View topic - how necessary is a spray deck?

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PostPosted: December 13th, 2004, 12:55 am 

Joined: September 19th, 2003, 8:46 am
Posts: 759
how necessary is a spray deck?

they are not. if the water/wind is that bad either walk or wait. last thing you want is to have the spray skirt rip loose in a bad rapid or if your out a couple of miles with cresting waves.

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PostPosted: December 13th, 2004, 7:55 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 1879
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
Hi David,

I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. I don’t think of wind or water as "bad" or not, but rather a gradient of conditions, much of which is do-able with safety. If what you were getting at was that a deck does not compensate for skill level, then I would agree with you. There are definitely situations along that gradient where you portage, or wait out the wind. I would also agree that on many well known trips, the spray deck is not absolutely, positively necessary, but it sure makes the trip better and safer if you have one.

I have been on tandem and many solo trips where the spray decks were necessary. In pool and drop rivers, you might get the impression that a spray deck is a luxury, because you can portage around. But all rivers are not pool and drop. There are sections of rivers I have done where the rapids just keep going and going, and it would be very bad to fill up part way down. There are drops where the froth slams over the bow and slides across the deck. A boat without a deck would fill up. You would then lose control of your boat as it would weigh over a ton, risking serious injury and a pin, and loss of gear and boat. There are trips on big rivers where portaging is not an option for all rapids. You have to run the sections of moving water that go on for kilometers, because there are no portage trails, and the surrounding terrain is too rugged. These are trips with high skill pre-requisites, but the spray deck does not compensate the skill. It is a piece of gear that makes it do-able with more safety, not less.

I have been out in big lake swells, well under control and within safety bounds for my skill level. The occasional wave breaks over the top, especially when loaded for long distance arctic expeditions. The spray deck keeps me dry and light. Every bit of shipped water makes the boat heavier, and soaks into the gear.

I was on an arctic river solo trip this past summer where I had big winds against the current, making those big sharp standing waves, and rain, for almost 2 weeks straight. I simply could not wait on shore for two weeks. I was loaded for an expedition so my boat was heavy, and I had a wet ride in many of the sections. The spray deck was necessary. Otherwise I would have had to stop to continually bail and sponge out my boat, and my packs would have been wet and heavy.

Spray decks also keep the boat drier in an upset rescue situation. Of course you would have the packs tied is with floatation bags fore and aft (see other threads on this tie-in issue), and then the boat can be rolled over quick before it ships alot of water.

I bought a Cooke custom deck for last summer’s solo trip. He has an excellent lightweight and very strong material and design. It’s not an extra burden for portages for the level of trip that requires it.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: December 13th, 2004, 5:15 pm 
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Joined: July 9th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 1292
Location: Cambridge, Ontario
Spray decks:

I made my first deck and bought my second from Outdoor Solutions. Is it worth it? For the most part yes. If you're paddling big rivers with big rapids and/or are pushing the season it's a must have.


Flight prices don't really differ too much between companies, unless the companies fly different planes. The big price factor is what type of plane is used. Flights are charged by the aerial mile, and don't forget you're paying for the plane both ways! A twin Otter will cost more than a single Otter, a single Otter will cost more than a Beaver and so on.

As an example, a Beaver might fly at approx. $5.50/mile, and generally takes two people and one boat. On the other hand, an twin Otter might fly at $8.00/mile but takes 4 people and two boats.

Companies often charge a "tie-on" fee of between $50 - $100 per boat. I've also encountered a "slow flight" surcharge of up to $0.35/km because of the canoe.

Flights aren't cheap, but they're often worth it.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: December 13th, 2004, 7:10 pm 
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Joined: February 18th, 2003, 7:00 pm
Posts: 683
Location: arnprior, Ontario can
I would say a spray cover is 95% nessisary 5% of the time.

For the WW aspect for big water, long classs 3+ rapids, or frequent waves over 4 feet, other than that it is a liability. I have found that the cover rests at home or in my pack for all but the toughest trips.

For flat water I don't think it would allow paddling in rougher water, though they do keep some heat in and will offer a more aerodynamic profile when paddling into the wind.

I have an outdoor solutions cover as well, generaly I am happy. But I would choose velcro and snaps attachments over the buckel systen I have( buckels are too slow to rig and a real PITA if the weather is cold or there is lots of portaging, also they are bad for catching fingers while paddling). Also I would prefer for the future a cover that offered a bit more flexibility for streaching over the gear and offered better water sheading as well.

 Post subject: spraydeck necessary?
PostPosted: December 14th, 2004, 7:28 am 
How necessary a spray deck is,
depends on how much you need one...

Is a spraydeck necessary?
If this were so, all canoes should be built with a permanent deck
like a kayak or a closed/decked canoe.
(There are several European touring canoes that can be bought that

If you really need a spraydeck in heavy water, you likely will also
need a lot of other things too, like sufficient airbags in the
canoe, dry suits or swim suits on, rescue equipment, other paddlers
to assist you for rescues, etc.
I have never really felt at loss by not having a spraydeck. On the
contrary, the times that I did have a spraydeck and really needed
it, it (still) turned out to be not safe enough for me to go on in
those situations... After that happened a couple of times, I never
used a spraydeck again, because the use of it was also a burden to
me. Instead I have chosen to invest in a touring canoe that can be
paddled well enough in wind and waves without a spraydeck, and in
learning and practicing the paddle and boating techniques that
support this. This also means paddling with the right trim and load
distribution, meaning you often have to (be able to) paddle kneeled
for a long time just behind the stern thwart (position) when
paddling tandem.

Also the advantage or possibilities of a spraydeck are purely
theoretical for me, as I cannot make or buy one that is light,
strong, long lasting, really trustworthy in real difficult
situations, does not leak, is quick and easy to put on and off, has
no paddle and knuckle destroying attachments on the canoe, is
versatile enough to enable different load sizes and is safe to
use? So far, I haven never seen a spraydeck that
would work well enough.

Dirk Barends

 Post subject:
PostPosted: December 14th, 2004, 8:43 am 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 3145
Dan Cook at Cooke Custom Sewing will listen to your needs; he has a wide variety of spraydecks to choose from. He works with you on an individual basis at reasonable prices and does beautiful work.

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