In ww circles, vinyl tends to crack
Posted by: g2d on Dec-28-12 10:48 PM (EST)
rather than bend permanently. The aluminum insert is not so much for stiffening as it is there to prevent the gunwale from being torn in two if it cracks. The vinyl gunwales on my OT Tripper had no aluminum inserts, and cracked in one place, but the boat held shape.
Weight savings is the main reason for aluminum. Ash gunwales are also likely to be lighter than vinyl, but a little heavier than aluminum.
No one should get aluminum for whitewater, but I've paddled in LA and MS, and you should be OK with aluminum.
The aluminum gunwales on our Bluewater tandem saved over five pounds compared to hardwood gunwales, but that large a difference isn't always to be expected. Bluewater could shave their ash gunwales a bit and lose a couple of pounds.
I haven't noticed a problem with aluminum gunwales being hot, or cold, in weather extremes, but don't lick them in winter.