Outfitting My Canoe: Ray Goodwin

by Ray Goodwin

My choice of title for this article was made carefully. This is not a general article on outfitting, covering all the many permutations according to country, environment, taste or use. Rather, it is very much about how I outfit my canoe for the work and journeys that I do in the UK and Europe. By contrast, if I were outfitting a Kevlar boat for flat water it would be very minimalist. My Wenonah Prospector 16’ is used on white water up to and including grade 3 and open waters with considerable fetch, including coastal. I have been using a similar set-up for some twenty years now. So, I hope in this context, what I have to share will be useful to you and others paddling in similar environments under similar circumstances.

The Bare Boat: Starting With A Fresh Canoe

Wenonah Prospector 16

The bare boat. A Wenonah Prospector 16'.

The bare boat: A Wenonah Prospector 16'. It's a great multi-purpose design derived from a very traditional craft. It has plenty of rocker and a nice shallow arch cross-section, which means I can easily roll it onto its edge paddling solo. Because I want to lash in airbags and other kit we are marking up the side to thread a rope all the way down the side.
Marking canoe for drilling

Marking up the side to thread a rope all the way down the side.

I use a three-inch spacing in the airbag area and a four-inch one elsewhere: many others will use an equal spacing but this is what I have settled on over the years. I need the holes far enough below the gunwale to make it useable on the inside but I don’t want to drop it too far as solo I often use the canoe heeled right over and there will be some seepage through the holes. The width of the tape measure seems about right as a marker.
Drilling a canoe for lashing points

With a steady hand Lina doesn’t bother to put masking tape on the Royalex but just drills away. Another hole mark is above the ‘n’ of nah.

Cord loosely threaded through holes in the canoe

Feeding the cord through the holes.

In the airbag section the cord is looped through the holes and then tightened but leaving a bit of slack to make the inside loops usable. The cord is 5mm climbing cord. For the middle section we are adding small sections of plastic pipe to make loops on the inside of the boat. My three-year-old daughter Maya Rose is keen to help.
Child threads cord into piping

Maya Rose helps with threading the piping.

Looped cord with plastic piping on the inside of the boat.

Looped cord with plastic piping on the inside of the boat.

The final knot is on the inside of the canoe as I want the outside clean and tidy. The blue rope is trimmed off close to the knot.

Fitting Air Bags For Buoyancy

After fitting the cords down the sides of the boat, next is the fitting of D rings as extra security for the air bags. Having chosen the spot I draw around the vinyl D ring patch and then lightly sand both the boat and the underside of the patch.
Preparing Airbag attachment point

Having chosen the spot I draw around the vinyl D ring patch and then lightly sand both the boat and the underside of the patch.

Vinyl Bond is applied to both the boat and the patch and allowed to dry slightly before pressing together. I follow the instructions on the tube!
Applying vinyl bond.

Applying vinyl bond.

An even coating.

An even coating.

Making sure it's firmly in place.

Making sure it's firmly in place.

D-ring.

View of the rear of the boat. The D-ring is situated back under where the airbag will be.

N.B. In the above photo, you'll see that the D-ring is situated back under where the airbag will be and not directly at the end of the airbag. A tape will go from there along the floor around the airbag and then back to the carrying handle to fix the airbag in place.

A Search For the Holy Grail And Modifications Enabling A Sailing Rig

I usually have a small sailing rig in my boats so I need a mast foot and an attachment on the rear of the bow seat. Sometimes I have added a piece of wood below the seat but Endless River have a neat seat that does the job so I am replacing the original.
Two canoe seats, one with mast hole

Endless River seat with integral mast hole is very neat and will replace the standard seat in this boat.

Using the original as a template for the seat bolt-holes on the new seat.

Using the original as a template for the seat bolt-holes on the new seat.

Maya Rose now thinks that marking up the canoe is a job for her. However intent the expression the lines are a bit random.

Maya Rose now thinks that marking up the canoe is a job for her. However intent the expression the lines are a bit random.

Finding a good mast foot is a bit like the search for the Holy Grail. Some use a properly shaped piece of wood. Years ago a friend of mine spotted these black rubber raft inflation valve mountings. Hard to get hold of - and my stockpile is running low - they do the job very well. They come with a metal insert which the valve screws into, this has to be cut out with a hot knife.
Stuff you need for mast foot

Improvised mast foot using a raft inflation valve mounting. Make sure you use the right epoxy!

Because of the stress on the mast foot I am using a two-part epoxy (do check that it is ok with Royalex before using: I have known someone melt their boat using the wrong epoxy). Again the surface of the canoe and mast foot are sanded and prepared.
Turn on images. This article doesn't make much sense without them...

The surface of the boat has been prepared for adhesion of the mast foot.

Mast foot in place and boat coming together.

Mast foot in place and boat coming together.

 A fair bit of pressure is needed to keep the rubber mast foot in place until the epoxy cures. An upturned open tin is placed on the foot and either a large weight placed on top or, in this case, the car jack to the right of Maya is placed between upturned tin and seat.


A fair bit of pressure is needed to keep the rubber mast foot in place until the epoxy cures. An upturned open tin is placed on the foot and either a large weight placed on top or, in this case, the car jack to the right of Maya is placed between upturned tin and seat.

Adding A Kneeling Thwart

The addition of a kneeling thwart requires the final bit of drilling. The spacing of the cords (above) was pre-planed to accommodate this. The kneeling thwart will get you into a different part of the canoe for better trim and allows good control when paddling solo.
Drilling holes to fix a kneeling thwart.

Drilling holes to fix a kneeling thwart.

The only awkward thing is getting a roughly correct angle on the drill holes through the kneeling thwart. They are running at an angle, not right angles. I do it by eye. The strengthening thwart to the left will be taken out once every thing has been finished. The kneeling thwart provides the additional strengthening in its place.
Attaching the kneeling thwart.

Attaching the kneeling thwart. The strengthening thwart to the left will be removed.

WARNING: When paddling solo on the kneeling thwart your legs are in the area of the canoe which can deform upwards in a very bad pin on white water. This is also of true of using the bow seat in reverse. I strongly advise you - and whomever you paddle with - to carry folding saws as part of your rescue kit. I have never had to use mine but would feel uncomfortable without one.

End Loop Considerations

I like substantial end loop in case of a boat pin where I am going to need ropes and pulleys to remove it. This is 9mm climbing rope.
Fitting an end loop of 9mm climbing rope.

Fitting an end loop of 9mm climbing rope.

I want no risk of pulling the rope through the Royalex in an extreme situation. In the photo above, note the substantial spacing from the end of the canoe and from the end plate. When the end-loop is tied it should end up small enough that anyone would struggle to get a hand into it in a white water rescue. Getting a hand trapped whilst swimming down a rapid is very bad. The knot on the inside is a simple overhand knot and, in the photo, has yet to be tightened. Even with this knot, the rope has a breaking strain far greater than most throw lines.
An overhand knot.

Tieing off inside, using an overhand knot (still to be fully tightened in the photo).

Canoe.

The finished boat with all attachment points and related modifications.

Fitting Out The Canoe - The Final Bits

Now that all the attachment points and related modifications have been made, we can start adding the other components. A cord goes from the airbag, through the end rope to pull the bag into the end and will then be tied off to the carrying handle.
Another canoe.

Attaching the airbag.

Airbag in canoe

The airbag lashed into place. Should I want to paddle the canoe tandem I can use a smaller airbag and use the D-ring to hold it into the end.

On white water I use airbags mainly to protect the canoe if I take a swim although they can give the boat enough floatation to make it possible to paddle even when swamped. Anyway, enough of outfitting! Now to putting the Prospector through its paces...

Putting The Newly Outfitted Canoe Through Its Paces

Using the edge of the canoe to pull a tight turn...

Using the edge to pull a tight turn...

Using the edge of the canoe to pull a tight turn... Using the edge of the canoe to pull a tight turn...
Surfing the canoe

And a bit of surfing...

Ray Goodwing poling a canoe

Some poling...

 Sailing using split aluminium poles as mast and gaff.


Sailing using split aluminium poles as mast and gaff.

The sail is by Endless River. The paddle is being used as a leeboard to sail across the wind. This rig is nowhere near efficient enough to make real progress to windward but is a simple addition to the kit I normally carry.

Final Approval

And of course, seeing as she helped outfit the boat, Maya Rose wants a go... Canoe_Outfitting_DSC_0207 Canoe_Outfitting_DSC_0286 Ray Goodwin and Maya Rose in a canoe So, I hope this is of use to you. It brings together ways of outfitting I have accumulated and tested over the years. They work for me in the circumstances I am often working and travelling. Let us know in the comments below which of the above modifications you apply or that you are going to apply now that you've seen it. Also, if you have other modifications or changes you have made to your boat, let us know in the comments below.
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Ray Goodwin is the UK’s best known and (many would go so far as to say) foremost canoe coach. For more than 30 years Ray has been introducing people to, and developing people’s skills in, the great outdoors. Ray brings his experience and expertise to all of Frontier Bushcraft’s canoeing activities, including our French River and Bloodvein expeditions.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

jaakko Mäkikylä

Dear Ray,

my way of making a double-use loops to my canoe.
https://plus.google.com/photos/104041173140761395607/albums/5883680616766443777

and my way to make the roping to airbags. No glue or D-rings needed.
https://picasaweb.google.com/104041173140761395607/KanootinKiinityslenkkienTekoPartaaseen?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Regards,

Jaakko Mäkikylä

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for sharing Jaakko!

Reply

Richard Tiley

Thank you so much for this: it is inspired, inspiring and brilliantly clear. Now, where’s that canoe of mine…?

Reply

Discover Outdoors

This is a great post, very informative and helpful.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

You’re very welcome!

Reply

Craig Fordham

Brilliantly timed article as I have just today taken delivery of a brand new Wenonah Prospector 16 🙂
Can I ask Ray what airbags he recommends for the boat?

Reply

Ray Goodwin

Those are Harmony Airbags.

Reply

Craig Fordham

Thank you

Reply

Phil Robinson

A brilliant and informative article. But you know what? The best bit for me was the inclusion of Maya. For me this shows a wonderful side of Ray, one which I love him for. We might be all out there being “outdoorsy” – but passing it on to our children is deeply important. Loved the pictures!

Phil

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Well said Phil 🙂

Reply

Kevin Knights

Great article! I did this last summer to my Charles River and still wake up from nightmares of drilling through a perfectly good canoe. Somehow I also managed to clip one of the seat dowels with the drill bit in one position, so well worth checking one more time before making that hole!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

I hope it was worth it though Kevin?

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David `Perry

And is the paddle your daughter using from theCanadian Canoe Museum by any chance?

Reply

Jim

Great article, a beautiful canoe and setup. your action photography remains first class. In my opinion canoes are great under most river conditions, But I don’t like them under heavy wind conditions on a lake. Of course I speak as a trolling fisherman. One answer that can help here is to weight the bow. This will help steady the canoe in the wind. Also, I have watched simple light-
weight outriggers and a small sail. What a way to transport wilderness goods and people in the
wilderness deep long distance in the wilds.
Kind Regards
Jim-Pacific NW

Reply

Erick

I wish to know…
Is the canoe made of fiberglass or other?
I would like to install ropes as you did, and I hesitate a bit, I’m a bit scared of weakening the hull…

Do you think I can go on this project with my fiberglass canoe?

thanks

Reply

John ridley

Very helpful tips… followed this for our Prospector 15 – worked well… just check where the holes end in relation to the aluminium seat sides. To get the right amount of holes (so that start & finish knots are inside hull…), I marked a centre position in each area (front, middle and rear) then marked of positions of holes with first pair of holes 1 1/2″ (or 2″ for middle section) each side of centre mark (you need to have an even number of holes in each section…). While threading I decided just have one knot (at rear centre of canoe). I marked holes about 5/8″ down from underside of plastic gunwale.
One question – do you see any problem with using just the one piece of rope & one knot (I know that the loops at front and rear have loose sections, where as the middle section has tubing to help make the rope tight…)?

Reply

Harry Harvey

Hi Mr Goodwin,
I have just read the very informative and easy to follow article.
The photographs are especially good,helping explain the written words.
Need to come on a course before acquiring my canoe,any detail please?

Regards Harry

Reply

Ray Goodwin

Hi Harry, best recommendation I can give is one of the Windermere courses here at Frontier Bushcraft. Everything is in context, paddling skill, decision making and risk along with the ability to expedition out of a canoe.

http://frontierbushcraft.com/courses/expedition-canoeing-skills/

I do run private tuition but for a great dynamic, these course brilliant.

Glad you found the article informative.

Ray

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