In the days of wood-and-canvas canoes, careful storage was critical. Poor storage could lead to massive restoration projects. Modern canoes are far more resilient, but a tiny bit of care in storage can still make a huge difference!
WHAT IS "GOOD ENOUGH" STORAGE?
In some places, professionally stored canoes might mostly be secured indoors in well-ventilated, temperature-controlled environments where they can be protected from accidental damage - but that's rare.
In practice, what's "good enough" tends to depend on much that's beyond our control, from the space available and our location to our needs for getting our canoe in-and-out of storage.
Enthusiasts make-do with anything from trailer-storage through a rack in a garage to a makeshift-home under a tree. All of these, and many other options, can be "good enough" if they're appropriate for the user and canoe.
This blog provides generic guidelines around cleaning and supporting a canoe, and on protecting from damp, direct sunlight and temperature extremes. Please consult your dealer or canoe handbook for any product-specific guidance.
DAMP, CLEANING, OUTDOOR STORAGE
If your canoe is entirely made of polyethylene, vinyl and other durable materials, you may well get away with long term storage in cold and wet environments – but most materials do better when stored in a dry, well-ventilated space.
As many campaigns keep highlighting, any non-native species hiding in damp nooks-and-crannies in our canoes can live for weeks or months.
If we are heading back out on the same bit of water every few days or every week, cleaning before storage might end become an occasional practice - but in other situations, a wash-down might need to be part of our routine.
A simple Check – Clean – Dry process should minimise the risk of our canoe carrying a non-native species from one watercourse to another AND be good for any woodwork on our canoe - a win for everyone - and that's true pretty much everywhere.
DIRECT SUNSHINE, EXCESSIVE HEAT
Few things degrade modern canoes (of any construction) more quickly than intense, direct sunlight, and intense artificial heat sources can also degrade plastics.
Ultraviolet (UV) damage famously causes visible, cosmetic changes (e.g. discolouration), but it can also significantly degrade polyethylene, woodwork, webbed seats, vinyl d-rings, lacing, endloops, airbags and more.
Some plastics are more UV-resistant than others, and in winter months, the intensity of UV light drops, but if you can at least store your canoe in a shady place, that will help.
Please beware of covering a canoe with anything that traps heat. Our aim should be a well-ventilated space in the shade.
CANOES IN THE COLD
If you search hard enough, you’ll find horror-stories about canoe storage in harsh winter conditions… and if we're living somewhere which gets loads of snow or arctic-temperatures, these stories really do matter.
In truly extreme cold, a canoe-hull and a set of ash gunwales might contract at sufficiently different rates to strain fixings, and bolts might become brittle. In addition, extremes of snow loading can put a lot of pressure on a hull.
Fortunately, throughout most of the world, normal winter weather shouldn’t present problems for canoe storage.
As a rule, other local canoeists will know if cold-related issues have ever been known to be a significant problem in a particular area.
SUPPORTING A CANOE
Whilst modern canoes can generally handle everyday stresses and strains very well, inappropriate long-term storage can lead to any craft gradually getting bent out of shape.
Resting canoes on their side (gunwale), hanging them from their handles or leaving them unsupported (resting on the bow and stern) can lead to problems.
Where space allows, canoes may be stored on end. More commonly, canoes can by safely stored if evenly supported, upside-down, at points approximately 1/3rd of a boat length from each end.
In exposed situations, canoes might need tying down, but any long-term straps should be no more than finger-tight.
ADDITIONAL CARE FOR WOODWORK
The hulls of our canoes will generally respond well if protected from UV light, from wind and rain, and from extremes of heat and humidity, and what we do for our canoe will also help any woodwork, webbing, lacing, etc.
No additional care will beat cleaning and drying all woodwork, webbing and lacing before storage, but the life of oiled woodwork (and especially new woodwork) may be extended significantly through regular oiling.
With new woodwork, initial oiling intervals might be every 7-14 days. After the first month or two, this might be extended to once and month. Once the paddle is more than a year old, once every 6-12 months might suffice.
Varnished woodwork that is stored appropriately (somewhere dry, away from sunlight) may remain a low-maintenance option for a number of years. Once degraded (through wear and tear, UV damage), the woodwork should be sanded down, cleaned up and retreated with a varnish that is compatible with the original finish (e.g. oil based Polyurethane varnish).