Best family canoe

Hi y’all,

I am new to the forum. We are moving onto a small lake and were interested in buying a family canoe. Now it is just me, my wife, and our 9 month old boy. We want to have a canoe to tool around the lake (pretty sheltered) in and maybe fish. We will mostly use it to explore. It is about a 1700 acre lake, but mostly we will be on a smaller 100 acre +/- portion of it (bridge in the way of the rest).

Does anyone have any suggestion as to the best family canoe on a reasonable budget. We have looked at the Mad River Adventure 14, the Old Town Guide, Pelican Colorado, etc. Are there any that I missed? These are all the rotomolded plastic if I am not mistaken. I understand less sturdy, but for tooling around lake, I am not sure this will be that big of an issue. We will carry down to water and do not foresee much need to carry on the car (other than maybe taking to beach once a year to tool around in the sound).

Also, it seems a canoe is a better idea than a kayak at this point - more stable, more room for rugrat, etc. Am I missing something - would a tandem kayak be better to take our toddler out?

consider used
You’re right – for poking around on a quiet lake almost anything will work. I’d seriously consider looking for a used canoe. Most lake houses seem to accumulate one or two over time, and a lot of them gather dust. A “wanted - used canoe” note at the local store might do the trick, or just start asking your neighbors if they know of one.

I’d also look more in the 16’ range. A 14-footer can get small for three as the young one grows, especially if one or more fishing rods are involved.

Canoe Sounds Good…

– Last Updated: Apr-21-08 2:24 PM EST –

...for your intended uses. We canoed and camped with our daughters when they were young, and they loved being on the water and in the woods.

As to the best design, that's hard to say; kinda like do you prefer Chevs or Fords - all depends on what you want to do, and your preferences. I'd be inclined to look for something with reasonable beam and a fairly flat bottom (good initial stability) without huge areas of topsides (windage can cause problems in stiff breezes)in the 16' range - that'll be big enough to carry weight as your son grows and you perhaps want to do some canoe-camping.

Re kayaks - I'm not a big fan of kayaks for paddling with children. Most tandem kayaks are pretty large for a single paddler to handle, and putting a child in a spray deck in that forward cockpit makes me really, really nervous. Now that our girls are long since on their own, Chris and I do have sea kayaks and seldom use our canoes anymore, but for family paddling I'll take a canoe hands down anytime.

For a first canoe, I'd strongly suggest looking around for a used boat - you can get great deals (like 1/2 retail), and have a chance to talk with someone who's paddled the craft and knows its strengths and weaknesses. If it doesn't suit or you outgrow that boat, you can resell it for something very close to your investment instead of taking the loss on a new boat.

You should also test-paddle any canoe before buying - if it feels comfortable on the water, it'll be OK as your first boat. Take your time selecting a canoe, and learning to use it; there's a lifetime of enjoyment waiting for you and your family.

family canoe

– Last Updated: Apr-21-08 2:43 PM EST –

Wenonah Northfork 16'9"

I've been hearing some good things about the Indian River Northstar 17'. Under $500 new and paddles surprisingly well.

I'd also consider a Royalex canoe. They are a little more expensive than the rotomolds but they perform a little better and are lighter.

…used tandem…

– Last Updated: Apr-21-08 6:56 PM EST –

One option is definitely hunting down a good used tandem...Wenonah, Bell, Clipper, MadRiver, or any other...but make "trying it out" a family activity first...if possible.
*EDIT:...Plenty, plenty of great tandem hull designs made 5+ years ago!!!...(a good performing hull may only require a good never know).

Bleating my own horn
but I have a 15 foot Swift Otter (now called the Algonquin) for sale for cheap.

It intended use is daytrips on the lake…it can do weekend trips. Its Kevlar with a gel coat so its light. Unless you can keep your boat in the water and prevent it from banging the dock with springlines you will want to think weight…even for home use.

Not trying to sell you a two hundred dollar boat as I have no idea where you live but look in your local classifieds.

Used canoes can be a real bargain. New ones arent usually worth it for casual use.

Polyethylene ones being so heavy can be more of a millstone than a joy. My neighbor on the lake had one of these…for a week. If he couldnt lift it easily he was not going out every morning and night, which he wanted to.

The Adventure 14 is a horrid design… many of the older small tandems are really good designs. You will want something with good secondary stabiiity.

I would go lake snooping…you never know what the neighbors have that they would like to sell( stealing of course is a no no but ask them if you can borrow it…a way to meet the neighbors. be sure to return (goes witout saying)… Run a Wanted ad in your local paper. And test paddle whatever you find please.

Check out the Old Discovery series.
they are heavy, but industructable and very stable.



So, it sounds like used is a pretty consistent answer from everyone. Anything to look for in a used canoe? Any materials better than others - i.e. fiberglass, aluminum, plastic, wood (if that is anything like a wooden sailboat - forget that)? Someone mentioned flat bottom for stability.

Are there any common names of good family canoes - i.e most popular ever brand and model name?

Don’t think he’ll want a discovery for use on a lake. Look for something with a keel so you’re not blown around.

Everyone I know started canoeing in a Grumman Aluminum canoe. They aren’t high performance. They aren’t pretty and they aren’t fast.

But they are stable and close to indestructable and not that heavy. For playing around in easy water–as a cottage canoe, they’re almost perfect. You can leave it outside all year and it doesn’t matter. Upkeep is zero.

At least in my neck of the woods (Texas) you can buy a used one for $300. When (or if) you buy something better because you know what you want, then you can keep it and loan to friends and never worry if it’s damaged.

discovery is fine
keel does not stop you from getting blown around…amount of hull surface area above waterline does.

Keels are unnecessary…often they are present as structural stiffeners to atone for poor overall hull design.

Sure I learned to canoe in an aluminum canoe. That was back 50 years ago when there werent quite as many choices. Personally if I had to store my boat in the sun this would not be my choice…burns arent fun. Makes a good fry pan though.

MR Adventure 14
is not a “bad” canoe. My wife and I bought one as our first boat and we had a lot of fun in it. It would most likely fit your needs well. It is comfy, lots of places to put your rods/drinks, very easy to go straight in. We never tipped it and it handled light waves well.

What it isn’t: light, roomy, highly maneuverable, easily drained.

They aren’t all that expensive to start with but a used model would be even better.


Old Town Discovery 169 (Expedition)

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 5:18 PM EST –

Most of my time has been spent in different modles of Old Town canoes and Aluminum Grumans ..... always wanted try every canoe out and still do , but I've always been completely satisfied with Old Town and that is what we own at present ....... the alum. canoes make lots of noise , are cold when it's cold and hot when it's hot and although I've rocked down mountain rivers in them , I've never wanted to own one ...... it might be a good idea for you to consider checking out Bass Pro Shop ( Out Door World ) and see the Old Town Expedition ( ie. it is the Discovery but this year Old Town calls it Expedition for Bass Pro Shop ) ...... the Discovery 169 (Expedition) is relatively slow ( not a racer), very stable , Superlink linear construction (good stuff), quiet , warm when cold and cool when hot , spacious , rocks down rivers great , floats lakes casually , explores up stream against current with ease , runs into the wind beautifully , oh I forgot to mention I'm 170 and my wife is some what more sitting in the bow and 80% of the time I'm the only one paddling but this year she's gonna help more ........ the Discovery is a flat bottom and I love it out of all the Old Towns I've floated in so many different conditions ........ some say it's a barge , maybe so but what a great barge !!! , I paddle us all over the place for many many miles in winds , currents , whatever Mom nature has for us on any particular day , and it is painlessly effortless unless you really want to cruise out and the Discovery will get up and go ......... I think you should by a new one because you don't want to buy a plastic canoe that's lost it's flex and malableness from poor storage outside , baked in the Sun and weather while left on land deteriorates the material after awhile ........ there is a big difference between canoes like Colemans and the like , and Superlink linear ones like Old Town ....... RX (royalx) would probably be pretty nice also ....... so from me the bottom line is , I've put the Old Towns through the gamit from here to there , and they have always gotten 100% on their report card !!! ...... get a new one for the family ........ maybe one last thing , Old Town canoes are used by the state parks recreations , rental operaters and the like by the tons , like Boston Whalers are used by DNR and Gov. agencies alot ....... I choose Whaler and I choose Old Town .

Another vote for Adventure 14
Paid $500 new,looks sporty,comfortable,paddles fine on lakes.

My wife and two children paddle the canoe and i paddle along beside them in my yak.

My only complaint with this canoe is its weight,at 75lbs it becomes a chore to roof it.

Huh ???
The OT Disco is a great all around boat.

It is good for lakes, ponds, rivers, estuaries.

I for one wouldn’t want a keel on a canoe unless I was going to be adding a sail to it.



If I had to store my canoe in the sun
aluminum would be the ONLY choice.

Discoveries are good boat, especially the 174. The only issue with the 174 (and all Discoverys) is the weight. Paddles well.

Aluminum is a good choice
If this is a “cottage” canoe and is being stored outside, aluminum is a great choice. If you just want to get on the water and do a little fishing and have no maintenance - aluminum. Lean it up against the fence, roll it over, take it down to the lake, and it is ready to go.

Grumman is the best known, but Alumacraft is good and so is Sears. There are others as well. Get used if you can. In my area the used ones in very good shape sell for $450 -$600. Get one and your kid’s kids will use it. My brother has my family’s Alumacraft that was bought 40 years ago.

Another Comment on Keels
Someone already said that keels are usually found on canoes with cheap construction, and in that case are used mostly to help stiffen the hull. That in itself tells you a lot about keels, as does the fact that it is very difficult to find a good-quality canoe from a “real canoe maker” that has a keel. The only exception I know (there might be others too), is that you can special-order a “shoe keel” on some canoes made by Nova Craft, but using keels on lake canoes is somewhat of a tradition in Canada, and Nova Craft seems to have a very traditional Canadian approach to boat design. A shoe keel adds a small amount of directional stability, but it’s not a night-and-day difference. For the most situations, keels are not necessary in canoes, and even when they are used, they don’t do much to keep the boat from blowing sideways in wind (an extra 100 pounds of weight in the boat will have more effect than a keel).

OT Discovery
Another weigh in for Old Town Discovery. That was my first canoe and will probably outlive all my other boats. They are a bit heavy but they are nearly indestructable tanks. Been down class 3 and use it mostly on lakes. Don’t have a drifting problem, however, it does catch a bit of wind compared to my kayaks. You will not regret your purchase. Find one used?? Good luck. Not many folks will part with their Discovery. I have the 169 and would not consider a shorter one because I like to load it up good to go camping and hunting. I can stand up in it to fish and frequently paddle moving water while standing. These are about as stable as you can get. Not the fastest canoe out there, but you aren’t racing. Price for new is very reasonable.