Deck rot, weep holes and gunk removal?

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BWCA’s “Gunwales and decks” thread got me thinking about wood gunwales and decks. Not just some water shedding slope on the inwale vs adding scallops, and making weep holes in the deck plate tips, but especially about the gunk that gets trapped near those weep holes as the water drains out.

A lot of my day paddling is small woody streams and swamps. With some wet foot entry there is often a lot of leaf litter, mud, dead bugs and twiggy debris in the bilge, some of which when I flip the canoe over accumulates at that drain hole tip. It doesn’t all fall out, especially after it has had the chance to compact and dry out.

I’d like to say that I hose out the canoe after every trip, but probably more like 50% of the time. When I do a considerable amount of, well, “wet compost” flushes out when I blast a hose at the stems. Disgusting stuff that sometimes necessitates grubbing around up there with fingers.

Damn hard to see what is left up there and I sometimes take a bottle brush to the stem interiors. Even then I am probably leaving a caked film of wet dirt at the deck plate tips.

That gunk is not a rot issue with vinyl deck plates, but damp decaying stuff laying on the underside of a wood deck plate seems like an invitation for bacterial rot.

Questions for folks who build wood deck plates. Do you epoxy and varnish the deck plates or otherwise uber-seal them against bacterial rot with some product? Or somehow shape the undersides for better gunk accumulation avoidance.

Maybe most wood deck plate folks more anal than I about thoroughly hosing out the canoe after every trip.

For all the “Care and feeding” information manufacturers provide I don’t recall seeing any manufacturer stress a thorough hose out for wood deck plate/inwale longevity. I do take the big dog-bone sponge and scoop out the worst of the debris laden bilge water before getting under the yoke. I do not come close to getting it all; mostly I don’t want a bird’s nest of twigs and mud falling on my head


Not just deck plates. That same bilge dirt/mud/debris does the inwales no favors, and is even worse for the butt ends of thwarts and yoke, where a Petri-dish of impacted dirt will start growing bacteria in that interstitial gap. Think older used canoes with rot blackened yoke and thwart ends.

I seem to recall that someone (Alan Gage?) adds a flared projection off the inwales to eliminate that gap.

How do you make/shape deck plates and inwales, and how do you keep them clean?
 
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My decks are epoxied in place, as are my gunnels. The underside of the decks get a coating of epoxy also. Not much chance of moisture getting in and rot. For the outside treatment, I rely on Watco Teak. My hulls are stored inside, no heat. And survive very well !

Putting a bevel in the bottom of the inwhale is a good idea. Up to this point I just do a round over on the underside, and it works.

As for cleaning ? Only when necessary ! Garden hose and sponge, yes Dog Bone, has worked fine for me.

Jim
 
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The wood decks on my canoe got an epoxy seal coat before I installed them. Ditto my gunnels. Both gunnels and decks are screwed on and all non-exposed surfaces got a generous shmear of Dolfinite bedding compound before installation.
 
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My wood canvas canoes are 60-75 years old and they never received any treatment to the underside of the decks from the factory nor do they have drainage built in. While a lot of wood canvas canoes experience rot around the stem and deck, it's always started from the outside from laying the canoe on the ground upside down on a wet surface. I have never seen any rot that started on the inside.
 
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My wood canvas canoes are 60-75 years old and they never received any treatment to the underside of the decks from the factory nor do they have drainage built in. While a lot of wood canvas canoes experience rot around the stem and deck, it's always started from the outside from laying the canoe on the ground upside down on a wet surface. I have never seen any rot that started on the inside.

Robin, I know bupkiss about wood canvas canoes, or even strippers for that matter. I have seen a lot of rot with wood gunwaled RX and composite canoes that were, eeesh, stored directly on the ground.

God bless people who rot their gunwales or brightwork with poor storage; most of my rehabs were freebies or unpaddleable damned cheap to buy. Our freebie Independence was left untouched lakeside in the leaf litter for so long pieces of the gunwale fell off when I picked it up. It was fun getting that hull home.

Blackened bacterial rot at the ends of thwarts and yokes is pretty much a given on every old canoe I have rehabbed, some not that many years old. Even with canoes that were stored elevated outside, but too close to the ground.

I have some outside storage racks, but the lowest crossbars hold the canoes two feet or more above ground level. I thought about how far up a tent wall I find mud spatter after a hard downpour, and wanted the lowest crossbars above that spatter range, so dirt isn’t splashing up between the brightwork and hull.

Even stored level makes a difference. A friend built a (I thought) cunning rack system for his two canoes, nothing more than some pressure treated 2x4x10’s that leaned up at a 45 degree angle against the outer wall of his garage, somewhat protected under the roof overhang. He had pegs to hold the canoes and lines to hold them down. Seemed brilliant, simple and easily movable rack solution, and worked for some years.

Except he always pulled into his driveway, unloaded the canoe and put it on the leaned “racks” the same way, in the same position. After a few years the thwarts and yoke on the downhill side were blackened toast, and the thwarts/yoke on the uphill side still looked like new.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Deck plates are more useless than skid plates. They don't keep water out or serve any other purpose important to me. I removed deck plates from my whitewater canoes because the ends were always bagged. Builders of composite flatwater boats I admire, like Mike Galt, never used deck plates. So, I don't have any rot, drainage or gunk problems on those canoes.

On some of my Royalex canoes I replaced the deck plates with poly-carbonate end caps to prevent damage to the wooden nose where the gunwales meet. Wooden noses can get damaged on whitewater canoes when you smash head on into bridge pylons or on heavy canoe when doing a nose pivot lift onto your shoulders. Mad River used to make the poly-carbonate ones. They're only about 2.5 to three inches long so very easy to clean underneath. Marc Ornstein of Dogpaddle makes small end caps out of carbon fiber with a drain hole near the nose.

If you like deck plates for aesthetics, that's another matter. I like the clean look without them.

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Scrub the crud with a brush when you can, oil it because that's easier than epoxies and varnishes, keep it stored well and under cover when not in use. Everything made from wood, or anything alive for that matter, has a limited lifespan and deathspan, it all breaks down eventually. Sounds like you are doing everything within reason to maintain your boat. Sorry, this is the philosophical rather than technical answer. But in a universe where entropy will always win... do what you can, embrace the rot, and go canoeing!
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Thread drift, please. Glenn, what do you see as the problem with skid plates? I don't have 'em but a lot of people do. So I assumed they were good for something.

No, I won't go further off topic. I've commented many times on skid plates and will in relevant future topics, but you've given me an idea for a poll.
 
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I laminate the back sides of my decks and bulkheads, both for strength and protection from unlikely water intrusion.
I always make sure there is no deck overhang, as that invites debris traps and unwanted hand holds.
I also always build decks for my sort of paddling. I do a lot of beaver dam breaching and soggy shore launch/landings, and the decks make for an ideal foot hold when entering and exiting the hull. Nothing to do with aesthetics, strictly performance (foot hold) and safety (buoyancy).
 
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I recently replaced gunnels and deck on a friends poorly cared for 12 yr old stripper, hard used, and sadly cared for.

The gunnels crumbled in my hand. The small deck, was decayed, to a lesser degree, but certainly needed replacing.

A Weep hole might not have made a difference on the deck, but definitely no the gunnels.

I'll continue the have Weep holes in my strippers. as they do drain the water from the stems. Water that soaks into or between decks gunnels will rot !!!!!!

When I first learned of it ? I thought it was a good idea, and still do !

Jim
 
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Not that they are rot prone, but the shape and construction technique with most vinyl or aluminum gunwales and large vinyl deck plates, or even just winky deck caps to a lesser extent, have all kinds of hollows and recesses to trap and hold debris.

The ends of the gunwales, vinyl or aluminum, are not closed or sealed, so there are sizable voids there. Large vinyl deck plates have both inwale and outwale groves, and an open lip perfect for collect debris.

Even post hose blasting there is still crud there.


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P1200059 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

When I hose blast those vinyl deck plate stems a crazy amount of stuff will come out.

Hell, with pop riveted vinyl gunwales stuff comes out from between the sheerline and the rails. I blasted out the vinyl gunwale edge drek from a friend’s canoe; he must have been spending a lot of time of sandy shale rivers. I should have weighed it but at least a pound of shale flakes and sand blasted out from beneath the inwales.

His outwales too, to a lesser accumulation. He doesn’t spend that much time upside down, so the sand and shale flake bits under vinyl outwales must come from hauling the canoe out of the water onto a sandy bank and picking it up, so the grit attached to the bottom runs down the sides and under the outwale. I know he never washes his canoe, but he does complain about the weight sometimes; having a couple pounds of sand and shale flake lodged in the deck plates and gunwales doesn’t help.

With canoes stored on an outside rack my biggest challenge in deck plate debris was nesting house wrens. I tried a number of “solutions”; the best and easiest was half inflated Dollar Store mini beachballs tied in place through the weep hole, completely occluding the deck plate nest cavity.

Kinda like having a floatation bag filling that void, but float bags are pricey and I am loath to leave them in a canoe I won’t be using very soon. Dollar Store beach balls cheap, and surprisingly long lasting.

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P1280001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

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P1250098 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

http://www.canoetripping.net/forums/...ity-preventers
 
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Mike, it’s not just canoes... I sometimes don’t drive one of my jeeps for a month or two at a time
I’ve had birds nest under the hood, over the gas tank and, believe it or not, on top of a rear tire!!
 
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Mike, it’s not just canoes... I sometimes don’t drive one of my jeeps for a month or two at a time
I’ve had birds nest under the hood, over the gas tank and, believe it or not, on top of a rear tire!!

I haven’t had birds nesting in our little used van. I try to drive it once a week just to keep the fluids moving. Mouse nests in the vents yes; fortunately the defrost vents still work, but the front floor heat and any heat to the rear vents were plugged up years ago.

I really, REALLY don’t like seeing grey squirrels scamper off from beneath the bird feeders to hide in the underside of the van. Don’t be chewing at my wires you little F#%@ers.

The most horrifying mouse nest was one in our old tractor. I started it up one spring and little pieces of pinkie mouse babies flew out onto the side onto my shoe. I can still feel the cringe when I think about it.

The bane of my outside storage racks is (was) house wrens. They can build a new nest in two days time. When I have the shop garage doors open in spring house wren couples (always two) will fly in and start building nests on the high shelves. I have stern words about the lack of vacancy as I shoo them out and close the door.

I have racked canoes on the van without checking the deck plates and had tiny eggs splat on the windshield once underway. That got worse on one trip; we were barely out onto the county road when featherless fledglings went splat on the windshield.

My wife damn near needed a therapist after I turned the windshield wipers on.
 
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Anyone else have to Goggle "Breast Hooks"?

I suggest Googling "Canoe Breast Hooks" or you will end up on some S&M sex toy site.
 
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I laminate the back sides of my decks and bulkheads, both for strength and protection from unlikely water intrusion.
I always make sure there is no deck overhang, as that invites debris traps and unwanted hand holds.
I also always build decks for my sort of paddling. I do a lot of beaver dam breaching and soggy shore launch/landings, and the decks make for an ideal foot hold when entering and exiting the hull. Nothing to do with aesthetics, strictly performance (foot hold) and safety (buoyancy).

Stripperguy, could you include some images of your deck/bulkhead system? I'm trying to plan ahead on my Raven build and am looking for as many options as possible.

Jeff
 
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Stripperguy, could you include some images of your deck/bulkhead system? I'm trying to plan ahead on my Raven build and am looking for as many options as possible.

Stripperguy, I’m interested in seeing how you design your deck plates and bulkheads as well.

Jeff, one of the canoe manufacturers, Bell I think, maybe others as well, scuppered their inset wood deck plates for better drainage. It was efficient, and looked elegant.

Bell also shaped their wood gunwales for better drainage; in cross-section both the inwale and outwale had a peculiar shape, IIRC sloped on both top and bottom so water would drain away from the hull edge with the hull right side up on the water or when racked upside down.

There was, long ago, some discussion here about that shaped gunwale profile, with approval & praise from some builders/designers. Probably a bit more work in routing the gunwale profile, but seemingly worth the extra time and effort.

If anyone has a photo or diagram of the gunwale shape I’d like to see it again.
 
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Often, I do a mud and stick wash at the take out. Toss a bucket of water in the canoe and swish it around with a broom, dump and repeat. Repeating may be key, because it gives gravity a chance to extract the mini-dam materials from the stems, and at least some of it will exit the boat over the side on the second overturning.

Last trip, I forgot the broom and it was sub freezing. So, I loaded the muddy boat and hosed it out the next day as I unracked it. When I went to shoulder the boat, the weight of the water accumulated in the ends was very noticeable, and I had to slide it back on the truck. Then I stood by the stems with a little twig that I use to clear the drain hole when the water stopped running out. This made me think about enlarging the drain holes, which are maybe quarter inch holes.

What size drain holes are best in deck plates? Reading this thread, I’m thinking the bigger the better. Glen has taken this thought to the extreme, his holes are bigger than the plates!
 
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