Visit to Colden Canoe

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Colden Canoe and helping (probably more like getting in the way) lay up a Wildfire. If anyone thinks these are production boats, think again.

I arrived at the shop, shortly after 8:00 AM. Paul Meyer and his crew were already hard at work. The mold had already been prepped and coated with Gel coat, the night before. The sheets of carbon fiber and Kevlar cloth had already been cut to size for the various layers and reinforcements. Methodically the crew installed each layer of fabric, being careful not to disturb the weave of the cloth and paying particular attention to how the edges of each reinforcing layer would look once the hull was completed. After several hours of laying cloth it was time to install the infusion system. This too required meticulous attention to detail as peel ply, flow media, tubing and the other components were installed. Finally the all important vacuum bag was installed and carefully sealed. The vacuum pump was connected, started and the entire system checked for the most minute leaks. A high tech, ultrasonic device was employed to locate leaks that were far too small to be heard. When Paul was satisfied that everything was in order, the resin was mixed, the vacuum pump, turned back on and resin was allowed to infuse throughout the entire hull.

It was now time to sit back and wait for the resin to cure. By the time I left the shop, late in the afternoon, we had removed the vacuum bag, and other components of the infusion system. The inside of the hull was flawless and I could only imagine what the outside of the hull would look like, once it was removed from the mold. Unfortunately, that would have to wait until the next morning when the resin was fully cured. I would not be present to witness the birth of the new hull. This hull will be custom trimmed with wood gunnels, decks and a seat. The customer apparently likes the look and feel of wood and is willing to accept a bit of additional weight over a hull with composite rails which is another option. Paul will soon be offering adjustable, composite seats as well.

Being a part of the process was a great experience. The care and patience exhibited by the entire crew, led by Paul was inspiring. You could feel the pride that each one took in the work they were doing. Also inspiring was the realization that each and every composite Wildfire ever made, came out of that same mold. I look forward to someday owning one of Paul’s fine canoes. Now to decide, Wild or Flash, wood trim or composite? Maybe a Starfire or? Then there is the color issue. Did I mention that the color selection is almost limitless?

Marc Ornstein

That’s my dream boat…
but I have a few more years of college to pay for first.

I’d be interested in more details about how the high end boats are made.

For instance where are the cloth layers thickest? What kind of resin do they use? How do they attach the seats?


– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 1:23 PM EST –

The hulls have a 6.3 oz layer of Carbon on the outside, and a twin Kevlar layer on the inside.

There are more layers in the stems, a carbon and a Kevlar bottom ! following the waterline with additional reinforcement, and carbon and Kevlar diamonds reinforcing the seat position, roughly amidships. The exact lamination schedule with composition, orientation and number of layers are proprietary information, although holding a hull up to strong sunlight yields more than a clue.

The resin is an epoxy based Vinyl Ester; manufacturer and precise number are propriety information. The key to successful infusion is precise resin chemistry

Cherry framed cane seats are currently mounted under truss style, one piece, seat drops, bolted through the rails with 10-24 SS machine screws using Ny-Loc nuts.

In the spring, seats will be optionally mounted in tracked side pods incorporating ~ +/- 4" longitudinal travel for trim adjustment for tripping with gear / dogs. A lighter Snakeskin composite seat will be standard with the sidepods. It's too soon to tell if the wooden seat can work in the slider track or estimate additional costs of the sidepods and Snakeskin seat. Estimates have the pods and seat weighing about what the wooden seat, trusses and bolts do.

From the website it appears these are rounded bottom, fast but for serious paddlers. Are they rounded as much as the cross section shows in the picture?

And thanks Charlie.

Some are, some…
DragonFly, coming on line this spring is a racing spec, L/W = 7, with a very rounded bottom.

WildFire and FlashFire are somewhat rounded, but were designed as flatter bottomed, more user friendly, moving water / FreeStyle hulls than DragonFly.

Nomad is currently being flanged, and will also come on line this spring. At 15’4" X 28.5" it is a flatter bottomed, general purpose tripper.

Great Info

DF coming out w infused gunwales first
is my understanding. Nomad the same?

I wait savings in hand for wood railed DragonFly but IIRC correctly thats another mold.

No Idea WHo
IIRC might be, but both SnakeSkin and wood railed hulls come out of same mold. IIRC is misinformed.

Further, why would anyone want a boat that weighs 4# more than it needs to and requires TLC? Whatever, drive right on, Hell’s only half full!

IIRC is the owner

– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 10:38 PM EST –

not exactly but IIRC is an Internet acronym for If I Recall Correctly (from a phone conversation).

Perhaps I don't recall correctly. I have the dollars to plunk but nowhere to plunk. Looking for a wood railed DragonFly. Not glass.

Wood for 3 k portages. Our metal clamped portage yoke so far is working fine for those distances. It wont work on the lighter but now doubt superior infused rails.

also the rails are going to get worn. The boat will be spending some 600 km nestled against the supports of a floatplane. I can refinish wood.

I don’t understand why Colden
even offers wood as an option, seeing as it’s so darn inferior.

Maybe it’s because it looks far prettier in their promo pics? I don’t know, but I’d sacrifice the weight (strength?) differential just to not have to look at that fugly “Cobrasox” stuff.

They sure do make a gorgeous hull, though!

Back in the day

– Last Updated: Feb-01-11 12:45 PM EST –

When Pb developed the CobraSox rail, 2006, I suggested to Joe that we should drop cherry rails immediately. He thought I was overly anticipatory.

Now CS rails account for ~90-95% of Pb's production, with a lesson in unanticipated consequences. Joe and I used to share the cherry rail ends, bucking them into ~ foot long sections as kindling for our wood burning stoves.

No cherry rails; no more kiln dried cherry kindling!

Okay, I meant SnakeSkin.
To my eye, it’s hideous, but I understand that to some performance is everything.

One construction detail has me curious, though. I do like the way you’ve managed to resolve the whole wood rails/deck/ends issue, but I can’t see by the pictures what fastens the decks. Care to shed light?

However with the issuance of tripping
boats a portage system ought to be offered compatible with SS rails. The strap on one is just a major PITA IMO.

Seems the boats are made mostly for the day tripper base camper, which presumably makes most of the market.

If wood rails are not an offering now (and I think they may be in the future) I will have to keep what I have got for the time being.

Diamond plate on plane floats has sharp edges anyway for traction…don’t know how SS will handle the vibration at 110 mph of a Beaver.

Curious about Composite Rails

– Last Updated: Feb-01-11 11:24 AM EST –

There are a couple things I wonder about composite rails. I know that dancing-canoe purists and also those that are speed/tripping-obsessed no longer believe it's proper to pry the paddle shaft against the gunwales, but plenty of people still do that in other real-world situations. I've seen some composite rails that are so narrow that prying the paddle shaft against them is likely to end up prying against the hull itself as much as the rail. Also, do these new rails stand up well to those kinds of point loads? Like Charlie said in another post here, "Hell is only half full" so I expect I'll continue to do certain kinds of braking side-slips and direct side-slips with hard paddle-shaft contact on the gunwale, and I'm still perfecting the McGuffin's recommended method for righting the boat when it's tipping way over to the offsite (plunge the paddle deep and then pry that gunwale back down where it belongs). This is also why I don't like much tumblehome in a boat that needs to do abrupt maneuvers, but at the moment, I'm naturally curious about how these gunwales hold up to that kind of point loading and wear.

By the way, one nice thing about nice wood rails is that you CAN do all sorts of prying strokes without buggering-up your paddle shaft! My paddles sometimes show the results of swift-water paddling, because square-edged vinyl gunwales are murder on wood paddle shafts.

Rails and sliding seats

– Last Updated: Feb-01-11 11:59 AM EST –

While this seems to be somewhat of an odd OP for this particular forum, the Colden canoes certainly look nice and I have always been a fan of infusion technology, though not infusion at any cost.

Bubble sided canoes do present some challenges if you want to pry off the gunwales, no matter what the rails are made of. The variant of the northwoods stroke that uses a rail pry correction doesn't work too well on bubble boats with skinny outwales. I've always thought an outwale of assymetrical width would be a sophisticated addition to my Bell Wildfire.

I think I am one of the most aggressive proponents of sliding seats in solo canoes -- even suggesting that their absence should be declared unconstitutional -- but I'm afraid a 4" travel is not sufficient. I wouldn't pay any weight penalty for such a token slide. I would pay a penalty for a 15" slide. My usual solution is to take the seat out altogether and sit on three rectangular cushions.

Don't know what Colden is doing for deck plates, but my opinion on them is general to all FW canoes: namely, I don't see their point. To me, they add weight at the very place you least want it, they promote water rot of adjoining wood rails, and they serve no useful purpose I can see. I'd prefer to see just some nicely mated snakes at each end.

Edited to add: Swift affixes a thin wooden rub rail on the outside of their infused reptile rails, which I think is a nice aesthetic and pry-functional touch. Don't know how much weight it adds.

A few layers of gaffer’s tape
applied to the right spots prior to take-off might help with abrasion concerns?

Infused rails seem limiting as to type and placement of fasteners used for future mods, as well.

Integral, Infused, Comp. Rails
The integral, infused composite rails available on Colden, Placid and Swift boats have several advantages.

Initially, we understand the attachment system; rails and hull are one chunk of fibre re-enforced plastic with two foam cores in unique locations. No snugging of screws.

They save 3.5 lbs on a 12 foot solo canoe, reducing a 24 lb hull to 20.5 with deluxe outfitting attached, a 15% weight reduction. Not bad, especially as none of us except high school footballers are getting stronger.

They don’t dry out and crack, require annual sanding and oiling or sanding and Poly application.

For portaging, the Grade VI Portage Strap from Placid/ BagLady, etc works pretty well on very light, tumblehomed hulls, but soon, the Colden side pod track will have an available, trim adjustable composite portage yoke w/ CVCC pads.

Colden’s side pods have ~18" slider tracks, but the seat is 10" wide leaving +/-4" adjustment. A 60lb Lab, sitting with mass centered a foot forward of the paddlers knees would require a 200lb guy to slide back ~3.5 inches to maintain trim if he didn’t have other gear in the boat to help. In terms of strength, weight and cost, we figured an 18" track would do pretty well.

More on seats and rails
Oh, +/- 4 inches. That’s more interesting. I was thinking 4" total.

That sliding range could be increased if one is willing to break out of the mental box of boring stock cane seats, which typically have seat rail spacing equal to the depth of the seat. That is, a 10" deep stock cane seat usually has rails that are spaced about the same 10".

Why not space the seat rails closer together to increase the sliding seat range? That’s what Mike Galt did on the Lotus Caper. That’s also what Dave Curtis does with the Deal bucket seat in the Hemlock SRT. In both cases, a contoured kneeling seat of depth X inches is mounted on seat rails that are spaced (X-4) inches apart … approximately.

As to reptile rails, the last time I saw them they had a square or rectangular cross section, which obviously means four sharp corners. Why not have reptile rails with a circular or elliptical cross section? This would eliminate the sharp corners while possibly even increasing lateral strength.

Sounds like the seat will be an nice

I juat talked to Paul. He clarified that the first DragonFly will have infused rails and tanks but subsequently wood rails will be available.

What really strikes me is that apart from hull design Colden will be able to really offer several choices for rails and seats and colors…more than mass production manufacturers.