Canoe and Kayak Maintenance

Remember how you felt when you first bought your canoe or kayak? It was a sight to behold - beautiful, sparkling, vibrant and shiny! Well, if it is still like that now I might ask if you have been paddling enough? Get yourself out on the water! It is why you bought your boat in the first place.

I do understand the feeling that some people have to keep their boat looking the way they first envisioned it but the reality is that we are going to hit rocks, grind on the sand and rub against some trees. If you treat every one of your new scratches as fond memories of trips past, then it won’t give you ulcers next time you hit a rock under the water that you did not see.

We do want our boats to last a long time though and there are many things to consider in proper maintenance and storage of canoes and kayaks. We can’t always avoid the damages incurred in the wilderness but we certainly can provide some extra tender care in the comfort of our homes.

General Maintenance

Get in the habit of taking care of your boat every time you go out:

  • Wash your kayak or canoe after using. It will be easier to get the dirt off now rather than later and it will be less likely to leave stains on your boat.
  • On kayaks, pay special attention to foot pedals, rudders and skeg boxes. Make sure that all the sand and grit is removed. Trust me, you will let it build up only once before you make this a regular habit. Once the water dries, sand can fuse together and become like concrete, causing your foot pedals and skegs to malfunction. If this does happen because you didn’t listen to my advice, then try using some hot water.
  • Apply 303 UV Protectant and inhibitor often to the hull of your boat. 303 will help to restore the colour and gloss of your boat while repelling dirt and dust. Just spray it on and wipe it dry. The 1 liter spray bottle is a good idea. Please do not wax your boats as it will do just the opposite of this!
  • Plastic kayaks often deform slightly with use or improper storage. If you do not have a proper roof rack for your vehicle you will be forced to put a lot of pressure on the tie down straps to make sure the kayak stays on your roof while you drive. This can also cause deformation. On a hot day, bring your kayak out into the sun and these dents will often disappear. If it is a bit more stubborn, then try some boiling hot water with a bit of weight (I have used sand bags or wood braces in the past)

A more detailed Inspection:


  • Get intimate with your kayak. Put your head inside the hatches and cockpits with a flashlight and examine the hull for any stress cracks on composite kayaks. These will look like little spider webs. Cracks on the outside are really just cosmetic. If none of the fabric is exposed then I would recommend just leaving them. Fixing them yourself could leave a big mess.
  • On plastic kayaks, roll them upside down and inspect all deep scratches. Although I have never bothered, some people recommend using a razor blade and trim the little plastic ridges and curls created when plastic scratches.
  • Do a water test and check for any leaks by filling your hatches and cockpit with water. Stress from impact or improper car loading can cause bulkheads to separate.
  • Inspect the hardware and tighten any loose nuts and bolts.
  • Check rudder cables and deck rigging for kinks and frays.


  • Look inside your canoe. Creases and dents on the inside of royalex or polyethelene canoes is evidence that the boat has been pinned at some point. These are indications of structural damage. You may be able to continue paddling as it is but keep on eye on them. On composite canoes, check ribs and float tanks (if any) for damage or delamination of material.
  • Substantial wear and tear on the bow and stern of canoes could warrant the installation or repair of skid plates.
  • Inspect the hardware and tighten loose nuts and bolts. Look closely at the portage yoke and seats as they see a lot of action during the paddling season.
  • Wood trim needs special attention. Aluminum gunwales are generally low maintenance but they definitely are not as pretty as wood. Maintain your wood gunwales at least 1-2 times per season. Lightly sand with 120 / 220 grit sandpaper. Apply a light coat of Tung or Teak oil to all of the wood. Let sit for 10 minutes and then wipe off the excess. Don’t forget the underside of the wood trim and all interior wood. Do not use varnish on your wood trim.

Treat your canoe or kayak with respect and it will last you for many years. Don’t throw it around or drag it and learn how to store it properly. Get a proper roof rack and learn how to load it to minimize the amount of stress put on the hull. At the shore, enter your kayak from the water where ever possible. Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet, especially if it is warm outside.

Please contact us for more information on repair estimates and insurance quotes (for stolen and destroyed canoes and kayaks).