On Installing Canoe Gunwales

Sunday and Monday went to working on the canoe for a bit… Apparently I’ve got a deadline, and this canoe will be the one used on our upcoming canoe trip. Still haven’t got a belt sander, so the outside is a little rough.
The gunwales had to come off, and new ones installed. We found some new ones at the NovaCraft dealership in London Ont., right around the corner from McCulloch’s Costume shop on Dundas. A little bit of pry bar action and some hammering helped me get the old wood gunwales off the canoe. We opted for vinyl gunwales because the wood ones looked like there would be too much craftsmanship involved. I just wanted the new ones on, without too much fuss. And apparently, there isn’t much fuss involved.
A few rusty screws remained, and they had to be pulled, and the whole rim sanded down.
Be sure to make note of where the holes are, so you don’t try to rivet into them later.
Then attach the new gunwales and … tada! Actually, it was a little harder; the new gunwales were over 17′ long and had to be trimmed down. The easiest way to do this was to install them, then eyeball the extra and jigsaw it off. Be sure to leave enough to fit into the plastic decks afterwards. A hammer and a chunk of wood pretty much was all you needed to get them on the ABS canoe. And you’ll need a C-clamp to hold the extra length in place — 17 feet of gunwales gets pretty unweildly, and my trusty assistant was off somewhere else.
Once the gunwales were in place, you could pull the ends up a little, slide them into the deck and refasten everything.
Riveting was easy enough, just be sure to put rivets every 6-8 inches apart (I’m using 3/16″ rivets), and add extra ones at the decks, and where the supports are going to be. You use a drill to make the holes and a rivet gun to put the rivets in. Looks great, but it’s easy to prepare!
Then you can get to rehanging seats, installing yokes, etc. Be sure to mark the old locations beforehand, so you know where to put the damn things. Also, take into consideration that without the gunwales and supports the whole canoe begins to sag a little, and will get wider. I tied a rope around the canoe’s radius to keep it tight while I put everything back in.
As far as placing the seats is concerned, I’m convinced it’s more of a black art than anything else. You’ve got old seats with pre-drilled holes, support pegs (also with pre-drilled holes), and a brand new (shiny) inwale with no marks on it, and somehow you’re supposed to divine where to put the hole, so that it matches up with the things underneath it. Yikes! I pretty much guessed where to drill, put in a single hole, then installed the entire chair assembly upside down and outside the canoe, adjusted it until it looked about right, then marked the other three holes. This was met with some measure of success, but I had to fudge it a couple of times. The finished product looks OK, and will probably ride fine when I level it out a bit more.
Next week … how to fish your canoe out of a lake, with only a length of rope and a bailing sponge.

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