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Another Rebuild, '70's RX Explorer (it’s a sickness)

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The last of late friend Brian’s canoes, excepting the 10’ OT Rushton pack, is a 70’s vintage Mad River Explorer I rebuilt for him nearly 30 years ago as a three-seater family canoe. Old school Vermont era Royalex, heavy as hell before it received my then semi-crude rebuild efforts. By way of history the Explorer was a cold cracked, rotted wood gunwales freebie I picked up in 1989.

After delivering a couple boats my intention was to take that hideous thing home on my emptied roof racks, do a rudimentary repair job on it, buy a 2022 Liberty Reservoir permit and leave it at that launch for Brian’s nearby family, thinking mostly of his fisherman son Eddie, whose spirit and sly sense of humor reminds me of his father.

That was an early, unskilled and on-the-cheap rebuild of a battered freebie, and it shows in the crude non-craftsmanship. If I could rebuild it, fix some of my early ugly, and have it float Brian’s son (or daughter) happily on the water it would please me to see it come full circle squared and re-repaired.

The Explorer, when I arrived, was fortunately resting gunwales down, unlike the windblown gunwales up rain-collecting Rushton. The Explorer had taken likewise taken flight in last week’s extreme winds, lofted off the high top rack, flown over a fence. . . . .and fortunately landed gunwales-down.

Unfortunately it landed gunwales down squarely on a 4 foot tall metal stake sticking up from the ground on the other side of the property line. A stake just randomly there, all by its lonesome amidst the trees. Attached to nothing. Six feet back from the fence line. No other naked stake like it anywhere in sight. Poking up speared clean through the hull.

I wish I had taken a photo of that in-situ impalement, or a selfie of my expression on seeing it. Not a big hole, the busted chunk is still attached, which will aid in repairs.

PC200021 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Just getting to the other side the tall wire fence and extracting it from the impalement was a challenge. I would have simply walked away if Brian’s son Eddie hadn’t stopped by.

It is one seriously ugly canoe, and what the hell, it’s in my shop. With some sandpaper, DIY’ed thwarts and seats and spar urethane I can put it back together using just the parts and pieces, epoxies and etc I have on hand. If I leave it ugly but functional nobody will steal it.

I don’t need to aim for light weight in the rebuild; chained up at the reservoir in March it won’t need to be roof racked again until the end of December.

Still dirt encrusted it weighs in at 85 lbs on the hanging shop scale.

PC200034 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Yeah, the scale reads 90lbs. I wasn’t looking for the balance point, just the initial weight, so rather than try for a balanced hang on the single cam strap I moved a 5lb weight around inside until the Explorer hung level.

PC200032 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Not needing to aim for light-weight the challenge may be leaving it ugly on the outside.

No question this was one of my early rebuilds. It had a few cold cracks, which I cunningly repaired using – jeeze I was clueless at the time – kevlar felt and the urethane resin that came in skid plate kits. Peel ply to smooth out the rough felt surface? Never heard of such a thing.

PC190007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC200020 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Stunning craftsmanship; couldn’t even manage to cut the kevlar felt with straight edges.

I had, knowing no better at the time, spray painted it green. Spray paint that is now flaking off everydamn where.

PC190009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC200029 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

It is too cold to even wash the hull, but I’ll need to attend to a vigorous scrub before I do much work. Originally wood gunwaled I rebuilt it with new black vinyl gunwales, and old used brown vinyl deck plates. Those old Mohawk gunwales were worn away at the tips and I repaired them with – you guessed it – kevlar felt and urethane resin. I loved me some kevlar felt back in the day.

PC200015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Yes, those are the plaid seats I re-webbed in a lot of rebuilds in that era. The webbing, though faded, is still surprisingly taut. At least I did a good if colorful job on that part. All three seats, including a wide center seat, are hung on heavy duty DIY truss drops.

PC200017 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The seat drops may be salvageable with some sanding. In that rebuild I did not, for some reason, remove any of the original owners outfitting, all of which is now failing or failed.

PC200024 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC200023 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those D-rings, straps and pads are coming out this time around. Surprisingly only a few of the parts I installed had actually fallen out.

PC200031 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Yeah, that’ll buff right out. Might need new bungee cord though.

I will not describe every step of the rebuild in nanoscopic detail. But I will take photos along the way. The Explorer will live on, carrying the next generation to new adventures.
 
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Many of us are afflicted with varying amounts of this disease.
I have had it for 40 years, but rebuilding a 1951 wood and canvas boat seems to be curing me of the disease. It is very tedious.
 
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Tedious might indicate that I am not enjoying it. I stopped doing things I do not enjoy the same day I retired. And, like two paths diverged in a yellow wood, that has made all the difference.

Time consuming is a better description for me, and even then the time consumed is sometimes as little as 20 minutes of actual work, and then walk away “Don’t even touch the canoe ‘til tomorrow”.

It is now officially winter. Cold outside, but warm in my shop. With family Christmas and New Years on the near horizon it is too early in the season to run away to Florida, I might as well find things to slowly play with in the shop.

The RX flap on the puncture hole got trimmed and pressed flat(ish) into place inside the Explorer, with the crack’s bottom side taped to contain any epoxy drips, and the inside splits and adjacent cracks filled with G/flex thickened 655 epoxy, wax paper covered and weighted down to hold the busted chunk back in place.

Th. . . .th. . . that’s all for today folks.


One of my old lab mates was a proponent of the Four Hour workday. He had mad skills, much in demand, and it worked for him.

https://medium.com/the-ascent/the-a...-how-to-implement-it-in-your-life-647e37e5aa1

His plainly-stated-to-the-boss objective was actually Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week. I expect he may by now have achieved that goal; he had unique, irreplaceable skills. More power to him.

Tomorrow I can flip the battered Explorer over and repair it on the outside with a Dynel patch. That will be another day’s “work” gone by, another whopping 20 minutes, and another day’s wait time of Don’t touch the boat.

Ha! I have achieved the 20 minute work day. DougD’s “Done with it” post continues to come to mind.

https://www.canoetripping.net/threads/done-with-it.127129/

I will spend the time and attention for keeper canoes, or dear friend’s boats, or hulls with long personal history. Otherwise my “hourly shop rate”, for projects I don’t want to tackle, would be absurd. Full brightwork replacement from a skilled local repair shop - new gunwales and thwarts - runs $850 - $900 or thereabouts, more if you need/want new seats and drops.

I have zero desire to do that work for pay, even at that price.
 
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I've got a pair of original Explorer ash seat frames (cane) and an ash yoke that you are welcome to if you want them. The ends on the yoke are discolored and have some chipping but I think they are salvageable. Let me know if you want them and I can bring them by when I pick up my foam sawhorse pads/wedges.

By the way, you'll probably finish your Explorer restore before I get mine done.
 
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ALSG, thanks that offer, and I may yet take you up on it.

Part of my rebuild objective with this wastrel is to use up some of the stacks (and stack and stacks) of old seat frames removed from past rebuilds, and similar stacks of unfinished ash thwarts and yokes, all taking up valuable shop space. So I have beaucoup sanding, staining and urethane coats awaiting in my future.

With the Explorer planned to be left chained upside-down at the reservoir’s edge for 10 months a year I will lay many coats of spar urethane on the brightwork, and go with re-webbing old seat frames, perhaps a bit more garish plaid this time around.

I don’t want to unrace you to the finish line, I’m still practicing the twenty minute workday. Patched one side of the puncture and a small crack today. More like 30 minutes work, so I earned overtime, and knocked off and have a beer and other rewards.

Please do get your Explorer finished. Or post progress photos thus far; a boat tinkering rebuilder friend printed a copy of your inset deck photo and stuck it on his shop wall for future reference.

That deck plate technique, described in nanoscopic detail, including measuring, cutting, shaping and installation hints, would surely be appreciated; his last inset deck plate was deemed unsatisfactory, and that by a man who, for a lack of gloves, once epoxied his fingers to his pecker.

I saved a couple of uncut virgin ethafoam blocks for you. In return I’ll be happy to swap finished Explorers with you.
 
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I think it great that you're willing and able to rebuild the Explorer a second time. No need to apologize either for materials and methods used on the first go. Doctors and Lawyers aren't the only ones who "practice" what they do. I think we all do, if the goal is solid work whatever it is, and we try to improve over time and aspire to excellence. Thanks for sharing this project with us.
 
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The Explorer’s bottom is every bit as ugly as the failing outfitting inside.

PC210001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC210003 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I had nothing to do with those kevlar felt skid plates, or with that fugly four foot long strip of poorly cut fiberglass cloth and crap resin the original owner laid along the worn stern vee; that strip must have been more intact when I first worked on the Explorer or I’d have at least yanked it off then.

The skid plates, though worn smooth and missing a busted chip here and there, are still securely attached. They were at least well installed, probably with old school skid plate kit urethane resin. The ugly strip of not well installed and edge lifting fiberglass needs to go bye bye.

Once the fugly strip remains are gone the full length of vee bottom, wearing through unprotected amidships, needs abrasion resistance added. Call it a nine foot strip of 1 ¾” wide Dynel sleeve running along the vee between the skid plates, epoxied in place and covered with/compressed under peel ply. But that Dynel and epoxy work is a ways in the future.

PC210004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The Explorer was lightly pinned at least once, it sports pin indicative wrinkles along one chine.

PC210005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

We have RX river canoes with worse pin wrinkles, still going strong.

I did not, as customary, immediately wash the Explorer before it was admitted to the shop. In part because it was cold out, but also because the hull, hole and cracks were all dry, and I didn’t want to saturate the exposed foam core and then wait for it to dry out. Instead I just RO sanded the damaged areas, spot cleaned and then patched.

The puncture wound, busted flap yesterday held in place with G/flex 655 and weights, got divot filled on the outside with thickened G/flex 655, then a Dynel sleeve patch with 650 G/flex. I’ll do the same on the inside of the puncture at some point. The rest of the boat may crumble to dust, but archeologists will find my patch.

PC220006 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

A thorough visual inspection was complicated by the filthy dirty hull condition. I found only one surface crack, not all the way through, but an outer vinyl split of unknown depth that needed the same attentions, Dynel sleeve patch with G/flex.

PC220007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Both of those repairs got a length of peel ply tape laid atop, with occasional roller compression.

A visual inspection, looking up from down below, did not show any suspiciously thin spots where the bright fluorescent shop lights would have shown dimly through, but there is still a lot of minicel and vinyl pad attached to the interior. I have a suspicion that once that drek has been removed and the hull washed I will find other areas needing attention.

She’s not dead yet.


One already fun part of working on this wreck; I’m not giving it my all, with perfectly taped and squared epoxy repair lines and other frou frou attentions to aesthetics detail. There’s only so much lip stick for this historically memorable pig.

How historically memorable? The Explorer had a 2007 Raystown Rendezvous sticker on it. It was just like Brian to have brought that battered ugly Explorer to what was mostly a gathering of high end solo canoes*. I added that to the Brian sticker section of the shop door. 2007 seems to be when Brian hung up his paddles.

PC220010 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

As much as anything it is nice to feel shop work close to a friend of 50 years. I’m smiling all day long, not just for the 20-30 minutes of actual work or post-work rewards.

*No one will top DougD bringing the Hogback Saint to Raystown; a well travelled, battered and abused sailing/tripping/poling Disco, with mast step and leeboard holes, covered in stickers. Doug poled that pig along the shoreline in front of a crowd of inquisitive crazies, and - The Butterfly Effect - started a half dozen paddlers on their own continuing poling adventures, and that half dozen further spread the craze.
 
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Gutting the Explorer

The poorly installed glass strip on the stern vee peeled off cleanly without much effort, and mostly in large pieces.

PC220002 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I could have called it a 5 minute work day, but elected to turn the Explorer over and tackle gutting the seats and outfitting. Getting up close and personal brought distinct (and indistinct) memories of that early rebuild.

I had used varnish on the thwarts and seat frames before the plaid webbing went on, but used Spar Urethane on the truss drops. The varnish, at least on the exposed brightwork tops, is essentially gone, although the shaded undersides look much better.

PC230005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC230006 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The seat frames, though crusty atop, are still of sound wood and can be sanded, urethaned, re-webbed and reused. The beefy urethaned truss drops are in even better condition, and also reusable with some sanding and urethane work.

PC230007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Refurbishing and reusing the seats and drops will save a lot of time. Especially the truss drops; they are not only angled at depth for a very slight cant, but the broad topsides are angled a touch so they hang properly from the inwales. Custom work, at least I did some things well back in the day.

That years-later real world varnish vs urethane result confirmed this experiment.

https://myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=40923

I have an unopened can of Epifanes “High Gloss with extra UV filters”, not sure when I’ll ever use varnish again; maybe on a paddle, where my varnish work is better than my urethane work.

The seat drop hardware was stout; ¼” x 6” machine screws, and apparently good quality stainless steel, all are still un-corroded and un-wanked, straight and reusable. I had made a few installer oopsies on the fastener ends; my preference is for a wider washer, a lock washer, a nut and a cap nut. Some individual parts of that preferred foursome were missing on some ends; I’ll be more attentive to installing the full complement of fasteners this time around.

PC230010 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I left the strap yoke in and attached for now, to hold the gunwale width true. That Mohawk Strap Yoke is from when Mohawk used high quality ITW/Nexus side release buckles, not today’s Chinese made weaklings. That buckle held 85lbs of canoe, the newer buckles have shattered at 60lbs or less, so I may reuse the buckle and fittings with new webbing on some future rebuild, but I am going to eliminate the two-kid-wide center seat and install a real yoke.
 
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A boat like this is so straight forward. I am ready to buy another project. Thanks for the inspiration.

I am stuck with bad inwales on the Old Town Guide. It is an 18 foot boat and hard to get materials. I need to get some white ash and scarf in both sides.
 
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With seats and thwarts gone, providing easier access to the inside of the hull the rest of the failing outfitting could come out. The remaining D-ring pads all pulled out with the gentlest of tugs. And demonstrated why I prefer nylon D’s; the rings were rusty as hell. Being Scot’s cheap I’ll cut the rusty D’s off and re-use the pads some day with a simple rope loop replacing the rusty stuff. Maybe on this very rebuild.

PC230013 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The D-ring removal was revealing. Apparently the Original Owner (OO), or Subsequent Owner (SO) had limited success at securing vinyl pad D-rings. Under some pad residue was over the adhesive outlines of previous pads. OOSO had some uh-ohs with vinyl D-ring pads.

PC230014 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

His/her/their contact cement (?) work on the minicel knee pads was even worse. Apparently believing that a coat of adhesive along the entire bottom surface of the minicel and matching hull area was unnecessary or wasteful, instead using smeared dabs of adhesive here and there.

PC230015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Thanks OOSO, that sure made removing the minicel easier.

The large pads for the thigh brace straps took the cake lack of adhesive-wise. They were no longer stuck on in any way, just floating free, (barely) held in place by the overlapping minicel on the sides. Those thigh strap pads were so poorly installed that they remain good condition, even the webbing.

Certainly reusable if someone was looking to go old school and, say, run class III with a bunch of WW kayakers using a soloized Explorer. Better than running it is a stripper though, one can only imagine the aghast reactions. (Knowingly leading with my chin – let’s hear it)

PC230017 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those pads are a little dirty, and I did not peel off the minicel overlap.

PC230018 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

For a recipient built like a multi-legged Hindu god, or one of the Octopi aliens who live in secret amongst us, all three dual-strap pads are available free. With two limbs on the paddle and six limbs secured under thigh straps even I could manage whitewater. Mostly held in place upside down.

Or, one pad properly adhered in the center and one on each sidewall, add a set of padded thigh straps, good to go. Or, eeesh, $70?, just DIY some webbing and buckles.

https://northwater.com/collections/thigh-straps/products/padded-thigh-straps

I know I said I wasn’t going to concern myself with aesthetics, but damn that canoe is ugly inside with old outfitting smutch visible.

PC230019 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That left behind adhesive residue takes too much elbow grease and vinyl scuffing to even attempt fully removing. I see some big arsed pieces of minicel exercise flooring and contact cement work down the line. Paddling the canoe that’s the visible part, I don’t want it looking like hell. And, as a canoe I foresee reservoir fishing, some soundproofing can’t hurt.

What I remembered as 2 inch E-glass tape and poly resin is actually 3” E-glass tape, any only on one side, the side with the repaired cold cracks. Which, I will note, even using kevlar felt and urethane resin patches on the outside, and E-glass tape and poly resin on the inside, have not grown or formed new cracks. Pop riveted gunwales of course; I don’t think I’d regunwale with anything but pop-rivets on a hull shown to cold crack.

PC230021 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The Explorer has been gutted, with basic hole and crack repairs complete, including a patch over the puncture wound on the inside, and now has a date with a hose, bristle brush and DougD’s magic mix of 50% household vinegar and 50% Dawn. No water, just vinegar and Dawn; that mix is amazingly effective at removing even years of baked on grime.

Dang, scrubbed inside and out will take longer than 20 minutes, I better prep by putting some reward beers in the frig, and pre-loading a bowl.
 
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Explorer Scrub a Dub Dub

Scrubbed with a bristle brush, then a Scotch-brite pad, both using ample elbow grease and DougD’s Magic Mix of vinegar and Dawn, the Explorer looks much better, both inside and out.

The right hand side exterior is blotchy, with missing spray paint patches, although the worst of the flakes did scrub away.

PC240001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The left side came cleaner.

PC240002 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Late friend Brian’s canoe racks were outdoors, under shading limbs near a pond. Some perfect combination of sun, shade and moisture promoted bacterial growth, mostly on the side that got brief spell of afternoon sun. Not just bacterial growth, but Bryophyta mosses and that weird combination of fungi and algae known as lichen. One of Brian’s canoes looked like a rainforest fallen log. I’d never seen anything quite like that before.

On the plus side his boats grew their own UV barrier garden. Sure didn’t help the brightwork any.

The inside cleaned up well, except for the discolored glass tape, and the adhesive smutch from D-rings, minicel and other pads. Which does cover some percentage of the interior.

As anticipated, once scrubbed clean, I found minor damage inside the hull, including shallow cracks under all of the thigh strap pads, which makes me wonder what adhesive was used, and how it was applied. My guess would be that OOSO oopsie applied something left so solvent wet/unflashed that it weakened the vinyl skin, while doing a shitty job of holding the pads in place.

PC240004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PC240005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Again, as evidenced with similar interior skin cracks on rebuilds of other old RX canoes with poorly applied adhesives. If using adhesives like contact cement it pays to do it right, not sloppy and wet.

The other interior damage, also semi-expected, is a wider crack directly over the kevlar skid plate at the stern. Another demerit for kevlar felt as a skid plate material; it is so thick, stiff and rigid when resin saturated that, if an impact or stress doesn’t break the felt (there were a few missing chips), it cracks the inside ABS layers. Again, not just on this boat, I’ve seen the same on lots of old RX beaters with kev felt skid plates.

PC240003 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

(Kevlar felt skid plate rant over. Just don’t ever)

The Explorer won’t be running any rapids, or even any rivers; permitted for the Reservoirs boats can only be used on the reservoirs. As a reservoir canoe easy fixes, paint some G/flex on/over/seeped in the cracks and call it good. If that fix ever re-cracks I can patch it; the canoe is required to be removed from the reservoir launch each winter. It can return for yearly maintenance, I’ll find rack space for it just to see how it is holding up

But first the cracks need to dry out, so back in the shop, upside down, with shop heat provided by a radiant oil heater under the canoe.

The old D-ring pads, minus the rusty D’s, cleaned up nicely, and are probably going back in this boat, with a small tied line loop as D.

PC240007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That did take overtime beyond my now customary 20 minute day, but I had rewards at the ready.
 
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I had declared that I wasn’t going to paint the Explorer, but just leave it ugly in hopes there would be less chance it be stolen from the reservoir. But I can’t let a refurbished canoe leave that ugly when an $17 quart of dark green Rustoleum Topside will roll & tip two coats on the exterior.

https://www.amazon.com/Rust-Oleum-2...x=rustoleum+topside+quart+green,aps,93&sr=8-2

With enough remaining to roll/tip one coat on the interior. The Mad River Duckhunter 16 was an Explorer, dark green inside and out. I have rolled and tipped Topside paint on a half dozen boats in the past year, and my technique continues to improve.

That was the first, and maybe last, thing I need to buy for this rehab. Well worth the $17 expense, the unskilled kev felt parches will still show, but it should have a little smoother glide, and some needed UV protection for left at the full sun reservoir landing.

If I have enough leftover white EZ-Poxy the Explorer will get a white accent stripe an inch below the outwales.

But that paint job is a l o n g ways off. I need to find, sand and refinish seats and a yoke first, and before I paint the interior I need to sand off any minicel or adhesive residue that might stand tall and sharp once painted.

I see a lot of sanding in my future, done twenty-minutes, take-a-break style.

At least I don’t need to steam bend ash gunwales to accommodate the considerable stem rise on an 18’ OT Guide. The bow especially. Ppine, got any photos of your Guide in progress, or your refurbished Canadianne?
 
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Brightwork, a start

With the Explorer scrub-a-dubbed and back in the shop I realized, while moving it around and flipping it over, that the strap yoke wasn’t cutting it, the un-seated and un-thwarted sheerline was too bendy inwards flexible to be hull or existing cracks healthy. And those are aluminum insert vinyl gunwales.

I needed to temporarily install a rigid crosspiece, at least amidships. Could be any old piece of scrap wood, yoke or thwart, and I may have something in salvaged stacks of the latter already cut near the right size. Might as well find a decent yoke to refinish while I’m sorting.

That sorting turned into a long procrastinated shop organization task, culling through the piles of new, used, and DIY unfinished yokes and thwarts to find a temporary cross piece, as well as a good yoke to refinish and eventually install.

Eventual yoke-wise, with 33 ½” at the midships sheerline, anything with sound ends over 34” would work. I found a single yoke wide enough from the refurbishable collection and set it aside to cut to length, sand and refinish.

PC250009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

A bunch of new and used thwarts, which would do for the crosspiece, but the only ones long enough at center hull are a couple of new, never used 36 inchers from Ed’s Canoe. I have been Scot’s reluctant to cut an unblemished three foot long thwart to size if I have an old one of sufficient length.

But, cut down to the Explorer’s center width, one of those virgin Ed’s Canoe thwarts will remain plenty long enough to cut down again for actual thwart not-center-yoke locations on some future rebuild. The future yoke I selected needs to remain unattached for refinishing.

PC250012 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Sorting through the pile of rough cut yokes and thwarts, still needing sanding, and more sanding, and seal coating, nothing seemed worth that considerable effort, the very reason the DIY collection is now well aged, and still not sanded or finished.

PC250013 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

In a stroke of evil genius I am trying to convince a local friend to rehab his fleet of derelicts, and offered to provide any thwarts or yokes needed. He can buy his own sandpaper. BWAHAHA.

It was still a worthwhile digging through the rough cut pile. I found a useful “gem”; a shapely, rough-cut never finish-sanded utility thwart, made years ago and midden buried long forgotten.

PC250016 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

As a reservoir fishing canoe I have a nascent idea for a utility thwart fishing platform, adapting this DIY clamp-on version as a permanent fishing thwart. It is an old canoe, and could use some sheerline stiffening beyond just the traditional Explorer yoke.

PA040034 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

PA040042 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That cunning DIY’ed clamp-on rod holder design, made from two plastic cutting boards, works well, I’ve seen the payoff, including hands free held-paddle trolling results. I’ll go with multi hole drilled and not slotted, for the stern paddler’s pleasure. The bowman (for now) is on their own.

As a permanently installed rod holder it would not need the clamp-on thwart width avoidance in the middle, nor any fussy bend over and righty-tighty upside down dang dropped the wing nut action. An always there utility thwart is worth the weight, and with the Explorer already weighing 80+ lbs, and never to be portaged far, who cares.

That fishing thwart, placed forward within arm’s reach, would fill two of the many leftover 3-seater machine screw holes gaping in the gunwales. I’ll epoxy caps on any unused holes that remain.

I’ll be sanding and refinishing seat frames and yoke anyway, I can finish that weirdo utility thwart while I’m at it.

On to a seat frame organization and search. Used seats can be a PITA to refurbish, starting with removing the old cane or spent webbing and then sanding in hard to reach places. The old Explorer bow seat is salvageable but, already enmeshed in a reorganizational frenzy, I checked to see if any of the old seat collection was in better (read “easier”) condition for refurbishment. The seats need to have both long enough rails, and strut width to match the existing machine screw holes in the gunwales.

PC250018 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I have a few used but intact cane seats, and a bunch of busted cane seats. Left upside down near ground level at the reservoir eight months a year, I’ll refurbish with webbing, not cane.

If these classic Adirondack Chair seats had been wide enough I would have gladly refinished and installed them, the Explorer would have been the ideal heavyweight use to finally repurpose them.

PC250021 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Out of those stacks of seat entropy I found a total of one seat that will work, and a near pristine one at that, needing only cut to rail length. And one busted cane that might work with refinishing and webbing, but I’ll need to dry fit test to verify.

Yippie, I have all the needed brightwork from the scrap and unfinished detritus piles. For now I just need to install the temporary stabilizing cross member, followed by some minor epoxy repairs on a more rigidly held hull.

PC250023 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That took more than a 20 minute day, and involved no actual work on the canoe, but was worthwhile to sort and segregate those stacks of old brightwork, seats – yokes – thwarts – unsanded raw, to find the parts I needed.
 
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Much of the joy of resurrecting this not-worth-my-time derelict is the personal history; a boat I unskillfully refurbished long ago for a friend as a family canoe, back when our now-grown kids were toddlers.

It was his first of several better canoes, and it sat, all 85lbs of it, unused on a high rack, immobile and growing moss for the last decade.

Somehow, a few days before I stopped to pick it up, a crazed storm became the wind beneath its wings, lofting the beast off the high rack and over a fence, impaling on a lonesome unattached-to-anything mystery stake, six feet back in the forest from the fence line. Da fug was that forlorn stake there for anyway, Brian’s last laugh?

He always did have peculiar sense of humor. To wit, during a visit to my place, as I was getting ready for an Assateague group backpacking trip, Brian thoughtfully stuffed a few items into my backpack, along with my handle-cut-off toothbrush, half a shared Timberline tent and a stupidly thin sleeping pad. And, of course, all my potable water for a long weekend. There was no doubt alcohol in that backpack as well.

It was a heavy load, so I didn’t notice the added weight of my toilet plunger, all of my vacuum cleaner attachments and a nearly full can of Spic and Span scouring powder. I carried them in, and I carried them back out.

Making this rebuild especially memorable, my shop walls have more than a few photos of that great friend.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/153467243@N07/albums/72157717988216427

Keeps me smiling while I work.
 
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Brightwork, dry test fitting

Future yoke cut to size, drilled, pre-fitted and removed, so when I have a urethane day I can seal the newly cut ends and inside the machine screw holes, replaced with the temporary center stabilizer crosspiece to help keep the sheerline rigid when moving the hull.

PC250003 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Everything else got dry test fitted and drilled, working outwards from the yoke toward the stems. Next closest to center crosspiece, the beginnings of a shapely utility fishing thwart, cut to fit, dry installed and marked for some various forthcoming voids. A permanent fishing thwart; in reorganizing the brightwork piles I realized that, while I like making clamp-on stuff I don’t like actually using it.

PC280027 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

So many DIY’ed clamp-on and “universal” yokes and utility thwarts. For my purposes, if I want something there, I want it always there, not oops left behind at home when I packed, or necessitating clamp or wing nut fussing at water’s edge.

The fishing thwart was removed to drill slanted holes, so the rods are held out at a 45-ish degree angle for paddle trolling. It will need a small “shelf” with angle matching holes an inch underneath, as with the clamp-on cutting board version, so the rods are held stationary with tips outboard for paddle trolling.

PC250001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Hopefully this attempt at recreating that rod holder is successful, for some of this action.

PA050059 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Some additional holes for an over/under/over run of bungee, a hole for needle-nose or hook remover, etc. 10 holes, 12 in total with machine screw holes. The bungee cord holes have been chamfered, the rod holder holes will get hand sanded inside.

PC260007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Brightwork dry fitting and drilling continued outwards from the center, seats and drops next. My plan to refurbish and web two seat frames from the salvage racks was only half successful. The near-virgin stern seat, cut to size, drilled and dry fitted works well with the beefy truss hangers and ¼” machine screws used previously, and needs only the newly cut ends sealed.

PC260005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That is a very nice seat, in miraculously good condition, with a chamfered front rail edge. It looks Bell-ish, and may have come out of the late JSaults’ Magic when he built and installed an over-sized big boy seat. If so my ass will be planted stern in his memory on the reservoir a few times.

Wishing I had one similar for the bow, or any seat frame that would work for the bow, no dice; the one I thought had potential would have needed new holes drilled overlapping the old holes and needed webbing anyway. I’ll refurbish the one that was there; old webbing removed, sanded, multi-coat urethaned, re-webbed.

Webbed in black to match the stern, a nix on my plans to web two seats in garish plaid. I have black, red, blue and green webbing, and even a few lengths of hot pink and neon orange left. But I’ll stick with matching black, I have some black exercise flooring to stay in the color scheme.

With everything test fitted (and one out of sequential step oopsie) all of the brightwork could come back out to be refinished.
 
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A sandy shop day.

An RO sander and foam interface pad removed the scraps of still adhered minicel inside the hull, counting myself lucky that they were poorly OOSO installed. The bits of adhesive that remained under the thigh brace pads didn’t stick to the pads, but stuck like crazy to the vinyl skin. All of that adhesive detritus sanded flush(ish), so they won’t form ouchie stalactites when painted over. I’ll probably glue in some exercise flooring there in any case.

PC260010 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

On close inspection there were a LOT more teeny cracks under those WTF was going on thigh strap pads than I had first realized.

The cracks can be cleaned and epoxied. But, first, lots more dust making. Thankfully with the cyclonic extractor running the shop dust wasn’t too bad. I would have sanded outside, but the weather gods had their revenge for my “nanny-nanny-boo-boo it’s 50F and sunny”. It snowed for the first time.

I originally did do a helluva DIY job on those seats, and removing the old webbing requiring slicing it free an inch from the stapled ends, grabbing each cut tab end with locked-on vice grips, and forcibly levering the webbing remains out. Only the webbing pulled free, and the red webbing was thick and tough as nails; the long, thin staples were not coming out, and got tapped in flush not in my future webbing way.

But the frame is still surprisingly sound, no ominous creaking or cracking of antique biscuit joints when I was levering or yanking, or later clamping the frame down flat for RO sanding. Some refurbish seats, mostly cane seats IIRC, were not actually built slightly contoured, but time and weight had sagged the once flat frames.

That can’t be healthy for the joinery. I think tight webbing helps hold seats firmly together through years of abuse, and I now feel more confident about reusing that ancient MRC seat frame.

FWIW, if you are ever working on a used seat frame, clamped down for sanding or etc, and hear a sharp crack, that was probably a biscuit snapping. Go no further, or you many hear another sharp crack while you are paddling one fine day, and abruptly find yourself flat on your back behind the seat, staring up at the clouds. Don’t ask how I know. That became one of the few times I paddled any distance kneeling, and once was enough.

I RO sanded all of the flat areas on the brightwork, seat, yoke and fishing thwart before I turned to the routed edges, including the round overs on the fishing thwart, never finish-sanded and still rough.

The little 1” tabletop belt sander to the rescue again. I enjoy using that little tool, actually two of them, with different grit belts installed. Especially using the flexible belt area above the platen for sanding curves.

PC270012 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

There is a certain gentle feel-the-touch zen with those 1” sanders that I can get lost in, especially if pre-rewarded. I had to stop and remind myself that the underside of the truss arch didn’t need to be perfect, just good enough for a few coats of urethane to adhere. Everything sanded is going to come out somewhat two-toned anyway, and I’ll claim that, like the eventual dark green interior, it is camouflage for sneaking up on lunkers.

PC270013 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those 1” tabletop belt sanders are especially handy because I can sand inside the seat rails and struts.

PC270014 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Even with the dust extractor attached, wearing respirator and goggles PPE, it was time for some shop clean up with garage door open, vacuuming and leaf blower action.

PC270015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That was not a twenty minute work day of sanding. Still joyous progress, deserving of rewards for a job well done.
 
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