40 lb. kayak vs 40 lb. canoe

I have a 40 lb. kayak, 10’ long, which is nice, but not fast. I can get a 40 lb. solo canoe which is 14’ long. How will they compare?

depends on the model
…and on your technique. But a 14’ canoe should be faster and track better than the average 10’ recreational kayak in most conditions. Faster than both would be a well designed 14’ to 17’ touring kayak.

compare how?

In general, kayaks are faster than canoes, but certainly a fast canoe might outpace a slow kayak. Most folks find they can maintain a faster paddle cadence (and therefore a faster speed) with a double-bladed paddle than a single-bladed paddle.

I am assuming you would paddle the canoe with a single-bladed paddle. If you have not done this before you will likely find that initially you will be wasting a good bit of effort making the boat go straight since the turning effect of taking a forward stroke on one side of the boat will not be counterbalanced by immediately taking a stroke on the opposite side as with a kayak.

Of course, some folks paddle canoes with double-bladed paddles but the height of the gunwales usually prevents getting the double-bladed paddle shaft as vertical as with a kayak, or at least makes it more difficult. As a result, the forward stroke is still typically a bit less efficient in a canoe even with a double-bladed paddle.

Canoes are usually much more severely affected by adverse winds because they stick up out of the water more. A 40 lb canoe is generally much easier to portage than a 40 lb kayak.

have no idea
from the OP.

a 14 foot long canoe that is 38 inches wide is a bathtub. Length to width ratio matters.

OTOH I have a 14 foot canoe that is 35 lbs and 23.5 inches wide… That is faster for sure than the 10 foot rec kayak.

Weight has no bearing on speed.

One will be a lot easier

– Last Updated: Feb-21-12 12:37 PM EST –

to portage than the other.

Edit: Oops, maybe should've read pblanc's post before pulling the trigger.

Please clarify wwl vs max beam.
You don’t have a canoe with a 23.5" max beam, but a 23.5" wwl - waterline width.

Potential speed and real-life speed
The hull speed of your 10-foot kayak (that’s the speed at which the boat gets trapped within its own wake so that you would need Herculean strength to go any faster) is about 4.8 mph. With a double-blade paddle you can probably reach that speed when paddling really hard. The hull speed of the 14-foot canoe will be about 5.7 mph, but as pblanc already said, paddling technique in a canoe is far more critical and difficult to do efficiently. I myself cannot maintain hull speed in a canoe with a single-blade paddle when paddling on one side of the boat. If the canoe is hard-tracking, a person with good technique could reach hull speed when sit-and-switch paddling with a bent-shaft paddle, but I’ve never seen a 14-foot canoe that’s truly suitable for that method.

In the real world, your kayak probably gets unreasonably difficult to paddle long distances when going faster than 4.0 to 4.5 mph (that’s a very rough guess). As for the 14-foot canoe, 4.5 mph is probably a reasonable speed to maintain for an extended time IF it’s an efficient model and IF your paddling skills are good. However, that speed would be tough to do in a lot of 14-foot canoes with a single blade, and especially if you can’t paddle so well. However, a double-blade paddle makes almost anyone reasonably fast, but be aware of what pblanc said about how the canoe limits your stroke efficiency when double-blading. Most canoers who use double-blade paddles use paddles that are quite long, which in itself creates new problems, but overall, the double-blade makes forward progress quite easy and it’s also the easiest way to go faster. Throw in a bit of wind and you’ll still wish you were in the kayak.

Weight is always a factor

– Last Updated: Feb-21-12 2:16 PM EST –

Usually it's less of a speed-affecting factor than certain other things, but it sure matters. Move two objects the same distance and the object that weighs more will require a greater expenditure of energy on the trip, and more weight leads to more wetted surface area and the need to push aside more water. Any decent paddler can feel the extra effort it takes to paddle when carrying 30 pounds of extra gear, and in my smallest boat I can feel the effect of less weight than that. If you make a habit of using a GPS, the affect of weight is even easier to detect.

Once on a river trip I had to go 1.5 miles upstream to pick up an item that someone left behind. You can bet I emptied the boat of all my camping gear to make the trip faster and easier. The sudden difference of not having a gear load, after carrying it for a couple days already, was like night and day. Paddling an 85-pound Old Town canoe is like paddling a lightweight canoe loaded with gear, because weight is weight. Extra weight CAN make the handling easier in some cases, like maintaining control in the wind (and in those cases it might even save energy since you won't waste as much energy steering), but overall, the laws of physics don't allow extra weight to ride for free.

thats the beam that matters in
the equation.

I have a hard time finding any difference in speed between two of the same boats paddled by me in different layups with one five pounds more than the other.

If anyone has read John Winters the canoe design guru he points out that people need more than a ten percent weight difference to notice performance differences.

Skin surface does matter. And its not entirely weight dependent at all.

But that digresses from the OP original question. Too much info might not always be a good thing.

doesnt momentum help
I notice that with a tad more weight in my boat it feels like it glides better.

Upstream, clearly weight matters, as well as in initial acceleration. But flat water and current, a 10% window in weight seems fine.

Ryan L.

The canoe will be longer.
The kayak shorter.

Give what you have supplied, that is all that can be said.

O.P. was comparing max beams, so
when varying from that method, it is beneficial to clarify that.

Depends on the width of each of them
and how much experience you have paddling each of them

jack L

Momentum, upstream paddling, etc.
Momentum cannot “help” or otherwise contribute to your forward progress except as you noted, it will make the boat glide farther, and as I noted above, it can help you save energy otherwise lost trying to maintain control in wind. However, glide is not a propulsive force, so even though it gives you more freedom to pause between strokes every now and then, it won’t actually contribute anything. After all, YOU supplied the energy that got the extra weight moving in the first place, so even if you don’t lose much speed during a brief coast, you work harder to get what little bit was lost back again when you resume paddling than you would when carrying less weight. Of course when carrying less weight, you’d lose more speed when coasting so you’d work more to get your speed back for a different reason. Thus, in a perfect world for such comparisons, if momentum were the only thing at work, extra weight would neither help nor hinder your forward progress once you get up to speed, but it’s not the only thing at work. There’s increased wetted surface area which does consume energy.

As to less weight being a good thing when going upstream, that’s just a natural consequence of upstream paddling magnifying the effect of any amount of extra speed that you can provide. Start with the basic concept that when going upstream, your actual travel speed equals your through-the-water speed (which is always the same for a given paddling method and exertion level) minus the current speed. The same paddling effort that moves you 4 mph through still water moves you 4 mph through the water when paddling upstream, but if your through-the-water speed is 4 mph and the current is going the opposite direction at 3 mph, your actual travel speed relative to fixed objects like the river bottom is 1 mph. If you increase your through-the-water speed to 5 mph, your actual rate of upstream travel becomes 2 mph, so your actual speed of travel has doubled. To compare, note that in terms of ACTUAL speed, a through-the-water speed increase from 4 mph to 5 mph is only 25 percent on flat water and would not usually seem like a big deal, but it results in a 100-percent increase in speed when paddling against a 3-mph current, cutting your travel time in half, which is huge. Going downstream has the opposite effect, so that doing various things to increase your through-the-water speed (such as paddling harder or using a faster boat) provide even less improvement in that situation than if you were traveling on still water.

Good answer (nm)

im so glad
There is people in this world like you, so that people like me don’t have to be.

I love asking you questions and waiting for what is next. So…now I’m thinking about shedding pounds off my boat.

Seriously though, all other things equal, would the gain of weight be seriously minimized by the low friction (comparatively) of water? This of course has limits. For example my boat in glass vs. Kevlar would save maybe 10% of total weight, carbon a bit more. Worth it? Loading on the car, clearly, in the water I’m not convinced.

Good answer. Thanks again.

Ryan L.

real world
One: I know of no solo canoe of 14 feet that is a slug, not like most 10 foot rec kayaks. Perhaps the Old Towne Pack could be that slow.

Two: if you go from 2 blades to one it will be a handicap. Honestly, I am a canoe guy, but 2 blades beats one for speed.

Now, outside generalities, I owned a Wenonah Vagabond in Tuffweave that was 14 feet and 42 pounds. That boat freaking flew with a double paddle. I have paddled many a 10 foot rec boat and not one could keep up with it, period.

10% Weight Difference Matters?
Beats me if saving that amount of weight is worth it on the water. It’s easy and practical to use extreme examples just to illustrate a principle, but at what point differences matter and at what point they don’t probably isn’t a question to be answered by that method. After all, if someone succeeded in figuring out such a thing, I’m sure someone else would have perfectly good reasons to disagree because there are so many “what if’s” and “it all depends” involved. Worst of all, maybe it would turn out that there’s a “best boat” for each situation, and THEN what fun would this be!

Potential speed and real-life speed
Guideboatguy, Can you tell me where you got the two MPH boat speeds (4.8 & 5.7) just curious. Thanks


– Last Updated: Feb-21-12 8:49 PM EST –

Hull speed in miles per hour (NOT knots) is the square root of the waterline length x 1.54. If I had truly rounded the answer in each case to the nearest 0.1 mph, each speed would have been 0.1 mph faster than the number I provided. I figured that rounding in the other direction was a safe thing to do since the waterline length is usually just a little less than the total length of the boat.

The "real world" speeds are numbers I just guessed at based on experience in my boats and at what point trying to go faster isn't worth it to me (at first I didn't realize how much energy I was wasting trying to go fast until I got a GPS and discovered that working harder and harder didn't make me go proportionately faster and faster). There's nothing concrete about those values. Hull speed on the other hand is a real thing, but the "firmness" of that "speed limit" will vary depending on boat design. Charlie Wilson once said on this site that if top-notch canoe racers only paddled at hull speed, they wouldn't win races. I don't think non-racing designs are routinely paddled faster than hull speed by us mortals though.