While most canoes are pretty tough and can withstand a little rough and tumble, they’re still vulnerable to damage from excess sun, heat, and moisture. Storing your canoe correctly will not only keep it from degrading in the elements but will also extend its lifespan – so you’ll be able to pass on the same canoe for generations to come.
Like storing kayaks, rowboats, and other watercraft, the last thing you want to do is keep your canoe unprotected during the winter. Direct sunlight can cause serious UV damage to the hull, which leads to warping, cracking, and fading of painted surfaces.
Excess moisture is another potential killer. If rain, snow, or dew is allowed to collect on the canoe, warping and discoloration are sure to follow. Repeated freezing and thawing are also concerns, especially when in combination with trapped moisture.
Let’s take a look at proper canoe storage methods and techniques in more detail – so you can be confident your craft is well protected over the winter.
Dangers During Storage
There are several potential dangers to be aware of during long term canoe storage.
Sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause major damage to your canoe, so whatever you do – don’t leave your craft in the sun unprotected. Indoor storage is always preferable to outdoor storage, but if you don’t have that luxury, make sure to use some form of protective cover.
UV rays can degrade just about any hull material, including plastic, fiberglass, and epoxy coated wood. Aluminum canoes are the only exception here.
Heat: While most people are aware that direct sunlight can cause damage to canoes during storage, less are aware that heat can be another hazard. Canoes stored inside sheds, boathouses, and separate garages can be subject to serious heat buildup which can cause warping to polyethylene and royalex canoes.
Moisture: Moisture from rain, melted snow, and dew can cause warping to wood gunwales and discoloration to the hull. Snow build up can also place excess pressure on the hull, causing warping or cracking over time.
Cold: If you live somewhere that regularly sees freezing temperatures over the winter, then you’ll also want to be aware of the potential damage from repeated freezing and thawing. This is especially damaging for fiberglass canoes that have some level of moisture buildup in them. Wood components can also suffer damage from extreme cold.
How to Store a Canoe Indoors
If you’ve got the space for it, then storing your canoe indoors is the way to go. Garages, sheds, basements, and similar areas all make excellent storage options, while semi-covered areas like awnings and covered decks also work well.
While you might not think you have enough indoor space for a full-length canoe, there are many canoe wall racks and hoists that allow you to suspend your craft up and out of the way.
How to Store a Canoe Outdoors
If you don’t have the indoor space to spare to stash your canoe, then you’ll have to store it outdoors. Outdoor storage will require a little more preparation and thought than indoor, but if done correctly should be near as protective.
When storing a canoe outdoors, you’ll need to take several precautions to avoid exposure to the elements. Some form of tarp or plastic cover is a must – to keep sun, rain, and snow from coming in contact with the hull.
You’ll want to suspend the tarp above the canoe, so it doesn’t come in direct contact with the hull. This will allow enough airflow for moisture to evaporate and will help avoid mold and mildew from developing. If you live in an area with heavy rain or snowfall, then hanging the tarp on an angle is a smart move. This will ensure rain slides right off the surface, and won’t pool inside.
You may also want to use a canoe cover as well, as this will ensure no moisture or harsh sunlight gets past your tarp.
Outdoor canoes should be stored off the ground with gunwale-side facing downward. There are several different ways to elevate the canoe above ground, from sawhorses to pre-made racks to hoists.
Preparing a Canoe for Storage
Before you’re ready to put your canoe away in long term storage, there are a few simple steps you can take to prolong its lifespan.
First, you’ll want to give your canoe a visual once-over to check for cracks and other damage. Assuming everything is good to go, you’ll want to give the entire hull a good rinse in freshwater and mild soap. Make sure not to use any harsh chemicals that could cause bleaching or discoloration.
Let the canoe air dry completely. Next, you’ll want to apply some form of UV protective coating to the entire hull. Let the coating dry completely before putting away.
If your canoe has wood components, like gunwales, seats, or deck plates, then you’ll want to let them dry out thoroughly over several days and apply a coat of protective wood oil to them. Oiling these components regularly is a good practice to get into, as it will prevent warping and enhance the lifespan and appearance of wood finish.
Loosening wooden gunwales before long term storage can also help avoid warping and cracking over winter.
The ideal storage position for canoes is upside down with its weight evenly supported on the gunwales. You’ll want at least two points of contact with the canoe placed approximately 1/3 of the distance from the bow and stern. Wider support arms are preferable to narrow ones – as they’ll distribute the weight over a wider surface area.
If you use straps to secure the canoe, make sure they’re not overtightened. Cranking them tight as you would when transporting your canoe on a roof rack can lead to warping over time.
As mentioned previously, there are a number of different canoe storage racks, sawhorses, and hoists that will work well for long-term storage. Whatever method you choose to store your canoe, you’ll want to avoid storing it directly on the ground or leaned over on its side. Even basic homemade sawhorses will work far better than that.
If you’re looking for pre-made canoe storage racks, check out these canoe and kayak racks.
Canoes aren’t cheap, and the last thing you want to happen is to lose your prized craft to thieves.
Depending on your storage location, you may wish to take several steps to reduce the odds of falling victim to theft.
Firstly, you’ll want to reduce the odds of potential thieves spotting your canoe in the first place. Make sure your craft isn’t easily visible to passersby. Use a non-descript colored tarp to cover your canoe, so it easily blends in with its surroundings.
If you live in an area with high crime, you’ll want to use some form of locking cable threaded through a sturdy component like a thwart or carry handle. Of course, this won’t stop a determined thief with cutting tools, but it should be enough of a deterrent to discourage most thieves. Check out the Seattle Sports Cradle Cable Lock for a well-made canoe and kayak cable lock.
Also, make sure to write down your canoe’s serial number/hull identification number in case you do fall victim to theft and need to contact law enforcement. It’s usually located a foot or so from the stern on the starboard side.
Featured image source.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.