Canoe Parts & Terminology

A Canoe’s Bow

The front end of the canoe; you can easily spot the bow by looking at the seating arrangement. The front seat is located further from the end of the canoe to provide legroom for the bow paddler.

A Canoe’s Stern

The back end of the canoe where most of the steering is done. Easily identified as the stern seat will positioned closest to the flotation tank.

The Canoe’s Port Side

This is the left side of the canoe, looking from the stern towards the bow.

The Canoe’s Starboard Side

This is the right side of the canoe, looking from the stern towards to bow.

The Beam of a Canoe

This refers to the width of the canoe at its widest point. This will be in the centre of a symmetrical (traditional) canoe and between 3″-5″ aft of the yoke in an asymmetrical (modern) canoe. 

The Canoe’s HullParts of a Canoe1Parts of a canoe21

It’s the body design of the canoe which sits in and displaces water and provides the canoe’s buoyancy. Different bottom and side hull designs each have their own advantages. To learn more please Click Here to read the article Considerations When Buying a Canoe

Canoe Gunnels or Gunwales

These refer to the upper edges of the canoes sides. Wood Gunwales consist of two pieces inner & outer gunwale that sandwich the boats upper edges and are usually attached by Phillips screws. Aluminum or vinyl gunwales consist of a one-piece extrusion that is set onto the canoes upper edges and is attached by rivets.

Scuppers or Scalloped Canoe Gunwales

Elongated slots (2 to 3 inches long) are cut into the inner & outer gunwales. These slots (normally 4 each side of the carry yoke) help relieve water from the canoe when cleaning, act as fasten points, and is an ascetically pleasing finishing touch to a wood trimmed canoe. Some manufactures also offer scalloped deck plates as well.

A Canoe’s Deck Plates

These are the triangle shaped pieces of wood that are fastened between the gunwales at either end of the canoe. They provide a convenient handhold for carrying and a place to attach a painter line.

The Canoe’s Thwart

This is a cross piece which attaches to the canoe’s gunwales two-thirds of the way back from the bow. A thwarts purpose is to provide structure and support to the gunnels and sides of the canoe’s hull.

A Kneeling Thwart replaces the normal thwart (about 6 inches aft) and is fitted on an angle to better enable kneeled solo paddling as it takes weight / stress off both the paddler’s knees and ankles while still providing canoe structure & rigidity.

A Deep Dish Carry or Portage Yoke

It’s a centre thwart, which is contoured to comfortably fit your shoulders to best support the canoes weight when solo portaging (carrying).

Canoe Seats

The bow seat is wider and is fastened to the gunwales furthest from one of the flotation tanks. The stern seat is narrowest and is fastened to the gunwales closest to the other flotation tank.

A Canoe’s Keel

A narrow strip, which runs along the bottom of the hull from bow to stern. Keels provide better tracking and act as a bang plate to take most of the bangs and wear.

Canoe Stem Bands or End Plates

Brass or aluminum strips that follow the curved ends of a symmetrical canoes. (Asymmetrical canoes may have Kevlar stem bands but never brass or aluminum). Stem bands help prevent wear to the canoe’s ends through impact relief.

The Ribs of a Canoe

Shallow “U” shaped pieces that push outwards on the inside of the canoe’s hull to add strength & rigidity in some canoes.

Note: Some quality fibreglass and Kevlar canoes do NOT have ribs as the manufacturers have chosen to add a core stiffening material to the canoe’s hull instead.

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