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Canoeing 101

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Repairing Polyethylene: Dents

Polyethylene has a memory and if stressed, will usually rebound to its original shape once that stress is removed. However, depending on the duration and the power or strength of that stress, the hull material may not be as able to recover its form as readily. A depressed area in the hull has come to be known as a “wow” and the area can be fairly sizable, perhaps 2’ sq. ft. or more. 

In most cases this is not a structural issue (unless the hull material flops back and forth while underway) and is more cosmetic in nature. An unfair hull surface is less efficient moving through the water but the impact is often minor or unnoticeable. 

If you do want to restore the original hull shape there are a couple of ways to proceed. One is to take a heat gun (a hair dryer will not do) and carefully heat the area from the outside while pushing against the hull from the inside. Once the hull becomes more flexible remove heat and sustain the “push” from the inside while the material cools and firms up. Hopefully, it will hold the desired shape. 

Another way to address this is to place the canoe right side up, making sure the area of the hull to be reshaped is not firmly against ground or floor. Fill some flexible bags with very hot water and place them on the area to be reshaped. The heat and the weight of the water can help reform the hull to proper shape. 

Dents in areas with a lot of curve or shape, such as on the stems (ends) of the hull can be more stubborn to repair as the material has more rigidity and structure there due to that curvature and shape. The best hope is to heat the area with a heat gun and push out from the inside. It helps to have a “pusher” shaped to match the width of the stem as this will help align the repaired area with the original.