Canoe Decision

I welcome folks advice.

I’m looking for a mostly day use Canoe, for mostly lakes and slow moving water. This is for my family of 4 (wife, 2 boys, myself). The kids are young, but adventureous (7 and 10). They will get bigger and probably want to try class-I to Class-II rapids, someday.

We tend to go places all together. So I’m looking for a 17 - 18" foot boat.

There aren’t many used boats around. In the area, there are still available:

Dagger Venture 17: 800$ Royalex and wood.(8y old)

Mad River Revelation: 925$ Royalex and vinyl (2y)

Wenomah Champlain: 995$ Fiberglass (2yrs old)

Old Town Tripper: 600$ Royalex (20 years old).

New boats are not out of the question. There is a “paddle fest” this weekend. I wanted to try out these models side by side. I’ve really only paddled the Wehomah Spirit-II and Champlain. I like both. I like the Champlain in the water, but boy is that a big boat. I’m planning on paddling the Old Town Penobscott 17. REI is having the 20% off sale and with the 10% kick-back, this Canoe’s price is OK.

In trying out the Wenomah’s I liked the sliding seat in the front, for the kids. Do folks feel like this is a must have for them?

Please share your opinions on what you think I should get or stay away from.



Canoe for the family trips

– Last Updated: Apr-29-05 3:49 AM EST –

I my experiences, paddling a canoes with the family; I would recommend the Old Town Discover17. It is very stable, kids and wife feel real safe in it. tracks nice, for a big boat. It can more than handle the payload of the family, lunch all the kid gear etc. It is economical, comfortable and pretty much bullet proof. I have paddled the penobscot17, its a good solo boat, but I think a bit unstable for the family, the tripper may be a bit small for a family of 4, I tried that too, seemed nice, until we all got in.

Two boats
The used canoe prices you listed are really high! Those are damn near new prices. A fact of life – used canoes are rarely worth more than 2/3 retail price.

By all means check out the classifieds here at PN.

With a crew of four I think you’d be way ahead in two canoes. Four in most canoes is really pushing the limits. Perhaps a used tandem canoe for the grown-ups and a couple of cheap rec-yaks for the kids? Certainly the ten year-old is old enough to be in his own rec-yak… or even better - a small solo canoe. Check out the Mohawk Solo 13 and 14: Cheap canoes, durable and rock steady. Our eleven year-old daughter has been paddling one for a couple of years now and loves it.

FWIW, opinions differ… (Krusty’s and mine on this issue anyway). As an example I dislike the OT Discovery series canoes. IMHO the OT poly link canoes have poor hull designs, are heavy as all get out and they almost invariably warp… Conversely I think the Penobscot series are among the very few descent hull designs OT makes – and Royalex is a far superior hull material. As I say opinions differ…

prices are off

– Last Updated: Apr-29-05 9:18 AM EST –

some of the prices quoted seem to be 20-50% too high given the ages of some of those boats (a 20 year old Tripper should be selling for $200-300 - and that's if it's in very good shape). You can find new Royalex Spirit II's for $1050-1150 if you shop around, which is a little over your highest price point, but a more practical boat for fast moving water than a glass Champlain, imho. Ask your local dealer to check with WeNoNah's dealer site to see if they have any blems available that could get the cost down even more.

Sliding bow seats and footbraces for a rear paddler can be added to pretty much any canoe after-market, so no worries there. You didn't mention where you were, but it's always worth taking a look at the classifieds here, since there's a great selection of product out there, and most boats have realistic asking prices on them - unlike those at some dealers.

more than one boat for four people
I’m going to second Arkay here.

My kids got bored quickly sitting in the canoe with me and my wife. Stick them in a boat(or two) of their own and they had much more fun.

I’m a canoe guy but yaks are nice for kids because the initial learning curve is small so they don’t get frustrated trying to get around.

Have fun.

Another thought
I just bought myself a new Clipper Jensen 17 in fiberglass. It is a great canoe, very stable, fast and easy to paddle. Wenonah also makes Jensen’s in 17 or 18 foot versions, kevlar or fibreglass. If you get a chance try one - I think you’ll love it. I did!

If you get to the stage of wanting to try whitewater rent or borrow something in Royalex but for day to day paddling consider the Jensen.

cant go wrong
cant go wrong with any of them really. i have a friend who owns the MR rev and really likes it…he has a small kid too and a dog so its really stable (good piece of mind)when out on the water and s%$# happens. They hold there value too if you ever wanted to get rid of it,

Two boats too
The kids are old enough to become bow paddlers. One for you and one for your wife. Check around. Those used prices you are listing are a bit high. With 4 of you you are going to incur some more costs too. 4 PFD’s. 2 or 4 paddles. Throw cushion per boat. Etc. Etc.

Good luck!

another for the multiples
I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods today, and for about $1,100 you could have one 14 or 16 foot canoe, two OT Otters, paddles, PFDs and maybe a new hat.

It is time those boys learn to be responsible paddlers. Plus, this gives you SO many options. you and the boys in a canoe one weekend. The whole family paddling and camping. You and the wife one afternoon out kayaking. As the boys grow they can use the canoe, or the kayaks.

IMHO a canoe and two kayaks are a pretty nice way to spend a refund check for family fun.


Got my flak jacket on…you can start

– Last Updated: Apr-30-05 12:50 AM EST –

with one big boat as long as your family is small to average size/weight. If you guys are linebacker material, then it's 2 boats at the start. So, can you tell us what the combined weight is for the 4 of you?

You won't be hauling a lot of gear for day trips, so your main load is people. You can trade off paddling, which is a good idea with most 7 yr olds. Kids grow fast, so you'll be looking at more boats before long. Buy one that you'll enjoy paddling after your kids are out of the boat. Your kids may take to the dark side and then you'll be having the kayak talk. But I'm not goin' there...

Some boats to consider:
Dagger Venture (used only. not made anymore)
Clipper tripper
Novacraft Prospector
Old Town Tripper (it's heavy, but it hauls a load)
There's more, but these are worth considering.

I would stay away from the Penobscot 17. It doesn't handle well with 4 people. An Old Town Discovery 169 might be ok, but I think you might want something different later. More length instead of more width will cruise better. Royalex or poly will handle abuse, which is not uncommon with 4 people in a boat. Sliding bucket seats are nice, but not a must have for me. Just some thoughts.

Sliding seat for kids is tops
The sliding front seat option in any canoe really expands the range of paddler sizes that can paddle efficiently in the bow of a big tandem. In addition to moving the weight of the smaller paddler forward to help with trim, the biggest advantage to the sliding seat is in moving the smaller narrow shouldered paddler forward to a narrower portion of the hull. This makes it much easier and less tiring for the small paddler to reach the water and keep the paddle shaft vertical. It will aid immensely in your childrens enjoyment of canoeing. This I speak of with 20+ years of small paddlers in the bow. A small light paddler that fits their frame and a seat that allows them to reach the water and plant their feet on the bow floatation tank, will help to keep them paddling happily for hours instead of minutes.

Of the hulls you mention, The Spirit and its bigger brother, the Champlain would get my vote in Kevlar. Those youngsters are never much help in getting the boat to the water and back onto the vehicle after the paddling. I orginally bought a Spirit in 1982 to take my 4 kids fishihg. We fit though the fishing room with rods was tight, and never dumped it, even when all of us where looking over the same gunwale at a fish on the line. A dozen canoes later, i still have that Spirit.

As much as i love the Jensen’s, i own a 17’; and the Penobscot series, then are not the first choices here due to the better stability of the other hulls you mentioned.

Make sure you try any prospective boats with your whole clan aboard. Canoe stability and handling is very subjective; 10 hulls that might all be within inches in every dimension will feel different on the water. The choice must be yours.

Simple choice
Among the readily available canoes you’ve listed, the Champlain is the one best suited to family use on lakes and slow-moving waters. It will be fast, stable and prone to weathercocking when lightly loaded in windy conditions. But you will need it’s size for the times when you’re all in it together on rougher waters. Also, it’s only two years old and so isn’t as likely to be beaten up and weathered as the Royalex canoes listed. They are good river canoes, but they can’t compete with the Champlain as a “family hauler”. The ends of the Champlain offer much better reach to water for more vertical (efficient) strokes. This is especially helpful for smaller passengers.

To compensate for it’s high windage, you might try bolting on some leeboards for when you’re out with just one child in windy conditions. They will act as a double skeg and help immensely when strong, well-directed paddling isn’t available at both ends. The frustration/fatigue factor under such conditions (high wind /light boat / inexperience) can be considerable … and so is worth mitigating with skegs or ballast. Also, the decent speed of this big composite will help in adverse conditions, serving to get you to where you’re going in shorter times and binocular/camera stable when you want to linger.

Good luck with your adventures !!!

Family Canoe
I agree with a couple of the other post. Get a used canoe. Find one for $400 or so. Then buy a couple Old Town Otter yaks ($240 or less each, your kids won’t know that there isn’t any foot braces and you can add them next year). If you can’t find a canoe for that money your taste are to high or everyone in your area is way outta line. Sounds like you’ve done some paddling and may already have a canoe that means you buy a couple cheap yaks and you’re in business. You and your kids will be far happier. Don’t worry about your kids being in their own boat, they will be out paddling you in a half an hour. Have fun. Chris

Still Confused - thanks so far.
I went to the paddle-fest this weekend. They didn’t have much, just Wenomah and a few old-towns. I tried the Spirit-II, Champlain and Penobscott 16’ (they didn’t have the 17’). Our favorites were the Champlain and the Penobscott. After that bit of paddling, the Penobscott was the way I thought we should go. New, from REI, this will cost about 800$.

The Penobscott 16 handled well with 3 people in it. Does any one have experience on if the 17’ is much different than the 16’ (should be faster, more stable and little harder to turn).

About the two boats instead of one, I hear you. You guys don’t know my wife. She’s game to go, but starting together is thre way to go.

Thanks for the advice so far.


I’ve Had both
the Penobscot 16 and the still have the Champlain. IMHO the Penobscot 16 is way to small for 4 people, especially in a year or two, theose kids are going to really start to grow. The P-16 is a nice large solo or a tandem. The Champlain wil be much better at handling 4 people, it can handle the load with a lot of free board to spare, has enough rocker to keep it manueverable, but tracks nicely, stable enough for fishing and squirming kids. The Tough weave lay up is very durable. Now it can be a handlfull in strong wind, but with a little practice it is fine. I’d say for 4 folks go with the Champlain.

We have a Penob16.
We put 3 adults in it and it was a dog to paddle and handle. Really bad. We like it for 2 adults, daytrip or overnight. Also not too bad solo with a load.

We’ve paddled a Penob17 and there’s better boats for your purpose. It’s not a 4 person boat. The sixteen is far better for paddling tandem.

If you want an all around boat, try the Novacraft Prospector. Spend a little extra and end up with a boat your kids can use in classI-II later.