Aluminum Canoes

Questions about Aluminum Canoes:

I’ve decided that with my dogs, I want to buy an AlumaCraft 15’ canoe. The weight, the easy of puncture repair, and the cost are three reasons. I’m going to purchase it new in MN on my way to Voyageur National Park next year. [There are no dealers nearby.]

1- I know that I can use paste wax on aluminum to help it glide through the water . . . is there a “trick” to paddling an aluminum canoe that’s different from non-aluminum canoes?

2- In a lightening storm, is an aluminum canoe less safe than a non-aluminum canoe?

3- Any other advice regarding aluminum canoes vs non-aluminum that could help me on my paddling adventures?

Thank you,


Fiberglass is actually easier to repair(actually very easy to repair). Aluminum has to be heli-arced, even plastics can be easier to repair than aluminum.

Waxing actually slows a boat down in water. The fastest finish is wet sanding down to about 800 grit, NO finish…

Aluminum is loud, cold and sticks to rocks. I have seen many aluminum boats that leak or have holes in them. Good plastic boats and fiberglass boats in my opinion age much better and are a better choice.

Waxing doesn’t have enough slowing
effect to be concerned about, unless you are a marathon racer. Of course, one wouldn’t bother waxing an aluminum boat unless it is about to be used on a rocky river.

We used to regard Alumacraft as amongst the better aluminum canoes, but even in the 70s, people were switching to composite and Royalex.

hot in the sun
Aluminum can get blazing hot in the sun. Something to think about with your dogs.

Biggest advantage…
…of an aluminum canoe is that used ones in good shape can be found easily for under $300. Why buy new?

For the price, you can save some weight and have better performance.

hey, it’s your $$$$$
but your profile indicates you’re an intermediate level paddler & already own an alum canoe

Do you like it ?

Have you paddled other layups ?

IMO the only advantage of alum (& a dubious one @ that) is low initial cost

Review the classifieds here & you should easily find a much better used canoe for less $$$ than new alum (yuc)

My Canoe
I bought a used aluminum canoe for $200. 15’ and weighed 70 pounds. I got it off the car but then I couldn’t get it back ON the car. I have to be able to car top the canoe by myself. [I run with scissors and I don’t play well with others any longer.]

I have a thang about buying my stuff “new” so that any dings or holes belong to me. I’m the same way about cars.

I had a fiberglass canoe . . . too heavy and the dogs weren’t happy. Secondary stability was fine, initial was not.

I’ve seen some of the “crushed” aluminum canoes but I’ve seen far more cracked and destroyed composites and fiberglass and plastic canoes. An old canoe that hasn’t been properly taken care of is a canoe waiting to “crack up” as far as I’m concerned. Too many used fiberglass canoes that I’ve seen “oil can.”

A butane torch and a stick of T-2000 can repair any hole in an Aluminum Canoe. Temporarily, so will Duck Tape.

I know Aluminum gets hot. I plan to Rhino-Coat the interior so the dogs can “get a grip.”

My “second choice” would be a Mohawk 15’ canoe.

Need to change my profile.

Isn’t it the same tep as the water?

I sugggest you get some current info

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 3:02 AM EST –

I"m not known for mincing words so bear with me and don't take it personally. All that you say suggests you really need to learn more about canoes, IF you want to actually ask for advice. If you don't want advice (sort of seams like that's the case) just ignore all of this. Point by point (and this doesn't cover everything, but it hits the main stuff):

I had a fiberglass canoe . . . too heavy and the dogs weren't happy. Secondary stability was fine, initial was not. *** Fiberglass canoes are NOT heavy unless you get a cheap one with a chopper-gun layup (and those things are as rare as dinosaurs nowadays anyway). Otherwise, even the heaviest fiberglass canoes (when properly made, none of that chpper-gun crap) are about two-thirds the weight of an aluminum canoe, on average, and you will never find one that weighs as much or more than an aluminum canoe of the same length (except if you consider those really lightweight aluminum ones, like Sports Pal, but that can't be the case, based on everything else you are saying). The stability of your previous fiberglass canoe means nothing at all and should not affect your decision. You can buy a huge variety of fiberglass and Royalex canoes having a multitude of different hull shapes and therefore a multitude of different performance parameters. Aluminum canoes come with just one hull shape, which is "flat-bottomed", and that translates to "slow" in all conditions, and "unforgiving" in rougher water. I'll explain both of those to you if you wish.

I've seen some of the "crushed" aluminum canoes but I've seen far more cracked and destroyed composites and fiberglass and plastic canoes. An old canoe that hasn't been properly taken care of is a canoe waiting to "crack up" as far as I'm concerned. Too many used fiberglass canoes that I've seen "oil can." *** I have to be blunt here. I honestly don't think you've see many canoes at all. Sure, aluminum is tough, no one will dispute that, but are you taking this boat into battle or something? If you think your usage will be too rough for fiberglass, consider a Wenonah model in "Tough Weave". Believe me, you won't ever succeed in breaking it unless you really make it a habit to ram rocks extra hard. The simple solution is to get a Royalex boat in a hull configuration that suits you. Royalex oilcans a little, but everything you have said so far about wanting aluminum indicates that getting good performance out of your boat is the last thing on your mind, so why worry if the bottom pooches up a quarter inch or so when you sit on the seat? Besides, Royalex takes a hit even better than aluminum and recovers better in those really severe cases when it does get wrapped around a rock. If you must store the canoe outside forever, aluminum will last longer, but unless you a currently very young and are planning to live to be a 120, just keep your boat in the shade and you'll never have to worry about that aspect. Finally, fiberglass does not start to get "flexy" with age, so that observation about oilcanning is either wrong, or based on a non-representative sample (like a very cheaply made and seriously abused boat?).

A butane torch and a stick of T-2000 can repair any hole in an Aluminum Canoe. Temporarily, so will Duck Tape. *** If you are that worried about repairing holes, why not get a canoe that won't get holes in it that easily? Get Royalex! Better still, get a boat from Old Town made of polyethylene (much tougher, but harder to repair, but you won't ever succeed in putting a hole in it so why worry). Or just learn to paddle, and you won't be hitting the rocks hard enough to worry about such things anymore, except once in a Blue Moon, and then the Royalex will STILL serve you better than aluminum. Besides, on all those LIGHT impacts on rocks that are unavoidable in rocky shallows, aluminum will stop you dead in your tracks while other materials will just slide along without skipping a beat.

I know Aluminum gets hot. I plan to Rhino-Coat the interior so the dogs can "get a grip." *** Seriously, you MUST be kidding. Do you really want to lug around that much weight? Do you really want to paddle a canoe with extra dead weight? Why not put a light mat on the bottom for the dogs to lie down on and call it good. I've seen dozens of canoe dogs that do just fine without the luxury of wall-to-wall traction provisions. If the water is so rough that they really do need traction, you'll do far more for the dogs and you by getting a boat with a more-rounded hull shape, and that means getting a boat made of something other than aluminum.

If your heart is set on aluminum, go for it. Millions of people have loads of fun in aluminum canoes, and I myself have a soft spot in my heart for Grumman canoes. Still, there aren't many reasons to choose aluminum over other materials nowadays.

Oh yeah, one more thing. If you are going to get aluminum because you need extreme durability, get a Grumman, not an Alumacraft. Grummans are made with more than twice as many rivets as Alumicrafts. Further, if you get Grumman's shoe-keeled model, you get a greater number of ribs (seven ribs instead of just three), and if you need durability that's important since the usual mode of failure of aluminum canoes is to go "hog-backed". A shoe-keeled Grumman is by far the most hogback-resistant aluminum canoe you can buy.

No one mentioned lightning, if you’re out in the canoe in a storm you’re the highest thing and the most likely to be hit. Do not paddle when there is even a threat of lightning. An aluminum canoe would be worse, aluminum is an excellent conductor.

Bill H.

couple more thoughts
So how much are the dogs chipping in?? :slight_smile:

Seriously, a couple of thoughts based on my experience in owning all kinds of canoes.

For what you want, I would consider buying used. There is never a shortage of good, lightly used canoes on craigs list/local papers. The cost difference could be put towards an upgrade in the boat/equipment. Additionally, if you buy a good boat at a good used price, you can sell it off at no loss should you decide your not in love with it. ( and it was hard to be in love with any aluminum I’ve had.) You will take a beating on a new aluminum.

If you have enough funds for a new Aluminum, you have more than enough to find a nice used sub-60# roylex boat that is better designed for your purposes.

Consider mixing play sand with paint to (lightly) coat the floor (only) of an aluminum/glass boat. ( You don’t want to add allot of weight, just grip) For plastic, 6" wide strips of self adhesive stair tread works well. Your dogs will appreciate it.

In any case, get out there and enjoy it!


I got an old Grummy 3 seater. Lots of
disadvantages but al is so easy to take care of. Mine was too hot to touch after sitting on a boat ramp for half an hour. Try a double-bladed canoe paddle and a center seat, great fun.

Griffin, there’s parts of the country

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 10:32 AM EST –

where recreational paddling would be half paralyzed by that sort of precaution. Tampa for example, or Atlanta for much of the spring and summer.

1. Aluminum canoes are not more likely to be struck than other canoes.

2. The number of paddlers struck on open water or rivers is actually surprisingly low, and for some of us, does not justify waiting at home until we haven't heard thunder for 30 minutes.

The risk of drowning without a PFD is probably higher than of being struck by lightning. If you can show differently, produce the data. But I've been recreating in thunderstorms for over 60 years, and the closest lightning ever came to me was when I was lying in bed.

The bottom, yes, but the sides and
especially the thwarts and gunwales can be pretty hot.

I’m not so sure lightning cares …
… if something is highly conductive or not !!

Besides water in itself is highly conductive , not that it makes a difference .

Half made up mind
The reason I threw out my questions was because my mind is always half made up and until I’m 100% sure . . . I’m questioning my research. I was sold on the Aluminum but since I can’t buy a canoe until next Spring due to financial constraints [like feeding the dogs and myself], I wanted to know if there were other, wiser canoeists out there who had pro and con arguments about Aluminum.

I found them.

I did a lot of research on weight of various canoes. Grummans are ten or more pounds heavier than AlumaCrafts. Old Town Canoes that I can lift and afford, sub 55 lbs, are too short for me, two dogs and two weeks of supplies for Voyageur National Park lakes [two weeks at a campground, two weeks on one of the lakes, repeat], if they’re long enough, they weigh too much. The canoes I could lift and that are long enough, I cannot afford on limited Social Security and Retirement Income. Even used. And I prefer new.

Does anyone know WHERE I can find a sub 55 pound used canoe locally . . . meaning close to North Georgia [I’m near the NC/TN line], SE TN or SW NC?

I had a fiberglass canoe in 1970, flat bottom, no keel. Oil Canned. So Fiberglass in 1970 isn’t fiberglass in 2010. But that’s my experience with Fiberglass.

I’ll have a thousand dollars to spend on a canoe. I want a NEW canoe. 4 years ago I started looking at the Bell Rockstar . . . 49# . . . NOW it’s over $1000 new. Other than being too far from North Georgia to drive, I’ve not seen a Rockstar for sale within a 150 miles of Atlanta and NEVER on ATL Craigslist.

So, I’m glad I asked the question because I’m getting some insight into how to approach the subject of looking for a canoe that meets most of my needs.

Kabetogama Lake can get VERY choppy and I don’t want a small canoe on that lake.

Additional Costs of non aluminum
Don’t you have to add Kevlar Skid Plates to your non-aluminum canoes?

This adds to the cost. What does it do to the paddling and the “sliding over rocks?”

Certainly NOT ! I have Royalex boats
a dozen years old without Kevlar felt skid plates. Few people actually wear a canoe enough that skid plates have a real function. Many just put them on because lots of other people do, and they kinda look studly.

Interesting dilemma you have…

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 1:05 PM EST –

When I first read this post, I had much the same reaction that guideboatguy did. And I agree with much of what he said, although I'd probably be less blunt about it.

As I see it, for your target price you have two major limitations: wanting to buy new as opposed to used, and wanting something under 55 lbs. This almost guarantees that you'd be buying a cheaper aluminum canoe that you may not like very much (and that you may make much heavier still with the rhino coating).

As to buying new, I can understand that. I prefer buying new for a lot of items that I could save a lot of money on used (cars, houses, appliances, etc.). I have owned three canoes, two of which I bought used. Those are the only two I still have, and I've gotten far more enjoyment out of them than I ever did in the one I bought new (which was only new until the first scratch I put in it). Unless having a pretty boat, or having the latest and greatest, is a HUGE consideration for you, there is no good reason to buy a new canoe...plenty of used, scratched canoes will not have their performance affected at all, and will not leak.

As for weight, fiberglass would be the best inexpensive option to reduce weight. Avoid the chopper-gun fiberglass canoes. And even if they are heavier (and here I am assuming that your biggest problem is lifting the boat onto your car), get one with aluminum deck plates and gunnels. That way, you can lift one end of the canoe, turn it upside down, and place that end on one of your roof racks. Then, walk to the other end of the canoe, and lift that, pushing it the rest of the way onto the car. That will save some back muscles. On a related point here, the length aluminim canoe you are talking about is probably wider than the same length fiberglass boat you could get, AND probably does not have a carry yoke. I think this would be far more awkward to carry than a good fiberglass canoe with a true carry yoke. You just need to find someone to show you the best way to properly lift it (it is easier than you might think).

I don't know how large your dogs are, but if they aren't too big, consider a dedicated solo design. Even in royaloex, there are plenty of good solo designs under 55 pounds and that can handle you and your dogs. And they may be more seaworthy than that aluminum canoe you are considering. Even brand new there are some under $1000. Check out Mohawk Canoes...they aren't too far from you.

All of this is in the for what it is worth department. The most important factors are those that make you happy.


p.s. you don't need skidplates. Just don't go cruising into every beach at full speed and, when you can, a sideways approach is best.

Additional points to consider

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 1:57 PM EST –

Yeah, my degree of "bluntness" often varies with the time of day and what kind of day I've had.

Anyway, it sounds like this boat is for solo paddling, and that's another really good reason NOT to get an aluminum tandem canoe. There's a thwart right behind the bow seat, so you won't be able to sit on the bow seat and paddle "backward" for better solo-seating position (using the stern as the bow). Paddling solo from the stern seat creates two problems. First, you need to put plenty of weight up front to keep the boat properly trimmed, otherwise it will be very unstable and also very prone to acting like a weather vane in the wind. That may not be a problem on a long camping trip, but at other times it will be. Second, correcting course, especially counteracting the effect cross-winds have on the bow will be pretty much impossible when you are seated at the extreme back end of the boat. In a 15-foot aluminum boat, seating options in the center are limited due to three rather closely-spaced thwarts. I won't say it can't be done, but it will be harder than it has to be. Also, the boat is likely to be too wide for easy paddling when seated near the middle.

I tend to like new stuff too, partly because finding what I'm lookinf for is much less of a hassle, but if you can locate "the perfect boat" on the used market, I'm sure you won't regret it, and you can save a bundle.

By the way, regarding comments on keels earlier in the thread, very few "good" canoes have keels. Some Canadian "lake boats" have keels, and the Nova Craft company (one example of an outfit that makes "good" canoes) offers a shoe-keel as an option on one or two of their models. Aluminum canoes have keels for no other reason than to securely connect the joint between the two halves and to stiffen what would otherwise be a flexy hull, and "cheap" fiberglass and plastic canoes have keels to make the hull stiffer. Most canoes perform best without a keel, when all things are considered, but it's possible for specific uses to work better with a keel.

When it comes to choosing a task-specific solo canoe, this is the right place to ask questions. In lucky cases, someone even knows of such a model that's for sale.