High and Dry

 Sara Gray 
Winterize kayaks and canoes so you'll be ready to hit the water next year.

Summer's gone, and it's time to put away your water toys. A bit of seasonal TLC now will guarantee fun and safety next spring.

First, remove all gear. This includes life jackets, electronics, and paddles. Inspect the vessel's interior and exterior for rust, corrosion, or other damage, then wash thoroughly to remove all salt water and residue. Touch up scratches with paint or varnish (look for marine-grade coatings from Rust-Oleum or Valspar), and apply a UV protectant (look for biodegradable products such as 303 Aerospace Cleaner and Protectant, UV Tech Surface Protectant and Rejuvenator, or Nautical Reflections all-in-one cleaner and wax).

Make sure the watercraft is completely dry to prevent mildew and mold. Moisture-control products (such as DampRid or Star brite's No Damp) offer extra protection in areas with high humidity. Above all else, remember to check your owner's manual for unique specifications.

You should store your kayak after each use to prevent damage from sun, salt, and sand, but seasonal storage requires a bit more preparation. Open hatches and drain plugs, and check hardware connections and straps for deterioration. In a dark room, shine a flashlight inside the kayak to expose cracks, holes, and weak spots. Inspect foot braces, and lubricate the rudder and control joints.

To prevent warping and body damage, never store a kayak upside down or hang it by its handles or straps. Instead, buy additional straps and suspend the kayak from a secure beam, preferably indoors. Space the straps evenly along the length of the cockpit. Other storage options: wall mounts and freestanding racks.

Always rest canoes upside down with weight distributed evenly from bow to stern. Keep them off the ground, either on padded supports to protect the gunwales or elevated with a hoist system.

Canoes stored outdoors should be covered by a heavy-duty tarp or other shelter to safeguard against winter elements, and anchored if they're subject to heavy winds. Make sure the tarp is pulled tight to prevent snow and rain from collecting and exerting pressure on the hull. Trapped moisture can cause discoloration and foster mold, so leave a space between the cover and the hull, as well as an opening for ventilation.

Storage Supplies
· The Boundary Waters Catalog, Piragis Northwoods Company; 800/223-6565 or boundarywaterscatalog.com

· Danuu Kayak and Canoe Covers; 877/326-8863 or danuu.com

· Martin Creek; 888/985-1031 or martincreek.com

· OutdoorPlay; 800/994-4327 or outdoorplay.com

· Tom's Top Kayaker Shop; 603/323-8090 or topkayaker.net/topkayakershop

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