I have used these forums extensively as well as other sites on the internet to read about different people’s questions about buying a new boat. Despite that, I haven’t found anyone in my similar situation so I’m throwing a new question into the new boat decision matrix.
Some background. I have canoed casually over the years but probably not more than 20 times. My good friend is a water sports junky, a kayaker and a former whitewater guide so through him, I have spent a fair amount of time in a boat and in and around a river. I was a Boy Scout and learned canoe techniques on a large lake in western PA when I was 10 or 11. Most recently, pre-kids, I did an annual river trip with that same buddy down various western PA rivers, mostly the Clarion, usually in the summer when water levels are low and there is nothing bigger than Class II. It’s just a fun float trip where there is more beer consumed than paddle strokes. I haven’t been since my kids were born who are now 3 and 5 years old. I had them both out on a rented canoe on the lake near my house last year and they really enjoyed it. They are now getting old enough to be able to handle longer trips and so I’m looking to buy a boat. The other wrinkle is that I’m recently divorced so most of the time it will be me and two kids in the boat, i.e. I’ll be the only paddler. I still plan on doing the annual float trip, but getting on a river requires a shuttle which is an added expense, time sink and hassle, especially with 2 toddlers, so most of my time will be on lakes until they get older.
I’ve done a lot of research on the best type of boat and have come to a fork in the road. Add to that the inventory locally on Craigslist or eBay and I’m limited in what I can buy. I decided against aluminum because of the various reasons that have been discussed on this site. I am focusing on Royalex boats because they offer a good mix of durability and affordability.
Ideally, I think I would like a Mad River Explorer 16 because it seems to provide the best compromise, but there aren’t any for sale locally. I put a bid in on a Duck Hunter on eBay but it’s not local so I can’t go see it or paddle it. There is a Mad River Tahoe 16 that caught my attention but these boats were only made from 98-01 (why?) and are 38” at the widest, so very beamy. I’m also looking at a Wenonah Adirondack which is also 16’. I tried the Addie and like how it paddled, both solo and tandem, but I’m concerned about its capacity plus the bow seat seemed a little narrow, not that I would ever be using it, but down the road it could be an issue. The Tahoe at 38” also has another inch of depth vs the Addie, so it’s a true “tub” and I would never want for capacity with 2 kids and gear. But I haven’t gotten it on the water and I’m not sure how good or bad it paddles.
My question is then, which is the better option. Not so much, Tahoe vs Explorer vs Adirondack, but more so a comparison between a sleeker, better paddling boat with maybe less capacity that is probably better on lakes and can handle small rapids on a river, or more of tub-like boat that has capacity but maybe weaker handling and requires more effort to paddle?
My particular concern is fitting 2 kids and gear in the Adirondack. I think I would buy it if I was convinced it would be adequate.