Many wild rivers are manageable with canoe spray decks. Spray decks are designed to cover the entire open canoe with cockpits and skirts for the paddlers. Spray decks can keep you warm and dry on foul weather days and keep a great deal of water out of a canoe in rough water.
Many spray decks have cockpits that are sewn into the deck. These are hazards if the canoe capsizes. Most spray deck take effort and time to install and accessing gear requires taking part of the deck off. On hot days, paddlers cook in their cockpits or sit on them. I have developed a spray deck that overcomes all these shortcomings. They are light, easy to pack, can remain installed through an extended trip, allow releasable cockpits, and allow paddlers to paddle in open cockpits to keep cool.
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Step 1: Materials
3.5 meters TOP GUN™ Marine Polyester: an acrylic-coated 100% woven polyester fabric 62” wide (high visibility colour)
4 @18” opening both ends heavy duty zippers
2 @ 30” opening both ends heavy duty zippers
5 meters 2” tubular webbing
15 meters 3 mil nylon climbing line
30 stainless ¼ washers
Polyester threads, heavy duty
8 Anodized Aluminum tent poles
2 large kayak spray skirts.
Step 2: Design of the Spray Deck
The spray deck is made of three sections that connect together by four short detachable zippers. The bow and stern ends form cups the stretch over the deck plates of the canoe. The bow and stern sections contain the cockpits that are located over the seats and permit sitting or kneeling while paddling. The 2” tubular webbing is sewn around the inside edge of the cockpit and the Al tent poles are shaped to fit tightly within the tubular webbing creating a rigid cockpit a kayak spray skirt can fit over.
The mid section is made from two sections joined along the midline by two 30” detachable zippers. The ends of each section has an 18” detachable zipper. This arrangement , once put on, can be unzippered the expose the entire midsection of the canoe.
Additional features can be sewn onto the spray deck to make for easier access to frequently used gear or safety gear. The outer edge of all sections is finished wit a roll over seam that holds the 3 mil line. Openings are made every foot along this seam to expose the line. This edge is designed to bend over the gunwale when attached to the canoe.
Step 3: Layout to Fit the Canoe
Each spray deck needs to be designed to fit a specific type of canoe. Seam and sew the connecting zippers onto the three sections so that the spray deck can be draped over the entire length of the boat. You can use some of the sections cut away to extend the length of the deck cover. Measure the length and widths at regular intervals. Tape the unfinished spray deck in place so the edge of the gunwales can be marked. Allow about 4” overlap on each side.of the canoe for the seam and tie down line.
Step 4: Three Section Spray Deck
The three section spray deck allows for the deck to remain on the canoe for the duration of a trip. The bow and stern sections have open cockpits that can be covered with the releasable spray skirts.
The mid section design is made from two 62” by 20” pieces that ate seamed and joined together with two double ended opening heavy duty nylon zippers. The ends of each piece is seamed and each end has one side of an 18” of a double ended opening heavy duty nylon zippers sewn on to the seam. The other side of these zippers will be sewn to the bow and stern sections of the deck. These two 18” zippers should be separated by only 1” from the mid-line of the deck.
The bow and stern sections of the deck are made longer by joining pieces of the trim to the ends to extend the length and create pockets that fit over the bow and stern deck plates. Put the deck on the canoe and tape in place before marking and cutting the cockpit holes. These should extend past the back of the seats by 3” to 4” and forward of the seats by 14” to 16”. The shape should have smooth curves that are somewhat smaller than the curves bent in the tent poles. The cockpits should be oval in shape with a larger width located across the middle of the seats.
Step 5: Paddle Pockets, Map Pockets, Painters, Gear Pouches
Once the deck is made and fixed on the canoe, it is time to locate and sew on paddle pockets, map pocket, gear pocket and painter quick release straps. Each of the should be located to that they are accessible to paddlers while in the canoe, and be continently accessible. The paddle pockets as simply seamed squares that are sewn onto the deck. The paddle shaft and handle is held in place with Velcro loops that have a grab section so they can easily be undone. The map pouch is a simple square with a flap that is held in place by Velcro. The surface of the square should be heavy, clear vinyl. The gear pouches are similar but made from mesh material so they drain well. Finally, the painter loops are made from wider Velcro with larger grab loops. The painters are secured by simply wrapping the Velcro around the loops of line.
Step 6: Cockpit Constructions
The tubular webbing with the formed aluminum tent poles form a rigid cowling the spray skirts can be stretched over. The 2” webbing is sewn along the outside edge of the cockpit with the seam facing in. Start at the mid point at the back of the cockpit. The webbing should form a complete loop around the cockpit. The aluminum tent poles joined together as they are moved around this closed loop. The final joining of the tent pole loop should be tight. The aluminum frame within the webbing should stretch the webbing so that the bungee cord in a kayak spray skirt should require a good tug to get it off.
Step 7: Attaching the Spray Deck to the Canoe
I prefer the nylon loop system of securing the spray deck to the canoe. Once the deck is made, lay it over the canoe to mark locations of the tie downs, A tie down loop should be located midway between each opening along the edge of the deck. Drill a 3/16 hole through the canoe 6” below the gunwales. Fold a 4” section of the 3 mil line and pass this through a stainless washer. Melt and flatten the open end of the loop and secure it with epoxy. The loop should be about 1 ½ long. Coat the lower end of the loop with epoxy then push it through a hole in the canoe. Tape the loop up so that it will face toward the gunwale when the epoxy sets.
Step 8: Installing and Using the Spray Deck
The spray deck is fastened on the canoe in two different ways. If the spray deck tie down loops fall half way between the boat loops, then, starting at the mid point of the 3 mill line thread one end between the deck loop then the boat loop, then back to the spray deck loop, and so forth until the stern is reached. Repeat the same on the other side of the boat. Pull the lines taught and tie off at the stern. With the zipper access, this needs to be done infrequently on a trip since the zippers allow access to the gear. Portages and the end of the trip are times when the spray deck needs to be removed. A second method uses two lines One line is passed through all the boat loops and the second line passes through the spray deck loops the under the loop line.
This style of spray deck provides shelter and warmth, a surface for lunches and keeps the canoe and paddlers drier through rough waters.