All around canoe

Hello all! First time posting.

I’ve been paddling for a few years now on an old Grumman 16’ K6 (not many of these made from what i can find on the web) It is made from an early Royalex material.

I usually paddle easier rivers (a few class I & II), although sometimes hit class III.

I was looking at an Old Town Appalachian on CL, but gathered from research that it is best to use this boat in fast water only. People said it is a nightmare with any wind on slow water.

I really want a canoe that handles well in whitewater, but can also track down slower rivers. Any suggestions? There are so many options out there I am rather confused

Thank you all in advance!!

Check out a Penobscot 16
out of Roylex

Jack L

Should be many possibilities

– Last Updated: Feb-26-14 9:30 PM EST –

I just looked at the specs for both the Appalachian and the Penobscot. The Penobscot's rocker is listed as "minimum", while the rocker of the Appalachian is listed as "maximum". I wish I knew how that translates into something I can visualize more accurately, but in other brands, minimal rocker usually means hardly any rocker at all. The Penobscot is usually described as a good fast cruiser, and "minimal" rocker isn't something that anyone I know prefers for whitewater, especially Class II and III. I myself prefer a boat that can pivot reasonably well and who's stems aren't "grabby" as they are in low-rocker and zero-rocker canoes. Don't write-off the Appalachian until you hear from some people here about it. I can't imagine a company like Old Town making a canoe with so much rocker that it's unsuitable for paddling the flats between the rapids (Old Town describes it as if they believe it is very versatile). Further, the more pronounced flare and taller ends of the Appalachian would perform far better in haystacks than the rather low ends and straight sides of the Penobscot (boats I've paddled that have straight sides and low ends simply "spear" their way through tall waves. Flare really helps a lot). In my opinion, if you are leaning toward something that's reasonably whitewater-capable but not extreme, something like the Appalachian (at least, how the Appalachian looks on paper) or even one of the Prospector models would be a good starting point.

There are others here who know a lot more than me, but these are my reasons for not being too quick to rule out a boat that seems to be made for what you describe (unless maybe your bigger whitewater is a pretty rare situation or short drops with a pool below).

The Mad River Freedom Solo,
known earlier as the MR Guide Solo, is a possibility, but with Royalex getting scarce, and not knowing whether MR still makes them in Kevlar, you might have to watch the “used” market.

Might be a similar story for the Mohawk Odyssey, also a bit over 14 feet. But you can check.

Some recommend the Wenonah Rendezvous, about 15.5’, faster but harder to turn than the above. I found it too hard to turn.

Whenever you want a canoe that can do two or more distinctly different things well, you’re into some difficulty. So you have to know what sort of occasional difficulty you’re willing to tolerate. If you’re mostly on flatwater with only occasional rapids, that should bias you toward a cruiser, but not an ultra fast cruiser. If you will often face more serious whitewater, then I think you want a canoe with plenty of rocker that also can be managed on the flats.

Incidentally, you might want to put some minimal info into a profile. It helps us advise if we know roughly where you paddle.

That brings up an important question
I answered with the idea that the OP would be paddling tandem, and g2d answered as if the OP would be paddling solo.

So, to the Original Poster, are you paddling solo or tandem?

Having owned three Penobscots and paddled a lot of rivers with them, I can say that it’s a great boat for class I, very good for low volume class II, but I wouldn’t recommend it for heavy water and class III. It’s a terrific canoe for Ozark streams because it ferries very well, and most of the hazards on these streams are strainer trees on the outside of fast water bends, and ferrying is by far the best way to negotiate them. For complex rock garden type maneuvering it would be far less than optimum, and for heavy whitewater with big standing waves it’s just too low on the ends.

If you’re going solo…

– Last Updated: Feb-27-14 9:04 AM EST –

If you're going solo, I'd agree with the 2 solo boats mentioned by g2d; the Mohawk Odyssey, and the Mad River Guide.

I own both, and have paddled Class I to Class 3 rapids in both, BUT the rivers were what I'd classify as pool/drop. There were usually good runouts after most rapids. I would NOT want to take either boat mentioned on a river that had extended, difficult sections of Class III, with little to no runout. I think those sections push their effectiveness a little too far.
At that point I'd want a shorter, whitewater solo, with more rocker, and narrower width. Of course when you get into most of the dedicated whitewater solos; you have to deal with tracking issue.

I owned a Rendezvous in Royalex, and have paddled a composite Rendezvous on several occasion; wasn't that impressed with either. Owned & paddled a Wenonah Argosy, and Wenonah Vagabond; they didn't impress me either. In fact, I am not a big fan of any Wenonah canoe for use on rivers where you may encounter whitewater. Found them to be wet boats when dealing with big, standing waves.

Something Wenonahs do quite well........they do a pretty good impression of a submarine crash diving if you take them over steep ledges with big standing waves at the bottom, or over any decent sized vertical drop.

Others opinions may vary. Some may do class IV in a Vagabond, Argosy, or Wilderness with a weeks worth of gear on board? Hope they'll post some photos.


P.S. Those seeking that perfect, multipurpose boat, that does everything from flatwater through Class III very well..........are typically, very dissappointed. That's one of the reasons while so many paddlers own multiple solo boats.

Nothing wrong with an Appalachian. A buddy of mine owns one, and I have paddled it with him a couple of times - nice boat. The boat gurus here will know more, but it seemed to me to be a little narrower than the typical tandem boat. We had a lot of fun paddling it – fine on the flats, and fun in the rapids (maybe a little wet in this one):

or copy full link

I’m not big on soloing any tandem boat, but Jeff paddles solo in his Appalachian all the time – including easy whitewater. Bunch of pictures in this album – he’s in the red boat/red drysuit

I wouldn’t want to paddle it solo in the wind or on flatwater, but I wouldn’t want to solo any tandem boat in those conditions.

I agree with g2d and Bob - buy a solo if you are paddling solo, but there is nothing wrong with an Appalachian.

Thank you all very much for the information! I can see where the answer to this question can be tricky.

I will be going mostly tandem…although i do run solo on occasion. I will put some more detail into my profile, but I paddle mostly NC. Dan River, Uwharrie, Cape Fear, New River in the foothills.

I guess my biggest concern is having something with too much rocker where it blows all over the place with light wind… when im on flats between rapids. I also occasionally paddle some cypress swamps down east.

Is that where I might run into a problem with a canoe with too much rocker? Yet, I talked to a guy that has an Appalachian for sale, and he says its a great all around canoe.

Choosing a canoe for use on both flat water and white water is always going to require you to compromise performance on one or the other, or both.

Canoes designed for white water use have more rocker than flat water boats, but they also have other design characteristics. They typically have significantly greater depth, with a higher rise in the sheerline toward the stems as well as flared sides to help keep the boat dry. They also typically have blunter and fuller ends. These blunter, fuller ends rise up over standing waves as opposed to knifing into them, but they make the canoe less efficient to paddle on the flats.

These design characteristics also mean that a white water tandem typically has more material to it and thus weighs more.

Rocker really doesn’t result in a canoe getting blown all over the place. But greater depth and a higher sheerline result in more windage that will be affected by any adverse wind. Most experienced paddlers can keep even the most highly rockered canoe on course. But it can result in more energy and effort being expended on correction strokes than with a harder-tracking boat.

How to decide on where to make these compromises depends a lot on just what type of rapids you envision running and your and your paddling partner’s skill level. If the rapids you envision running are primarily shorter ones on drop/pool rivers that do not require a lot of maneuvering you can potentially do well with a boat like the Penobscot 16. No big deal to run some shorter Class 3 drops on a warmer day if there is a nice recovery pool at the bottom, especially if you have helpful companions at hand.

If, on the other hand, you plan to paddle rapids that require you to catch “must make” eddies, or quarter mile long rapids with sizable standing waves, you might find that a relatively straight-keeled canoe with less depth will get you into big trouble.

The Appalachian has a reputation as being a quite capable white water tripping boat. My wife and I used to paddle relatively straight forward Class III water in a Dagger Legend 16 (dimensionally and functionally somewhat similar to the Appalachian) with our two young daughters and it did quite well. The Appalachian will catch more wind and might require a little more attention to keep on track on the flats, however.

Solo-Paddling a Tandem
When you paddle solo in a tandem canoe, what’s your method? It’s common for good paddlers to use a kneeling thwart, positioned to give them an advantageous paddling position in the center of the boat (slightly behind center, typically). In a symmetrical boat like the Appalachian or any of the Prospectors, paddling the boat backward from the front seat works okay for many purposes. This won’t provide the kind of control you get if situated closer to the center, but it puts you closer to center than if you paddled facing forward when sitting at the stern. Also, paddling backward from the front seat doesn’t work well for non-symmetrical boats (asymmetrical boats travel forward much more efficiently than backward, while symmetrical boats move forward or backward exactly the same, if the weight is trimmed properly for the particular direction of travel). I don’t believe that anybody who’s a decent paddler paddles solo from the stern seat unless conditions are extremely easy or the trip is very short. That’s what most less-experienced paddlers do though.

I don’t know anything about your skill/experience level, and you may not need anyone to tell you what I just did. However, if any of this is new to you, it may help you with your decision regarding what tandem boat to buy. You wouldn’t want one that’s asymmetrical or one that has a thwart immediately behind the front seat, because either of those factors would prevent you from sitting backward on the front seat for solo paddling. Having a kneeling thwart would eliminate that problem. Also, it’s common to set up the seats with a forward slant (for kneeling), which also would preclude the option of sitting backward on the front seat for solo travel, but again, a kneeling thwart would make that a non-issue.

I noticed in the reviews of the Appalachian that at least one person mentioned that it handles reasonably well for a solo paddler who’s seated backward in the front seat.

There’s also the option of installing a center pedestal (they can be made removable too). I have no experience with pedestals, but it’s been my observation that most people who want the kind of one-with-the-boat feeling that a pedestal provides would look for that kind of control in a solo canoe rather than a tandem. Most people don’t care for pedestals for multi-purpose paddling (but some whitewater gurus use them for all their paddling, including flatwater).

Must mfrs version of the Prospector will handle easy whitewater well. They are good, versatile canoes

Rocker and Wind

– Last Updated: Feb-27-14 12:00 PM EST –

Pete already answered your question about rocker and wind, but I have a solo-paddling example to illustrate what he said. I have just a few solo canoes, and at the opposite ends of the spectrum among these boats are the Bell Merlin II and the Nova Craft Supernova. The Merlin II is a "de-tuned cruiser", meaning that it's pretty fast, but reasonably maneuverable compared to boats designed with speed and efficient distance travel being the main goal. It has low sides and not a lot of rocker. The Supernova is designed as a versatile tripping boat with emphasis on faster rivers. It has high sides, high ends, and pronounced rocker that blends all the way from each end to the center. The Supernova can be a bear in strong wind because there's "a lot more boat" for the wind to push against, BUT, when the wind turns the boat so it's pointed in the wrong direction, it's always pretty easy to re-direct it in the direction that I want it to be pointed. The Merlin II is much less affected by wind because of its low sides, low ends, and much smaller overall volume, but if the wind gets strong enough to push it off its heading, it can be quite a struggle to get it back on course, and in in a really strong wind it can get "pinned" sideways to the wind so that it's just a terrible struggle to get it turned back again. Thus, I think it's safe to say that all open canoes have certain issues with wind, and the bigger the canoe, the more the wind will affect it, but having more rocker doesn't make the "control" aspect more difficult when the wind blows. The reverse can be true.

solo style
@ Guideboatguy

I appreciate the insight…i have only paddled a few time solo in this canoe and am always up for suggestions.

I have found in my current canoe, paddling from the front seat, switch, does just fine in most of the rivers I travel. I have never knelt in any canoe (other than in a one knee stance off of the seat in heavier water. I wonder if it is ideal in my canoe…being that it has two thwarts…but not really close to the front seat.

I might have to look at a few more canoes before I purchase the Appalachian. It does seem like a pretty sweet setup though…

I am a novice paddler for sure,
but when I solo my sixteen foot MR Explorer, which is a pretty big tandem beast of a boat, I find kneeling and leaning against the front seat (with the boat turned around of course) helpful when I need a little more control and stability. A portable kneeling pad, which can be anything from an actual pad designed for kneeling in a canoe without pads or cups to a yoga mat to your sleeping pad unrolled if its up to the task is a good thing to have in the boat for this purpose.

Agree with you Brian…

I recently purchased a used/like new Clipper Prospector 14. I think that with minimal practice, it could easily become a decent paddler’s go too/multi purpose solo canoe. Capable of day floating, multi day tripping, and low level white water.

Having a difficult time deciding; should I hold onto it long term, or not? I already have 2 very similiar solos available.


Ah…good point…i can see how having more canoe in the water, although helping it track straighter initially, can propose a challenge if the wind ever does get hold of it.

I will def try out the kneeling position with a pad…sounds like this is pretty common form (in a tandem canoe turned around)

I appreciate all the canoe suggestions folks! It has been fun to discuss and hear your opinions.

Have had both
a Penobscot and an Appalachian and I’ve soloed both, usually from a kneeling thwart but also sitting backwards in the front seat. I gave away the Penobscot and kept the Appalachian. The Penobscot has plumb stems and little rocker. The Penobscot was not manueverable enough in river settings for my liking. The Appalachian is a bit on the heavy side (about 75 lbs)for single-handed loading and unloading, but you can count on it to go where you ask it to.