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family canoe advice please!

Howdy all!
I'm looking for some advice on a lightweight family canoe. We have two adults (5'1" and 6') and 2 kids (40 lbs each but growing). The kids don't need to paddle (and are probably too short-armed at this point to do so anyway) but a third seat for them to fight over would be nice. There is also a dog (80 lbs) that can be positioned where ever needed to even out the load.

So we have a load of under 500 lbs (that will grow over the years but if it grows too much, the extra load can get their own boat) and don't plan on tripping--so very little gear. We are looking for stability on lakes, estuaries, easy stuff. We also want it to be really light.

I'm short and my kids will be short for a long time (possibly forever!) so something narrow appeals to me. Is that really better or does it just seems better? I would prefer to not have to stretch to get the paddle in the water like the fiberglass Sears canoe I grew up with. :)

We don't have anywhere local to try out canoes. If I can find something cheap used, I'll pick it up. But I may have to buy new. And untested. So I appreciate any advice!

-4 people + 80 lb dog (dog and children are trainable)
-fairly stable in flat water, with some wind
-under 60 lbs, preferably less
-nice to paddle for short armed people--not like that WaterQueen we rented!--and one that actually moves. :)

I know it'll be a little squishy, but this is just for day trips around town or on camping trips (but not camping OUT of the canoe).



  • Maybe the Wenonah Spirit II in
    Tuffweave. Light, moderately priced, stable, easy paddling. Kinda narrow in the bow so you can reach the water. You can put in some sort of third seat for the kids once you have the boat.

    You might put the state where you live in your profile, so we have an idea of what sort of paddling opportunities you have.
  • I don't want to sound negative, but
    I think you are asking too much.
    Leave the dog at home and out of the equation.

    Jack L
  • Options

    I'm in CA, and would be using this mainly on small lakes in the Sierras or coastal estuaries. Mono Lake is on the list of places we really wish we'd had a canoe along. We enjoy birds. :)

    Is the Spirit II more stable than the longer Wenonah canoes? Do you recommend the Tuf-weave because we're likely to put a hole in Kevlar?
  • Options
    Okay. What if there's no dog?
  • Agree NO on dog! Also material choice?
    I also recommend leaving large dogs at home if possible. Another important decision is choice of material. You say you would like to do some coastal stuff, and obviously living in the Sierras, most water you are paddling is going to have rocky, course shorelines and riverbanks so having a very durable material is important. As long as you are not paddling moving water, a light Kevlar or similar material would be great paddling but bad on pocketbook. Royalex would be good paddling and easy on the pocketbook. Don't even consider aluminum or plain poly!
  • Options
    Do skidplates offer much protection for landing on rough shores? Even without a dog, 4 people seems to demand a pretty large boat. They seem to get awfully heavy in even Royalex at the larger sizes.

    Anything we get will at times have to travel on the roof of a truck camper that can't take a lot of weight. That and my personal aversion to lugging around something heavy that could be lighter if only I'd spent more makes me inclined to go ahead and spend more (but it's hard to do without test driving).

    The Spirit II seems to get the right reviews and descriptions for my use. Would it be worth looking into the larger versions of it (Champlain and Seneca) or are they just ridiculous?

    Thanks for the discussion! :)

  • Tuffweave will hold up as well or better
    than their Kevlar layups. It won't fuzz when dragged,and it's easier to repair. The Spirit II has a flattened arch bottom that provides good stability.

    Tuffweave is made of a crosswoven cloth of polyester and glass. Their vinylester resin forms an unusually tenacious bond with the polyester fibers, better than the resin forms with Kevlar.
  • Champlain would be ok
    but heavier. On the dog, you just have to wait and see. Some large dogs adopt a place in the boat and mostly stay there. But I don't think you should posit your paddling happiness on your dog's cooperation.
  • And on skidplates, I advise against
    spending to get them on a new boat. Kevlar felt skid plates are mostly thick, stiff, heavy, and hard to repair.

    I wait until the stems are worn, and then I put on glass cloth and epoxy skid plates. They wear smooth, slide pretty easily, don't stick up enough to add resistance, and are easy to repair.

    Kevlar skid plates got popular because of the Kevlar name and because Kevlar felt holds together during the application procedure. A convenience product that actually isn't as good as what one can do with glass.
  • Mad River Kevlar Explorer
    The first of my 18 or so canoes and kayaks was a 16' Mad River Royalex Explorer I bought 33 years ago in San Jose. I paddled everything in NorCal with that canoe: Sierra lakes, Sierra and coastal whitewater, local reservoirs, San Francisco bay, and northern California whitewater.

    I paddled it solo, tandem and with my three kids. I installed a wide cane seat about 8" aft of center for a kid's seat and my solo seat. I poled it and put a 2hp motor on it.

    I still think that model is a great first family canoe. The kids will grow big fast and will want their own boats if they like the hobby.

    You are right to want a light canoe unless you are planning on running whitewater. You will especially thank yourself 33 years later when you are no longer young and strong. Thus, if you can afford it, I recommend this lightweight kevlar version of the Explorer, which you can have delivered to your nearest REI store:


    Sometimes REI will have 15% or 20% discount sales for the general public or more often for their members.

    The only birds I ever saw when paddling Mono Lake were seagulls. But it's great -- paddling through those tufa towers is like paddling on the moon. Don't miss Saddlebag Lake about 20 miles up the Yosemite pass road. It is the highest lake in California accessible by road -- a little over 10,000 feet. I hold the altitude record for outrigger canoes on that lake. You can paddle to the end of the lake and portage your lightweight kevlar canoe up into a chain of even higher lakes. Then claim the record.

    If you get a different model than the Explorer and want to stay with a 16' length, you will need a deep canoe (15") like the Explorer, in order to have enough displacement volume for a family. With a shallower canoe (say 13") to be used for a family, I would recommend 17-17.6' in length, at least 34" in width, but no more than 36". Look for one with a flattish bottom for initial stability for a family and dogs. You want an SUV not a sports car canoe. You can get narrower, tippier, faster and sportier models when you become more experienced as a paddler or want a more specialized hull.
  • We started off with 5 in a Spirit II
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 8:22 AM EST --

    ... but one was only 2 years old. Like yours, the two oldest kids were aabout 40 pounds. The Spirit II was wonderfully adaptable and versitile. In a couple of years we added a Wenonah Solo Plus for the older boys to paddle, or me solo. Lots of versitility in those two boats. But for now you won't regret the Spirit II, especially in a non-royalex layup of your choice and price point.

    I agree that the dog may be too much. But like someone else said, it kind of depends on the dog. If it's a water dog it probably won't be content to sit in the middle and stay. It will want to lean out over and interact with the water.

    Good luck and have fun. It sounds like your family is in a good place.

  • a few others
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 7:42 AM EST --

    I have tripped in both a Spirit II and my Kevlar MRC Explorer. Just my wife and I but we had a load exceeding the weight of your kids, and I concur that they can both handle that just fine. They are both quite nice jack-of-all-trades type of boats. I agree that the dog is an unknown factor. Putting him in the boat might work, or might not depending on his disposition.

    The Kevlar Explorer is a few inches over 16' in length. That is about as short as I think you could go and still get a boat that has adequate capacity for your whole family, yet does not paddle like a complete slug. There are doubtlessly many other boats of similar size that might suit. One such boat in the 16 1/2' range that you might consider is the Swift Kipawa.

    Certainly you can buy a bigger boat still but unless you buy an ultralight layup you are looking at something over 50 lbs (but maybe not too much). Also, once your kids are too big for the canoe, or decide they don't like canoeing, you and your wife might be "stuck" with a boat quite a bit bigger than your needs.

    One bigger boat that is still very efficient and fun for a couple to paddle unloaded is the Wenonah Minnesota II. It is 18 1/2' long and again, it is going to come in at over 50 lbs unless you spring for an ultralight layup, but even the Tuff-Weave version weighs "only" 58 lbs.

    I don't know how far north in California you live, but you might consider looking at Clipper Canoes if you are willing to drive north across Oregon and Washington State to pick it up. Clippers are made at Western Canoeing and Kayaking in Abbotsford BC just a few miles north of the Washington State border. You can bring one back into the states without paying any duties or taxes as a result of NAFTA. Clipper makes a variety of very nice composite family tandems like the Tripper and Ranger in a variety of layups at prices that are quite competitive with other makers: http://www.clippercanoes.com/category.php?cat_id=4

    Clipper's Jensen WWII is essentially a somewhat deeper version of the Wenonah Minnesota II: http://www.clippercanoes.com/boat_specs.php?model_id=112#

    The Minnesota II and Jensen WWII are a couple of inches narrower in maximum beam than the other boats mentioned, and quite a bit narrower at the paddling stations, which makes reaching out over the gunwales quite easy.

  • Skid plates aren't so much for landings
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 8:23 AM EST --

    In most cases, the best way to land the boat is to execute a turn as you approach so that you pull in parallel to shore. On rivers, the easiest way to do this is to turn the boat so it faces upstream. Then one person steps out and holds that boat while the next person steps out. Ramming the bow up onto shore doesn't just cause more wear and tear than necessary, it puts the boat in an unstable position for getting in and out, with all the weight supported by the narrow bow on land and the narrow stern in water, and the wide midsection doing little or nothing. On gently sloping beaches you can approach head-on and push the boat partly up onto land, but it sounds like you won't be seeing a lot of that situation.

    Skid plates are mostly for protection during unintentional collisions with rocks, and sliding over shallow spots. When sliding over shallow spots, the midsection has a large area in which contact may occur, but on the bow and stern, the abrasion will be concentrated in a small area, making skid plates effective. The usual procedure is to not install skid plates until it's obvious you need them. And skid plates home-built of fiberglass are better than the thick felt ones (come back and ask about them when the time comes).

  • Options
    A 20 footer is in order
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 11:26 AM EST --

    During the years when our guys were small we used a 20 foot wood and canvas White canoe. Our camping gear and the kids fit quite comfortably in in it. We never worried about stability or freeboard. It was not a thrill to portage but it got the job done for us and gave some great memories. As they grew we shifted to two canes and put one of them in the bow of each. That lasted until they were old enough to share their own canoe. They were about 12 at that point. We would split them up when we had any rough conditions or rapids.
    For your situation I would go for a 20 foot Old Town Guide made from Royalflex. These are a real working boat that will serve the same role as our White did...it holds lots of gear, gives the kids some legitimate room and is very stable in all conditions. They are unbreakable and very tough (albeit a bit ugly). An advantage (the only one IMHO) over the wood and canvas that I carried...they do not gain weight on a trip. That 20 foot White nearly killed me after a mile or two of portage.
    You will have room for the dog but I would leave him home anyway.

  • Just do it .....
    I was in the same position as you about 20 years ago and bought a used 16.5 ft Smokercraft Aluminum canoe used, I got paddles, lifejackets and roof rack for $300. The boat was very heavy but I was young and strong and knew how to carry a canoe. We had years of fun with the canoe, two kids and a dog. As the kids got older one got into kayaking, waveskis surfing etc. Dog, wife and one son not so enuthusiastic. Don't spend a ton of money when you have small ones and a dog.
  • Options
    Thanks all!
    This discussion is helpful. :)

    -We don't need to plan on the dog. We'll just see how he is. He's been in a canoe before and thought it was boring so he slept (it was one of those impossible to tip rentals though). He's not a bird dog or a water dog but I would not want him in a canoe if there were squirrels on shore.

    -a low weight is really important, mostly because of how it would have to be transported on road trips. It needs to go on the roof of a truck camper and the mechanism of the camper roof can't take much more than 60 lbs. That's one reason I can't get two smaller ones.

    -We might have to take a road trip to BC--headed that way this summer and if we haven't found anything yet, we can check out Clipper.

    -I'll look into all these suggestions (maybe not the 20 ft Old Town or aluminum--I can't do the weight!). Is the MNII reasonably stable (I know, depends!). Compared to, say, the SpiritII? And how does that compare to Itasca? Has anyone paddled a Wenona Kingfisher? It looks untippable, but possible too wide for us short people to paddle comfortably. I realize I'm all over the place. The Mad River Explorer looks good, although it might be too small? Hard to say. And it's not like we're planning on spending DAYS in the canoe. Just a few hours here and there.

    Has the west coast always been light on canoe dealers? Seems like I'll have to go to MN if I want to try everything!

    Thanks all. Lots of things to think about and research. :)
  • Boat weight and transport
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 1:09 PM EST --

    It's not likely that any boat will be too heavy for the roof of your truck camper. Even a super-heavy boat won't load the roof with more than 20 to 25 pounds per point of contact (usually there will be four points of contact, whether using a rack with cross bars or simple gunwale blocks). Rest assured that your camper roof is strong enough to carry the weight. A more typical problem would be whether the camper has good places on which to anchor the cross bars of a boat rack, but surely there's a way, even if in some cases it may be more difficult to figure out than others. If you plan to use the canoe enough that weight is an issue (and with luck, you will), you WILL want a roof rack, not just foam pads or gunwale blocks.

    One other thing about a "delicate" camper roof. If your roof has a low load rating, it's probably based on a load that's centered on the roof, and a good rack will, at the very least, transfer the load to four points which are much closer to the edges, where the roof is much stronger. Also, a professional welder, or in many cases just a good do-it-yourselfer, could make special reinforcements for the roof-rack mounts. Spreading the points of contact for the roof rack either lengthwise or cross-wise for a few feet (the best option will depend on the nature of the roof's aluminum framework) will reduce the stress to a negligible amount. Also, a custom-made attachment point that transfers the load to the vertical (or nearly vertical) portions of the framework in the sides of the camper will greatly increase the load you can carry.

    There are a number of tricks for making roof-top loading easier. If your camper roof is quite tall, there may be no method that's truly "easy", but most likely there will be something you can do to make it easier than simply manhandling and lifting the boat every step of the way. Figuring out a good loading method can be done later, but you are correct that the lighter the boat, the easier it will be. Too often, a boat that's uncomfortably heavy ends up sitting unused much more than would be the case if it were lighter.

  • A couple comments
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 1:44 PM EST --

    I think most of the advice has been pretty good. Regarding stability, any of these general-purpose canoes will be "good enough", as far as stability goes. All of them will require you to be mindful of how you move around when in the boat, or when you climb in and out, but it's not something you will need to be especially careful with. Any of the longer models will be more comfortable for the whole family, but will be heavier, and will leave you in the situation of having more boat than you need when just the two of you go paddling (and until your kids get older and you see how their tastes develop, you won't know what the future holds).

    The Wenonah Kingfisher looks too wide for its length, if you want something that paddles in a reasonably efficient manner. I'd hate to call it an "inefficient" boat, not having paddled one, but I'm pretty sure it won't reward good paddling technique nearly as much as a boat with a more typical width relative to its length. Also, that very rapid taper toward the extremely wide center will not be conducive to paddling comfortably or with proper technique.

    Speaking of typical width and what's traditional, the Wenonah "17" looks like another nice option. Unlike all, or nearly all of Wenonah's other boats, it has a "traditional canoe shape", so instead of having a very small amount of the boat's center portion having maximum width and a straight-line taper from there to each end, it has a much longer area of the center having maximum width, which is the result of a "curving taper" toward each end. The end result is a lot more internal volume for a given length and width than you get with Wenonah's typical style. I don't think the "17" sells very well, since I've never seen one in my life, but there's a lot to be said for its traditional shape, especially if you need a little more room and stability for a given length, but don't want to resort to what's often billed as a "sportsman's" canoe (a boat that's disproportionately wide, like the Kingfisher). It's worth mentioning that any good brand of canoe OTHER than Wenonah will have the same general "traditional" shape as the Wenonah "17", so this is not a boat shape that is inefficient or "old-fashioned".

  • Wenonah MN II, MRC Kx Explorer
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 1:39 PM EST --

    The Mad River Kevlar Explorer has a lot of capacity for its length. It is at least as roomy as the Wenonah Spirit II.

    I have never owned a Wenonah Minnesota II. I have paddled one a number of times (always with fairly experienced partners and not with kids or dogs in the boat) and it felt quite stable to me, but I have sometimes considered boats to be stable that others considered not so.

    There are quite a few reviews for the Minnesota II on this site which you could check out if you are interested. The Minnesota II is a hard-tracking canoe. Many have noted that the bow paddling station is a bit cramped for larger paddlers. It is generally not possible for the bow paddler to have his or her feet side by side (too narrow) which is fine with some but annoys others. The MN II is quite fast and often wins races in the stock C2 class.

    If you think you might be interested in what Clipper has to offer, give a call. Marlin Bayes and his wife Mary like to talk about their boats and might be able to offer you advice. They have a toll-free number. They also sell rental boats, blems, and used boats of their make and those of other makers so you might check out the listing on their site.

  • Canoes are dying out in CA
    Honestly you don't see many canoes in California, most people go with kayaks, since they can be used on our enormous, easily accessed coastline. Lakes and gentle rivers in California are not that abundant except for a small slice of the state.
  • The Load
    -- Last Updated: Feb-27-13 5:54 PM EST --

    The issues with your potential load have more to do with the number of moving entities, 5, not the weight. A larger than average hull is indicated for that reason.

    Because both adults are compact, tumblehome in the sides extending towards the stems would help both adults employing vertical shafts during forward strokes.

    A third seat installed at the third thwart position will allow both kids to sit, hopefully the pup will stay put on a pad on the other side of the center thwart.

    And, you mention weight, twice. Of course 60 lbs is not a lightweight canoe. For a real lightweight, say 35-45 lbs, a top end composite is indicated. These are not inexpensive

    Used Bell NorthWinds, and NorthWoods should be under consideration, 45-55 lbs depending on lamination and trim.

    Swift's newish Keewaydin 17 has the most tumblehome available after the Bells and can be had in the 35# range due to infused lamination and integral rail system.

    For more stability several builders have 17 ft Prospectors all of which should have tumblehome. I'm uninterested in Prospector design variation, but Swift's will be the lightest.

  • Weight
    Others much more knowledgeable than I have weighed in on boat choices, so I'll stick to something else that's bugging me. If you're limited to a sixty pound boat you're pretty limited. Why not invest in a skeleton to take the weight off the camper shell? That would be advantageous for a number of reasons.
  • Preventing scratches and dings
    I would never again put skid plates on a canoe, particularly not on a lake canoe. Ugly. Expensive. Heavy. Unnecessary.

    Sometimes you can't avoid banging into things on the water, but that mainly happens in rivers and moving currents. Lake boats can last for centuries.

    The way to avoid scratching and dinging an expensive composite canoe near shore or on land is to avoid touching land or other solid objects. You don't ram your boat up on shores or drag it along the ground. Canoeing is a WATER sport. You get wet. You enter and exit your canoe from the WATER if there is not a convenient, non-scratchy way to do so from land. When carrying a canoe, you put it down into, and pick it up from, the water. That way, its finish can last for decades.

    Here is a video showing wet entry and pickup of a canoe in a tripping and portaging context, but the same concepts apply when you are just moving your canoe between your Hummer and your local day trip boat ramp.

  • Yes for the skidplates...and a thin layr
    of foam will please the dog immensely as well as preserving the interior hull. You Wanna go big...20'+ tandem. The added volume will make for a happier crew..
    especially with the whole family wanting the dog to come along. Skidplates do add to less glide but the more beachings with an idea to do something, a nature walk or just to relieve themselves...or stretch, the happier daytrip it usually is....

  • Ultralight Kevlar Spirit II
    The Spirit II will fill your needs better than any other hull mentioned. The Ultralight layup is not as fragile as others make it out to be. I've put thousands of race miles on Ultra-light Kevlar Wenonahs from 16' solos to a 23' Minnesota IV. Landings during races are not made cautiously. Most are made at speed. None of my canoes has suffered damage requiring more than an epoxy putty repair to fill in a chipped bow. Paddle reasonably and it will last as long as you are able to paddle. I still have a 1983 Spirit that has taken me and 4 kids fishing and camping, has been raced dozens of times and run into rocks at full race speed and survived it all.
    Try to find one with sliding seats bow and stern, a laminated, padded yoke; and aluminum trim. You can add seats for the youngest, or just let them sit on the cooler and hand out the drinks.
    The Kingfisher is extra stable, large volume and wider at the paddling stations than the Spirit II.
    At your weight load, you don't need its volume.
    The Minnesota II is fast, narrow, and reasonably stable. It is big to load and store. It will overhang your truck cap 10' even with an 8' box.
    The Champlain is a big Spirit II.
    The Itasca is really big. Nice paddling and very stable with a big load. Even in UL Kevlar it will stretch your 50# limit.
  • above math is off
    We have a Wenonah Odyssey..18.5 feet and a truck cap with an eight foot box. The racks are all on the cap. Divide 10.5 by two and you have 5 feet not eight.

    Still a consideration when parking and backing into spaces and on the highway.

    However with that length the boat tends to torque when empty; meaning that time all the kids and the dog didn't go. It can then be a handful and to some not all that stable.

    For the type of tripping you do, 17 foot general purpose boat like the Spirit II would be fine.

    If you can I would take a little BC road trip. You can try a Clipper and under NAFTA there is no duty. You can bring one home to California from Canada without penalty.
  • Options
    Thanks for all the suggestions and comments. I think my first move is to try to find something used and cheap locally (anything 17 ft+ under 60 ls that looks like it'll float maybe?) and see how that goes. Of course I probably will fail to find anything. But I WILL look, and I am less picky if I'm not paying new prices.

    For local use (no highway), we would carry the canoe on a small car, probably with little red flags. Or with a goal post-style hitch receiver thingy on the pickup (the truck is ~ 22 ft long, 6.5' bed so I guess I would reuse the little red flags). We'd carry it on the camper for long trips. The camper roof is about 14.5 ft long with crossbars 6 feet apart. So again, a red flag unless I hang it over the nose of the truck. I think I almost have to have the boat to figure this out.

    But I'm sure we can transport anything (though we will certainly look ridiculous) with some planning.

    We should be able to store just about any canoe by hanging it in the garage if...it's not too heavy. :)
  • MR Explorer vs. Wenonah Sprit II
    I will use these two boats to illustrate three design aspects that are important to me. The Explorer is superior in all three aspects, in my opinion, but only because they are more conducive to my paddling style and favored waters. Other paddlers could reach opposite conclusions, but these design aspects are at least something to think about for a new buyer.

    1. Secondary stability -- I like a canoe that has progressively increasing secondary stability all the way up to the point where the rail is buried. You need this kind of confidence in solid rail-burying secondary stability in white water -- to peel into and out of eddies, to lean upstream, and to take waves sideways when you are cutting laterally across a turbulent river. The Explorer has this kind of secondary stability, and it has been a very popular and reliable canoe, both tandem and solo, for whitewater river running and whitewater river expeditions for 30 years.

    I am not an expert on Wenonahs, but most of the ones I have tried, possibly not including the Spirit II, do not have progressive-to-the-rail secondary stability. With their bubbled sides and tumblehomed gunwales, most of the ones I've paddled have a maximum secondary stability point about 3" or 4" from the rail, after which they go OOPS. This is consistent with their primary role as flat water cruising and racing canoes. I don't think I have ever seen a serious whitewater tandem team in a Wenonah canoe.

    2. Seats -- I like webbed seats (preferably with contoured front rails, a la the Conk seat), which allow me to kneel or sit. I am primarily a kneeler. The Explorer has webbed seats (or maybe cane). All the composite (but not Royalex) Wenonah Spirit II's I have seen have tractor seats. Tractor seats, like tumblehomed sides, are consistent with flat water cruising and racing using a sit 'n switch paddling style. I prefer the kneeling and correction stroke paddling style, with occasional sit 'n switching, and therefore don't like most tractor or bucket seats. (The exception is the Deal kneeling bucket seat on the Hemlock SRT.)

    3. Ability to Solo -- There are five reasons why the Explorer, in my opinion, is a superior solo canoe than the Spirit II when paddled stern first (i.e., without installing a center seat). First, you can't sit backwards in a bow tractor seat at all. Second, even if you could sit backwards in a Wenonah bow seat, the Spirit II has a thwart directly behind the bow seat, which I don't like in any tandem. Third, the Explorer has a more symmetrical sheer line than the Spirit II, and hence should be able to handle waves better when paddled stern first. Fourth, the Explorer is simply more maneuverable for a solo paddler because it is a foot shorter. Fifth, the more solid secondary stability of the Explorer allows a solo paddler to bury the off-side rail with more confidence than a Spirit II in order to reach the water with cross strokes and braces.

    The Spirit II is likely faster than an Explorer on flat water, especially when paddled sit 'n switch. Many paddlers like tractor seats better than web or cane. Many paddlers like sit paddling more than kneel paddling. Many paddlers have no interest in burying a rail in order to turn. Many paddlers have no interest in paddling whitewater.

    Therefore, the three design aspects discussed above are more or less important, or can flip in importance, depending on what kind of water you paddle and what kind of paddling style you like to employ.
  • Another to toss in
    I haven't paddled it yet, but it looks very nice and you can get a light version.
    Novacraft Cronje 17. 1000lb cap. 35" max beam. Looks like a great boat.
  • Just be sure to modify that load limit
    -- Last Updated: Mar-03-13 12:53 PM EST --

    Some canoe companies have a method for calculating load capacity that is not even remotely realistic for most uses. Those that do so, including Old Town, Grumman, and apparently Nova Craft, invariably end up with a load rating of around half a ton for any 17-foot canoe. I think this usually is based on a freeboard of 6 inches, at which point the boat becomes quite a slug, can't tolerate anything but very small waves and must be kept nearly level at all times as well, and also has much-reduced stability (think how unstable a canoe is when it's almost swamped - one that's loaded to the point of being "halfway there" is well on its way toward that degree of stability).

    The Bell Canoe website is still active, even though the company is kaput. A good way to estimate load capacity for any given model is to go to the Bell site, find a canoe with similar dimensions as the one in question, and see how deeply the Bell model sinks into the water at various loads. The comparison won't be perfect, but it will be close enough for any practical consideration.


    Note that they DO provide the load at 6 inches of freeboard, but the information on loads resulting in 2-inch, 3-inch, and 4-inch waterlines (depth to which the canoe settles into the water) are far more informative, as well as being within what's actually a "useful" range of total load to carry. Why other canoe companies don't publish such specs is beyond me.

  • Options
    thanks for the warning about the weight capacities. That's sort of interesting and kinda good to keep in mind!
  • Wenonah Seneca
    I've had one for 3 years and my family and I love it. Too bad you're in CA, I'd let you try it out. I have a 4 and 7 year old and a wife who packs too much. No problem, great boat. You won't be disappointed with it. If I could I would post pictures that would make you believe. Good luck with it all!
  • Might wanna think about the height of
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 10:58 AM EST --

    the seat(s) for your kids. Going as low as possible...with the most comfortable(granted) is the way to go to preserve stability....will make the stability issue more mute....imho. I haven't been checking out the market lately...but years ago many of the stock "extra" seats were pretty high...just adding more instability...ie if choices are between height and convenience, dropping in a seat from the gunwale just takes a little planning but makes for a lower, more efficient seat...stability-wise. The parts are out there for easy purchase.
    Pics when purchased!...especially relating to camping in the canoe(or did I misinterpret that part;-))

  • There are some river estuaries in CA
    and in OR that are suitable for canoes. From my experience on part of the Trinity, I could get my wife and grandchildren down OK. In OR one has the lower Rogue, the Umpqua, the Chetco. Plus some large lakes in both states.

    Thing about kayaks is, you can't put a family in one, and my kids would not have been ready for individual kayaks until they were at least eight. Not if they were going to be on the ocean or the easy parts of the Trinity.

    For serious ocean paddling, kayaks are virtually essential. But damn, that water is cold! I'd rather walk the beach.
  • Yes! but not as much as you would think
    I took the Supernova on a trip with a couple of other guys. I asked how we were traveling, light or heavy. They said heavy. Wow were we ever.

    The Supernova is rated at 850lb.. I think that is about 200 lb more than is truly feasible. I was loaded with me and gear to around 500lbs and I had no problems at all even in the class II+ stuff.
  • I stand by what I said re 6" freeboard
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 10:41 AM EST --

    A canoe loaded to have only six inches of freeboard is greatly overloaded according to any practical perspective. Sure, you can paddle it but it's a long way from being an enjoyable situation. When loaded to that degree, the boat has so much inertia that it can't rise up quickly enough to keep up with rising waves, and by the same token, any downward motion that develops at one end of the boat as a wave passes won't easily be brought to a stop by the boat's buoyancy. Both situations lead to very small waves easily overtopping the gunwales. However, a lightly loaded boat with very low sides could still ride up and over waves just fine, so it's not just the freeboard itself. The whole nature of the boat changes with that kind of load, and this problem is much more pronounced with with tandem canoes than with solo canoes.

    Also, having so much of the hull underwater doesn't just mean bottoming-out on obstacles, it means creating any sideways motion of the boat takes enormous effort. Clearly sideslipping is no longer an option, but even pivoting requires the ends to side-slip and normal steering requires the stern to side-slip, so the boat becomes nothing but a freighter in terms of the things it can do. Putting that kind of load in a canoe is outside the realm of "paddling" and within the realm of "getting a job done". It's like the story I heard about a guy who couldn't get permission to drive a small tractor to his land on the end of a peninsula on Lake Wisconsin many years ago. He rigged a platform across two small rowboats and floated it there. They had about 4 inches of freeboard and therefore did the trip at dawn when the lake was like a mirror. That wasn't "boating", that was "working". Boating is fun, working is not.

    As on other example, for a lightweight, not particularly powerful person like myself, even adding 50 or 60 pounds to my Odyssey 14 really "anchors" the stems in the water and turns it into a completely different kind of boat. I wouldn't enjoy trying to do strong maneuvers with that boat with anything remotely close to the "practical" load limit, let alone the load at 6 inches of freeboard.

    I don't know for certain that Nova Craft uses six-inch freeboard as their definition of maximum load. I only assumed this to be true based on your statement that one of their full-size tandems is rated for 1,000 pounds. In any case, it occurs to me that this whole concept is purely academic for smaller people like the OP and her paddling partner. When Rena and I go car-camping, our whole load (the two of us plus all of our gear, which is far more than we'd ever try to fit in a boat) adds up to about half of this supposed 1,000-pound weight limit, while two larger paddlers with NO gear could easily equal that same weight.

  • Options
    Load ratings
    Swift canoe has a very good rating system for each of their canoes.
    just find the boat that's most similar to what you're looking for, click on it and on the left side you will find the specs, they list "industry standard" and "optimum" loads; the load the boat was designed to handle comfortably and still maintain peak performance.
    Some of the numbers will surprise you.
  • Options
    Thanks guys...
    Thanks for helping me with this y'all. I know it's not exactly possible to pick out someone else's canoe but this discussion is helpful!

    Bilnik, you may own the only Seneca ever! :) Does it paddle okay empty with only 2 adults?

    We'll keep the kids on the floor for now. When they're older we can think about a third seat for paddling. We might be nice and get them a pad or something.
  • Might consider drop in seats.
    Not too expensive and put the occupying butt fairly low in the boat I think.
  • Oh I agree..
    I think on the Supernova they are 200-250 over if you want a boat that still performs. I am assuming for a 1000lb they are probably 250 to 300 ambitious. so .. 700lbs.
  • Options
    Comfortable kids
    ...squirm less, so good kid seating is probably worthwhile.

    We won't be camping IN the canoe. We will be camping UNDER the canoe, if you can even call sleeping in a truck camper "camping". I suppose it's possible that one day we might try something like that but it seems like we are getting softer and more spoiled as we age and not the other way around. :)
  • or
    I used a folding chair like this one when my kids where too young to paddle:


    It is more comfortable than sitting on a pad, keeps the center of gravity low but keeps them up out of the bilge water.

    The metal legs can leave some minor scratch marks on the hull bottom, so if you get one I would pad the legs where they contact the boat with duct tape.
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