Bob Special for solo?

Well, perhaps this has been done many times over, but the topic is new to me. I may be looking to get a Bob Special as my do everything boat … fish, explore, big water, smaller lakes, twisty creeks etc. I trip for up to two weeks at a time, but also just go out for an afternoon. I am 6’4’ @ 220 pounds. I usually trip with up to 60 pounds. Sometimes I poll on flat moving water to get to a good fishing hole. Is the Bob able to do all this and still have decent speed for longer solo trips? How is it solo in big waves and wind? I am looking for info from this board.



I owned a Nova Craft Bob Special
I liked it a lot. It was a good tandem day tripper/ weekender. It would even go on a week long trip provided there was a second canoe to carry some of the extra.

It is obviously not a solo canoe, though mine did have the third solo seat, which I removed. It was just too wide at that spot to paddle solo well. Besides that extra seat took up room where a pack could go.

As a solo it paddled well enough. You won’t keep up with true solo canoes by any means, but if you’re all alone and don’t mind a slower speed, it’s fine. It certainly is stable for fishing and poling. However, I don’t think you’ll be happy with it solo on bigger water with wind and waves.

I sold mine because I didn’t need a “cross-over” canoe. I have two true solos and a tandem. However, if I could have only one canoe to use as both a solo and a tandem I think my list would include the Bob Special along with the Old Town Penobscot 16, the Souris River Quetico 16, and the Mad River Malecite. For poling, the Bob would probably be top of that list.

Chestnut Chum is your boat
Try and find one though is tough. 15ft 33" beam its about the best solo canoe to cover everything.

I do enjoy my Penobscot as both a solo and tandem. It is really versatile. I think if it came as a composite I would use it for solo trips more often than just day outings. That is why I thought maybe the Bob would be a good boat to fill a dual roll. Clearly I would give up a lot of speed relative to my dedicated solo boat. I may still look at another solo, but Bob has always had a special feel for me, I just wonder how it would be on a one to two week solo adventure when some lakes are large and the wind is blowing a big chop. A short wide boat may not be the best choice.


I has a Royalex
The one I had was a royalex.

The problem in wind and waves is that it is too boyant and rides too high. As a result you bob (no pun intended) on top of the water. It doesn’t “sit down” in the water. Tons of capacity, though.

The Bob IS Special
My Bob Special is used very much the way you contemplate using yours (with one important exception, which I will note below); here are a couple of thoughts:

My Nova Craft Bob is in Blue Steel with ash gunwales. It is an early, pre-production prototype and was put through many, many miles of tough paddling before I got it through Rutabaga about 3 years ago. Because it is an early boat, it has a shoe keel, which is now a special order only item on the composite boats. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to get a boat with this; it serves no purpose and is a rock magnet.

As has been noted in many posts (by me and a number of others) the Bob Special is touchy about trim. Assuming that you will solo the boat from the bow seat facing “backwards,” you will need to do something about bringing the bow down to level or even a little beyond (I use a 40 liter dry bag filled about 2/3 with water and placed in the bow.) This immediately improves tracking, from the effects of both stroke and wind. I’m sure I would agree with the poster who said that the boat was too beamy to use a center seat.

The Bob loves to be loaded up for a trip; I’ve had close to 150 lbs in mine (and I weigh 240) and never felt remotely close to its limit. While it certainly won’t keep up with a well-paddled solo, I really don’t think that the boat is slow. I’m often pleasantly surprised at the speed (admittedly, a relevant term!) that I get out of it.

I paddle mostly rivers and streams (a lot of them) with this boat, from big’uns like the Mississippi, Wisconsin and St. Croix down to the tiny, twisty little creeks that can make paddling so much fun in Wisconsin. It handles them all like a champ. However, I have not had a chance to paddle anything larger than the lakes of the Sylvania Wilderness with the Bob, and those don’t qualify as “big, open water.” I’ll leave those comments to others. It isn’t as fast as a Penobscot or as nimble as a Prospector, but it performs its task well and always seems ready for more.

As my all-around, knock about canoe, I’m sold on the Bob. I tell friends that it is the paddling equivalent of a Jeep Wrangler; its a tough little thing, able to take you just about anywhere and get you back again, ultimately restricted more by size than ability.

I tried both the Bob and Pal and liked the Pal much better.Narrower for easer solo paddling,it healed over easier to paddle canadisn style,and faster.


Bobs, Pal, Shearwater
Brammy, do you still have your Swift Shearwater? IMHO the Bobs is not nearly as fast or as much glide as the Shearwater, and it is pretty wide. I paddled mine with a minicell saddle just behind the carry yoke and could go along pretty good, but at least 1 possibly 2 miles per hour slower than the Shearwater but the Bobs turned oh so much better.

The Pal is also slower as a solo than the Shearwater and it turns more like the Shearwater, it’s essentially a flat bottom canoe to within 2 feet of the ends where it rockers up an inch.

The Nova Craft Bobs admittedly is a canoe man’s canoe, perfect design and execution, and the Pal is a reproduction of an old wood and canvas so it has some fine lines, too. My Bobs was kevspectra with Cherry rails and it sure was a good looking boat, but it had the shoe keep, and it is indeed a rock magnet. The Pal I paddled beat Penobscot 16’s in a downriver race last spring, which isn’t terrible noteworthy since difference in paddlers could be the reason. I’m wondering if you’re going to get enough of a difference between your Penobscot and the Bobs. Both are fine looking canoes and capable of just about any water that doesn’t scare you to death just looking at it. Good luck with your search.

The Real Thing

– Last Updated: Nov-23-08 7:16 AM EST –

This is a 1930-ish Chestnut Bob's Special that I rehabbed. I like the lines.

The Bob's was made with thinner ribs to cut down on some of the weight.

I can’t seem to get into those links…
…and I would REALLY like to see your Bob Special!

The links don’t work for me either, …
…but I know why. Webshots changed their format so that nobody can see full-size images anymore except the account owner. You’ve got to post the link to the picture as it first appears when clicked on in the album, not the larger option.

Yah, thanks guideboatguy. I tried to link the full size. I posted the link to the album above.


try moving the link directly to your
browser, it worked for me and the canoe is absolutely beautiful

Mutually exclusive design factors
I doubt you’ll be able to find an efficient solo that is stable enough to stand and pole in. I have been forced to stand in 28.5" wide hulls when nearing the conclusion of a Dead-Fish Polo game, but the concept and the paddler are both pretty shaky. The widest solos that can be considered efficient are the Wenonah Wilderness and Bell’s RockStar; both 31".

Harry Rock, the best poler of all time and a world class athlete stands tall in a 36" wide hull. We can assume he’s use a narrower hull for reduced wave making resistance if he was adequately stable in same.

Never seen Harry paddle anything other
than an MR Explorer… I am sure he could and he is about six three and extremely athletic. But he has said that he prefers the versatility of that boat.

He can and does do jump spins and at his height is able to rail the boat a la FreeStyle with a pole.

At your height and the Bobs width there is little room for error if you bump something. The head has to stay in the boat.

I’ve seen it now…
…and it was worth the wait. What a beautiful boat in every way: Her lines are just spot on and your restoration work did her proud. Thanks for posting this! Any idea what this “lightweight” weighs today?

very sweet
really nice boat

i have a stripper version, though not quite as classy

I realize the Shearwater is WAY faster than the Bob. In fact, I used to think my Shearwater was OK for speed, but not really fast. However, after many miles in her, it is fast, no doubt. I cruise easily at 4mph, and can hit/switch around 6 with a bent shaft for a long time before I get tired, and can go faster if I put my “shoulders” into it. Originally, I was looking for a lighter solo as I was getting tired of carrying her and a pack over long portages several times per day. However, I started to think about how maneuverable the Bob is, plus I just love that boat. The weight difference is a wash, so I gain a little maneuverability and loose a lot of speed. My main paddling anymore is fishing lakes and rivers here at home, with fewer solo expedition trips. I do not like heeling my Shearwater over to turn it, especially if it is loaded with gear. the ease of going on twisty shallow water is a plus in the Bob over teh Shearwater in my opinion. The Bob and the Penobscot may together may not be such a wise choice as they are similar hulls, but then again, the Bob would be 10 pounds lighter than the Penobscot, and would not oil can (Nova craft Kev. Spec). I think I have to think on the virtues of the Bob and the Shearwater and then decide if going slower is worth it to me. my biggest fear is the Bob is bad conditions on big lakes as the Shearwater has proven herself over and over again. It sounds however, when properly trimmed, the Bob can handle it all paddled solo.

I appreciate your and others opinions on this posting.