boat advice for beginning canoeist

I have been canoeing flatwater all my life but have only in the past year branched out into moving water. I am interested in the easier stuff; class 1/2. Paddling solo; day trips and overnights. Couple of questions:

  1. I have a Mad River Explorer 14. Is it sufficiently versatile to suffice for the use I’m intending?
  2. As I gain experience and move into class 2/higher gradient water, will it be advisable for me to outfit my boat accordingly (flotation bags, kneeling set up, etc.), or is that more for class 3/4?

The right boat…
is the boat that you have and that gets you out on the water. I’m not familiar with a 14 foot Explorer, but I know plenty of people who paddle the longer versions solo. Personally, I’d rather be paddling a dedicated solo, but for day trips and camping trips on easier moving water it should be fine.

I think outfitting is a function of emphasis. If the intention is to run quickwater with the occasional class I/II rapid, you probably don’t need outfitting. This was Wickerbutt on Sunday his a 15 (maybe 16) foot Prospector with a spray cover.

If your intention is to run bigger stuff, or to start playing around in rapids, you probably should think about getting a whitewater boat with a pedestal and outfitting.

In short

– Last Updated: Mar-01-16 6:00 AM EST –

14' is short, 15' is WW, 16' is camping.

Are you short ? 14' is larger. Length is fairly worked out of hull design applied to the market. Those length's float and sell.

If you look in Utube for: packing a canoe for river camping'
then find a list of basic stuff.

The list is based on 3 factors
1) how much disposable income ? What equipment is on hand ?

2) are you a primitives. an ultralite, boy scout standard, or a comfort techno ?

3) are your paddling skills more than adequate for the water you plan paddling ?

4) where paddling ? around the block or in the American wilderness ?

just saw a pic of a 14 mre
and it looks fine for your intended initial exploits. Even in cl. 2 I would put in one airbag anyways, if you flip/swamp, it’s nice to have one end of the boat floating out of the water so you can get it headed into the current, and around here in granite boulder land, I lift the bagged end onto a rock to start the draining process if it’s closer than the shore.Kneeling affords much better control than sitting, though lately I’ve been sitting in cl. 2 if I’m in one of my poling boats as my knees have had enough of kneeling in canoes it seems.

  1. and 2.
    1. Yes
  2. I’d suggest adding flotation now. It’s not prohibitively difficult or expensive and may save you a lot of hassle as you step it up incrementally. A set of thirty inch end bags should work well for you. Add some paracord (or other type) lacing between the gunwales and a couple of D ring patches to secure the ends and you’ll be in the ham fat. You’ll also find the cages and D rings useful when not using the bags.

    You’ll also want to consider some kind of padding for your knees. There are all sorts of options ranging from simple to elaborate and cheap to expensive.

Agree with eckilson

– Last Updated: Mar-01-16 10:33 AM EST –

14 feet is likely to be a very good length, unless you are a very large person, in which case it might be a little sluggish or cramped when loaded with camping stuff.

It looks like that's a small tandem canoe. If you can install a seat just aft of center, the handling of the boat when solo paddling will be greatly improved. If it's strictly a solo boat, take out the other seats. If you sometimes paddle tandem, a center seat will really reduce what little storage volume is present.

Float bags are definitely a good idea if there's some chance that you might flip over in the rapids. Class II covers a huge range, with the bigger Class II having the ability to destroy a swamped boat in the blink of an eye. Even "barely Class II" can pin your boat to rocks so tightly you won't have a prayer of getting it loose without mechanical assistance. Float bags will prevent the vast majority of situations that lead to a pinned boat, and give you a lot more peace of mind when running easy rapids by yourself. You don't need to fill up the boat with air bags they way serious whitewater paddlers do. I use short (four feet long) float bags in a solo canoe. There's still plenty of room for two large packs, but the small bags will float the canoe quite high if it flips.

Explorer 14TT?
If that is the boat which you speak of, it is one of my favorite hulls for the river. Lakes, not so much. I owned the precursor to that hull, the St. Croix, and added a second boat a few years later for a “Guest” boat and they had re-named it the Explorer 14TT. It would be less confusing had they not changed the name, as “Explorer” has been used in probably a dozen of their hulls? If the polyethylene hadn’t gotten heavier (not really, ME getting WEAKER) I’d still be paddling one. It is More than 14’, closer to 14’6" as I recall?

I paddled this boat both solo and tandem. Made a great fishing boat back when I used to fish a lot. Don’t be afraid to “Test” that stability, that shallow-V may feel a bit “Tippy” straight up, but lean it on either “V” and it firms right up. It does like to turn, however, so if paddling wide bodies of water and lakes, you will need to learn the j-stroke to keep it tracking straight.

I found this boat to be very bouyant in waves, it rides over them well. I never needed air bags paddling class I and low class II (a chute on the Eleven Point and a few on the North Fork). That said, if you paddle solo a lot, air bags do make it easier to empty your boat if you do dump. However, not many adhesives work on polyethylene for D-rings to secure float bags; you will have to use a little ingenuity!

That’s a very user-friendly canoe. First boat my wife actually “Captained” from the stern. She had always been a bow paddler before. This boat gave her more confidence. Heck, now she paddles solo boats arround me (LOL)!

I know, many will tell you you NEED a solo boat and in time you probably WILL enjoy paddling a narrower, livlier boat? But this boat is SO MUCH better than the Coleman and Pelican type boats you find in the discount stores. Because it’s polyethylene, some folks automatically “Lump” it with them, but there is no comparison.

I sold my two during my personal “Inventory reduction” when I was facing a bunch of medical bills. I later bought a Mad River Explorer 15 and found it very similar and a few lbs lighter. I’ll leave you with a few pics of mine and some reviews on your boat. The Blue one is the Explorer 14 and tan one St.Croix. SAME BOAT I HAD 'EM SIDE BY SIDE. You and I are not the only “Fans.” Take care!

seat location

– Last Updated: Mar-01-16 8:36 PM EST –

I've just been using the seat closer to the bow and boating the canoe backwards so I'm nearer the center. Not quite as forward as it needs to be for solo. If I took out the two current ones and installed one closer to center, I could just reverse the process if I want to carry two people, right? Or would occasionally re-installations reduced the structural integrity?

You Could…

– Last Updated: Mar-02-16 1:56 AM EST – a 3rd seat or middle seat in that canoe, or just paddle the way you currently do and put some ballast in front of you to help hold the stem down. You could also take out the stern seat and buy another seat and place it a bit closer to center. If you do a center seat only, I would install a thwart front and back for integrity.

If you just put in a new stern seat closer to center, you could install a thwart about 6" behind the new stern seat? Here's a good source of seats, Ed's Canoe. I usually get them from the overstock page "Cleaning out the closet":

Don’t over think it.
The Explorer 14 is a symettrical hull, so it doesn’t matter at all which way you are facing in it solo. Paddling from the bow seat facing the stern seat will work just fine if you put some ballast in or near the stem now acting as bow. I did that for a while in a 14’ Wenonah Fisherman using a cheap dry bag filled partially with water for ballast, and easier class 2 was not problem.

But if you want to add a solo station - and you should - I would put a kneeling thwart behind the bow seat. Between the bow seat and the yoke, leaving enough room between it and the yoke to avoid entrapment if you get swamped. That way, it won’t be in the way when you go tandem. I suggest a kneeling thwart, because it takes up less space - and in a 36" wide canoe, it will help that it will be easier to slide from side to side a little for better reach with the paddle when needed.

Get the float bags and put them in. Better to have them as you ease into class 2, and you can always take them with you if you change boats.

Boat pins and float bags
Bags are good, but even with bags you can still pin a boat. I pinned my tandem (with float bags) in about a foot of water quickwater, and it took 4 of us about 3 hours to get it out. Fortunately, one foot-stomp and it popped back into shape.

This one is the best – I think its a 15’ Royalex Explorer. No bags, but bags wouldn’t have helped anyway.

Joe was poling on the way up, but kneeling on the way down when he pinned. In this case, we were on a dam release river, so we went back to get it the next morning before they turned the water back on. Once again, one foot-stomp and it popped back into shape.

Not sure how a polyethylene boat would pop back from a pin. Bags will help float the boat high in the water and off obstructions if it is floating freely downstream. They won’t help if you are in the boat when you hit the rock, and forget to lean downstream :wink: