Introducing our refinished canoe – Monty Starr

untitled-5283I’ve been daydreaming about owning a canoe for years. We have a couple of sea kayaks, and while they’re super fun to get out in – there’s something much more romantic, maybe even balletic about paddling a canoe. After the birth of our daughter last spring, I figured that if we wanted to get the kids out on the water, it was time to start looking for a family friendly vessel.

Within a couple of weeks of looking on-line for something used and within our budget – and old beauty showed up in our neighbourhood of all places. An old stripper for $350. It had been posted that day and I new it wouldn’t be available for long! My husband and I went down to take a look at it and within a few hours it was ours. I knew by the photos it was in rough condition, but the former owner was paddling it around when we arrived, so we knew it floated! (phew!)

We got the boat out a couple of times last summer and I couldn’t help but notice the change in weight from when we put it in the water, to when we took it out. We let it sit over the winter and I knew come spring I was going to have to put some work into it.

Our annual father’s day camping trip was coming up and really wanted to have the boat ready. So  I started reading up on what I was going to have to do to refinish the boat. After inspecting the boat (now that I knew what I was looking for) I realized there were 3 small holes where the fibreglass had been punctured/cracked and the wood of the canoe was exposed. The boat had been taking on water!


The varnish was in really rough shape, and I could see some sloppy repair work throughout the boat.


So, I got to work with my new random orbital sander!


I realized as I began working on the boat that at this stage in my life (2 kids under 5), I was not going to find the time to get it back to perfect shape. So I focused on the priorities – repairing the fibreglass and protecting it with a UV marine varnish.

My first attempt at the fibreglass repair didn’t go so well. On the instructions it said that it should set within 45 minutes – but after a full day, the epoxy was still tacky to the touch. Ugh. I had to peel the patches off and resand the sticky mess. A rag with white vinegar finished the clean up process and I started again.

What it didn’t say on the instructions, was that you should stir the epoxy for at least 60 seconds (I found that little piece of info in a forum) and also – it is apparently really important to measure the catalyst and not just eyeball it! Lesson learned!

So, second time around, the fiberglass cured. I lightly sanded it down and then put a coat of varnish on it.


It’s funny, but now I realize what a shame it would have been to restore the whole thing – I love all the dings and scratches in the boat. Think of all the stories behind them!


Next step was to work on the gunwales and the decks. There was a lot of nasty, crusty old varnish…it took some work.


Then I applied the teak oil to them. Apparently you’re not supposed to varnish the gunwales – you want to keep them flexible.

And then last step was weaving some seats. I picked up about 20 meters of 1 inch nylon webbing from MEC and had Oliver give me a hand. We used a staple gun to fasten the webbing to the underside of the seat frames.


The canoe was up on saw-horses – so instead of taking the seats out to weave, we just worked under the up-side down canoe. untitled-0952

And just like that – it was ready for it’s first road-trip!untitled-0987

Strathcona park paddle

Oliver and I getting ready for our first paddle!

Strathcona Provincial Park

Oliver’s first paddling leasson!


Mine Lake, Quadra Island

Our overnighter in Main Lake Provincial Park – The Main Lakes Chain, Quadra Island


First trip in the stripper!

Happy Paddler Selfie!


At a family dinner, while talking about the canoe – my in-laws mentioned it needed a name (they love to name things!) We threw around a few – but I thought that since it was an “old stripper” (The former owner said it was built on Vancouver Island in the 1950’s and we’re the 5th family to own it) – that it should have an “old stripper” kind of name. We came up with Monty Starr – with two r’s of course!

Here’s my list of tools & supplies:

Random orbital sander

Sandpaper – 60 to 220 (for the sander)

Sanding blocks (super-fine)

Paint scraper (for the real nasty bits)

workgloves, dust mask

mec fiberglass repair kit

teak oil (for the gunwales)

marine varnish

heavy duty gloves

empty paint cans filled with water (to dispose of the varnish rags safely)

Hope this inspires you to take on a crazy project – Let me know what you think in the comments!




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