Best canoe for three people

Hello all,

I’ve been doing adventure races for several years now. They require a watercraft that can hold your three person team and you never know if your going to be on a river with some mild rapids or a flat lake.

This year we are looking to buy a canoe instead of always trying to borrow one.

Can anyone suggest what canoes we should be looking at, or if we should consider a three person tri-yak by Feel Free?

I think our wants in order are, speed, manuverability then light weight.

Cost is a factor, so I think kevlar is out, unless someone out there wants to sponsor us.:wink:

stock boat
or can you make your own canoe? For the price of a decent roylex tandem you should be able to make a triple in wood/glass that would fly.

stock boat
We’re looking at a stock boat, right now building a boat would be too much of an undertaking. I guess we’re looking for what people think is the ideal stock boat for our situation, then we’ll try and find one used or look for one new.

Also, during most races everyone has canoes but it seems like everyone is using kayak paddles instead of canoe paddles. Is this generally thought of as faster?

more info
What is the combined weight of your team?

How long is the paddle part of the race?

I bet together we weigh around 450 lbs. The paddlingportion is always unknown for lenght. One year it was across a large lake, another time down a river with rapids and some stretches of flat water. They lasted about an hour and a half. It doesn’t seem like a long time but I think there’s alot of time to be gained and energy to be saved if we’re prepared properly.

Wenonah Sundowner 17 or OT Penobscot 17?
In Royalex, those are the first two that come to mind. Don’t know how either would do with 3 people – probably depends on your weight and amount of gear.

You might be better off looking for a used composite boat.

You should definitely check one of those out. Triangular, with three bows (or three sterns if you prefer).

Best Canoe for 3 Paddlers
If all three of you want to paddle at the same time, I would recommend a Wenonah Minnesota 3. We bought one 3 years ago for canoe camping and love it. It’s faster (with 2 paddlers), more stable, and has more room for the bow paddlers’ legs then the Minnesota 2. The middle bench seat can be removed for additional storage space.

I would suggest

– Last Updated: Mar-22-07 10:47 PM EST –

Old Town Penobscot 17 in royalex. If you are on low budget same hull in polyethylene the Discovery174(whoops, they call it the penobscot 174 now), but way heavier if you have to carry it any distance in the race.

This boat will cover all your lake or river situations. If you continue to do these races I would suggest acquiring the penobscot and a good flatwater racer so you have the best for any condition.

With three paddlers I see no advantage to double blades. Learn good technique with a bent shaft. 3 paddlers are going to push this boat(or any boat this size) to hull speed easily then you hit the wall where a little increase in speed takes a huge amount of energy. If three paddlers paddle efficiently they should not have to paddle real hard to maintain hull speed and that will leave you fresher for the next portion of your race.

Steady, quick, short strokes with a short bent shaft paddle will serve you well. Timing is critical as well. All paddlers should stroke together, the bow paddler sets the pace.

Down river with obstacles to maneuver around will be different. Straight shaft paddle may be more appropriate, at least for the bow and stern paddlers.

Work on your skills and you can gain a lot on the paddling portion of your race. Most adventure races I've witnessed showed me that racers train for endurance, but not skill, especially in paddling.

Good luck.

How about some helpful advise?

– Last Updated: Mar-22-07 3:12 PM EST –

I hate to say it, but the only bit of advice here that makes any sense is the recommendation by VTNYPatsfan. A 17 foot Discovery?

Are there any limitations on weight, canoe material, or style of boat? If there is not, the MNIII is a perfect fit. All three people can paddle, the boat is light, stiff, stable and fast. Not the most manueverable thing in the world, but definitely will blow most other boats(including 2 person racers) out of the water.

For paddles, if you are not experienced canoers the two bladed approach may make sense, but three efficient canoe paddlers can make very good time using some bent shaft canoe paddles.

It may not be the most wallet friendly option, but it would be a huge advantage over an hour and a half race. Compared to someone in something like a 17 foot boat, even at a intermediate paddling level you could probably gain 10-15 minutes.

“Advice” actually
A post-edit to the previous subject line:-)

read the whole post?
I don’t think a MN III is going to do well as a downriver boat in class 1 and 2 water. I think this is why people are suggesting the penobscot models. Until Dagger came along with some new tandem royalex designs in the early 1990s, the penobscots did very well in stock downriver races. They are also a pretty quick hull on flatwater compared to most royalex hulls. If these folks only have one boat it is going to be a compromise. I suggested the penobscot 174(former disco) as an alternative for a smaller budget.

can’t prove it by me
Do kayak paddles make you go faster in the adventure races?

At the Chattahoochie race last year the strictpaddler and this baldpaddler were chargrined to see several skin coat stock boats, a Jensen 18, a Minn2 and another which I did not get the make. They had kayak paddles or double bladed canoe paddles in them. One of these teams had decent looking paddles at that.

The Strict paddler is busy raising kids and earning a living so is terribly out of shape now. I on the other hand am in shape, pear shape… the gun went of and I was suprised that Two out of shape 40+ like Debbie and I were leading. We were in an old Gel coat Cross ribbed Jensen 18.

We won first in the canoe classes even though we used single bladed paddles. The double bladed paddles seem to give a lot of power, but if you do not train with them they will also give you a false sense of complaiceny. Debbie and I had maybe 10-15 hours seat time together, but it was enough to put us in the lead.


To repeat…
If you are racing, get a fast boat. A Disco or Penobscot is not a fast boat, even in tandem categories, much less with three people. If it is Class 1-2, it is not downriver. It is flat water with large riffles.

In adventure racing, very seldom do you see anything beyond standing waves. So let’s see, holds three people, qualifications are speed, manuveurability, and weight? A 17 foot tandem hull, and not a fast one at that. Are you racing against him?

SUEMAS, Haved you paddled the MNIII? No different than any other larger boat. A decent draw stroke will take care off most situations.

As a racer, you’re far better off getting a used composite boat, no matter what the design, they will blow a royalex boat out of the water.

Look around a bit. There are used MNIII out there. This is one of those few areas in competition that you can truly buy an advantage.


you obviously have all the best answers

MN III vs 17’ Tandems
True that the 17’ Penosbscot has been successful as a downriver tandem, and also as a downriver solo. And so was the Wenonah WhiteWater II and Whitewater X and WhiteWater XX. These are 18’6" tandems and very fast.

But three people in a 17’ tandem are not going to challenge a Minnesota III across any lake or down an easy river. And a Minnesota III with three paddlers and no gear has better freeboard than a 17’ Penobscot with three adults aboard. The 174 Discovery is a high volume 17’4" canoe and much different from the 17’Penobscot. But will get left far behind on all but the roughest water by a Minnesota III.

A Wenonah Odyssey would be a better bet than any of the 17’ canoes mentioned. It been used as an expedition canoe for many years and three traveling empty are no more load than two with months worth of gear. It has the seaworthiness to handle the river sections and would leave any 17 tandem with three aboard far behind, but would not pace three in a Minnesota III.

I have competed against Minnesota III’s in the C-4 class. They run big lakes with 4 paddlers and will pace a Minnesoat IV; but with even paddlers the MN IV edges the MN III.

An Odyssey III would be ideal for your usage, but was never built. There is a Seneca model in use in the Boundary Waters by outfitters. It is a slightly fuller version 3 person, more like a Champlain III than a MN III. Slower, but more stable and drier. You might be able to pick one of these up as a used rental version at this seasons end. Or a MN III the same way.

If I’m competing against the guy promoting the 17’ Penobscot with three aboard, I’m using a MN III and putting the smallest paddler in the bow for any downriver sections and the biggest guy in the middle seat aft of the yoke. And we’re going with Zaveral Outrigger PowerSurge Paddles at all three stations. I want the big blade in the water, not a Kayak paddle.

Three people paddling a recreational canoe are going to be faster than two paddlers, but they are not going to be competitive against a dedicated 3 person canoe.


Pnet classifieds
No Minn IIIs, but right now there’s a Minn II for $1350, and a Sundowner 18 for $875.

I want to thank everyone for their advice. We got a used Old Town Penobscot 17 in royalex with a middle seat, two cane seat backs, paddles and foam blocks for $850.

I think I’ll always be on the lookout for a Min III but for now we at least feel it won’t be the boats fault. :wink: