Help with a new (old) boat

John Lindsay

New Member
So I've recently come into an unexpected cedar strip canoe that an uncle built some 30 years ago. It looks from the photos to be in decent enough shape (indoor, dry storage and whatnot)...but I'm a whitewater and sea kayaker and don't have open boat experience, let alone a wooden one. I'm doing what I can to find out about its construction...types of sealing used, glass, resin, marine varnish, etc. However, frankly I just don't know what I'm doing with this kind of boat.

It was free though...and it's pretty, especially compared to my normal plastic kayaks. And maybe with a bit of work it might be prettier. Hard to tell as all I have is the attached pictures. The boat is about 500 miles away at the moment so I'm going to pick it up in a couple weeks. Besides getting my hands on it and getting it on some water to really see about condition...what do I need to know here?

Should I be looking at refinishing this thing somehow? Would I have issues sanding it down? Is it likely that I'd need to? etc. Should I just sell the thing? Any advice is certainly appreciated, as I'm well out of my element here!


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There are many here who know more about these canoes than I do but it looks to me like you have a reasonably functional canoe that you can go use without much effort. It doesn't appear to need any immediate refinishing although a fresh coat marine varnish with good UV protection wouldn't hurt. Sanding is fine as long as you don't go all of the way through the resin and into the fiberglass cloth. There are many good books about strip built canoes available from and elsewhere if you want to learn more about this style of construction. Feel free to reply here if this doesn't answer your questions. Good luck,

As Benson says your canoe is in reasonable condition.I think it is worth giving it a coat of varnish in any case. It will help to keep the resin protected from the suns rays and if you give it a light rub down with some 150 or 240 grit it will remove many of the fine scratches and once varnished she will look like new again.
The canoe looks to be in usable condition.
I would do my best to verify if it was built with Epoxy resin, or Polyester resin.
Polyester does not bond to wood, as well as epoxy. Not to say Polyester is not OK, but Epoxy resin is by far better.
In either case, get it on the water, and enjoy it !

There are some areas where you will want to look carefully to see what is going on. With a clear fiberglass finish, any place that looks discolored is a place where things are not as they should be(the greenish colored stuff in photo #4, or that large light colored area next to the keel in photo #3, which almost looks like somebody sanded the varnish off for examples) . If they show delamination, heavy UV damage of the resin, or water intrusion into the wood then you have some serious problems to repair. In many cases, these old, gifted, home-made strippers simply have too many of these problems to be worth fixing. The labor time involved and the price of the materials just aren't worth it for a boat that will probably never be pretty again, and which may or may not have ever been a good canoe design in the first place. This one looks better than most of the old give-away strippers we see, but it will need closer inspection. If it turns out being one of those needing stripping and replacing of the fiberglass it is really hard to make an argument that it is worth fixing.