a canoe for work

I’m a fairly avid paddler; I own a 18’ Sundowner and a Wildfire, but I need to purchase a canoe for work. Work entails the occasional trip surveying streams; no equipment needed. It will be used floating small, shallow, twisty slow moving streams throughout Louisiana. Many trips will be tandem, but a lot will be solo. I want something fairly efficient, but also a boat that’s a little fun to paddle (work can’t be all work). For many trips, we’ll probably set up a shuttle, but some trips will require paddling both upstream and downstream. To keep cost low and to abate the effects of abuse (abuse from a fellow Biologist, not me), I’m definitely thinking Royalex.

I’ve been very pleased with the quality of my Wenonah hull and am looking hard at the 15’ Prospector, as well as the Adirondack, and Heron. Cost and local availability are a big issue. Bells and Mad River boats are also fairly easy to come by in this area, but I haven’t given them much consideration yet. Cost in consideration, I’m interested in exploring Mohawk or other less costly options I might not be aware of.

Thanks for any insight ya’ll can provide.


I am soooo
freakin’ jealous!!!

Your new work boat…
Here’s one you might add to your list for consideration: the Nova Craft Bob Special in Royalite. It meets all your criteria except for a local dealer. You can fix that by having Rutabaga ship you one:


Your Prospector 15 idea certainly isn’t a bad thought, either from Wenonah or Nova Craft. It’ll hold more but the Bob is, in my opinion, a more pleasant paddle (solo or tandem) travelling light on quietwater.

A nice problem to have at work!

Bells for rivers
I’ve got an RX Morningstar that’s worked well as a solo/tandem. Easy to turn and solid on edge. The Yellowstone might be a good choice if you want even more maneuverability.

Bell Northwind & Wenonah Adirondack

– Last Updated: Mar-18-09 10:40 AM EST –

When you mentioned the Wenonah Adirondack I "Perked up." I was a big Adirondack fan at one time and still believe it's one of the better "Compromise" boats out there. It paddles well in lakes, streams, solo and tandem. I always thought the initial stability was very solid, and secondary as well. Have had it in larger waves than you'd think about trying. It's a darn fine hull.

But, since I've paddled my Northwind for a few years, I think it works even better than the Adirondack. I love the shouldered tumblehome in the Bell, and the overall softer "Feel" of the hull. Hard to describe, but here goes: the initial stability is less than the Adirondack, but there's never a doubt about where you are on that plane of stability. It's just always comfortable. Also, although 6" longer, the Northwind has more bow rocker and turns a bit quicker than the Adirondack. Paddles solo very well for a 16.5' boat. I love this boat. Hope that helps. And, BTW, I'm jealous of your job too! WW

Iffin’ yer be coonsidein’ de 15’ foot

– Last Updated: Mar-18-09 10:48 AM EST –

Wenonah Prospector in Royalex yer might jus' want ta out de 16' foot version too. Foyst time ah' tried out de 15' (which ah' got ta paddle fer about 4 continuous hours) ah' thought it be a little too wide fer de length. It handled ok but not great. Then ah' got ta try out de 16' Prospector fer a few hours an' gadzooks - wat a difference. Handled much, much better. Matter o' fact ah' liked it so much dat ah' bought one a week later. Ah' use it in de Joisey Pine Barrens (talk about tight, twisty streams) an' have absolutootly no problems at all wit de 16 footer.

De NovaCraft PAL might also be right up yer alley, too.


biologist here. I’ve got four canoes in my work stable: 1-17’ Old Town Penobscot, 1-15’ Bell Mourningstar, 2-13’ Grumman. The 17’ is Royalex, heavy and used for projects where we haul a lot of gear and people. The 13’s are primarily used solo and fairly easy to handle. The 15’ Kevlar Mourningstar at 40lbs. is the one most often on the water. It’s preferred by 10 out of 10 technicians. They are taught to be kind with it. It probably won’t last nearly as long as our other 50+ year old Grummans have, but is the first boat of choice for solo or tandem paddling because of the weight.

I just walked away…
from a job with my own work canoe. I had a mad River Tahoe - 16’. Only one that size I ever saw. It was a poor choice. Semi round bottom and huge volume made it a chore to paddle solo. I would say a 15 foot would be good for your application. If you are leaning over the edge for a lot of water samples and the like, you might consider those pontoon things, but beware they get in the way of your paddle stroke. Those pacboats are 15’ - maybe one of those?

Not sure I even want to help ya…
I’m so jealous.

I think you have a pretty good handle on it, actually. The Heron might be good for your use. I would agree with FE that if you go the Prospector route, you might as well have the 16’since it will turn so well.

I would pass on the Adirondack, in favor of the Aurora, since the Aurora has some rocker - and it sounds like you expect tight turns.

If your streams are shallow and with light enough flows, you could get away with even a Fisherman - it would be slower, but would take less room to turn and needs little water to float ( I happen to know that model is an excellent small stream boat).

Any of these will work in both directions if you use a pole, but if you’re paddling only, you probably want to stay away from the wide-for-length boats.

Bob Special
I’ll second the Bob. Relatively quick and very stable when paddled tandem and very stable and roomy as a solo. I can fill a 20 liter dry bag half full for ballast and easily place it in the boat while afloat.

OT Camper
The Camper is the first thing that came to my mind. I’m not familiar with most of the other boats recommended, but I know some are more elegant than practical for your application.

Why the camper? Because it is OT’s follow-on to the 16’ Chipewan I paddle. It has a flat bottom, so scores few elegance points. However, it draws less water than any canoe I paddle, which means you float more and drag less on small streams, over wood in the river, etc. Also, when you do need to push it up on the occaisional log, the flat bottom keeps the canoe from tipping over while you get out on the log.

Pedestrian, but practical. Weight, listed at 60, is not bad for royalex.


Flat bottomed gir… and poling?
I didn’t think about the benefits of flatter bottomed boats or boats which pole easier. Hmm… a lot of good suggestions so far.


Yep - that would also work. I had one until recently. Would have kept it but I’ve run out of storage for boats and had to make a choice. For your use, Mathias, it would be a good option, I think. Comparable with the Fisherman in shallow water, but more room. The Fisherman actually tracks easier on lake water, but on a river, the Camper works just as well downstream and tracks better going upstream with a pole. It’s lacking in secondary stability compared to others mentioned here, but if you won’t be dealing with much in the way of unstable water, that wouldn’t really matter.

And yes - the Camper will slide easily over logs or whatever. BTW - just about any 15’-17’ rec tandem should pole well enough on easy water.

Royalex designs
I paddled a Novacraft Pal and was not at all impressed. I suspect it would be a good canoe in composite, but the large flat bottom was really soft.

By contrast, the Wenonah Prospector is a great little Royalex boat. Another post reminded me that the Penobscot 16 would be good, and is likely available everywhere canoes are sold. I don’t like the discovery series much (heaveier + harder to repair), but maybe the Disco 164 if cost is an issue.