Canoe Care and Maintenance

A Sanborn Canoe is a serious investment in spending and enjoying time on the water and in the outdoors, and properly cared for it should last not only a lifetime, but to be passed down as well. In the following article, we'll run through some of the basics for ensuring that your canoe always looks its best and never lets you down.


Sanborn Canoe On The Water

On The Water

Using hybrid construction techniques combining traditional woodwork and three layers of advanced composites, it is fair to say that a Sanborn Canoe is built to last. While running it into a rock, or beaching yourself on the shore, is unlikely to immediately cause your canoe to start taking on water, it will over time add weak points which will be more likely to experience further damage as the materials flex and time does its work. Typically minor contact with rocks, sticks, a dock, etc. will just put a scratch into the outermost layer, the gel coat. Gel coat scratches white, so it will typically be pretty readily visible. Deeper scratches can actually cut into the fiberglass, kevlar, or carbon fiber layers of the canoe. This is more serious, as you're affecting the structural layers of the canoe. While damage the one or even two layers is not likely to sink you, they should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent accumulated damage.   

 While the composite layers of a Sanborn Canoe are quite tough, some care should be taken to avoid causing undue stress. When boarding the canoe, and when loading heavy gear, try to only do so when the canoe is floating in the water. The water then partially supports the bottom of the boat. Carrying the canoe with some paddles and life jackets in it is fine, but typically anything or anyone much heavier than that should be removed from the boat before carrying it or setting it on the ground. 

 The woodwork on your canoe can also benefit from good paddling technique while you're out on the water. Avoid knocking your paddle against the gunwales to preserve the life of the woodwork, and as a bonus you'll be less likely to damage your paddle as well. 

When you pull the canoe out of the water, make sure to fully remove any water left inside the canoe, as it can sometimes leave a stain if left sitting for too long. 



snowy canoe loading


Anyone who has loaded a canoe on top of a car knows that feeling of wondering if it is secure enough for the trip. To mount it on the car, a roof rack is ideal, but foam blocks are a great for those without a permanent rack. By clipping the foam blocks onto the gunwales of the canoe, they'll both protect the woodwork in contact with the car, as well as offering a stable base to level the canoe. We don't recommend using ratcheting straps to tighten the canoe down, as they can be easy to over-tighten, causing damage to your canoe; instead use CAM straps for securing the canoe. At least two should be looped around the top of the canoe, and we recommend an additional positive connection either to the roof rack or to some tie-offs that can easily be added to the hood of your car. 




A Sanborn canoe has simple storage requirements, provided you have some space for it. Storing in a garage or shed is often ideal, typically on a simple rack or hoist to keep it out of the way, but kept on the ground it will be ok as well provided it's a dry floor. If you have the room for it, our canoes are also beautiful enough to serve as decoration in your home or cabin. Stored outside, care should be taken to keep out of direct sunlight (potentially by using one of our canoe covers). Keep the canoe upside-down to ensure water or snow can't collect inside the boat, and if you live somewhere with lots of snow, some sort of shelter to keep heavy snow loads from putting excess weight on your canoe is a good idea as well. Use a rack or spacer to keep the woodwork off the ground and dry; wood rot is the most common canoe repair issue we encounter. 



Treated well a Sanborn canoe can last a lifetime, but not every incident can be anticipated or avoided. The most common repair we encounter is wood rot on the gunwales. The canoe is delivered with the gunwales oiled, and this will dramatically increase the water resistance of the wood, however it's a good idea to re-oil all of the woodwork at the beginning and end of each paddling season, using teak oil. If the gunwales do become damaged (whether through wood rot or impact), they're attached using screws, allowing the wales to be easily removed and replaced using the same hardware. 


Minor impacts damaging the hull can be repaired using epoxy resin, sand-paper, and a fiberglass patch kit. Many tutorials exist online to walk you through this process. If the damage is severe though, we'd recommend you either contact us or contact someone locally who has experience with composite materials repair.