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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago now, I built some outriggers for my canoe to add some family friendly stability. It wasn’t until today though that I was able to test them out.  I really had three questions:

Would they work at all, or would the things break apart?

Would they be too low and end up being fully submerged?

How would I get them to the water, since I had no way of breaking down the outriggers to fit in my car!

Canoe outriggers-4

Despite their small size, these DIY outriggers provide reassuring stability for family fun, albeit with some slight drawbacks.

Thankfully, the third question worked out beautifully since the outriggers can be tied down to the keel of the canoe inside, and they just sit there while the canoe is being transported. Sweet. In order to “deploy” the floats, Mr. BigCatFishin on Youtube lashed his down with rope. Since I didn’t want to drill holes in my canoe, I utilized blocks of wood and groves cut into the PVC pipe to help position the outriggers, and then used ratcheting straps to lock the thing down. This made for a connection with virtually no slack.

DIY Canoe outriggers

Here I ratchet down the outriggers. Note the wood blocks glued to the gunwales. In the future, I could add “spacing blocks” to help raise the outriggers if carrying heavier loads. I could also wash out the canoe as it got pretty muddy when we men of the 101st ABN reenacted the Normandy Invasion last month.

Another area where my outriggers differ from the Mr. BigCat’s was that he used PE pipe, and 4″ diameter. I couldn’t find PE pipe locally, so I went with PVC. A length of 4″ PVC was really heavy, so I decided to use 2″ since every pound of weight on top of the gunwales would decrease stability and add unwanted weight. Finally, with the bottles I used, I put the blunt ends outward since I was considering adding a third bottle to each side. I just wanted to test with 2 bottles first. Like Mr BigCat, I filled all the voids with foam. I painted it with Rustoleum camo paint that said good for plastics on the can. Even so, the paint scratches quite easily.

Canoe outriggers-2

To make launching easier, we use a furniture dolly which then serves as a middle seat.

I assembled the canoe, put it on a furniture dolly then pushed it down the boat ramp to see how it would float. (There was actually some concern that the glue might not hold the super smooth drink bottles and the floats might break apart.)  We all got into it and found that the floats are just on the water. The canoe immediately felt much more stable than it did without the floats. We canoed around a sort of “pond” off of the Cumberland at Liberty Park in Clarksville for about an hour. My 2 year old was able to stand up and walk around the boat. Even with her leaning over the side, or with my wife leaning over to take a picture, the canoe felt stable and safe. None of that gunwale grabbing tippiness felt during my last canoe trip. At one point, my wife experienced a leg cramp when she was twisting around to take a photo. She stood up and yet it all handled pretty well!

Canoe outriggers-3

This shows the biggest drawback to the floats, namely, docking is quite awkward. However, I do like the new cleats I installed on the canoe.

The biggest draw back to the outriggers is that it makes docking a bit of a challenge. It would be helpful to be able to lift a side. It would also be nice to be able to adjust the depth of the floats so that you could fine tune them based on how much weight you are carrying. One possibility would be to stack blocks of wood on the positioning blocks glued to the gunwales. This could easily raise the floats. I also plan to add some round caps on the front of my floats to help streamline them a bit.

Canoe outriggers-5

The outriggers are 7 feet wide. I might have gone a bit overboard here. The central pipe is a bit over 5 feet wide.


Thanks Mr. BigCatFishin for the inspiration your video provided!

Canoe outriggers-6

It was stable enough that a 2 year old could stand up without using hands, and my wife even stood up! Here you can also see the green positioning blocks glued to the gunwales.


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