Tough day on the water

Submitted by: T. Law


In May of 2006 I purchased a Nova Craft,17 ft. prospector, kevlar/spectra, canoe from The Wilderness Supply Co. Ltd. in Thunder Bay, Ont. Canada.

In July of 2006 while canoeing on Bedivere Lake in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, we headed diagonally into oncoming waves with a chop of approximately one ft. After about 3 to 4 minutes into these waves, the wave action forced the bottom of the canoe to bulge upward midway between the front and rear seats. At the right and left extremities of the bulge the canoe hull fractured and water started entering the canoe.

This was a dangerous, shocking and frightening experience when your in the middle of a wilderness lake. We managed to get back to our base camp without sinking, where I was able to make some temporary field repairs with duct tape and other materials found in the field that allowed us to return to our point of entry.

I hope by relating my experience with a canoe manufactured by Nova Craft Canoes, future potential canoe buyers will be careful in the selection process!

Did you contact Nova Craft?
What was their response?

Warranty Action
Did NovaCraft make good on a replacement of your canoe? Did they offer to repair it?

Their construction has been good. This layup is their attempt to get as light as Wenonah and they may still be learning.

not my canoe.
see the link.

Material properties
Don’t know the product so thinking out loud here… Kevlar is not strong in compression, it’s mass strong in tension, as is spectra. This is why glass or carbon are typically added in an aramid (kevlar) lay-up to provide stiffness. Core materials such as divinycell, soric, etc. add huge amounts of stiffness as well. Sounds like the matrix (laminate) just failed under the pressure / flexing. Perhaps a poor resin to material bond on this boat? Kevlar and spectra can be tricky to get to bond well.

I’ve seen kayaks fail like this, and in evry case there was some unseen damage prior to the failure. I’m guessing the company will really want to examine that canoe carefully to make sure this does not happen again. Best of luck.

Thanks for the heads-up

Who is T. Law???
Doing a search using the search engine I find no messages ever posted on this forum by anyone using the name “T. Law”. While this alleged catastrophic hull failure MAY have actually happened the person posting this “review” has never participated in this forum before.

Having never personally heard anything before that would indicate that Nova Craft is a shoddy builder I am highly suspect of this story.

  • Randall

Gee Randy, I buy about 3 boats a
year. Are you saying that I should keep Novacraft ON my list?

Tough Day
T.Law posted a similar report on his “tough day” on CCR in the Gear Review section. His e-mail address is included so you can contact him if you want. It is strange to me that the “tough day” occurred in July and he only posted the review at the end of October. I can only speculate that he did not receive the response he wanted from Nova Craft and he is complaining about it, sullying the company’s reputation in the process.

It seems to me that someone posted on this board some months ago about rotting wood gunwales. Bitch, bitch, bitch, complain…. Blame the company etc. Later I read that the canoe was abused as it was stored outside, upside down on the ground for lengths of time. So let us not judge until the full story is known.

I drive a 16’ Nova Craft Prospector (red with ash gunwales and webbed seats - it is beautiful thing). Although I have logged many miles on it, I have had absolutely no problems as I take care of my investment and treat the boat with respect. Great canoe!! The guys at Nova Craft have always been professional, know their product, and have been very helpful (when hearing that I solo a lot, on their recommendation, I had them cut the canoe down about an inch to be closer to the water). I’d have no problem buying another canoe from them.

where is the post mortem?
Without some explanation of what the problem turned out to be and how it was handled, this story is completely worthless.

I agree
I have a Supernova and I am big guy. The boat is treated with respect but I bought this boat to learn on so it has hit a few rocks, scraped bottom etc more than once. The boat is solid as a rock.

I have the Kevlar Cap(kevlar w/glass) version.

It sounds like there was a missing element; like the tale of broadsiding and partially wrapping a rock on an earlier outing. Thats the most common cause of damage like that!

I have found that the dealer Wilderness Supply in Thunder Bay has been very good in their customer relations. This post makes them appear to be callous and indifferent.

Until I hear more details and less slamming of dealer and product, I vote for the story being a hoax.

3 a year!?!
how many boats do you have??

Not familiar with Novacraft canoes.
However, I do not find the story incomprehensible. If a Prospector were built thin using Kevlar and various other possible fabrics (including Kevlar/carbon weave), and if the bottom had no sandwich for stiffness, and if the canoe were being paddled fairly unloaded, with big people in bow and stern, and got a strong push upward in the center from a coincidence of crossing chop wave patterns, then it is conceivable to me that there might be up-warping in the center, resulting in delamination at both sides where the up-folding terminates.

However, knowing the reluctance of Kevlar and Spectra to tear or split, I would not expect significant leakage to occur.

The other hypotheses,about running into rocks or storing the boat inverted, outside on the ground, don’t explain the “facts” as stated… if they are facts.

SO, all I am saying is that, for me, this is believable. Not that I take any position on it, one way or another.

The protective factor against this type of damage is overall hull stiffness. That is, there should be something to prevent the hull from being pushed up far enough that the sides get crimped. This can be done by two layers of outside S-glass, or by struts from the thwarts down to a stringer built into the bottom, or by a foam sandwich, or by a series of glassed-in ribs. If none of these are present, then a tough but flexy Kevlar hull can be crimped by upward hull distortion to the point that lamination is damaged in the sides.

I AM familiar with Nova Craft
Among other boats, I paddle a Nova Craft Supernova in royalex… and have been involved with several of thier other models. What I can constructively add to this link is that Nova Craft, as a company, has been exceptional in the few instances where I needed their support. I would rank them with the best customer support I have experienced.

Without a post mortem it’s difficult to gain any useful knowledge from the original post. What was the true cause of the failure? When water entered the boat… was it a minor seep or did it pour in? The suggestion that “We managed to get back to our base camp without sinking” seems a bit… dramatic. What was done to resolve the issue by either the dealer or the manufacturer?

Enquiring minds want to know.

I once paddled a fiberglass canoe… it exploded in a wave… I didn’t like it…. I almost drowned … Don’t by one of those either!!! Hmmm… on second thought… maybe that was the Pusser’s Rum

It’s a buy one; sell one kind of thing

Your boat sounds great, Pictures?

possibly freight damaged!
…as a former NC dealer, I could imagine that canoe was damaged during transit to the dealer! Had a boat like that once: transported laying flat on a truck and some other canoes on top. Cracks in the layup on both sides along the bottom. Such pre existing (hard to see) damage will easily lead to the described failure!

And I bet, NC will defeat a warranty claim on that basis…

Had one in fibreglass
I had a Novacraft prospector 16 in fibreglass for many years. It was much tougher than I expected, and performed beautifully. I’ve since switched to Royalex, as I couldn’t take the guilt of putting the glass through shallow rapids.

One concern, which seemed pretty much cosmetic, is that the hull would dimple when rocks hit the bottom. The foam core would compress, and stay dented in, as though a golf ball had been pushed along the lenght and left a shallow depression.

I don’t have enough experience with different core stiffeners, but am inclined to think the flexible ribs of Hellman or Souris River, or the ribless layup of certain models of Clipper’s might be tougher. Just a fine point, though, as I said my particular boat took some solid hits and recovered fine.

I have a Bluewater with foam core
in the bottom, and I just try not to use it in conditions where the bottom is going to be pushed in more than momentarily.

In narrower boats, like those built by Millbrook, no visible ribs are needed. The S-glass outer layers keep the hull shape constant. Of course Millbrook’s canoe hulls are pretty arched on the bottom. A flatter design like a Souris or our Bluewater pretty much has to have a foam core or some prominent ribs.