Canoe advice

I’m looking to add a canoe to my fleet and would like some thoughts. I’m looking for something that will accomodate two people, yet not so long/wide that I can’t paddle it solo (which is what I’ll probably do most). I do still and moving photography and need something that will be stable. I don’t need a speed demon, but I’m not looking for a huge boat like the Old Towne Discovery (I believe we use 16ft at our area). I would be trying to find something used, as this will be a secondary boat and what the budget allows. Material? Roylex I guess…love the cane seats and would want to be able to add a portage ‘bar’ if it doesn’t have one already.

Mucho thanks paddling buds.


You didn’t state your size
or where you are, but one to look at is the Hemlock Eaglet at It’s not royalex, but if you’re going solo most of the time you will apprecialte a lighter boat. As you will see it can come outfitted for one or two, or both. Great all around hull, well made, pretty, and very stable for photog.

We call them a quiver of kayaks here in Ulster County. A fleet must be floating.

I would look for a composite used boat
Unless you plan on paddling a lot of shallow, rocky rivers and streams, Royalex will offer no advantage except less cost. It will not be as efficient to paddle because the material cannot be formed to as sharp an entry and it flexes under power. It is also more prone to abrasion wear. Its virtues are less cost than a good composite and less likelihood to crack upon a forceful impact, but it will weigh a lot more, and that might be a factor for you if you anticipate using a “tandem” canoe alone on a regular basis.

If you have your heart set on Royalex, a lot of people seem to have success using 16’ Old Town Penobscots as solo boats. At 34" in maximum width that is as wide as I would consider for a tandem canoe that you anticipate using solo. Another option might be a Nova Craft Pal in Royalex-lite.

It depends a bit on the size of the person you plan to paddle tandem with but you will find the boat a bit large for paddling solo no matter how you go. If your tandem paddler is not too large, and you paddle the canoe empty tandem, it shouldn’t be too much of a limitation if you don’t need to go too fast or two far, and any boat that is large enough to be paddled tandem should provide good stability for photography when paddled solo.

I would look for a nice, used composite canoe with a length of 15’5-16.5’ and a maximum width of 34" or less. Some options would include the Esquif Champlain, Bell Northstar, Hemlock Eaglet, Wenonah Solo Plus, a composite Nova Craft Pal, or possibly a Mad River Malecite (if you found one).

It might take you a while to find one of these nice composite boats in good condition used, but it would be worth the wait IMO. If you don’t want to wait, buy any smaller-sized, used tandem Royalex boat and put up with it for solo use. Most people who buy a boat with the intent to paddle it both tandem and solo either give up paddling, or buy a second boat dedicated to solo use anyway.

I think I’d like to keep this about 10-12 ft. I’m living in South Carolina. I’ll use this on rivers that are narrow and hard to navigate in larger kayaks and will also use this in areas like Okefenokee swamp.

Here’s some more info
I’m not looking for anything very high performance (or attractive), as much as something that will just do what I need, which includes floating;O. That said, I’d like to keep my purchase pretty low, as I’m selling off a kayak, and would like to purchase a sea kayak (for large bodies of water) and a canoe (canoe camping, photography).



I meant your personal size
as that affects what size solo canoe you will need. You are much braver than I…wouldn’t paddle something that small in gator country. If you are firm about 10-12 feet, the Old Town Pack is 12’ and royalex.

10-12’ long tandem?
Doubt you will find a canoe that short that you will want to paddle tandem. You could look at something like the Old Town Predator C133 at 13’ 3" overall length:

The problem is that any canoe that is that short that has enough volume to accommodate 2 paddlers safely is going to be really broad and a pig to paddle solo.

10-12’ solo/tandem
A tandem canoe at 12’ gets very wide. A neccessity to have sufficient volume to support two people. A 39" wide tandem is miserable to paddle solo. Your wants for a short easy to paddle solo run against the tandem needs. 14’ is as short as you can go in a tandem without going really wide. Conversely, a 12 solo will be way too small to support two paddlers. Most of the tandem/solo dual purpose canoes will be in the 16’ range. Some 15’hulls can do both and all are compromises.

If your main paddling use will be solo, you get a big solo and a small paddling partner with good balance.

If your main paddling use will be tandem, you get a narrow tandem and learn to solo paddle in a bigger canoe. For a stable photo platform, a tandem will be better.

First suggestions will be the Wenonah Escapade @ 16’6" and the 14’ Meyers Sportspal. They are worlds apart in their design and construction. But will tell you after a test paddle which direction is best for your usage.

Tell us where you live and we can steer you to a reputable canoe dealer. (Thats why filling out the profile is important)


Get a penobscot 16 and put in a center
seat for solo.

a 10 or 12 foot long canoe is no good for two people.

Jack L

To turn or not to turn
that is the question. The Penobscot and Malecite that have been suggested would work fine, so long as your narrow streams don’t require the ability to turn quickly. I have both and they both can be soloed okay if you are not too small, but they both really want to track straight - the Malecite more so than the Penobscot.

You could consider a few boats that are shorter, but they will likely be slower. A 14’ Wenonah Fisherman is as small as I would go. It is 39" wide, which is as wide as I would go. It is a tandem, but can be soloed okay by facing backwards in the bow seat and placing some ballast in the stern (which acts as bow, in this case). Even though like the Penobscot and the Malecite it lacks significant rocker, the Fisherman is short enough to turn well even when paddled solo, although not nearly as well as a dedicated solo.

Otherwise, if you’re needing more maneuverability for tight twisty streams and more weight capacity, look for something with some rocker in a 16-footer. Such as my Nova Craft Prospector which is plenty stable for photographing from and can be soloed - but not much fun in the wind.

My size…5’8" 165 lbs.

My guestimation on length was a good bit off, now that I’m looking at it.

The big thing for me is that I don’t want to have to schlep a battleship during any portaging. I want something stable to shoot images from. I’ve run across a Mohawk Nova 16 at a not so bad a price. It looks like it’s received a good number of positive reviews, esp for soloing.

Anyone want to chime in on that?

Thanks everyone for a lot of great information.

I would say stay Royalex if you’re a photographer, in particular if you’re into wildlife photography. Royalex is a lot quieter than composite, a lot cheaper, a lot tougher, and a whole lo easier to repair if ever need be. Does it have to be a tandem? I enjoy going out in my solo and sneaking up on animals and birds for photos…turtles too.

I’m considering a solo…

Royalex - Quieter and cheaper, yes.
But tougher and easier to repair than composites? Not so much.

Nova 16
Good boat. If you can live with a royalex tandem, that one’s pretty good. No rocker to speak of IIRC, so it would tend to track straight.

you said at the onset that you were looking for something that could accommodate two people.

It is very difficult to place two people in a solo canoe and the issue is not simply lack of a second seat. The boat simply doesn’t have the volume to safely float the additional weight, and there isn’t enough room in the ends for the paddlers to comfortably sit far enough from each other to effectively paddle.

If one paddler tries to sit on the seat and the second on the floor in front of the paddler, the boat is badly out of trim (nose heavy) and very difficult to paddle.

If you don’t want to carry a second person, given your preference for a short, stable canoe look for a Pack canoe.


– Last Updated: Mar-27-11 1:50 PM EST –

I've got a Bell Morningstar RX which has been a good solo/tandem boat. It is wide to solo from the center, so I solo from a kneeling thwart aft of center with a bit of forward ballast. Very stable, predictable on edge.
Easier to turn but slower than a Penobscot 16.