Get Lost: Winter project

I’m really good at biting off more than I can chew.

Realizing most of what I’ve written so far has been about hiking, my true outdoor passion is canoeing. Every summer growing up was dotted with paddles at the family cottage.

Wanting to recreate the memories, and dip my paddle is some of the gorgeous mountain lakes, I went about getting a canoe.

Between my impatience and a fondness for wooden canoes, I jumped on a Kijiji posting for a slightly beat up looking cedar-strip canoe. I really should have just bought a used rental fibreglass or kevlar.

I got it home in one piece and then set about refinishing it. Which, turns out, is quite the laborious process. It started with removing the epoxy and fibreglass cloth that was already on it. A heat gun helped accomplish this, but it took many cold nights in the garage to get that done.

The next step was to sand down the cedar hull, that was easier.

Then comes reapplying the epoxy. Which takes two separate liquids, mixed together and then spread on evenly. Sounds simple enough, but it’s really sticky, dries quickly and had the texture of molasses.

So as I’m trying to spread it on evenly, its already hardening in some places thickly and thin in others.

My instructions said to sand it evenly after the epoxy had hardened. Unfortunately, it was cold enough in the garage that the hardening took a lot longer than it should have. And when I did try to sand, it really didn’t have the desired effect.

By the time I ran out of the epoxy, the canoe was covered but it didn’t look pretty. Believe me, there were many curse words thrown about at night in my garage that winter.

I was set to make the canoe look even less pretty real soon. Installing the gunwales, the outer wood along the ridge of the sides, was even less aesthetically pleasing. Ordering the gunwales online meant they came separate and had to be screwed in together along the hull. Now they weren’t even and the screws just created something else for a shirt or life jacket to catch on.

But with those installed and the new seats put in, I figured my attempt at canoe refinishing was as done as it was ever going to be.

It was time to take the canoe for a test. Hesitantly, I strapped it to the roof of my car and headed down to Three Mile Bend. The heavy, lug of a canoe was placed down in the water. And with trepidation, and some excitement, I stepped in.

Despite its terrible appearance, uneven epoxy, mangled gunwales and screws just waiting to scrape an unsuspecting hand, the damn thing floats. No water coming in through the hull and has plenty of balance.

Since then, it has seen some great trips including to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park where some tourists questioned the canoe’s existence, while others wanted a picture of this crazy Canadian and his “homemade” canoe.

Murray Crawford is an Advocate editor/reporter. You can swap hiking or canoeing stories with him at

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