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  Royalex & Age
  Posted by: kimoj44 on Feb-27-14 8:10 AM (EST)
   Category: Canoes 

Been looking at a few canoes made from Royalex. Assuming there are not obvious issues, should the Royalex's age be a concern?

One I'm going to look at is from 1998.

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  Posted by: kayamedic on Feb-27-14 8:38 AM (EST)
If it was stored out of the sun that is a good sign.
If its brittle, that is a bad sign.

Royalex used to be thicker than in recent years and friends of mine have RX canoes with scars from 1985. Of course we are in Maine where sun is not usually an issue.

So it depends on the care the boat got.
  Posted by: deuce on Feb-27-14 9:13 AM (EST)
My solo boat is a Blue Hole Sunburst. Those haven't been made in over 25 years but mine is a tank. It was a barn queen when my buddy found it. He paddled it once and sold it to another buddy. He put it in his back yard under a tarp and didn't get it out again until I told him I'd buy it. Usually pretty obvious if one has been stored incorrectly, but age in and of itself is not a problem.
  Posted by: fatelmo on Feb-27-14 10:43 AM (EST)
Me OT Tripper be 36 years old (1978) an' still in sound conditoon. It wuz always stored out of de sun.

  The vinyl outer layer of Royalex
  Posted by: ezwater on Feb-27-14 2:01 PM (EST)
protects entirely against sun damage to the ABS structural layers. Royalex won't get brittle from sun unless the vinyl is scraped off, or UV damages the vinyl enough that it chalks and flakes off.

What can make Royalex brittle is age. But the ABS layers get brittle very slowly. I wouldn't worry about a boat made in 1998. My principal ww cruiser, a Mad River Synergy, was new that same year, and it can still take a hard blow.

If a Royalex canoe is over 20 years old, I might hesitate to use it in difficult whitewater. But it could be serviceable in all other conditions.
  Posted by: rpg51 on Feb-27-14 2:37 PM (EST)
I have two trippers from the late 70s. Both stored carefully all their lives. One has become brittle, the other not so much. No idea why. But I would say that if it is stored well you will still see some brittleness creeping in when you get up to the 30 year mark. Still, I use both of them in significant whitewater all the time. Its not like they are going to break apart spontaneously or anything. They are perfectly serviceable and rugged as heck.
  I became aware of the brittle-with-time
  Posted by: ezwater on Feb-27-14 11:17 PM (EST)
issue when I was making small hand rehab devices out of plastic sheet. When I made them out of fresh stock, they were flexible and could be bent to various angles without crazing or cracking. But if I went back to one, two or three years later, and tried to modify or change a bend, the plastic had become quite brittle.

I found that if I plunged the plastic in hot water, about 180 degrees, and let it cool slowly, flexibility would be restored. I then found that this annealing procedure, applied to new plastic, would make it easier to bend, and it would retain flexibility longer.

Of course, plastics must differ in their tendency to get brittle with age. You and I must have seen many relatively new Royalex canoes that, if pitoned or bent, will wrinkle or crumple. Or they might tear like leather if really stressed.

But when I saw a 20+ year old Royalex canoe rocket down a slope and piton into a tree, age brittleness was clearly revealed. The bow didn't crumple or tear, it split in a jagged, ragged fashion right down the stem.

Maybe if Royalex doesn't join paper mache and varnish as a bygone boat material, we will figure out how to anneal boats without their losing their intended form.
  My solution is wood.
  Posted by: rpg51 on Feb-28-14 6:01 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Feb-28-14 6:46 AM EST --

Yikes, maybe I should be retiring these old friends of mine? What is the final resting place of a discarded royalex canoe anyway? Does it end up in the landfill? I wonder what the landfill is going to charge me for that?

My next canoe will be wood canvas. Should be done in time for my spring trip. I'm going "au naturale." I'm done with plastic. Long list of reasons. Among them is the fact that WC is infinitely repairable and when they finally die you can throw them in the burn pile and be done with it. Here is a video of some folks traveling in the Yukon. These people know how to do it right.

  I like your solution
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Feb-28-14 9:34 AM (EST)
I love wood/canvas canoes. I wonder if they were as proportionately expensive back in the day as they are now? A lot of work (and $) goes into making them, but perhaps production on a larger scale and a less-limited supply of quality lumber made them more affordable (I've heard amazing stories about lumber which today would be considered furniture grade being so plentiful that it was used for making disposable shipping crates 50 to 60 years ago and more).

As to landfill charges, there's no need to worry. If you need to throw one away, cut it up and dispose of it bit by bit. Your "environmental sinfulness" won't be any less but you can dodge that particular sin tax.
  Good for 30+ yrs
  Posted by: Booztalkin on Feb-28-14 10:17 PM (EST)
In the late twenty-oughts, I rehabbed a '74 Chipywan. At the time, I wondered if the royalex was worth a rehab effort.

I'd been cutting up a tree at the time. I layed the canoe across the log rounds that were scattered in the yard, climbed into the canoe and jumped and stomped around, trying to break the hull. The royalex withstood the challeng and I went ahead with the rebuild. I paddled that boat for a few years before I sold it.

I think you will be fine with a boat made in the nineties.

  Go for it
  Posted by: eckilson on Mar-01-14 5:10 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-01-14 6:26 AM EST --

A boat built in the late 90ís is still a baby in Royalex terms. My oldest boat is a Mohawk Whitewater 16 from 1988. Two years ago I went poling and got the boat in a nasty pin.

With a lot of effort we finally got it unpinned, but it was racked at the bow where it wrapped around the rock. One foot stomp and it popped back into shape. There is a crease where it wrapped, but other than that you would never know. I paddled it just last weekend.

I have two other Royalex boats from 1992. They are both whitewater solos that have had a lot of use. Still, there is no reason people shouldn't be paddling all three of these boats long after Iím gone.

  RX and Age
  Posted by: CEWilson on Mar-01-14 12:01 PM (EST)
The trouble with Royalex and Age is that, as we age, it gets harder and harder to lift!
  Posted by: vic on Mar-01-14 2:14 PM (EST)
The real problem with Royalex and age is that the more we age the harder it will be get :-)
  Posted by: ret603 on Mar-03-14 1:00 PM (EST)
The older we get the harder it will become to digest Royalex.

  The '74 Chipewayn
  Posted by: booztalkin on Mar-06-14 1:25 PM (EST)
I ran across the email address of the guy that bought the Chipewayn, five years ago. I wrote to him and asked how the boat was doing. He responded "Awesome!"

That's 40 years, and counting.

It's not going to last as well as aluminum, but if that boat had been aluminum, I couldn't have repaired it as I did and it would have had to go to the scrap heap a long time ago.

  Good for a million years
  Posted by: mgc on Mar-13-14 12:44 PM (EST)
I own a Royalflex Old Town Kayak that I bought in (?) 1973/4 or so. I don't use it much anymore and keep it stored outside. It's fine. It looks like it's good for a million more years.
Back in the day it got used pretty hard. I once had it wrapped on a rock in the middle of the St. Regis.

I prefer wood and canvas boats but my beater is an Old Town Royalflex. It's the right stuff..........
  Old Boats In My Quiver
  Posted by: dougd on Mar-13-14 4:43 PM (EST)
Most of my boats in RX are between 20-30 years old and are still rock solid and I bought them all used. I now store them in my barn but have no idea how they were stored before I bought them. My Courier has taken some serious hits on rocks in WW and has no problems. Unless there are serious visible problems I wouldn't worry to much. Just my .02

  IMO Royalex is not the best material
  Posted by: Yakfisher on Mar-14-14 2:07 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-14-14 2:38 PM EST --

for building canoes. This is based on my personal experience of having a Royalex canoe that was only a few years old break all to pieces during a week of sub zero temps about 20 years ago.

This is mainly a problem on canoes with wooden gunnels so I am told. Not only does Royalex become brittle with age, it becomes extremely brittle at below freezing temperatures. Apparently you are supposed to loosen the screws that hold the wooden gunnels to the canoe to prevent it from cracking. I didn't know this and probably wouldn't have thought to do it even if I had, because I stored the canoe in a barn before I went back to college in August, and it rarely gets that cold here in VA anyway.

This is sorta what mine looked like before I hauled it to the landfill.

I replaced with an Old Town poly-link canoe that has proven to be much more durable, and when temps dipped below zero here a few weeks ago(for the first time in two decades) it DID NOT CRACK!

I am sure the lovers of Royalex on here will flame me for saying this but other materials have largely replaced it since the 1970s and one reason it is being discontinued by the manufacturer is the market for Royalex canoes is just too small for it to be profitable for them to continue production.

  Posted by: deuce on Mar-14-14 2:32 PM (EST)
I don't imagine there will be much of that, but I do suspect some folks might point out the fact that you're impuning the suitability of a widely and successfully used material based on one experience you had. While that experience was unfortunate it's hardly grounds for saying Royalex isn't the best material for canoes. To each his own for sure though, my friend.
  Also not sure
  Posted by: eckilson on Mar-14-14 3:38 PM (EST)
what "materials have largely replaced it". At least in these parts, it's pretty rare to see a canoe that isn't Royalex. Maybe it's all the rocky rivers around here.
  Wood Canvas
  Posted by: rpg51 on Mar-14-14 7:51 PM (EST)
That is the way to go.

  Canvas the consumers, and see who
  Posted by: ezwater on Mar-14-14 8:19 PM (EST)
wood agree with you.

Royalex arose in the SE US, and because it seldom gets super cold there, cold related damage is uncommon.

And, in the SE we are afflicted with a mental illness where we do not run big, bodacious whitewater in ultra low temperatures. This illness can be overcome with heavy medical marijuana smoking, but then, paddler lose motivation for cold weather paddling anyway.

Good makers of composite ww canoes can supply boats that will not show brittle damage in super cold weather.
  I like that - good one g2d
  Posted by: eckilson on Mar-15-14 5:49 AM (EST)
It gets pretty cold up here, and cold related damage is still uncommon. The main problem that I see with Royex is wear. As you have noted above, once the vinyl gets worn off, you will start to get cracks in the ABS layer. I say if a boat has been paddled enough to wear the vinyl off the bottom, a crack every now and then is justified.
  Interesting as I thought Royalex
  Posted by: kayamedic on Mar-15-14 6:20 PM (EST)
was a Maine thing.. Its almost time for the Kenduskeag Race..there will be some 700 RX boats, the majority Old Town..

Some of the boats are very old...from the 80's..And they do get dragged. And bondoed
  Don't get me wrong rpg51
  Posted by: eckilson on Mar-16-14 5:40 AM (EST)
Wood canvas canoes are beautiful - I'd love to have one. Composites are great too, but I have a Wenonah Spirit II in kevlar that sits on the rack because I don't want to scratch or bang it up. My royalex boats have all the fun.
  Is your poly canoe still un-warped?
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Mar-15-14 3:47 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-15-14 4:02 PM EST --

I've see more Old Town canoes made of poly in the last 5 or 6 years than I care to count (I don't know, 50, 80 of them?). Every single one of them was badly warped on the bottom, to the point that I for one would not even consider owning one (and that's ignoring the many hundreds of them I've seen at the Ozark rental places, all of which are in even worse condition). As already pointed out, "to each his own", but Royalex has been extremely popular for decades now, and with reasonable care it will never warp. To mty knowledge, poly is the only material which has (partially) replaced Royalex, and poly isn't liked by very many, except as used in those new kinds of extremely tiny whitewater canoes. And of course the rental places like poly because it's the cheapest material available and also the toughest (except for that warping thing).

Various other modern canoe materials haven't replaced Royalex to any great extent. Instead, they've added to the variety of very expensive but not-as-tough choices in the composite realm. Good materials for sure, but in an entirely different part of the market than that occupied by Royalex.

  Well Eric
  Posted by: vic on Mar-15-14 5:10 PM (EST)
I would guess the river dorks that rent those poly boats don't even know the canoes are warped. Probably looks normal to them, especially by the time the get off the river :-)
  I kinda like my polycanoe
  Posted by: tdaniel on Mar-16-14 9:09 AM (EST)
it was cheap to buy- 300 dollars new although a bit deformed- paddles good, and is very durable. Heavy to carry, and the way its set up without thrwarts you can't portage it over your head, and the wife feels tippy in it (seats are bit high for her, and she'd like more initial stability) but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it paddled. In my universe its all good- rafts, kayaks, duckies, canoes, innertubes. I've paddled kevlar, royalex, poly, twintex, aluminum, pvc, hypalon, and glass. Some boat types and materials work better in some situations than others. If it gets you out on the water, and it works in your current situation then I don't see what the issue is. Add me to the list of river dorks who believe gettin' out is more important than bein' cool. "Its all good"...some folks are just slow to realize it.
  "River dork" clarifiction.............
  Posted by: on Mar-16-14 7:42 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-16-14 8:03 PM EST --

ClarificAtion -or- the rest of the story........

What boat someone paddles, how much it costs, and what material is used in it's construction, has nothing to do with "river dorks".

River dorks are not "cool" no matter what they paddle. They are drunks & dopers in rental boats, blundering down the river, creating traffic jams, trashing the river, and gravel bars, filling the air with obscenity, and loud music, urinating in public, aggravating young women, and generally acting like obnoxious drunken buffoons.

The term "river dorks" was created by a group of paddlers in a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor certification class, on the Spring River in Arkansas, in August of l995. The original label was "Spring River dorks".


  tdaniel: RE river dorks
  Posted by: vic on Mar-16-14 7:55 PM (EST)
Please let me clarify what I mean by river dorks, and what most of the people I paddle with mean by river dorks.

Being a river dork in my definition has absolutely nothing to do with the kind or costs of the boats they paddle. It has everything to do with how they behave and treat others on the river. It is behavior you would not condone in your neighborhood or other public places that have no connection with rivers.

They tend to be overly inebriated, either by alcohol or other mind altering substances. And by that I mean out of control and not just mildly buzzed. If they were to drive a car in that state they would have their licenses yanked and spend time in jail.

They care only about themselves and showing off for their buddies no matter what effect that behavior has on other users of the river. What I find most galling is their lack of respect and the way they act in front of families, their children, older folks, and anyone that does not share their inebriated state.

River dork behavior puts other users of the river at risk.

In my experience they are the ones who most befoul the rivers. Beer cans, broken liquor bottles, empty chip bags, and all other sorts of trash and debris left wherever they have happened to be - both in the river and on the shore.

So the term river dork, the way I and many I paddle with define it, relates only to behavior and not the skill of the paddler or the type of vessels they use.
  No, because I store it properly
  Posted by: Yakfisher on Mar-16-14 5:32 PM (EST)
Unlike most of these canoe rental places that leave them on racks out in the hot sun where they warp.
  There's more to it than that
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Mar-16-14 5:41 PM (EST)
As I said in that earlier post, that observation was made without needing to include the ones I've seen at the rental places. All the poly Old Town canoes I've seen have been warped, regardless of age or storage method.

There are exceptions. I saw some brand-new Nova Craft canoes made of poly at Canoecopia last weekend, and those were the first poly canoes I've ever seen that were not warped. I'll admit that I did not check out the Old Town display. I might have found some exceptions among brand-new boats there, but at other times I've seen plenty of brand new Old Towns made of poly that already had wavy bottoms. It's just a bad material for maintaining shape with boats having as much flattish surface area as a full-size canoe. I'm hardly the first here to point that out.


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