BWCA Flexibility between wooden and aluminum gunwales? Boundary Waters Gear Forum
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member (11)member
06/26/2019 09:40PM  
I recently acquired an older (early 90s) solo kevlar Bell with wooden gunwales. It appears to be in overall good shape. When I transport it on our car, the bow of the canoe flexes/bounces quite a bit in the wind at highway speeds. The bow of our newer Nova Craft with aluminum gunwales doesn't move at all driving 70+ mph, even in windy conditions.

I've never had a canoe with wooden gunwales. Is this just a difference in flexibility between wooden and aluminum gunwales? Just wondering if I should be worried about the structural integrity of the canoe before I take it on a long solo trip :)
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06/27/2019 05:59AM  
Do you just have straps going over the bottom of the canoe? If you properly secure the bow, there should be little or no movement whatsoever. I own an older Bell Wildfire with wood gunnels and have never had a problem like you're describing.
member (17)member
06/27/2019 09:18AM  
Is there a difference in length of the two boats you are describing? While some factors may influence the flexibility, i suspect gunnels is far down the list. Ive noticed its very difficult to temove all the flex in very long fiberglass boats, especially if the bars on your rack are fairly close together. That said, i haven't lost one on the highway yet!
member (11)member
06/27/2019 09:24AM  
I'm using bow tie downs on both boats and have canoe brackets installed on my cross bars. The Nova Craft is 16', the Bell is 15.5'. The Bell feels solid when paddling and portaging. It doesn't move constantly while driving, but the bow will shimmy back and forth when hit with a cross wind or when passing through the turbulence of a semi.
distinguished member (463)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/27/2019 09:42AM  
distinguished member(2399)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/27/2019 10:04AM  
Probably nothing to do with the gunwales and more to do with the construction of the canoe and how well it fits in the brackets. Is the whole boat moving back and forth or is there vibration/motion in just part of the boat? Above the waterline on many Bell layups there is just one layer of cloth- it is quite flexible- though this is immaterial to the function and overall stiffness of the hull.
member (11)member
06/27/2019 12:14PM  
Thanks for the input everyone. It's probably just a difference in construction. The Nova Craft has 2 seats and 3 thwarts, the Bell has 1 seat and 2 thwarts. There could be fewer layers of Kevlar on the Bell also. The Bell sits snuggly on the brackets and does not move side to side; the movement is just in the bow of the boat.
member (17)member
06/27/2019 01:16PM  
I think some canoes are just going to wiggle at really high speeds. As long as i dont think its shifting on the rack, im ok with that. While its a little unsettling mentally, id rather take that over damaging the canoe with overtightening bow/stern lines. For long highway trips ill sometimes add some extra lines from various thwarts to other attachments. I will admit my friends make fun of me when i roll up with 8 ropes.
member (34)member
06/27/2019 06:30PM  
Hauling a boundary waters 17 we were getting a lot of flex, I use the nylon webbing along the sides of the hood to tie the front down and had them up at the front of the engine compartment.

By moving the webbing as far back towards the windshield and the canoe farther back on the vehicle it has really helped stabilize everything.
distinguished member(1374)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/27/2019 11:08PM  
I currently have a Bell Magic and Northstar, previously owned a Bell Northwind. All Black Gold layup with wood gunwales. Prior to that Ranger Otter in kevlar/glass layup with wood gunwales. Never noticed any flex in the hulls when transported, either with or without bow straps. I normally use a bow strap, btw. Rarely use one on the aft end. Racks are probably 4.5 to 5 ft. apart.
06/28/2019 07:38AM  
" Just wondering if I should be worried about the structural integrity of the canoe before I take it on a long solo trip :)"
Simple answer, no!

Have done lots of solo tripping with both types of gunnel construction, prefer the wood over aluminum for sound and comfort. Hauling makes no difference either, my one way travel to the BWCA is 600+ miles.
Or ask an experienced archery buff if one is stiffer. I have made arrows out of both materials in a variety of spine rates (measurement of stiffness or bend needed due to archers paradox).

distinguished member(4913)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
06/28/2019 08:09AM  
no worries.. I have had a Bell canoe or two with wood gunwales and transported them cross country so many times I lost count.
You can eliminate the wiggle by having the bow back a little so there is not so much bow overhang in front of the front rack.. We notice wiggle on our long canoes especially on the Great Plains and moving them slightly back does help. Nasty crosswinds broke the rack tower but not the boat ( was secured by a bow line)
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