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Canak vs solo canoe

We are going Boundary Water Canoeing Mid August (6 days/5 night-10-14 miles per day). I (Jen) have done Boundary Waters before and kayaked Apostle Islands and my husband (300lb) has done several 100 mile canoe trips. Our son (26) has canoe and kayak experience but not as much. The 4th in our group, 22 year old female with no experience. We had asked about kayaks for two of us to trade off on and a canoe for two.
We have never done a solo canoe or a canak. We had asked about a kayak (son is set on doing). Outfitter suggested the canaks first. Now he thought that a solo canoe (prism) would work better.
Looking for those of you that have experience using a canak and a solo canoe and your opinions.


  • Solo learning curve
    Is much different than a tandem canoe. To jump right in with no experience and expect to paddle 10 miles a day and enjoy it is questionable. The difficulty can easily be compounded by less-than-perfect weather.

    Whoever is planning to paddle a solo canoe needs to know how to do it before the trip so it will be enjoyable. Practice and perhaps even instruction will pay benefits.

    Ignore this advice if you choose a kayak as basic directional control is very easily learned in such a craft and requires much less skill than a solo canoe.
  • Canak and Prism
    are the same hull. Using a double blade paddle in a solo canoe doesn't require lots of practice, much like paddling a kayak.

    Do you plan to do any portaging?
  • Andy's right...
    Never occurred to me that they might choose to use a kayak paddle with a solo canoe. Guess I'm just more of a traditionalist than I realized. (discussion of the merits of paddle types not required)

    Prism may well be lighter and an open boat is generally easier to load and unload and carry on portages, but as he said I believe the hull shape in the water is the same so given the same type of paddle with each craft the portaging may become more important than the on water differences.
  • How do you plan to paddle?
    I have never paddled a Canak so take my comments with a grain of salt.

    If most of your paddling experience has been in a kayak, and you would be planning to use a double bladed paddle in either a Prism or a Canak then I suspect you might find the Canak slightly more comfortable on the water.

    I am not certain that the sliding seat for the Canak shown in the Wenonah youtube video is much, if any lower than that which is usually installed in the Prism. You could check with Wenonah customer support to find out. But the Canak deck will certainly be somewhat lower than the sheerline of the Prism. The higher the seat and the higher the sheerline of a canoe, the longer a double bladed paddle needs to be able to reach the water and maneuver the paddle over and across the gunwales. And a longer paddle is always going to be heavier.

    The Canak will shed wind somewhat better as a result of the deck and less windage. Opposing these potential advantages of the Canak is a bit less flexibility in packing and slightly more involved loading and unloading. You would need to be certain that any packs and gear you brought would be able to fit beneath the decks. Since you will have an inexperienced boater with you, efficiency on the water might not mean that much.

    Kayaks are typically significantly more awkward to portage any distance than canoes. The portage yoke shown in the Canak video looks as if it would work well, but would involve a bit a fiddling to position and remove for each portage. If you choose the Canak I would be sure you have the portage yoke available.
  • Options
    more info
    If I were to use a solo canoe I was probably going to use a kayak paddle. I still want to do the canak.

    Will talk further with the outfitter to find out why he is suggesting the solo canoe or the canak.

    And yes, we would have portages.
  • BWCA messageboard
    There is a messageboard for the BWCA and a thread discusses the Canak in comparison with the Prism. Only one individual commenting had actually paddled it, and another had inspected it closely.

    You may or may not find their comments helpful:
  • I see no benefit to a decked canoe ...
    ... for relatively inexperienced paddlers paddling solo with kayak paddles on a lengthy trip with portages.

    Open canoes are lighter, easier to load and unload, and easier to carry than decked canoes of a similar length.

    The decks may be of some advantage in heavy wind and wave conditions, which, however, inexperienced paddlers may be smarter to sit out anyway.
  • Canak benefits
    When you look at the Canak vs. a Prism, you are basically looking at a decked canoe vs. an open canoe.

    The primary benefit of a deck or spray cover on a solo canoe is that it reduces the wind effect by a noticeable amount. It will also keep spray and the occasional bit of slop out of the boat.

    If you are thinking of a kayak vs. the Canak/Prism, ease of portaging the Canak/Prism might be something to consider.

    The pedestal seat will accept the pedestal-mounted portage yoke http://wenonah.com/Items.aspx?id=59 which is very quick to put on and take off, as well as comfortable to use.

    I also find a canoe (or the Canak) easier to load/unload because I don't have to break the gear down into small bags that will fit through the hatch.

  • Options
    An actual Canak owner...
    I always love these Canak posts, because they always end up full of conclusions, opinions, and just simply wrong info, all from people that for the most part haven't even seen one.
    Seeing as how I am the only Canak owner that will likely be posting here, let me just clear a few things up.

    I am not convinced that the hulls are the same between the Canak & the Prism. They come out of separate moulds, and they handle differently on the water. I haven't had a chance to lay the two side by side to see the differences, but I'll wager there is some. I believe this misconception started when Wenonah first released the Canak and the promo copy pushed the fact that it was "inspired" by the Prism, their #1 selling solo. But with Prisms being very rare in my neck of the woods, until I can crawl all over one next to my Canak noting the subtle differences I'll stick with the "inspired" connotation.

    The Canak will be easier to paddle with a double blade, if that's the way you are going to go. But I paddle with a single and it paddles like a canoe, not like a kayak.
    The seat height, and seat frame, is exactly the same between the two. The portaging yoke that clamps to the seat frame is the same. The only difference portaging is at 42lb my Canak is 8lb heavier than an Ultralight Prism, which is not an insignificant amount. That is the only real advantage the Prism has.

    The "hatches" are huge by kayak standards, I can throw a 100L Woods Mason canoe pack into the back without figgling, the front is slightly tighter so you can't fit two full size canoe packs in and be able to put the fabric hatch covers back on. But I'm not sure how well two full size packs would fit in an open Prism anyway.

    The lack of windage is what makes the Canak, if you are going to be paddling bigger lakes the Canak can take anything you are going to run into on inland lakes.
    As another benefit, the "cockpit" is very open, not very kayak like at all. But just tight enough to brace your knees on the rim instead of having to brace with your feet & legs. Over the long haul it gives a very confidence inspiring feeling of being connected to the boat and not wearing your legs out when you are giving it the gas.

    Over all I am in love with my Canak and don't see the need to get a second boat for small lake trips, I'd like it to be 10lbs lighter but I can live with a 40lb solo to port.

    For your trip, why don't you split the difference and get one Prism & one Canak? I'd lay real money down that you would be fighting over the Canak after a couple of days.
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    That pretty much verifies my understanding of the Canak.

    Now, if you could compare it to an Advantage, which I have paddled.........
  • You can have two identical
    hulls and different seat positions and there is a huge difference in performance.

    For a true side by side test both boats must have identical seats and identical seat stations. Even the cant of a seat can vary. Both paddlers should have the same stance in the boat. Even seated in the same hull vs kneeling in the same hull makes a difference.

    And the Prism can certainly have a spray cover, which does with far less weight what more solid deck does.
  • Options
    Canak vs Advantage
    The Canak is slower, by a noticeable margin. It also feels roomier, even with a deck. They both turn around the same rate with offside edging, but the Canak feels much more solid on edge than the Advantage did with it's gunnel at the water.

    I do prefer a bar footrest instead of the kayak pegs in a Canak, but adjusting a bar on the water would be nigh impossible.

    They both spear into chop, but the Canak won't ship water.

    I looked at picking up someone's Advantage, but most of my paddling is on Lake Ontario and the Advantage just did not feel great in chop.
  • Options
    Deck & Cover
    Except a deck does more than function as just a spray cover. The slab sided freeboard & high stems are cut down quite a bit. Paddle reach is cut down, better angle easier, better stroke mechanics achieved easier.

    When I say windage is reduced, I mean it is reduced to a point where the guys in plastic SOT kayaks I fish with are blown around more.

    And the seat in the Canak is the same as the Prism. At 8" off the floor I'm pretty sure it's the same height too.
    It's not a sit on the floor Placid boat, you're up sitting on a proper canoe seat in a proper canoe stance.
  • Options
    That's why.
    Though it doesn't sound like it is going to be a very port intensive trip.
  • You don't have to sit on the floor
    Joe carries five seats of varying heights for Placid craft. True they are cut down in depth. My chief wondering is about hatch sizes and the ability to fit packs in the Canak. My usual Ostrom pack is a good deal bigger than a Woods Mason
    My primary BWCA type craft is a Peregrine with spray cover that goes over a 30 l barrel and Ostrom Wabakimi Pack

    For the ocean I do have decked craft.
    How would the Canak do on Lake Superior?
  • Thanks for that feedback.
    I owned an ultralight Advantage for a couple years, but sold it because it just wasn't nimble enough for my current paddling preferences. It sounds like the Canak may not be turny enough for me, as well.

    I suspect the Mini Canak would be more my size anyway, since I only day paddle and never have over 180 lbs total in a boat.
  • Video of Canak

    I don't like it. Others obviously do.

    To me, it's a gimmicky compromise. The decks add weight and waste space. They make it difficult to access gear while on the water and to store an extra paddle or two.

    Worst, it's not a kneeling canoe. I much prefer a hull specifically designed for kneeling, but that's just me. If one wants to double blade, it doesn't matter that much.

    Decked canoes have never been very popular for fresh flat water paddling. They make more sense to me if they have a rudder. Then, they are really big water and wind resistant machines.

    The idea of renting one decked and one open canoe is a good one. One trip isn't going to be affected much either way by any reasonable hull, but over time paddlers build up preferences.
  • Rudder
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-14 7:55 AM EST --

    I too like the Canak concept but I wish they would offer iit with a rudder and larger cockpit similar to the traditional decked canoes like seawind and monarch. They would be a good option for coastal cruising, In its current configuration, I prefer my solo canoe with cover to save weight.

  • Options
    Canak Packs
    My Mason pack isn't exactly squished in the back laying flat on the floor, so there's definitely room for a bigger pack. If there's nothing strapped to the sides a Wabakimi would probably fit.

    The Slates have been on my "To-Paddle" list for awhile, and I'd be paddling the Canak without a second thought. It makes a great tripping alternative to a sea kayak. It would probably be at home in the Everglades as well.
  • Options
    More Canakness
    I'm 6', 250lb, and I can not imagine how they could make the cockpit bigger, it's open past my knees.

    There's no bulkheads in the hull, so gear accessibility has never been a problem for me, and I bring a lot of crap with me fishing. Anything you can't reach in the Canak you couldn't reach in an open boat on the water anyway.
    Opening & reattaching the fabric covers on the water can be a PITA, but I hardly paddle with the rear in place unless it's raining. Day tripping I usually have a 50qt cooler in the rear to keep my catch on ice, it's no trick to reach around and grab things from the back.

    And there's two kayak style paddle bungee's on the side, so an extra paddle or two is always at hand. And they work really well, if say you forget to take your extra paddle off at the end of the day, and drive home on the Interstate, and not notice your paddle still bungee'd to the boat until you're home.
    I usually take four or five fishing rods with me, they get stowed in the boat.

    And no, you can't kneel in it. Not much need to.
    I can stand to scout channels, but I don't stay standing for long.
    I think it would actually be a pretty good Everglades camper, pretty much tailored for it actually.
    I don't know about a rudder, but then again I wouldn't put a rudder on any canoe.
  • Options
    Def Not A Freestyle Boat
    The Canak does take a deliberate effort to turn, but when it's trucking it can be surprisingly nimble once you work on your solo sitting strokes.

    But with almost zero rocker you can never break the stems free.
  • You've definitely convinced me . . .
    . . . that the Canak is a great decked sitting canoe. I didn't mean to "insult" it in my prior post.

    It's just that I much prefer kneeling canoes, and I don't like any model of decked canoe for the kind of paddling I do. No boat could convince me out of these prejudices.

    Thank you for providing the forum with detailed information on the Canak, how it's outfitted, and how you can work with its features. I'm sure you've interested someone out there.
  • A rudder is actually useful on some
    canoes and a Canak would sure benefit from having one available. I have a rudder on my Monarch and with the strong cross currents in the Everglades it has come in handy to lessen work on curvy tidal streams. The Monarch is quite maneuverable for a seventeen foot boat: ie it WILL do a 180 with a duffek with rudder up and the rudder aids in tracking.

    You don't have to use it but to have a rudder as an option would make the Canak more useful to more people. For sure you don't need it for BWCA trips.


    Like Glenn on lake to lake trips I prefer to kneel. A standard solo canoe works best for me. However we had some six hour stretches in the boat last week with no shore access in the Everglades. Sitting was fine and I think that the Canak would be a nice Glades boat..especially if it had a rudder!
  • You CAN kneel in a Canak or most any
    other Wenonah canoe with a slider - if you replace the large bucket with the smaller racing seat or any other seat of your choice.

    I did it in my Whisper and my Advantage when I got the urge or conditions suggested kneeling.
  • Options
    Seats & Rudders
    I actually like the stock bucket, so much that I don't use a buttpad. And I am in the boat for six or seven hours at a stretch. I paddled tandem's solo for decades, and was a habitual paddle on one side kneeling paddler that had some habits to break. I've only been using "American style" solo's fulltime for the last two seasons, though I've rented, demo'd & tripped with just about everything out there. I still mostly paddle the Canak with an Ottertail & inwater recovery, mostly because the fishing rods get in the way of sit'n'switching.

    I can see the pro's to having a rudder, but I really don't want an extra 5lbs of crap hung all the out at the ends, plus it's not really needed, not to mention I already spend enough time untangled lines off rudder's from the yak guys I fish with. I know for sure I'd end up with an angry salmon wrapping my line around a rudder.

    I did stumble onto another Canak benefit farting around a creek, it is almost impossible to turtle. I was trying to see how hard it would be to blow off the hatch covers, and found that the curved deck wouldn't let the boat sit flat, and flipping it back upright only left an inch or two of water inside, and making a wet entry from behind the cockpit wasn't hard at all. I felt a lot easier about going miles offshore after that. I never was able to blow the covers either, and leave them on cartopping all summer long.

    Haa haa and not insulted by any misconceptions about the Canak. There's so little info out there from actual owners sometimes I feel like a one person Canak spokesman. I wonder if I can get a discount on a paddle or some sponsorship for a kayak fishing tourney from Wenonah? Haa haa.
  • Its not all that different
    than a lightweight de ruddered Monarch. I still see no advantage to it over an open solo with spray cover that snaps on (Cooke Custom Sewing) for BWCA. However if you are thinking one boat for many uses its worthwhile.

    Wenonah ought to ramp up marketing for it in Florida where sea canoe are sought and hard to find.
  • Lightweight, rudderless - pretty good
    Actually, a lightweight Monarch design sounds pretty good, for uses in which less cargo space is OK and manageable seas are likely, or where carries are part of the game. Yes, the deck adds weight as compared to open, but still it comes in at around 42 lbs, as opposed to 55 lbs. Those last 12 lbs are huge.

    A deruddered Monarch also sounds pretty good for uses in which smaller seas are likely, and with the smaller profile than the Monarch, a rudder is not as needed on a Canak . A rudder creates drag, adds weight, and futziness, and I‘d rather not have one if I can likely get by without any need for it.

    I had a Prism for years with a Cooke cover, and sold it out of the classifieds here on pnet. I cannot say enough good things about the design, execution and support of the Cooke cover. It was a great product, but frankly, I did not use it much. Too much futz putting it on and off for carries, getting it wet, drying it off, etc. In the morning, when it was usually calm, I’d be inclined to skip it. When it got dicey, I rarely pulled over, put it on, and continued. I’d either carry on anyway as best I could, or stop for the day. So, a cover to battle windage, for me, not so great. For cold, rainy days, keeping the rain out of the bilge and keeping me warmer, I loved it, and that is what made it worth its weight on a trip.

    I’ve seen the Canak in person, and the Prism with the cover still has a much higher wind profile than the Canak.

    My 2 cents.
  • Tidal rivers
    -- Last Updated: Feb-14-14 11:03 PM EST --

    I do think wenonah or any other canoe company should think about those of us that do inshore coastal trips. Kayaks are a PITA to load from chickee platforms and when there is no where to get out, being in a canoe allows a bit more freedom. The kayak is out of place in the backcountry. The canoe is far more practical. Our windswept bays and strong tidal rivers make paddling difficult. Huge pack loads that include all the water for your trip make a deck almost a necessity at the very least the first part of a trip. A decked canoe is a good compromise.

    Have I ever needed a rudder? No. Would a rudder have made crossing a large bay with a beam wind easier? Yes. Would a rudder help control a drift while fishing? Yes

    If there were decked canoes with rudders offered in the 15-16 foot range with weighing less than 45lbs in Kevlar/gelcoat we would have a winner, Krugers are prohibitively expensive and overbuilt for recreational use. Monarchs haven't been in production for decades. The Canak if tweaked could be a contender.

  • Options
    Adding A Rudder Would Be Easy
    There is easy access into the floatation tanks at the ends, and they are hollow.

    It would just be a matter of drilling holes & mounting the hardware.
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