A stiff canoe with an aluminum gunwale will produce some noise when struck with a paddle. Is a gunwale cover worth it for noise reduction? It would add quite a bit of mass pretty high up.
well . . .
It would probably be easier just to work on not hitting the gunwales, but it’s probably going to happen once in a while anyway. The question is whether it bothers you. If it does, and you really feel obligated to do something about it, you could add some sort of sound dampening material just in the area of your paddling stroke. There is no need to do the entire gunwale.
It’s not all that bad
One of my canoes has aluminum gunwales, and I can tell you that the noise you hear when the paddle hits the gunwale comes mostly from the hull, not the gunwale itself. In fact, if you strike the side of the boat or the gunwale, the sound is virtually the same. Thus, a composite boat will make more noise than a Royalex one when the gunwale (or the hull) is struck. You might be basing your assumption about noise on what happens if you hit the gunwale of an aluminum canoe with the paddle. In that case too, when you hit the gunwale you are essentially hitting the hull. If you had a piece of gunwale material from an aluminum canoe and gave it a whack, there would be a sound but it wouldn't be unusually loud.
Since you refer to the situation with a stiff canoe, maybe you realize this already. In that case, I agree with c2g. With practice, you won't hit the gunwales all that often, and usually not very hard. When it happens, it will probably be forward of your position in the canoe, so maybe just slip a piece of pipe insulation over that small section of the gunwale. Of course, if you do any squeezing through small gaps among fallen trees, you might decide it's more trouble than it's worth.
Oh, depending on what sort of canoe you have (say, one without extreme tumblehome) and what sort of paddling you do, it may be advantageous at times to slide the paddle shaft against the gunwale. Some people here criticize that technique as being old fashioned, but I'm not built all that ruggedly, and some of my joints can't take the stress of certain types of strokes or portions of strokes all that well, but the problem disappears when using the gunwales for support. Being a smaller person, you might be like me in that regard, IF you do a lot of different kinds of strokes. A lot of the time, the actual gunwale contact is with the heel of my hand instead of the paddle shaft (which is why I wear light gloves - bare skin won't slide freely on any material other than wood), but either way, soft padding on the gunwale would largely eliminate that option.
Perfect paddle strokes…
…Certainly would eliminate the issue.
I am far from accomplishing that for any significant distance, so my (wood) paddles do occasionally hit the aluminum gun’ls of my solo canoe - as also happened even more often with my Penobscot. It has never struck me as any noisier than my canoes with vinyl gun’ls, although I’m not sure about wood on wood (I’d have to pay more attention, but I don’t think of it as making as much noise - but that could be just from being more careful). Hitting aluminum gun’ls with the aluminum pole though - that’s noisy.
I have canoes with both aluminum
and vinyl and the noise seems the same to me on both.
Now an all aluminum canoe is completely different, and you can here the “gunwale bangers” coming from a mile away
wrap the paddle shaft in leather
if you are a gunwale banger. It will give the paddle longer life too.
You need not wrap the whole shaft . Just a few inches. Use harness leather and apply wet.
A couple of approaches from Murat V a traditional paddle maker