Friday, January 13, 2012

Advice on buying a used whitewater canoe

Great advice from Einar Hansen on buying a used whitewater canoe:

As to price... thats depends. More important than price is condition.

Flip it upside down and push on the side chines with your weight, calculating flex of hull. (Practice this first on a boat in good/new condition to give you a reference) More than likely the boat will be softer on the owners paddle side, how soft is the question.

Check for wear on the owners paddle side; thinning of the outer vinyl layer will reveal a different coloured layer underneath and it will give an idea of the boats use and abuse. Look for creases on the owners paddle side. Not one of these is disqualifier in its self, but cumulatively it will give you an idea of the hull integrity. A very flexible chine on one side and not on the other is a big warning, some thing that price can't fix.

Check the hull for nicks and cuts that slice thru the hull anywhere on the exterior. This is an entrance for water. Water entrance can be delayed but rarely stopped permanently and delamination will occur eventually, giving a loss of your entire investment, less the amount you saved on buying too cheap.

Continue checking the hull, examining the bow exterior. It is not unusual for the bow to be punched in and this is not necessarily a deal killer. Due to the radius of the bow bend this is a designed strong part of the boat and the royalex is thicker there multiplying the strength factor. A  repair patch to the bow or even if it is left untreated is not necessarily a deal killer as long as the royalex is not punctured/cut through.

The exterior stern rarely gets punched (although I have tried and tried, going over pourovers backwards) but ... the bottom of the hull stern takes a lot of abuse. It frequently becomes lacerated with thin knife like cuts that will lead to delamination. This is caused by the the paddler going through a hole, the bow rising on the exit wave and the stern leveraging down to the bottom of the river. As the boat is travelling at a speed thin rock will slice the royalex, rather than puncture.  Canoeists often place a bang pad there, this not necessarily an indicator of damage, it is more an indicator of an knowledgeable canoeist confronting a recurring reality.

Stand back from the hull (10 ft) and look at the lines from the bow or the stern. You are looking for a deform in the gunwhale on one side that comes from the boat being wrapped or broached. The event may not be reflected in the hull surface but is apparent in the metal gunwhale when it is pressed back into shape after retrival; for reference check my Viper 11 out! Not necessarily a deal killer but should be reflected in the price as a perfectly formed  hull is a canoes main virtue.

Has the hull been stored outside in the sun, bleached on one side?
Sun is a killer over a long time, over a short time it is a bargaining chip on the price.

That was the hull's exterior, now flip it open side up.

In the middle of the boat examine the inner layer of vinyl, especially on the owners paddle side. You are looking for blisters that occur where the water has gotten into the royalex, your previous inspection of the exterior hull will have alerted you to where to be suspicious. The blisters will look like... blisters, as the inner layer of the hull will have seperated from the hull. Not good, and we are  getting close to a deal killer now, as this hull will have  limited life span. Delamination can be reinforced to extend lifespan for a while but still this is major damage, and not uncommon.

Deflate and remove the airbags and visually check the hull interior surface, looking for repairs on the inside that match the exterior problems.
Damage to the four quadrants of bow/stern and left/right is not as common but look anyways. Check the airbags, they commonly fail, and can make a good deal expensive as they are not cheap to replace. They can be easily repaired but that is another post. Make sure the valves work.

Check the glue down of the thighstraps, give it a good wrenching pull as they have to take it on the river. If the glue pad rips off, no big deal, it can be easily reglued or replaced but not for Free. (Another bargaining chip) Check for hull softness where the D rings are attached. This is a sign of someone in a hurry installing the rigging and they have not waited for the adhesive to dry adequately. The adhesive has "kicked", heated up, and cooked the hull, softening it. Experienced paddlers have made this mistake. (The cure is to immediately cool the hull with water, bleeding off the heat)

Are there toe blocks? These can be very pricey to add on, I was blown away at the price of the last pair I bought.
An average height for a seat for me is 7.5 inches but it can easily be cut lower or glued higher. Does a supporting thwart run thru the back of the seat and is it glued to it? Not a big deal if not but it is  a good rigging design feature and this reveals a canoeist that cares about the boat.

Does it have pump, they cost about $100 for a cheap system.