Canoe Build and Maintenance.

Fitting out a fibreglass hull.

There are many ways to fit out a canoe, this is the approach I have come to after much trial and error.



Gunwales: 12mm x 20mm Knot free hardwood (Oak, ash, cherry, iroko...) Or a good quality softwood like Douglas Fir, slightly heavier spec. 6 lengths (5 if scuppered gunwales).

Yoke: 5cm x 2cm. White Guide - 88.5cm, Prospector - 86cm.

Breasthooks: 2cm board.

Seats: 2.5cm square section.

Note that the gunwales, bresthooks and yoke are essential structural parts of the canoe.

Fasteners. A4 Stainless screws or brass, 8 x M5 x 100 bolts for the seat hangers, 8 x M4 bolts for the yoke and carrying handles.









Care and Maintenance.


Your canoe should last 20+ years if the woodwork is kept protected, shaded from the sun and rain and most important where it can dry out if it has got wet. Leaving the canoe upside down is the grass and you may get just a year or so from the woodwork.


If the varnish is getting worn off then give it a good sanding and another few coats of varnish. It will need less maintenance if you don’t rub the paddles along the gunwales when out on the water.


Repairs. Hulls are made from woven fibreglass cloth set in polyester resin. The exterior is gel coat. To repair a hole or a split in the hull:

Clean up the damage and grind open any cracks. You want a repair surface that tapers so you can get a better join.

Wash the surface to remove any grit/grease. A final wipe with acetone will soften the resin for stronger adhesion.

Tape over the outside using a non stick cover like a plastic bag or film.

Build up the repair on the inside. Best to use CSM for the first layer, then cloth or more CSM.

The from the outside repair the gel coat, sand down with 120/240/360/800/1200  grit and then polish.

Resin mix. 1% to 2% Catalyst (depending on temperature), Pigment 2-5%

Gel mix. 1.2% to 2.2% Catalyst, Pigment 10%.

Note that resins have a shelf life of a few months, all available from MBFG , Newtownabbey.


Timber. The gunwales are Douglas Fir. If they are damaged generally a new piece could be scarfed in, need to use Epoxy for wood work repairs.

For seats I usually use a robust hardwood like Oak or Ash. They could be done in softwood but would need a thicker specification.




1. Fit the bresthooks using epoxy and holding screws.


2. Dry fit the outwales to ensure they will bend to shape OK, they can be tapered at the ends if need be. Glue and screw the gunwales into place. This can be done single handed but an extra pair of hands helps. I usually mark everything out first, epoxy the gunwales and clamp into place working from one bresthook to the other. If you don’t have enough clamps to do a whole gunwale then you could clamp part way along and screw as you go. Screws should be pilot drilled, shank drilled through the outwale and counter sunk.

Set the yoke or a spacer in place while the epoxy cures. It is best if you can fit both gunwales before the epoxy cures to keep the canoe symmetrical as they do tend to pull the sides in.




3. Make up the seat frames, mortise & tendon joints or glue and screw or use dowels.


4. Fit the yoke, carrying handles and seats. The yoke should be central if you are going to be lifting the canoe onto car roofs or carrying it a long way solo. Drill 13mm holes to countersink the bolt heads. The seats should be dry fitted on the seat hangers to make sure that they will fit, cut the ends short so they do not rub on the side of the hull. Glue wooden plugs over the bolt heads.


5. Sand clean and fill any gaps with thickened epoxy.


6. Finish the woodwork with 5 coats of UV yacht varnish or they could be oiled.


7. Options for the seats include:

Webbing, fastened with stainless staples or copper pins. Use a webbing stretcher.

Hand woven wicker.

Wicker mat, cut slots in the seat frames and glue it in.

String or plywood are not recommended as they are less comfortable.