Spray Covers for Canoe

-- Last Updated: Feb-03-06 9:15 AM EST --

DougD was asking Yaknot about spray covers over in discussions, and I was looking forward to some info. Since it never materialized....

One of my favorite bow paddlers has long requested a spray cover for the Tripper we paddle. Not coincidentally, she has spent a lot of wet and cold time in said bow. She brings some of this on herself (literally) by insisting on punching straight and fast through any waves we encounter in rapids. Techniques for alternative paddling approaches for surviving waves is, I think, a separate discussion. But I am curious and intrigued by the thought of a spray cover.

VIRGINIA WHITEWATER author Roger Corbett once told me his approach to making a spray cover. He fitted snaps to boat and tarp. At bow and stern, cut holes at the paddler positions. Sew tubes of excess tarp material and sew them to the holes cut at the paddler positions. Sew a sleeve for elastic cord on the top end of the tube. Use elastic cord at the tube closure so paddlers can escape in the event of capsize. Well, that sounds easy enough, but, as usual, the devil is in the details, right? Roger has left us, so he is not around to ask.

Tarp - are we talking blue plastic, canvas, coated rip-stop, or what?

Snaps - I do recall him saying snaps work better than velcro, and I presume he is talking about the kind of snaps where the male part has a screw to fasten it to the boat. How many snaps? Where do I attach them to the boat?

Supports - Let's assume the boat is either loaded with gear or I have a center air bag in place, so water will not collect in the center of the boat. What about at the paddler positions. When that wave dumps a lap full or water onto the bow paddler, isn't it going to collect around the paddler and weigh down the tarp and the boat?

If I knew what I was doing, I might be inclined to tackle making a spray cover. So, I thought I'd ask.

~~Chip Walsh

PS: It occurred to me after I posted, duh, search archives. There was at least one relevant thread with useful info at
Doesn't directly answer my questions, but definately useful info, so there's the url.

I wouldn’t use plastic tarp stuff
It is way too noisy in the wind. I would look at some sil nylon, urethane coated nylon, etc. Something light but water proof. You can get snap kits. I wouldn’t worry about making an entire cover.

A bow cover with a fiberglass pole at the aft edge to hold it up will divert a lot of water.

Have it come back just far enough for the bow paddler to be comfortable.

If you wanted to make a complete cover. Urethane coated nylon would be lightweight and is easier to work with than tarp material.

For sewing, get some basting tape(it’s double sided) and tape your seams. you can then just sew through the tape. As to design for a full cover, here is a URL showing some.



– Last Updated: Feb-03-06 11:11 AM EST –

Dan Cooke uses 7 oz coated packcloth for the deck and 2.2 oz ripstop nylon for the tube. I would consider this minimum. Ripstop, taffeta or sil-nylon for the deck just wouldn't hold up.

I have seen decks made in Canada that used 9 oz PVC oz oated polyester. Very heavy, but long wearing.

The velcro attachments on spraydecks use the 2" industrial velcro (not the kind for clothes, etc). ANd the velcro is attached vertically at 6" intervals. Looks gucky.

I like the Canadian way of using 1" poly webbing and side release buckles attached to a lengthof webbing that runs about 4" below the gunnels.

The snaps are probably the cleanest application, but I have also heard they can be a bear to attach and detach in wet, cold conditions. They are usually attached with pop rivets to the canoe at 6" intervals 3-4" under the gunnels.

spray cover
My first spray cover was homemade. I bought lightweight coated nylon, similar to what a heavy duty rain jacket is made out of. It’s not the most robust material, but it’s light, and with the proper reinforcements (especially along the gunnels) it works great. I used the Canadian attachment method described by JJoven. Webbing rivited around the hull about 6" below the gunnels. The spray skirt attaches with webbing and ladder locks. This method is by far the most secure. It also allows for adjustment. Fabric stretches when wet and contracts in the heat so snaps don’t always fit properly. It does take longer to attach, unattach, but thats a small penalty. I’ve since purchased an Outdoor Solutions spray cover for my new boat. It uses the same attachement. Excellent quality cover, highly recommended.

another thought
Don’t rely on velcro to attach your cover if you’re doing whitewater. Velcro doesn’t adhere well enough, especailly when wet, and in a capsize the last thing you want is to be swimming with a 17’ death trap around you.

As far as the cock pit goes, sew a sleeve with shock cord as you describe, but have a velcro seam in it with a grab loop. That way you’ll be able to exit with less hold up.

This guy has a fine product.

I have one for my Voyager.

Sorry to miss the question
about spray covers. I just finished mine. I used Cliff’s Jacobson’s book “Expedition Canoeing” chapter on making one as a guide. It reminded me when of trying to figure out how to solve a math problem from an example in the text book where many steps in the solution were left out. Anyhow, once I thought about the project for a few weeks while I ran down material, I didn’t have much trouble. I don’t sew but a little practice on scrap material gave me enough skills to do the project. I never let a lack of skills stop me from trying a project.

Snaps are the way to go. Had much trepidation on drilling into my kevlar canoe but after the first hole I figured it’s too late now. I found material at a local sewing store, 80 denier nylon pack cloth that is 100 percent waterproof. I used a lighter material for the skirt. You can order the material from Cook. It is about the same price I payed and he has snaps. You only need three of the four parts of the snap since the snap rivet is the fourth.

The snaps are pop riveted into the canoe. I had to grind down the tip of the tool so that it would fit into the snap. The male part goes on the canoe. Once I had the holes drilled, it only took less than an hour to mount the snaps that are located every eight inches. Look at a snap and you’ll understand what I did.

I had to think about the skirt but after a little cogitating I figured out how to make it. The hardest part was deciding out how big to make the hole for the seat.

Jacobson said the project would take a weekend which probably would be the case now since I know how to make one; however, I had to spend time thinking about how I wanted to proceed, plus I got bored with it and set it aside for a while before tackling the end pieces and the skirt. I didn’t find the center section very difficult so I finished that in time for my Fall trip.

It actually isn’t a very difficult project. My seams aren’t elegant but I figure it’s not being entered into the Easter Parade Regatta. The nice thing about sewing is that is easy to fix a mistake. This is a very doable project so go for it.

Some great information! The Cook system looks fabulous and is probably worth the price if you think a “weekend” of effort is worth a couple hundred dollars to you. Maybe not even that much by the time you purchase the supplies.

The “Canadian” attachment method has appeal because it seems more adjustable, but requires more hardware and sewing (how is the webbing attached to the cover?) But on every river trip I’ve taken with my favorite bow paddler, gear was piled above the gunwales, so adjustable is a plus.

Are the covers one piece? There seem to be references to sections. If the covers are sectional, how are they joined?

The Cook’s seem to have access holes in front of the paddling stations. Is that what those are? How do they open and close?

I had not thought about break-away tunnels. Seems like a reasonable idea. Again, how do you join the tunnel to the cover?

Any special treatment to attach at the bow and stern?

Have not looked at the Outdoor Solutions cover yet, I’ll have to search that up.

outdr solutions

– Last Updated: Feb-03-06 7:57 PM EST –


check this one also:


another different way to attach the cover. These are made of 14oz poly coated polyester.TOUGH STUFF.

I used Jacobson’s model of
three sections. Actually, it is best for me since I often bring my dogs so the end sections can’t be used. I didn’t think it was a difficult project and actually kind of fun. I have enough material left over to make thwart bags or whatever. When I’d go to the sewing shops getting supplies, the ladies would really get interested in my project. Sewing wasn’t too bad because if you cut something short you simply sewed on whatever lenght you needed.

The sections are joined by velcro. I had to think about how I wanted to do it. If you look at Jacobson’s photos, he had different variations on joining them. I made the end sections long enough so that I can overlap the middle by at least a foot. I probably won’t use the end section much and at first didn’t think I’d make them but later thought I just as well finish the project.

I don’t know about the lacing method but I would suspect it wouldn’t be as fast as simply snapping the cover on the canoe. I used the center section on an extended trip and frequently took the cover off during the day. I would only take a couple of minutes if that. I think it helped in the wind and rain. Just make the center section and then decide if you need the ends. That would be a really inexpensive project. You can sew while watching TV or listening to music.

Mine was homemade by my wife…
…and daughter-in-law for a WNN Vagabond. Attached to the hull with 6 velcro patches per quarter. A couple of the hull patches have come off (the matching ones on the covers are sewn), but it seems to work OK without them. At the “cockpit” ends, they sewed tunnels through which I insert dowels to keep stiff edges. Used ripstop nylon from the fabric store. I was only interested in cutting windage, for which they work quite well, but it’s not waterproof-I don’t paddle in the rain deliberately. I got the plan from someone on pnet whose address I’ve lost, but Email me with questions.

Ditto that!
I’ve got one of the Cooke covers for my Voyager,too. And also for another canoe. Had one on an Advantage I used to own. I’m not getting paid for any endorsement, and I don’t generally feel much brand loyalty toward any product. But these covers are worth every penny.

They’re well-made, and a great design. There are a lot of details that go into them, little things you might not think of, even if you were able to make something at this same level of quality and workmanship. I’m not rich, and these covers are a little bit of an investment. But in my opinion, they’re a really good value.

Unless you buy another canoe, you won’t be buying another cover.


Velcro patches
Tapelgan, If you wipe the area that you want to put the velcro with denatured alcohol they will stick quite well.

No to Snaps / Northwater
I am making a spray deck now. We shall see.

I patterned mine off a Northwater cover. I really think these are the best on the market. The one I used was very well built, and they can customize them however you like.

Snaps, I am told, are a poor choice for two reasons - they cannot accomodate different loads above the gunnels or fabric shrinking/stretching, and they are a nasty thing to run your hand into on the side of the boat.

I am all for experimenting and trying to do-it-yourself. However, if you don’t feel confident, Northwater is the way to go.

I had no problems with my snaps so
far. If you look at Jacobson’s design he makes rain gutters by using elastic cord stretched across the center section every foot or so. You use a sixty inch width of cloth so it can expand quite a bit while the elastic keeps it taunt and adjust to the load.