Wildfire Rebuild

-- Last Updated: Apr-19-12 3:44 PM EST --

Some of you have been following the progress of this project on the Dogpaddle Canoe Works face book page. Here is a summary.

I recently acquired an older, Kevlar Wildfire that had seen some rough times. The hull had been crushed, forward of the front thwart, when a tree fell on it during hurricane Gustav. It's owner purchased a replacement from Colden canoe. I offered to purchase the damaged hull with the original intent of doing quick and dirty repairs. The salvaged hull would become my beater boat.

Shortly after I got the boat in the shop, I decided it deserved a better fate. Since it's original construction, the boat has changed hands three times, making me the 3rd owner. The previous two were friends of mine, though I didn't discover the original owner until after I had acquired it. Both are excellent paddlers and this boat deserved more of the same.

I began by grinding off most of the original gel coat. In addition to the hurricane damage, the gel coat was badly scarred and had been over painted. I reinforced the inside of the hull, where the tree had crushed it, and rebuilt the outside, flush. After much fairing and sanding, I primed the outside of the hull and painted it with with three coats of Interlux Brightside, single part, polyurethane. The hull was wet sanded and buffed, removing any tell tale brush marks.

I fabricated new gunnels. In order to reduce weight, I made the outwales much thinner than the originals. The inwales were scuppered and tapered. The gunwale system was bonded to the hull using thickened epoxy. Bonding the gunwales directly to the hull added strength, despite the lighter materials. (If they ever need replacement, they'll need to be carefully chiseled off.) I removed 1/3 the thickness from the thwarts. They are still plenty strong. I replaced the walnut decks with carbon fiber caps that I fabricated. Finally, my friend, Paul Conklin (who makes most of the wood components for Hemlock Canoe Works) made me a lightweight version of his contoured seats.

The boat is now complete, looking better than new and 6 lbs. lighter.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Canoe Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes

I'll post additional photos separately, as only three are allowed per post.

Its always nice to see a boat recycled
and reborn again. Thanks for posting Marc…

You’re an artist, Mark!

Sweet X 2…
I always love to see an older/damaged boat come back…

What you have done is beyond my skill level, but I can surely appreciate the time & effort & expertise you put into the restoration.

You did an excellent job. I’m sure it will be much nicer paddling it now than it would have been, had you decided to only get it back to the slightly above “beater” level.


Looks great, Marc
Is that “Hatteras White” you painted it with?

I can faintly see the aramid patches on the interior of the hull in the photos on the other thread. I would be interested to know how you patched and faired the exterior.

By coincidence, I am just about finished fixing up another busted up Flashfire. Some photos can be seen here:


My boat had the characteristic Bell “tweed” aramid interior so plain aramid patches stick out like a sore thumb. In this boat, most of the gel coat was in pretty good shape, except where the hull had been fractured in three places. I decided from the outset that I would not paint the entire boat or attempt to re gel coat the patches, so of course, an exact color match over the exterior patches was not possible.

It is interesting to me the difference in the flotation tanks between these two boats. The tanks on my boat were about the smallest I have ever seen on a 13 foot composite boat and were open topped (not sealed). What is more, they weren’t completely filled with foam either.

Since I will undoubtedly use this boat primarily for sporting around on day trips on Class I-II streams, it will probably be wearing float bags for most of its outdoor life, ergo the outfitting.

Both Rebuilds Look Great!
Now that Bell isn’t making canoes, even crushed Bells will have some value. I have to get one or two more before they fall into the realm of heirlooms…

It’s "Grand Banks Beige"
I used 8 oz glass for the reinforcement on the inside. The original aramid color shows through, so color match isn’t a big problem.

On the outside, I ground out all of the gel coat in the damaged area and most of the glass layer between the gel and the Kevlar. I laid in several layers of 4 oz. e glass, until I was a bit proud of the surface. I then fared the glass flush. I didn’t use any filler or putty, prior to the primer. I did prime and sand twice.

That Flash of yours looks nice. One of the nice things about a lot of outfitting is that it can hide a lot of stuff on the inside.

Very nice ressurection!
I’ll send my VERY ugly, painted three times with the latter two layers of paint peeling away Curtis Lady Bug with way over built gunwales of some sort of very dense and heavy tropical forest wood and also in need of a few patches to you if you’re looking for another project boat. It should weigh about 38 lbs, but weighs about 49 lbs.

Very nice work, Pete!
I’ve got projects for you, too.

That was part of the plan. Two 60" lightweight urethane nylon flotation bags will hide most of the interior patchwork.

awww someone here has an Old Town
with exactly the same paint scheme. :slight_smile:

Can I have it back? :slight_smile: Beautiful work Marc! Nice to know it will be used by a paddler of your skil level.

pretty canoe …
… looks like you did a meticulous job on it , that’s your style , an artist at work .

Will you use it for freestyle any , is a good design for that ??

Makes me feel guilty about my refurbishing job on my wife’s Flashfire. It had numerous cracks and looked like it had been dragged behind a car for a couple thousand miles. It’s at least paddleable and not AS ugly, but wow, nothing like you did!

Wildfire for FreeStyle
I’ll certainly use the Wildfire for FS, along with other boats. Some consider the boat too large for me and that would be true, if I stayed locked in a 3 point position. I’m comfortable moving around in the boat and so have no difficulty getting it to the rail.

On the other hand, FreeStyle is a body of techniques for effectively and efficiently controlling the boat. Most of the time, it isn’t necessary to “nail the rail”. In many functional FS settings, heeling to the rail simply adds unnecessary risk. The fire series of boats maneuver fine, if heeled only to the shoulder.

I’ll likely use the Wildfire as my “all purpose” boat. It will be a comfortable hull on gentle creeks, lakes, ponds and the occasional Freestyle exhibition.

Great job Marc!
Truly an artistic work!

Sweet work …
on a now resurrected sweet boat. Beautiful job, Marc!

Nice work, Marc. Can’t wait to see you play in it.

Scuppered inwales
Talk about unnecessary risk, “nailing” the rail with a scuppered boat is like a tightrope act without a net; judges should give bonus points. Nice job!

Impressive work by both

– Last Updated: Apr-21-12 9:40 AM EST –

mornstein and pblanc. Gorgeous canoes!

Thanks for sharing your pictures and experiences.

I miss Bill D. Cat. He was a personal hero of mine.