of the deck for either wind or wave action.

On lakes, I have found the Cooke cover on my Wildfire to be a great help in windy conditions. You will see quotes of such and such percentage of wind grab is eliminated by a spray deck - I don't know about that, but it is a very noticable improvement. It will also help with some waves, maybe I'd say the sort that would otherwise lap over the gunwale by a few (1-4) inches. I agree that it will not save you from crushing seas repeated pounding the deck or washing over the bow, however. I have found my big lake travelling Wildfire is most bomb-resistant when float bags fore and aft are caged in place and inflated tightly under the Cooke cover.

I've also used the cover in a little Class 2 whitewater, and I agree it doesn't add a whole lot there.

Does that help?