By Conor Mihell
Plastics multinational PolyOne ceased production of Royalex this April, making canoeists, manufacturers and outfitters alike wonder about the future of canoe construction. For over four decades, thermo-formed Royalex was the go-to material river-tripping and expedition canoes for its supreme durability and its ability to flex and bounce back from serious impacts. Lately, hope arose with Quebec-based manufacturer Esquif announcement of a possible Royalex successor. But if you're lucky enough to own a Royalex canoe, fear not—your craft has many good years ahead. Here are some ways to protect your investment well into the future.
Install Skid Plates:
Ask any outfitter—the number one way to extend the life of a Royalex canoe is to install impact- and abrasion-resistant plates on the bow and stern. A kit consisting of pre-cut, felt-like swatches of Kevlar cloth and epoxy resin is the typical approach. In short, the procedure is this: Use masking tape to center the plates on the stems of the canoe; rough up the areas with sandpaper; saturate the Kevlar felts with epoxy; and apply the skid plates to the hull. It's an easy job for anyone familiar with using epoxy resin, and requires minimal tools. On the downside, Kevlar skid plates add about five pounds to the weight of the canoe and they make a finger-nails-on-chalkboard-type sound upon impacting rocks. Watch a video on how it's done.
The alternative is heat-and-stick PatchNProtect skid plates, manufactured by Gemini Materials ($149.99). These trimmable plates are made from plastic with a self-adhesive backing. Heat the skids to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat gun—the trick is to keep the heat gun moving to warm the entire plate uniformly. Then quickly apply to the hull of the canoe and smooth the material to match the curve of the stem. Sounds easy—and the end result is quieter, sleeker and just as durable as Kevlar—but patience is needed to achieve the proper temperature, unless you have access to an industrial oven.
Repair Abrasion, Cuts and Gouges:
When the hull of your Royalex canoe is abraded or cut deep enough to reveal its inner layers (usually white or green-colored plastic), it's time to touch it up. Stripped of the protection of the outer vinyl skin, this inner "substrate" layer is susceptible to UV damage which will eventually make the canoe brittle and weak. For abrasion, purchase color-matched paint from the manufacturer or pick up a similarly-colored can of spray paint for plastic from your local hardware store—Krylon Fusion works well. Apply several thin layers of paint.
Before touching up the color, cuts and gouges must first be filled with epoxy putty designed to bond with ABS—call the canoe manufacturer or pick up a tube of PlasticWeld from JB Weld. Clean the area with acetone, follow the directions to mix and apply the putty, sand and paint.
Prevent Sun Damage:
A UV-resistant spray like 303 Protectant will make your canoe shine. Spray it on at least once per season to shield the hull from fading due to sunlight exposure, and to hide scratches and keep it more supple.