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Builder Stories: Martin Devenyi's Composite Canoe

A composite canoe sits on a rock shelf beside the water

Every once in awhile, a question will come into the Bear Mountain inbox about using carbon fibre in canoe construction. While our expertise is mainly based around fibreglass epoxy, we appreciate seeing how enterprising home builders have modified their approach for weight, strength, or the sheer joy of experimentation. Martin Devenyi's unconventional Freedom 17 is a prime example of the kind of eye-catching yet practical results that are possible with a few changes to the recipe. Martin writes:

"I actually completed the canoe over 10 years ago--it's been on about 15 backcountry trips. When planning the build I was looking for a canoe that was as light as feasible for a cedar strip for long portages without compromising too much on performance, capacity or durability. Inspired by those crazy-light marathon racers more commonly seen in New York State plus an interest in composites, I borrowed some of the materials and design features and married them with the Ted Moores classic strip build methods to see what I could come up with. The finished weight ended up at 37 lbs (--it's a couple of pounds heavier now after some repairs and mods). I used 3/16" Eastern White Cedar strips, 4-oz glass sheathing on the interior, 6-oz carbon covering the exterior with another layer of glass for abrasion protection on the football below the waterline. Gunnels, decks, seat and thwart cleats are Corecell wrapped in CF and vacuum bagged. The CF tractor seats were ordered from a small custom marathon canoe building outfit in NY State (can't recall the name), and supported by tubing I bagged from CF sleeve material.

It's light, stiff, responsive, very quick, tracks beautifully--a hoot to paddle tandem or solo. I've in fact taken it as a soloist on group trips and have had no trouble keeping up (usually), even with kayaks (okay...maybe until a stiff wind comes up LOL). I use a simple kneeling thwart--the higher centre of gravity can make it a little skittish, though.

It's taken a beating over the years and never let me down. I must admit it's a bit more fragile than a 1/4" strip build with traditional 6-oz cloth--I've had to repair a couple of cracked strips after losing my grip during a tricky portage. The feather-weight plus awesome water feel makes it a worthwhile tradeoff, by far. Looks unique, too. Definitely been a conversation starter at the put-ins and take-outs.

All the best,

Martin Devenyi"

Martin Devenyi's composite canoe seen from the bow, with black hull and woodstrip interior, sits on a grassy lawn
Martin Devenyi paddles his composite canoe along a rocky shore

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