Canadian Canoe Repair. A new lease of life for an old Boat.

Coleman Ram-X 15 Foot Canadian Canoe Repairs

This canoe is almost thirty years old and with a bit of work it now has many more miles to give.

It's latest owners realised that it wasn't getting the use it deserved.
It's been stores for years in the car park of some apartments in London.
The boat was very kindly given to me to patch up and use in the knowledge that the previous owners are going to be visiting and getting good use of it here where I live close to the river Wye. 

Below is a great picture from graffiti covered Hackney where the boat began it's journey to the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.

Once it was back safely at the Handmade Matt yard a full inspection was carried out.
On the whole she was solid but was in poor shape. The gunnels weren't straight and the boat wasn't symmetrical. Ten minutes with a heavy rubber mallet sorted that out!

Some worrying looking repairs had been made to both ends of the canoe. The fiberglass was delaminating and coming away from the hull and the repairs were failing at both ends.

After I removed the old failing repairs I was pleased to find that the hull itself had no holes. The repairs had been made in time to stop any further wear. The hull material was worn so thin it was soft but at least still unbroken. You can see below the minor deformation at the thin spot after I had removed the old patches.

After doing some research I discovered that the Ram-X boats are made from Cross-linked polyethylene, commonly abbreviated PEX or XLPE. It's a strong and durable plastic but it is very hard to find resins and adhesives that will bond to it properly which is why these fiberglass repairs have eventually failed.

There are specialist adhesives and epoxy's that claim to be able to solve the problems of PEX repairs but people seem to have mixed results with them. It's also possible to weld/ melt the plastic together with new plastic but this can be fiddly. 

I manages to find a video on YouTube where a guy was melting strips of poly-woven tarpaulin into a PEX hull using a scraper or blade heated red hot with a blow torch. It was just normal cheap tarpaulin. After some experimentation I found this to be the best solution. I used about a square meter of tarpaulin for each end of the boat layering up the repair over and over, melting strip after strip resulting in a thick, solid covering which appears to be very robust.

The beauty of this repair method is that it can be replicated on the river bank in emergencies by carrying small sections of tarp and using a camping cooker or even a fire to heat a blade and weld any unexpected damage.

One of the end covers to the buoyancy foam under the end decks was missing. I managed to make a new one by cutting up a green plastic barrel and riveting it in place.

A lot of the bolts that hold the gunnels on were loose, some needed replacing. The lifting handles needed tightening and straightening with a visit from the rubber mallet.

The aluminium frame that gives shape to the pliable hull needed some adjustment too, some of the uprights under the seats and thwart were no longer verticle and the centre bracket needed to be shimmed out with some old inner tube rubber to hold tight.

There was a good selection of paddles requiring only a small amount of maintenance.
The wooden ones are very heavy weighing in at 1600 grams. In comparison the aluminum ones are more like 750 grams and are still considered heavy by some. The wooden ones have become decorative items above the fireplace at home.

One of the aluminum paddles was kinked and had to have a steel tubular insert hammered down the shaft to push out the kink and re-enforce the paddle. I used a section of old curtain pole which fitted perfectly to the inside diameter. The other paddle had heavy white aluminum oxide deposits all over it which powdered off and marked hands and clothing. It was cleaned off with a wire brush and then sand paper. Both aluminum paddles then received a new black electrical insulation tape grip.

After a maiden test voyage and a few more day trips for practice I embarked on a five day one hundred mile paddle down the entire navigable length of the river Wye. 
The repairs held out the whole way and the boat performed perfectly.
 It was an unsupported solo journey. I carried everything on board that I needed to stay comfortable, fed and watered for the entire trip. 

To read the full article about the canoe camping trip