Guest Blogger

Putting Your Canoe Away For The Winter:

Winter Storage Tips and Solutions

by John Gall, Johnny’s Boat Shop, Huntsville 

Now that you’ve finished that fall canoe trip, it’s time to put your canoe into storage for the winter. While there are specific steps for different hull and trim types, I will start with a common step I do to every canoe that comes to my facility for winter storage and/or a maintenance package: CLEANING.

Housekeeping For Your Canoe:

Cleaning a canoe by hand with rags and an all purpose biodegradable cleaner is the best way to inspect every inch of the hull for damage. If you discover any stubborn spots like pine pitch or scuff marks, you can usually remove these with methyl hydrate (a.k.a. fondue fuel) – it won’t hurt the finish on your canoe. Assuming you found everything in order, finish up with a coat of wax or a UV protection such as 303.

Trim Maintenance:

The next step is to INSPECT THE TRIM. If your canoe has wood trim, tighten the screws just a quarter turn each with a screw driver – NOT a screw gun. But only if needed – do not force anything. If your hull is Royalex, you should remove the last four or five screws from each gunwale, at both ends, to avoid “cold cracking”. Also, make sure all fasteners on the seats, thwarts, grab handles and yoke are tight.

Now it’s time to apply a few coats of Badger® Wood Oil (directions are on the can) to all wooden parts that do not have varnish on them. One of the many reasons I like to use Badger® Wood Oil is because it is formulated with hemp seed oil, which has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties that help prevent mold. Worn varnished parts should be lightly sanded and re-coated with outdoor-grade varnish.

If your canoe has aluminum gunwales, you should check all rivets to ensure that none of them have been sheared off or become loose. Replace as needed. Finally, check the ends of all the wooden parts for rot – and go ahead and tighten all the fasteners.

An oil finish protects wood and really brings out the natural beauty of the grain

What To Do About Those Float Tanks:

Before you put your canoe away, simply remove or loosen the plugs on sealed float tanks.

Now you are ready to store your canoe!

The Best Way To Store A Canoe:

Ideally, keep your canoe safely stored for the winter months by sheltering it from snow load and/or the ultraviolet rays of the sun and keeping it off the ground. Never wrap your canoe in a tarp, or shrink wrap, as this will help to trap moisture, causing wooden parts to rot and allowing mold growth.

Following these steps will help ensure you and your canoe are ready for the next season as soon as the ice is off the lake.

For rates on storage and/or maintenance packages, please contact John at • 705.783.7141

Johnny’s Boat Shop for all your canoe & kayak, maintenance and repair needs.


  • Sunfish says:

    I am so glad you posted this!

  • Brian says:

    Never wrap your canoe in a tarp? Not even a royalex canoe?

    • Randy Mitson says:

      Brian, I would agree with John, never wrap your canoe in a tarp. I’ve seen too many canoes that have spent seasons wrapped in a tarp only to emerge in much worse condition than they started in. Letting them breath and for moisture to evaporate is much better.

      Storing them inside out of the elements is best or if you must store them outside be sure to get them up off of the grown, away from trees or possible falling objects (including snow sliding off a roof) and just remove the snow occasionally over the winter.

      • Tushar says:

        How about leaving the canoe under trees, propped up on 4×4 wood beams to keep it above ground, with a tarp canopy over it (not touching the surface) to prevent snow/ice coming in contact with surface yet allowing air to pass through for moisture escape? The shaded area and a tarp canopy will prevent UV exposure and elements coming in contact with the surface.

  • David E. Laycock says:

    Is it advisable to place the canoe upended on two horses and lightly covwr it with a Poly Popr tarp? THen leave it outside away from winds etc?

    • When you can always store your canoe inside out of the elements. When this is not possible I suggest keeping it off of the ground, covering it with a tarp but do not let the tarp touch the ground, this will protect it from the elements and from condensation that can collect under the tarp if it’s allowed to touch the ground and not breathe. The last thing to consider is things falling on it, like snow branches or ice and snow off of the roof. There’s nothing worse than coming home to find a 4″ tree limb has punched a hole through your canoe, or worse yet a tree or whole roof of snow had fallen on it crushing it.

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