Best first canoe to buy...take two.

I’m looking at buying one of the three canoes listed below. I plan to canoe alone most of the time, however, my wife will go with me sometimes, and other times one or two of my three kids.

The types of water here are wake-less lakes/farm ponds and maybe the occasional slow moving muddy bottom river.

Understand that I do not plan on packing the canoe with all 5 of us and camping gear, just taking the canoe to the lake when we camp to do some fishing. Also, do not live under a rock and know about craigslist, but it seems pretty hard to find descent canoes in the local area. Lastly, there are no dealers or canoe outfitters here in farm country, so I have to stick to driving to Dick’s or Bass Pro Shops.

Of these three canoes, which would seem to be the best?

1-The Rogue River 14TK (2 seater with keel): $400

2-The Old Town Guide 147: $450

3-The (Pelican?) Potomac 146: $268 (I can’t find a single review of this boat)


Old Town Expedition 169 …

– Last Updated: Apr-02-11 10:27 PM EST –

....... you'll appreciate the extra two feet of length over the Guide 147 , plus the difference in hull designs ... the Expedition 169 will be faster and handle better , and much safer in rough conditions when that comes to pass (and it will) .

And , on calm waters for a casual day paddle , you , your wife , and 3 kids (say a 750 lb. load) will be safe and stable with plenty of freeboard above water line . And yes , there's plenty of room inside for those little ones between stern and bow seat paddlers .

And if your kid wants to hang over the side and play with the water , so big deal , the canoe is rock solid stable and steady (great hull design) !!

Of those three, the Guide.
Understand something…every newbie seems to want a canoe that can be paddled either solo or with everybody in the family plus the dog. Problem is, there ain’t no such animal. A canoe big enough for three or more people is not going to be pleasurable to paddle solo, especially for somebody without a lot of canoeing experience. I know you said you weren’t planning on taking all five of you at once. But what happens when the whole family is at the lake and everybody wants to go out in the canoe?

So you might as well get a canoe of a size that won’t be too bad to paddle solo, and simply understand that you’ll never be able to take more than one or two other people with you in it. The Guide fits that pretty decently. The Pelicans and Rogue Rivers will get you into a canoe if that’s all you can afford, but you get what you pay for, and a cheap canoe not only isn’t going to paddle well, will be heavy to carry, etc. but it will also be more difficult to resell if you decide you don’t like it.

I do like the other advice to look at the 169, as well.

I need to say this …

– Last Updated: Apr-02-11 11:28 PM EST –

....... the Old Town Expedition 169 does a fine job when paddled solo , it turns fast , it heels well , it goes fast (surprisingly fast) and is sweet ... that's probably because it rides so high in the water when loaded lightly as a solo , but that also means brisk winds effect it more when soloed (but believe me you are still in control , not the wind) .

There is no comparison between the OT Guide models and the OT Expedition 169 (Discovery 169) ... the Guides are fat by ratio length to width and awkward , Guides have lower stern/bows , Guides have shallower sides , Guides are slow , Guides are minimal canoes for minimal needs .

The Pelican is junk in comparison to both the Guide and the Expedition , but junk has it's place (sorry if that offends anyone) .

I don't know about the RR 14' you mentioned , but I don't like keeled canoes and 14' is little , so my guess is the RR 14' is also a minimal canoe on order of the OT Guide , and maybe (??) junk like the Pelican ??

Most of the canoes I have owned cost less than 500 bucks. One of my favourites was bought for 400. It isn’t about money, but good design. I like polyethelene as a material well enough, if it is in a good design.

Coleman/Pelican canoes are just rubbish. I have nothing good to say about them. They paddle badly, and aren’t very stable, and they just stink.

I agree longer canoes are better for most people most of the time, but Old Town doesn’t really make bad canoes, just ones that are more or less suitable. Likewise with any actual canoe manufacturer. Every Wenonah, for example, is a fine canoe that will suit someone well.

For the best value in a used canoe in farm country, I would say the 17’ Grumman is a contender.

Fo example…

– Last Updated: Apr-03-11 1:12 AM EST –

I would go out of my way to get something better than any of the three you listed. For this one, I'd make a road trip out of it if I could get a commitment to hold...

I don't think your area is particularly lacking in good used canoes. More available than where I am. And the season is just getting started.

OTOH - don't you have a Cabelas nearby? They will order you any new Old Town you want. A Penobscot or Tripper would be way better than the three you're looking at.

What I know about Rogue River Canoes
Every Rogue River canoe that I have ever seen, and this includes the brand-new boats at the local big-box store, was badly warped simply due to sagging under it’s own weight between the two cross bars of the storage rack. JUNK. Wait until you find out how much they deform after sitting in the sun for a few years.

You aren’t getting the answers you wanted to hear, but I agree with folks so far. Pelicans are junk. Rogue Rivers are Junk. You can cram two people into a 14-foot canoe, but why would you want to when a boat that’s even slightly longer will behave SO much nicer. Still, if you MUST get one of those three boats, get the Old Town.

Yea…I have looked at the one
in Waterloo a few times, but am leary of driving 240 miles to look at something that I know nothing about. Would a 17’ be easy to handle solo? That was my reasoning for the 14 footers.

It’s not about what I want to hear…
advice is good as long as its useful advice. If the Pelican and Rogue River’s are just garbage, as it sounds like they may be, then I’ll take them off the list. If a 17’ will handle just as good or better solo than a 14’ and hold the family, than I’ll most definately go with a 17’.

ot expedition
got to agree with pilotwingz. the ot expedition at bass pro will fit your needs much better than the others. a bit heavy, but stable and seaworthy. a good first boat. definitely fits your needs list better than the rest.

I take it you will paddle Canadian Style
then the length of the boat does not really matter.

The more toward the center of the boat you can get the better control you will have. For most tandems that entails a kneeling thwart. Also entails kneeling in one bilge to shorten the boat.

If you can learn to do that do not fret about length till the wind comes up.

Soloing from the stern is a no no. Soloing backward from the bow seat is workable but akin to steering a shopping cart backwards. Add the kiddie cart and the cart gets longer. Practice running through the store with that added length.

Make sure the boat you choose has a symmetric hull and can be paddled from the bow seat backwards. Those cute little tush shaped seats will not work as they are one way.

For your family it is about the size of the boat. For you soloing it it is more about acquiring some paddling skills.

Its also well worth it to take an intro canoeing course. That way your family will KNOW that you know how to handle an emergency like all overboard. And yor kids may take to capsizing the boat lots!

Specialty store
You have a great specialty store(Caneoesport Outfitters) over in Indianola Iowa that is having an on water demo day this weekend on Saturday. Why not go over and try out some boats to make sure you are getting what you want?

It’s not that simple though

– Last Updated: Apr-03-11 10:57 AM EST –

When looking at boats at the bottom end of the cost scale, you'll have to "make do" with a lot more mismatch in terms of service, comfort and performance than people who really paddle a lot are likely to consider reasonable. That makes this a tough question to bring to a group of people who tend to choose boats designed for their kind of use, but I understand your situation. In the family I grew up in, we fished out of boats that were essentially too small and often not suitable for the waters we were on, but we got by.

To get to your latest remarks, no one will tell you that a 17-foot tandem is easy to paddle solo, and certainly not "as easy" as a 14-footer. On the other hand, with some experience and adding weight for trim, a longer boat may be good enough for you when solo. You need to decide whether solo or tandem paddling is more important, and for which style of use you'd be more comfortable dealing with the inconvenience of poor handling.

The solo/tandem decision is always a compromise, often a very bad compromise, but in this situation it's even worse because these are boats that can't be paddled when kneeling (solid seats) and possibly can't even be paddled backward (if there's a molded "butt depression" in the seat). There are canoes that address the solo/tandem problem reasonably well if the tandem paddlers are not really big, but they are much better boats which cost much more. There are traditional tandem canoes which can be paddled solo reasonably well by a skilled paddler (though not many people do that anymore), but those boats also cost a whole lot more. In this case, rigging up a center seat or using a double-blade paddle might go a long way toward making whatever boat you choose more solo-friendly for a relative beginner, and that may also make a longer boat for your tandem-paddling days seem more appealing.

paddling the OT Expedition 169 solo …

– Last Updated: Apr-03-11 12:02 PM EST –

...... from the normal stern seat position is not a problem at all , at least for me (and believe me , I'm nothing special as a canoe paddler , just a guy with a paddle in his hands) . It is the way I prefer on all reservoir or slow river currents (up river or down river) .

In faster and more technical river flows kneeling just behind the center thwart makes you feel better because of the rapids and the canoe's much more pronounced gyro motions . I think you will feel safer and more secure being at a lower center of gravity near the center section of the canoe when it's being tossed around in waters like those ... but like I said , on any calmer waters to just paddle from the stern seat as normal works great (if your bow feels a little bit too light just add a bit of ballast) , small compromise for having the narrower stern section to paddle from . It amazes me how nimble and fast this canoe is when paddled solo that way , sooo easy to paddle (read very little effort and energy required) .

Adding two 5 gal. buckets of water (80 lbs. ballast) to set in front of the bow seat (fill at the waters edge - dump back out when finished) trims the bow out nicely . Not absolutely needed but helps a lot in wind and river currents . At my weight of 175 , w/o the ballast , the bow is just a little bit light for anything more than near windless waters (in winds , w/o the ballast you'll spend too much effort countering the wind because it tries to turn the canoe off your desired course too much) .

At my weight w/o the ballast , the bow is light but it does not wheelie on you like a shorter/smaller and lighter canoe will ... the length of the 169 alone helps alot to weight the bow down when paddled from the stern seat solo . Well that's my take on it , and I paddle the OT Expedition 169 .

If you take an 80-100 lb. kid out and they set in the bow seat and you paddle them around all day long , same as paddling with the two buckets of water up front for ballast ... piece of cake !!

family/solo canoe
I have to agree with the others about getting a longer canoe to serve both. I have a disco 169’s and what i did was to replace the seats with the web seats. Which now you can order them that way foe just a little more. I also when I bought the canoes I bought the snap in third seat. This last summer I took the carrying yoke and lowered it 3 1/2 " and the seat snaps over the top of it nicly. My kness are bad for kneeling so sitting is the only opition. This way I feel I have the best of all. I can hall three poeple solo from the center.Using a double end paddle helps or turn the canoe around and use the front when I go solo tripping. Good luck and don’t be suprise that you will be looking for another canoe. as the kids get older.

other canoe places
There is alos Seatasea in Cedar rapids and Rutabaga in Madison, Wi.

I’ll have to go check that one out…

Canoe classes are always great…

– Last Updated: Apr-05-11 3:22 PM EST –

Ditto kayamedic: .....Its also well worth it to take an intro canoeing course. Swimming/Floating-with-PFD...Staying-Alive procedures should also be a part of it. Really won't take a lot of time, but should be learned...everyone will stay more relaxed on the water as a result.
One SKILLED paddler with one or two unskilled is enough of a task, especially with something under 18'. A Wannabe skilled paddler, but not one YET...with one or two unskilled rolling the dice imho. Take a class or two and check out the Mason "Path of the Paddle" DVD.

Lots of good advise above. Here’s what they said and I think you would be well advised to listen to them.

1 - neither of the 3 canoes that you’ve asked advice on is a good choice for what you want to do. The Pelican and RR just aren’t very good canoes. Note - you don’t need to be a great canoe, but a good canoe will have resale value at a later date. A good used canoe will also have resale value later on.

2 - you are better off spending your money on a quality used canoe…an aluminum grumman, an OT Disco, penobscot, tripper or expedition…and many others out there that will better suit your needs for the budget.

3 - as to colemans and that sort of stuff…it’s too bad that they even make those. I paddle past those things all of the time (what is it with millionaire waterfront…they always have the cheapest canoes) they lay there warped and bent like sagging tents. Plastic waiting for a trip to the landfill…lot of resources going into making a disposable canoe…just something very eco-unfriendly about colemans.

I’m glad I bought my
canoe before I found P-net. I would have saved $400 but probably would have missed out on a whole summer of paddling.