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​MRC Explorer 3X rebuild as a pole-able tripper solo

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Our old Vermont era Royalex Explorer is still in excellent condition. It needed new seats and thwarts when I bought it used, and I first set it up as a factory placement tandem, and then re-rebuilt it as a peculiar big boy soloized paddling, poling and sailing tripper, with a stoutly truss hung solo seat, padded kneeling thwart/sail mount, float bag and spray cover attachment points, D-rings and webbing loops.

Several issues: We have better solo paddling boats. My sons had but a brief affair with poling, and in any case there are too many crosswise things in the way to move around much in the current Explorer outfitting. It sails OK, but again, better boats for that purpose. Too many compromises made a canoe that didn’t really shine at any one purpose.



I am reluctant to disassemble and rebuild the Explorer, but it isn’t getting much use, and a tale of the scale may show why. Having just shouldered it into the shop under a double-D ring strap yoke I’m guessing 75+ lbs. A similar vintage tandem seat RX Explorer was listed at 70 - 72 lbs, depending on the catalog year. Time to hang Tom Dooley from the Taylor shop scale.

Good gugga mugga, 83 freaking lbs. The fugly kevlar felt skid plates the original owner installed probably account for a few pounds, but that must be some damn thick Royalex (with aluminum insert vinyl gunwales). No wonder the Explorer hasn’t been used lately.



Yup, that weigh-in resolved my dithering. I’m going to remove the kneeling thwart, gut most of the minicel foam stumbling hazards and move one thwart forward*, leaving open boat poling space in the middle. Two end thwarts, positioned 3 or 4 feet back of the stems in the old tandem seat holes and the solo seat on beefy truss hangers (installed with ¼ inch machine screws) should provide plenty of lateral support, and with the rolled up strap yoke ample of walk around room amidships and beyond.

(OK, I didn’t move that thwart; poled from the front facing the seat Chip-style that thwart, installed in the old stern seat holes, is deep in the stem in current location)

I’d love to get the RX poling Explorer back to its fighting weight of 72 lbs, but I don’t think that canoe was ever 72 lbs. IIRC it is a vintage 1991 hull (it oddly has no HIN), a year which saw some strangely overthick RX sheets produced.

I weighed everything I have or will be removing, 4 lbs 7 oz. Every little bit helps. The few remaining bits of minicel, webbing loops and float bag cord don’t weight more than a few ounces all together, and the D-rings pads vinyl are well epoxied in place and ain’t coming off without destroying them.



The fugly hard plastic D-ring pads did though chisel out easily; not sure why I ever put those awful things in, they suck (and rusted).



The biggest weight savings remaining would involve chiseling off the stupid kevlar felt skid plates and replacing them with Dynel, and I really don’t want to go there, despite believing there are several pounds of over rich resin application saturating that felt.

My contact cement and minicel application was good, even back in the day. Really good; the only way to get out some of the pricier thick minicel for later reuse was to set a radiant oil heater under the hull and incrementally peel up and heat gun blast the old contact cement.





I’m cheap and minicel isn’t. Saving the thick custom carved stuff for future use was worthwhile.



I tried some acetone and elbow grease to remove the contact cement residue fugly. OK, I’m not going that route.



But that residue offends my aesthetic senses, plus the D-ring/fastex buckle for one float bag is in a possibly trod-underfoot poling area. That D-ring pad is epoxied in place and is not coming out intact, and I like the buckle system for over-bag webbing straps (there is another female buckle receiver already installed under each stem, which is a horribly squinchy place to install or remove hardware).



Re-weighed with solo seat and two thwarts was just under 79 lbs. As expected; that is some beefy Royalex. I still have some weight to add, Blue Water rescue rope painters. . . . and maybe a couple sheets of minicel exercise flooring.

My thinking to hide the fugly residue and protect the buckle is to install two sheets of minicel exercise flooring, with radiused corners and beveled edges, one with a little rectangle cutout for the-D ring and buckle.

That exercise flooring is only 3/8 inch thick, very durable if installed embossed side up and, of course, non-slip.

Poler thoughts on an exercise flooring floor?

The funky Explorer has (already had) pole keepers notches in the stern thwart minicel padding. There was a reason the stern thwart was (hint: comfort) padded, but I doubt even Alan can correctly guess why.

One-piece wood pole in keeper notches.



Two piece take-apart aluminum pole:



Take-apart aluminum pole half with stand up paddle blade (thumb button attachment)



The balls on the thwart bungees make it much easier to stuff paddle blades or pole ends under.



Fully dressed, with seat pad, back band and stem spray covers it is a pretty canoe. Double D-ring webbing strap, sturdy enough for shouldering the initial 83 lb weight and probably more.



Yoke strap rolled up and inwale knee bumpers





Partial spray covers (not occluding the open poling space)





Barcalounger comfort seating.



Even custom graphics; overweight rabbit in the ferns



Passamaquoddy builder Tomah Joseph rabbit in the ferns Gogetch (page 87 of The Bark and Skin Boats of North America)



Damn, now I kinda want to keep it.

79lbs. Nah, somebody with a strong back make me an offer I can’t refuse. I’ll even help load it on your car one last time.
 
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If I didn't already have one, I'd consider making an offer. But the one I have is still in pretty good shape. The brightwork needs some attention (I'm horrible with the upkeep of woodwork, and I see at least some new gunnels in my future, probably in the next five years or so), and I'll probably need to add in some Dynel or Fiberglass reinforcement soon to the keel line, but otherwise it is fine. And yeah, heavy. I'll be taking out the bow and stern seats soon to prepare for solo paddling-poling down the St, John in a few weeks. If I get time, I'll re-oil the gunnels and varnish the rest.

Regarding exercise matt flooring, I have some of that as kneeling pads where I installed the kneeling thwart (all with very useful advice from you, Mike). It is usually fine to stand on when poling, but that wee bit of extra give in the pad sometimes throws off my balance when suddenly accelerating or decelerating. No out-of-boat experiences yet due to it, but it has been a close thing sometimes.

-rs
 
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Yeah, I kept my pads thin where I might stand. Turns out, I stand there a lot.

Mike - sometimes a heavy boat helps in poling. Going up, the mass helps hold momentum when climbing ledges in stiff current. Going down (in curling waves) it helps it punch through and resists getting slapped sideways. Just sayin'.
 
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The brightwork needs some attention (I'm horrible with the upkeep of woodwork, and I see at least some new gunnels in my future, probably in the next five years or so)

For seldom attended gunwales, especially on Royalex canoes/outside storage, I am less concerned with aesthetics than future maintenance.

I much prefer using vinyl gunwales with aluminum inserts. Yeah, that means getting a set of gunwales, with the correct deck plates, shipped with a load of boats to some outfitter to avoid the obscene shipping charges. And driving to pick them up with an extension ladder on the roof racks; 18 feet of vinyl, even with aluminum inserts, is damned floppy. I just tie (and duct tape) them to the ladder.

With a few years to look you get lucky you might find a set of used vinyl gunwales. Or, if ever passing by BMO with a canoe on the racks buy them there (deck plates too) and stuff the gunwales under the canoe thwarts (tie down the ends, still a floppy lot of gunwale sticking out unsupported).

On the vinyl gunwales Explorer in the shop I used two the existing holes from each tandem seat location for thwart placement and plugged the vacant holes with 3/16” pop rivets, rivet heads etched with vinegar and later painted black. A couple of those holes were ¼ inch dia from the 1[SUP]st[/SUP] rebuild seat hangers, too wide for pop my biggest pop rivets, but black plastic sheet metal plugs have a shallow head with a nice wide flange to G/flex in place.

Excess holes in aluminum gunwales plus the same nearly flush way.

and I'll probably need to add in some Dynel or Fiberglass reinforcement soon to the keel line, but otherwise it is fine. And yeah, heavy. I'll be taking out the bow and stern seats soon to prepare for solo paddling-poling down the St, John in a few weeks. If I get time, I'll re-oil the gunnels and varnish the rest.

Dynel (and peel ply, so the Dynel isn’t old sweatshirt thick) would be the most abrasion resistant. Quicker and easier than cutting long strips of Dynel, you could use selvage edge fiberglass tape. Depending on how wide you want the keel line strip something like full length piece of 4 inch wide tape covered with a 3 inch piece. Or 3 inch covered by 2. Peel ply that to knock down the seamed edges and spray paint either for some UV protection.

Easy trick for epoxying long strips of glass tape when working solo. Put down a painters tape outline, mix a batch of epoxy and paint a thin coat of epoxy inside the tape. Take the precut length of glass tape and lay couple folds of tape in the bottom of a shallow rectangular Tupperware container. Pour a little epoxy atop, lay in a couple more folds, more epoxy, more layers. . . .squish around to fully saturate the cloth.

Grab the top end of the tape with one hand and the container with the other and just walk slowly alongside the hull, laying out the resin saturated tape. The flat edge of the container will self-squeege off the excess resin. Use the resin left in the container to top coat any areas of the tape that look thin (and anything remaining on some 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] project already prepped and set aside).

Is there also a solo/center seat in your Explorer? Or a kneeling thwart?

BTW, Doug has a present for you, don’t let him forget it (or tell you what it is).
 
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Thanks, Mike,

You are probably right about the gunnels, and I bet my wife would agree with you, damn her, but I absolutely loathe vinyl gunnels. I'd feel like I was killing off the spirit of the canoe. It makes no sense, and I'm usually the most practical guy in any room, but there you have it. It'll have to be wooden replacement gunnels.

I totally appreciate the advice and guidance in using dynel for the keel line. I assume if I carry that all the way to and a little up the stems that would be OK too. I'm going to print and save that for future use.

I have both a solo seat and a kneeling thwart in the canoe when it is set up. I find the kneeling thwart too uncomfortable for long distances, but absolutely perfectly placed for when the water gets a bit too interesting to be paddling from a center position.

Doug has already told me I have a gift coming. He didn't say from whom (although it was pretty easy to guess...the list of "mutual friends" isn't too lengthy), and he has also not disclosed what it is, damn him. I'm looking forward to getting on that river and finding out what it is!

-rs
 
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You are probably right about the gunnels, and I bet my wife would agree with you, damn her, but I absolutely loathe vinyl gunnels. I'd feel like I was killing off the spirit of the canoe. It makes no sense, and I'm usually the most practical guy in any room, but there you have it. It'll have to be wooden replacement gunnels.

The “spirit” of the canoe, eh?
Wood gunwales on a wood stripper or WC, absolutely.
Wood gunwales on a nice composite hull, sure. But I can live with aluminum gunwales even there.
The spirit of wood gunwales on a plastic worm farm petroleum product Royalex hull seems like high maintenance lipstick on a pig.


I totally appreciate the advice and guidance in using dynel for the keel line. I assume if I carry that all the way to and a little up the stems that would be OK too. I'm going to print and save that for future use.

How tricky do you want to get? Does the Explorer already have stem skid plates?

If not, and you are already cutting out a Dynel keel strip, there is no reason you couldn’t make a 3-piece Dynel strip with wider grunge pads at the stems, essentially a couple of elongated tear drops or curved diamonds at the stems. BTW, do not try the Tupperware lasagna method with cut-edge cloth, you’ll have a frayed edge mess. Seamed edge tape only.

Buying lengths of any cloth, other than rolls of glass tape, would be stupid expensive to a single 17-18 foot long hull & stems length. Fiberglass cloth tape has the advantage there, but Dynel is so superior in abrasion resistance that a 3 or 4 piece Dynel keel strip would be more of a once and done project.

Plus using multiple pieces of Dynel, or at least one long piece for the center vee and two for the stems, would conform to the shaper stem curves better. If you have enough Dynel cloth left cut the complex curve stem skid plates on the bias; it will lay down without puckering the edges as badly (still largely resolvable issue with peel ply and repeated attentions).

I have both a solo seat and a kneeling thwart in the canoe when it is set up. I find the kneeling thwart too uncomfortable for long distances, but absolutely perfectly placed for when the water gets a bit too interesting to be paddling from a center position.



I do like the symmetrical canoe idea of having both a solo seat and kneeling thwart.

Doug has already told me I have a gift coming. He didn't say from whom (although it was pretty easy to guess...the list of "mutual friends" isn't too lengthy), and he has also not disclosed what it is, damn him. I'm looking forward to getting on that river and finding out what it is!

Unless you have a really peculiar muckle-up and start channeling Franklin Roosevelt you may have to wait ‘til you get to camp.

https://www.google.com/search?q=fra...=EeIIWauoM4XXjwSVnpzQCg#imgrc=Hc2BC-Y_c5wIZM:
 
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Thanks again for the ideas, Mike. I've never really worked at all with any fabric, and intend on picking the brains of both Doug and Mike to get a better idea of what I need. They can clue me in to mystery terms such as "seamed edge tape" and "peel ply". I don't have any Kevlar skid plates on it now, and was hoping to use the Dynel as a solution that didn't involve so much bulk. I like what I am hearing, in any case.

And I hear you on the disparity of wooden gunnels on sheets of oil-derived plastic, but at least there is SOME soul...I don't want to kill off what little there is! Besides, lipstick on a pig is at least good for a laugh.

-rs
 
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Thanks again for the ideas, Mike. I've never really worked at all with any fabric, and intend on picking the brains of both Doug and Mike to get a better idea of what I need. They can clue me in to mystery terms such as "seamed edge tape" and "peel ply".

Not sure about Mike B, but I will bet you a non-domestic beer that Doug will say “Dynel and peel ply”. It only took me X years of near constant badgering to get him to order Dynel and peel ply for skid plates. And then it took me another couple years to convince him to order release treated peel ply.

For the loooong “shallow vee” keel strip I’d use two layers of fiberglass tape (and compressed peel ply), if only for the lack of strip cutting ease. I really like the no-frayed-edges ease of seamed edge fiberglass tapes. Snip, snip two short ends and done; no muss, no fuss, no tattered edges strays and frays.

Release treated peel ply knocks down the raised-raspy-with-epoxy seamed (selvage) edge on glass “tape” (not actually tape in the adhesive sense, just a roll of fiberglass material) and is much easier to work with in long skinny lengths.

It also knocks down the swelled to old sweatshirt thickness of epoxy saturated Dynel to a near invisible thickness.

I don't have any Kevlar skid plates on it now, and was hoping to use the Dynel as a solution that didn't involve so much bulk. I like what I am hearing, in any case.

Count yourself lucky there. Those kevlar felt skid plate “kits” sucked in so many ways.

Doug is getting pretty skilled at installing Dynel and peel ply skid plates. A boat toting visit to Doug’s shop could be in order this summer. You might arrive having to help actually build the new Humble Hovel shop, but by then I’ll have badgered Doug enough to convinced him to buy a couple rolls of fiberglass tape.

He needs to order some S-glass for a flying Plexiglas punctured Mystic anyway, and might as well include rolls of 2 inch and 3 inch fiberglass tape for the shipping charges. Hint, hint.

That selvage edge glass tape is so damned handy in shop boatwork. DougD badgering to continue.
 
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Well damn, I didn’t even get finished with the RX poling Explorer before it left the shop with poler friend Tom. I never managed to seal the edges of the exercise foam to the floor with a bead of Plumber’s Goop, or install quality painter ropes and new bungee keepers.

The minicel exercise flooring worked well to cover the old contact cement grunge, with a reveal cut out for the D-ring & buckle.



Minicel edges “beveled” using the little 1 inch belt sander.



And rounded corners.



That new exercise flooring pad looked custom sharp once installed, but the canoe left before I had a chance to take any finished photos.

Its shop space was taken by Tom’s ’91 “glass” Explorer. Which, first off, that is not a “fiberglass” Explorer. The HIN ends in a K. It is a kevlar Explorer. Had I but known that when I first rebuilt it 15 years ago I might not have let it go or set it up that way. As a factory tandem a ’91 kevlar Explorer weighed 54 lbs.

Rebuilt as a young family, two daughter family canoe (three seats, two thwarts, two carry handles, strap yoke, vinyl gunwales and big vinyl deck plates) it weighs 74 lbs. It is 20 lbs overweight, and only a few pounds less than the indestructibly beefy RX poler Explorer with just a solo seat that just vacated.

My gawd there’s a lot of crosswise stuff in that canoe.



That kevlar hull sees no three seater action, and hasn’t in years. Hell, it sees no two seater action. It is used mostly as a solo poling canoe for day trips. As a three seater/two thwart canoe this is the space Tom stands in to pole.



Woo hoo, a whopping 16 inch of room. Tom assures me he has “developed his own style, but no wonder he complained that the wood bungee balls hurt when he falls over on them.

A lot of crosswise seat and thwart obstructions need to come out; at least one thwart, and two of the three seats, sporting a variety of DIY wood hangers.

Full truss



Half truss



Even flimsy drilled dowels (intact only because no one has sat there for 10 years)



I have questions about a couple of the Tom’s repair and replacement parts, especially the hex head seat bolt, sticking up sharp ¼ inch above the gunwale, with an extra 2 inches of raw thread sticking out the bottom.





Note that “special” bolt isn’t even snugged down tight. Pretty work.

The hull itself is in amazingly good condition for a 26 year old canoe. Well scratched, but not a single gel coat crack. The E-glass tape and epoxy I (poorly) installed 10 years ago did its job of protecting the stems and shallow vee in a sacrificial sense. That glass tape was tattered, worn and torn, and most of it peeled up cleanly with a little scraper action.



That Vermont survivor needs some work to get it back close to Mr. Henry’s kevlar Explorer fighting weight of 54 lbs. Two seats and one thwart need to go (and 10 related machine screws, washers, nuts, cap nuts) to lose some of the 20 lbs overweight

And then add back some weight; Dynel skid plates and narrow Dynel keel strip. This time I’ll sand the gel coat first, and use Dynel, G/flex and peel ply instead of just slopping down some resin and E-glass.

I’ve learned a trick or two in the past 15 years. If my crappy E-glass and (?) resin installation held up for that long a properly applied Dynel, G/flex and peel ply keel strip should last for decades longer.
 
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If you're shooting for light weight, might as well take all the seats out of that dedicated poling canoe. Unless someone has knee problems, that is.
 
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If you're shooting for light weight, might as well take all the seats out of that dedicated poling canoe. Unless someone has knee problems, that is.

I know he drops down and paddles at times, so a single seat or even a kneeling thwart could be in order. And I know his knees have been repaired. So an actual solo seat seems most likely.

The reason I sent him home with the solo seat, single thwart RX “poling” Explorer was to get a feel for what he wants where.

If he really wants two or three seats, multiple thwarts and 16 inches of legroom I’ll mumble under my breath and put it back as a 3 seater. Mumblefarkingmumble.
 
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I should have taken photos of my Prospector rendered solo for whitewater. That would maybe convince him. Wait....





Look at all that room for gear, flotation, and feet. ;)
 
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