How to screw-up a boat without getting it wet (mostly)

author: Kris Wolpert
date: August 2010

Compiled by the Blue Mountain Outfitters Repair Shop

Most of these stories accompanied repair jobs that we have done in our shop. Some people were quite willing to share their brilliance, sometimes we had to pry a little, and sometimes we knew very well what happened because we did it ourselves (the ones we are admitting to are indicated with BMO). Some items have a single word comment on the frequency of occurrence. We compiled this list primarily for the humor in it, but there are important lessons to take away. Learn by the mistakes of others - these acts do not need to be duplicated - be nice to your boat and save it for the river.

The Classic: Boat on roof of vehicle. Vehicle passes under low overhanging branch, home garage entrance, carport, restaurant awning, ..., add your favorite. Parking garages are known to erase roof racks off taller vehicles without the involvement of a boat. Common.

Drive a Rope: Boat on roof of vehicle. End line (painter) dangling on the ground, drive over end line, things (boat, roof rack, roof of vehicle) start to go crunch and, when the crunching begins, you cannot get to the brake fast enough. We know of a couple of these. Real tough on Wenonah Ultra-lights.

Spiffy Clean: Even though no boat was involved, this one is similar to the previous item but deserves its own bullet. Driving through an automatic car wash (you know, the kind with the big roller brushes and all of the mechanical arms in motion) with a wide roof rack (the 2 canoes side-by-side size) mounted on the roof. Bad enough doing this once, but we know of an encore performance of this one.

Gunfire #1: ȁHey, I thought that thar kavlar (sic) canoe was bullet proof?” Common comment - very different Kevlar®.

Gunfire #2: Kayak shot in barn or yard by a stray bullet. Several.

Gunfire #3: This one is special; shooting a hole in the floor of your own boat with a shotgun while hunting on the water. Glub, glub! Sounds like someone attended the Dick Cheney school of shotgunning.

Excessive Heat #1: Warming fire built in the canoe. Only know of one of these, thank goodness.

Excessive Heat #2: Garage fire. Royalex® canoe survived. Polyethylene boat melted.

Excessive Heat #3: Canoe stored near ceiling in garage. 100 watt light bulb in close proximity to hull melts/burns a 3” diameter hole through the Royalex®.

Excessive Heat #4: Boat become sacrificial offering to the bonfire sometime during the night. Colemans are quite susceptible to this at large, alcohol fueled gatherings.

Excessive Heat #5: Hot sun. Over inflated flotation bags in boat. Something is going to give. Dark colored boats can aid this form of destruction - carbon (black) canoes come to mind.

Excessive Heat #6: Distracted propane torch bearer burns hole in boat while attempting to melt the end of a rope

Excessive Heat #6A: Walking away from boat after melting ends of painters. Later a blazing canoe indicates that a flaming rope had not been extinguished. The inability to see flames is one of the common problems of working in bright sunlight.

Excessive Heat #7: Plastic boat (especially dark colored). Excessively tight tie job on roof rack. Hot sun. Boat gets permanently deformed.

Air Born #1: Poor tie job on vehicle. Canoe decides to go an independent trip down the highway and the ensuing canoe versus truck battle does not go well. Kenworth wins. BMO

Air Born #2: New vehicle with old roof rack from previous vehicle which was not designed for the new vehicle. Front roof rack decides to let go in the middle of the US Rt. 81 bridge over the Susquehanna, while hauling a load of composite kayaks and C1’s. This didn’t end well.

Air Born #3: Getting to destination and discovering that a boat or two is missing off the vehicle. No clue when the departure occurred. More frequently this happens to forgotten paddling gear that was hung on the vehicle to dry. Too common with some people.

Air Born Prevention: If you do not use end lines to independently connect your boat to your vehicle, a single failure of either the rack, a rack mounting point or a single tie can result in a boat(s) bouncing down the highway. In addition to providing redundancy, end lines are critical to the sideways stabilization of a boat subjected to cross winds and the longer the boat is relative to the distance between the rack cross bars the more critical this becomes. Don’t be fooled by a windless day - the turbulence behind a tractor trailer on the highway is all you need to shake a load loose. Redundancy rules.

Wind #1: Blowdown (tree) hitting boat. Common.

Wind #2: Boat stored on sawhorses in back yard. Wind picks up boat and smashes it against hard, pointed object. Common.

Wind #3: Canoe trailer gets blown into a rack of canoes. Trailer rung fully penetrates canoe. BMO

Wind #4: 10 canoe/trailer package gets rolled across parking lot and onto railroad tracks. Phone call from train engineer at 3 am. is a heck of a way to wake up. BMO

Vindictive Wife #1: Ice pick versus Royalex® canoe. Lots of little holes – anybody need a sieve?.

Vindictive Wife #2: Pick ax versus Kevlar® canoe. A dozen or so 1” square holes.

Vindictive Wife #3: Saw versus Coleman. Bisection successful.

Boat Trailer #1: Narrow trailer wheelbase. Quick turn. Trailer full of high end composite kayaks sliding down road on it’s side. Probably common with bolt-together trailers. BMO (Ya, we know, we’re making excuses)

Boat Trailer #2: Poorly secured boat on trailer. Boat shifts position and comes in contact with trailer tire. Tire eats hole in boat. Have seen a couple of these.

Boat Trailer #3: Jackknifed canoe trailer. Lots of stuff goes crunch.

Guide Book Woes: Guidebook says stream is runnable “1 or 2 days after heavy rain.” In truth the stream needs extremely large amounts of water to make the very isolated, “swampy” stretch passable. Boat gets dragged for an extended distance. Hole develops in boat.

Common Freight Carriers: This is a fairly efficient way to destroy a boat - pay someone else do it. The nicer the boat the more likely it is to get wrecked. Very common.

Rabid Fork Lifts: Well, that’s common carriers again, but we had to point out their favorite implement of boat destruction.

Too Big: Intentionally parking truck on kayak to permanently reduce the boat volume. Sometimes preheated in a camp fire. This was a whitewater boater thing in the mid 90’s. Fairly common then.

Weather #1: Royalex® hull. Wood gunwales. Cold weather. The thermal coefficient of expansion of the plastics used in Royalex® is much larger than it is for wood. The canoe is assembled at room temperature. When the boat gets seriously cold, the length of the plastic hull shrinks much more than the wood does and the screws holes in the gunwales and hull no longer align. Something has got to give and the hull cracks. Worse case: say a dozen or more cracks greater than 1 foot long each. The boat temperature has to get down to about 10 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit before this is a problem. Prevention: loosen and remove the gunwale screws toward the ends of the boat or, perhaps, global warming.

Weather #2: Boat parked on a pair of saw horses, close to structure for wind protection (an attempt to avoid Wind #2). Snow and ice slide off roof crushing boat. Several.

Ratchet Straps: The cheap ones fall apart all by themselves. The bigger ones can easily crush a boat. One big bump, the load compresses, and the open hook, that these things use to anchor, releases. Are you getting the idea - we don’t like ratchet straps. Keep it simple; use cam straps or ropes. We almost prefer duct tape to ratchet straps.

Steep Hillsides: Boats are made to be slick and streamlined and if you trip and drop your boat or otherwise turn it loose on a steep hill it can take off like a rocket, becoming a significant hazard to itself or anything, including people, below. Seal launching, boarding your boat while on land and sliding into the water, can get very interesting on a long steep hillside, littered with trees, and terminating with a 20’ vertical drop to a shallow stream - this particular incident ended better than it should have. Witnessed by BMO

Make a Bad Thing Worse: “xperts” of all kinds doing repairs or modifying boats. Common

Clean Cut: Lawnmower (big). High grass. Forgotten kayak hiding in the grass. When people talk about “shredding” with reference to a kayak, normally this is not what they had in mind.

Falling a sleep and rolling a truck over with a canoe on top. A good tie job is not going to help here.

Outfitting: Too much glue. Not enough drying time before assembly. Trapped solvents eat hole in hull. Common mistake when installing vinyl D-rings on Royalex®.

Tilt: Pickup truck with a canoe in the bed overnight. Boat stays in place until the truck gets under way, when the rain water that collected in the upright canoe shifts to the stern, tilting that end hard into the road surface. With the weight of the water, it only takes a short distance to grind a big hole in the canoe.

Just in: Cruising down the road for a ¼ mile or so after the kayak jumped out of the pickup bed; since the departure, it has been obediently following on its tether.

Stay safe out there.

Copyright © 2010 Kris Wolpert. All rights reserved.