DIY Canoe Stabilizer , outrigger, float, or something like that…

So, I’m hoping to hit a couple lakes this year, and while my canoe feels pretty stable already, I wondered if there was a way to make it REALLY stable.

So, I started researching canoe outriggers and stabilizers. I learned a bunch of boating terminology in the process, and have come to the conclusion that it might be possible to build one relatively cheap.

Cabelas has one for over $200:

I started to see some homemade floats made from things like pool noodles, large 4″ PVC pipes, boat bumpers, and more. I found several web sites using bullet nose crab buoys, and it seemed like the best plan to me. I also decided to use some free conduit that was laying around as the “cross beam” for the whole thing.

So, I ordered the crab buoys first from LFS Marine here:

Next, I needed a way to attach the conduit to the canoe. Luckily, I found something called a conduit U-bolt beam clamp. This clamp worked perfect. Here is the clamp:
U-bolt beam clamp

Here is the conduit in place with the u-bolt beam clamp:
Conduit on the canoe

I then found a video on Youtube that showed someone attaching the crab buoy to a 3/4″ schedule 40 PVC pipe. I bought 6 pre-cut pieces of PVC, and two tees. Basically, you stick one piece of PVC into each end of the tee making a big upside down “T” out of PVC. The two crab buoys attach to the upside down T. I glued them in place with plastic adhesive. I think filled the whole “T” with “Great Stuff” expanding foam for the sake of waterproofing and floating.

Next, I needed a way to attach the “T” to the conduit. I looked for some type of tee clamp, and found a PVC 3/4″ compression tee would be perfect. I can looses the tee and slide it up and down the upside-down “T” to adjust the height. The compression tee had a threaded outlet, so I I bought a 3/4″ schedule 80 nipple to screw into the compression tee. Here’s what I ended up with:
Canoe Crab Buoy

Luckily the 1/2″ conduit I had fit nicely into the nipple. I then drilled a couple holes though the nipple and conduit, and will place pins into the holes to hold the whole thing together. This is what the final product looked like:
Canoe Float

So how much did I spend (rounded):
a. 6 – 2′ sections of Schedule 40 3/4″ PVC = $6
b. 2pcs 3/4″ PVC tees = $1
c. 2pcs 3/4″ Compression Tee = $8
d. 2 – 5″ Schedule 80 3/4″ nipples = $2
e. 2pcs of Conduit = free for me
f. 2 – U-bolt beam clamps = $8
g. 4 – Crab Floats = $33
h. 1 bottle Plastic Adhesive = $4
i. Great Stuff Foam = $4
Total: $66

Not too bad. The biggest cost is the crab floats. So, hopefully someone out there who is thinking about doing the same thing stumbles onto this and can have yet another opinion on how to build a stabilizer, float, outrigger, or whatever this thing is called.


58 thoughts on “DIY Canoe Stabilizer , outrigger, float, or something like that…

  1. Thanks for the design. My only improvement was to use a single 1″ diameter conduit, rather than 2 overlapping 1/2″ diameter pieces. The 1″ conduit is stronger and fits tighter over the dk. gray 3/4″ pvc risers, than the 1/2 fits inside them.

    Thanks again, they work well.

  2. Tried something similar with a kayak. Works great. extremely stable. My problem was the 3/4 pipe wasn’t very sturdy and snapped. Moved up to 1 inch pipe, bored out the buoys and so far so good. My son has the same Mad River Canoe. Also a great ride

  3. also……. nice site. Saadly in todays world the fishing from the yak is more succesful than the disciples fishing for men

  4. The plate at the bottom of those U-bolts–I can’t see exactly what you’re using and I can’t find the right piece at Home Depot. Help1

  5. Andy,
    Thats the conduit U-bolt “beam clamp” that he spoke of. You’ll buy it as one peice with the U bolt included. Its for exsactly what he is using it for here, to strap conduit down to the lip of a beam. Its just a bent peice of metal that grabs the lip of the beam when tightened. This is the perfect application for it.

    It will be in the electrical isle with the industrial parts. You should see all the big metal (e.m.t.) electrical conduit standing up and there will be Uni-Strut and threaded rod all in the same location. Every home depot I’ve been to will have all of the conduit straps and Uni-Strut connectors on the shelf to the imediate right or left. If they don’t have it, try Lowe’s, who might I add gives a 10% Veterans discount, and if you can’t find it there go to an electrical supply store and ask they will know what you mean.

    This is a great idea I am buying a canoe tonight and as an Electrical Engineer was going to use conduit and beam clamps already I just needed an idea for the floats, great thinking!!!

    Also just as I was thinking I’ve always gone to the electrical isle but I know plumbers use the same beam clamps too so if you aren’t seeing them in the electrical maybe they have some in the plumbing isle as well, it wouldn’t hurt to check, good luck I hope this helped.

  6. I’m building something similar now, but I bought the floats from Wave Armor (both incl shipping $75) and will use 3/4 in. aluminum tubing (1/8 in. wall thickness) for the metalwork.

  7. What size crab floats are used? The url listed above does not give the information any longer. LFS Marine offers 5×11, 6×14 and 7×14 inch bullet nose floats.

  8. Very interesting, I just bought the same canoe in the same color used from the neighbor. It’s a mad river adventure 14. My oldest son and I just tried it yesterday, somewhat tippy, not too bad for a canoe though. I may make a set of these since mostly we are fishing on small lakes. Anyone have ideas for attaching a trolling motor to a canoe like this?

  9. I just finished making a stabilizer for ny canoe. I made the floats with 2 1 1/2 gal bleach bottles on each side. Cut a big hole in the bottom’s and glued them together. Then filled them with spray foam. Made the bracket with some maple I had around. Haven’t tried it yet but hoping to soon.

    Last year I made a mount for a trolling motor behind the rear seat. Just a mount board hooked to the sides with a mountaining plate on it from maple. Works great.

  10. I used the crab floats, but I used an adjustable metal flag pole holder instead of your bracket. It allows for 15 degree adjustments to raise and lower the floats. I screwed these into the sides of my aluminum canoe with a backplate made of galvanized steel. Because it adjusts, I decided to use a single piece of PVC straight from the T of the floats instead of putting that extra joint with the compression fittings. The flagpole holder also makes it easy to swing the floats straight up so they aren’t prone to hit things, when docking. I put wooden dowel rods inside the PVC for added strength.

  11. Do you hve any video or photos of how your stabilizers work. I ordered my crab floats today, but I could only find 5″ x 11″ floats. Those were the biggest I could find. I hope they work out, if not I may order 4 more and make mine 44″ long between the thwart bars.

  12. How did you securely attach the Crab Bouy’s to the pvc pipe? I looked for the video you mentioned but have not found it yet.

    • My plan was originally to drill a while and use some type of cotter pin. I ended up just slipping it onto the pipe, and it it is a pretty tight fit. The weight of the boat pushing against the floats pretty much holds it in place.

  13. I’m getting ready to put stabilizers on my aluminum canoe just the way Ron did but i was wondering about the stress on the side walls of the canoe. Are there any signs of the sidewalls bending or cracking? How thick was the back plate you installed? What holds the pvc in the flagpole holder? A lot of questions for you Ron but if you could it would help me out a lot. thanks Woody

  14. I just got all my parts (including floats) except the u-bolt clamps, which I just found on I’m going with Eric’s suggestion regarding the 1″ conduit. Also found metal compression fittings at Lowe’s that match up perfectly (thread-wise) to the 1″ compression tees. I’m planning on using this stabilizer on my 17′ aluminum Grumman. Just hoping the u-bolt clamps work on the edge of this canoe. Will post a follow-up after I put it all together.

  15. Someone ask about adding a trolling motor, I have a video on youtube (kayak with trolling motor and outriggers) I flyfish so I wanted to be able to steer with my feet. check it out it might work for you

  16. How about using water bottles from a water dispenser. You know, those big bottles. Slide the conduit through the handles and tie them. You won’t need to buy the tees. Saving more money.

  17. I’m wanting to build simple removable stabilizers for a Perception Carolina XS 12Ft sit-in kayak to give more stable experince for my boys. I like this u-camp design. No holes in the hull is nice. He is not a big heavy kid. ~50lbs.
    Any suggestions on how far out each outrigger should extend to give stability against waves and swell expecially on when he gets hit from the side. Don’t want too far and reduce agility, but want to reduce tip and rolls as much as possible. Any experince out there?

  18. A substitute for the crab floats are 2 litre bottles. They support about 8.5 lbs each. Great idea on the U bolts for these, oar locks and pole holders.

    • I moved over to a new site at but the traffic is low so I don’t think it is worth paying for the domain and hosting anymore. I’ll probably be moving back to this site soon. I’ve not been fishing all winter, and I’m definitely getting the itch.

  19. WOW I didn’t expect a reply.
    I hope to talk fishing with ya soon, I built the outrigger you posted and it works great! I was getting nervous with my two kids in the canoe as we passed a few alligators a few weeks ago. I’d hate to tip over while the gators were hungry!

  20. Hi, Great outrigger setup. I’d really like to build a set but I seem to be having a very difficult time finding the compression tee’s that you used. I live on Manitoulin Island, Canada so suppliers aren’t too readily available. Any suggestions who I might contact stateside to send me a couple?

  21. Thanks so much for posting these ideas! My Dad recently gave me his canoe and I plan on using it for camping and short excursions with the kiddos. I hadn’t used a canoe for 20+ years, so I took it out with a friend to give it a shot (I went solo and he was in his kayak). We were on a small lake on what quickly became a particularly windy day. Long story short, a combination of big waves, strong breeze and my size (I am 300+ lbs.), I dumped it within the first 10 minutes. I was bummed. The lake is actually divided into two by an old causeway, and the north side was much calmer. I wish we had checked it first, actually. Anyway, we paddled a few miles on that side and by the time the wind had died down, I was much more confident. But still, if I was going to use this with my kids or with camping equipment, I didn’t want to risk dumping it with such prized cargo. I started researching and came across this site. I made a few small changes to fit my canoe and to, IMHO, improve a couple of things. I switched up to 1″ conduit. I bought a 10 foot section, and cut it in 2. I used 2 sets of U-bolt clamps (I was hoping to find one large one, but have had no luck.) This allows adjustments to the booms of about 3 feet on each side. I also used Spongex Lobster buoys, 4-6″X14″, that I purchased for about $4-5 each from Hamilton Marine Supply. (I registered with them, which gave me $10 off my first order, so I got the buoys for $21. with shipping.) I have both buoys face the same direction on each side, because I noticed a little drag in between them when they faced opposite directions. I also reinforced the PVC that goes through the buoys with some metal pipe, which is held in place with spray foam. Then capped the ends with PVC caps. I took the new setup out to the same lake, on what turned out to be an even windier and choppier day. I tried not to get my hopes up too much before I got there. I quickly attached the stabilizers to the canoe, and set it out into the water. I stepped into it, and was already impressed. The floats were under water, so I adjusted them using the same compression fitting you suggested (from Lowe’s) and set out again. I could not BELIEVE how well it worked. By the time we got to the southern end, we had to turn around into the wind to return. By now, the white caps were showing up in the middle of the lake. I purposely turned my canoe sideways to see how it would fare. Perfectly. The only way to get back to our launch site was with a strong wind in our faces. The wind blew be back to shore every time I tried to paddle east or west, so I faced into the wind, straight towards the white caps in the middle, and paddled my (you know what) off. There were a few times I got a little nervous, but I think now they may have been unwarranted concerns. We made it back and, though my arms were tired, I could not be happier with these. I am planning a trip in the next week to Little Tupper Lake in the ADKs, which is notoriously windy, and am feeling confident both my gear and myself will reach a site intact. Thanks again for your help.

  22. Paul

    Doing the same thing but putting double 30-lb electric trolling motors on canoe one on each side for more control and power. Question do you realy think going nose to tail with buoys makes that much difference? Also I’m about 230lb my son is 90lb how did it ride with your 2 people? Im going to use high pressure 1 inch pvc for all pipping needs and 2 adjustable flag pole holders to hold everything raise and tie down. Thanks Rick

    • Great idea with the trollers. You can ride it like a motorcycle! lol. I don’t know if the nose to tail makes any difference. I have no way to measure the drag created, but I feel better about it, and it looks cool. I only soloed in my canoe with all of our equipment. I had to raise the buoys to accomodate the extra weight. All together, I was paddling 500 lbs or more. As far as the PVC pipes, I don;t trust them There is a lot of stress on these when they get hit by waves…but the flag pole holder is a great idea…I saw that on another site too. One downside to the rigid outrigger poles is that I can’t move in too claoe to anything on my port or starboard sides. Good luck! Sorry for the delayed response.

  23. […] DIY Canoe Stabilizer , outrigger, float, or something like that… « The …Apr 24, 2010 … So, I’m hoping to hit a couple lakes this year, and while my canoe feels pretty stable already, I wondered if there was a way to make it REALLY … […]

  24. Lots of great ideas and info ,thanks. I’ve been canoe fishing for about 35 yrs and never needed a stabilizer until now. I’ve purchased fly fishing equipment and would like to stand in my canoe. Will the stabilizer work for this?

  25. To make your own floats try using a plastic drink bottle and fill it with expanding foam, once set you can leave the bottle on or strip it off for further shaping. The bottles gives that slight upward angle to clear the water and reduce drag . Tip put a bit of conduit through the bottle to make the hole to insert them over the float support bar

  26. Just a thought, I’ve seen someone use adjustable rod holders to hold the arms of the outriggers. The ones I saw had locking screws to adjust the angle of the rod, or in this case, the pvc arms, so the outrigger could be raised or lowered as the situation require.

    The rod holders were attached to the side of the hull, but I didn’t get a close inspection as to how.

    Seemed to work a charm for him.

    Have fun, be safe.

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  28. I loved reading from this site, especially since I have the exact same Adventurer 14′ canoe pictured in here on this page and don’t want to drill any holes in it. I just finished making a trolling motor mount that I slide on from the rear using two half large zinc plated hinges set on an angle which their long pin fits perfect into the 1/2′ slot on the out rails. As the rail widens, the mount cannot got any further forward and I used 2 straps and hooks to hold it from the eye hooks I attached to the mount to the front lip the rear seat. I made the mount with a hinged end where the motor attaches that will tilt forward if my motor hits a rock or log which I can lock in a fixed position using a slide bolt lock. That way id I want to use reverse, the motor prop won’t come popping up out of the water. I’ve hit a log before with a Jon-Boat I had which snapped my trolling motors tilt pin so this hinged mount will avoid that problem. It works great and now it’s on to making the stabilizers. Thanks to all in here for the great ideas, especially the u-bolt beam clamp that holds the outrigger in place since I have the same canoe with that molded lip that I don’t want to drill into.

  29. I’m not sure if anyone still checks this any more, but here goes nothing:

    How long are the conduits? I’m going to be getting a canoe (a Wenonah Kingfisher: not kayak) and am interested in building something like this for my soon to be canoe to make it more stable for my kids and I so we can get some good father/son & fishing time in.

    Also, are there any other updates after a few years of use you suggest?

      • I cut a ten foot conduit in half, so I’d say with a three foot wide canoe, you’d have about two feet on each side protruding.

      • I saw someone earlier posted the idea of doing a single pass of conduit through rather than cutting it in half. Has anyone tried it?

  30. Thanks. The canoe I’ll be getting has a 40″ width, so I would likely need about 6′ in duplicate going by your instructions above, correct? Thanks I’m a bigger guy and want to be able to take my kids out at the same time, so unfortunately that pontoon idea doesn’t suit my needs. Thanks!

    I’ll also be trying to teach myself fly fishing, so I will try to get to you other posts, but is there a good way/place to start if I don’t know anyone near me of fly fishes?

  31. Hey, really interesting and helpful article. I appreciate your effort. Amazon has the crab trap floats right now for a reasonable price. They sell 2-packs for $15.99. So, obviously four for $32.00. For those looking for the PVC compression tees. They are a difficult item to find. I was able to locate them on Home Depot’s website and had to travel to a store a bit farther away then I would like. It is not a commonly sold item so apparently only in stock at certain stores.

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