This CANOE BASICS section has information about the parts of a canoe, the materials from which canoes are made, the importance of design and shape, care and maintenance of canoes, and how to transport and store a canoe.

Your canoe is the vehicle that not only gets you from place to place, but if you're in the wilderness, it becomes your lifeline. Canoes must be maintained with this in mind. There is no "Auto Club" to rescue you from a poorly maintained canoe!

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   PARTS of a CANOE   Know these parts and avoid looking like a duffuss!
   canoe parts

The Bow is the front end of the canoe. You can usually spot the bow by looking at the seat arrangement. The front seat is further from the end of the canoe to provide leg room for the bow paddler.
The Stern is the other end of the boat.

The Hull is the body of the canoe which displaces the water and provides the canoe's buoyancy.

The Gunwale (gunnels or rails) are the upper edges that frame the upper part of the hull. The gunwale can be one piece or can consist of 2 pieces - an inwale along the inside of the hull and an outwale along the outer edge. This supports and adds rigidity to the hull. Some two piece gunwales are built with gaps between them to allow for drainage when the canoe is inverted.

The Thwarts are one or more cross-pieces attached at gunwale level to provide support to the gunwales and sides of the hull.

The Yoke is a shaped thwart, designed to fit the shoulders, which supports the canoe's weight when carrying.

The Decks are triangles of wood that sit between the gunwales at either end of the canoe. They provide a grip for carrying the canoe and a place to attach a painter.

The Seats are set in wide cross pieces which are usually attached to the underside of the gunwales.

The Keel is a narrow strip running along the bottom of the hull from bow to stern which provides greater tracking capability and gets most of the wear and tear when launching and beaching a canoe.

The Ribs are the flat cross pieces that follow the shape of the hull, pushing it outward into its shape and giving added strength to the bottom of the hull. In fibreglass and kevlar and ABS canoes, there may be only one (or none) since the material itself gives the shape.

The Planking are the wooden strips in canvas covered and strip canoes which run the length of the hull and give it shape.

The Cover is the waterproof layer in canvas canoes that is stretched over the planking. Fibreglass and aluminum boats do not have a cover.

The Stem Posts are the narrow strips of wood, at the bow and stern, to which the ends of the planking are attached. Like a spine, they give strength and curvature to the bow and stern of the canoe.

The Stem bands are usually brass or aluminum strips that follow the curve of the stem posts. They may run the full length of the hull along the keel and they help prevent wear to the hull.

The Floor Racks are strips of wood that form a protective covering on the inside of the bottom of the hull in some wooden canoes.

The Painter is a rope (ideally 1 1/2 canoe lengths long) which is usually attached to the decks. Painters are used to tie the boat up when you are onshore or at a dock. As well, they can be used to line a canoe around obstacles in shallow water. Painters are normally bought separately from the canoe.