canoe for 1 man, dog, and bike

I’ve been paddling ww kayaks for years but am new to flatwater paddling & canoeing. I recently retired and moved near a lake and want to get my 165lbs, a 50lb dog, and a mtn. bike across a 1.5 mile lake so I can ride the singletrack trails on the other side! (no quick options for driving around) I’m wondering about a smaller canoe that tracks well but is still somewhat stable (don’t want to lose bike) Any suggestions as to size and type?


Is that the main use for the boat?

– Last Updated: May-02-15 2:56 PM EST –

If you just want to cross a lake while carrying your dog and bike, I think you'd be better off with a small rowboat. Get a little 12- or 14-foot semi-V or Jon boat and keep it locked to a tree on shore. The time it takes you to cross the lake will be almost the same, and it won't take lots of practice in order to be able to deal with windy days.

If you plan to do some of the other things that people do with boats which are best handled by a canoe, then get a canoe, but basic pickup-truck duty on the water when such a short distance is being traveled would be better with a rowboat. I'm not sure what the used boat market is like in your area, but around here, seeing such boats for sale is fairly common. You may end up with a trailer too if you buy one used, but of course it would be better to just keep the boat at the lake if you can.

Endless possibilities
Frankly, your list of criteria is not very demanding. You could meet it with a serviceable old Coleman that can be had on Craigslist for about $200. In fact, that might be an excellent way to start, because nothing teaches you to appreciate a nice canoe quite as well as paddling a crappy canoe, and afterwards you can still get $200 for it on Craigslist. I’m not being cute here. The standard canoe is very stable and is made to do nothing so well as paddle in a straight line across flat water without being tippy. The challenges arise when you want it to perform multiple jobs, like flatwater plus whitewater, or straight line plus quick turning, or roomy plus light. But for starters… get the Coleman.

The problem with a big, stable canoe is
that you’ll have trouble paddling it solo in any wind. The lake seems large enough to me that I would be concerned being caught out in the middle on a windy day. You need to paddle from the center of the canoe or you’ll be nothing more than a giant weather vane. You need to keep the dog in front of you so you can control it. It doesn’t take long to train them to sit in front of you. I paddled my 17 ft canoe solo on a calm day but didn’t enjoy doing it. It would be impossible to control in any weather. My 15 ft Mad River tandem is fine to paddle solo and will carry a lot of cargo, much more than your needs. Chances are that you can’t self-rescue so be careful crossing the lake.

funny you mention a Coleman
I’m in the mountains north of Boise, Idaho.

Craigslist has a 15’ red Coleman for $250. right now! Looks like its maybe 36" wide with a seat at both ends, it has a shallow keel ridge the full length of the hull which should help with tracking. A label says capacity is 570 lbs. Maybe you know the model? I wanted something that could slip thru the water fairly fast and yet still be fairly stable. Would 15’ be about right length? Could I go smaller? I can balance fairly well and I like to paddle fast for the workout.

I have the luxury of picking when I go and live within walking of the lake, so can avoid strong wind. Would 15’ be about as small as I should go? What would be the minimum recommended beam dimension?

While I live close to the lake and can walk there, I might occasionally use craft for other purposes and appreciate ease of loading, thus desire for canoe. Would 15’ be as short as I should go? What minimum beam?

Wenona fisherman 14

The question that needs to be answered…
How small can you bike be? If you can fold it or easily break it down to a smaller package, what would the dimensions of that package be?

The Fisherman mentioned above would be a decent choice as far as weight capacity goes, but it may not handle the bulk.

Which lake are we talking about?

Oh - and…

– Last Updated: May-04-15 1:37 PM EST – much weight are you comfortable lifting to car-top, and what is your budget?

That will determine what construction to look for - aluminum vs plastic vs fiberglass vs kevlar.

BTW - slight possibility we may be acquainted with each other. If you're close to Boise, I can let you try a couple canoes. Feel free to contact me through the email link on this post if you're interested.

boat choice
Steve, I live on the west shore of Cascade Res in the Wagon Wheel area of Donnelly. I want to paddle from east shore to the western shore (about 1.5mi) to bike the trails around Tamarack. I can probably keep canoe docked near my house so I won’t be using a car except for occasional times in other areas. I can take front wheel off mt. bike but didn’t want to get more involved than that. Dog is well behaved and will sit still…most of time! Thoughts?


Ed Miller

As far as lifting…around 35 or 40lbs.

Didn’t want to spend too much since its my first canoe and will probably not use it for much else besides crossing lake. I have two kayaks, a playboat and a creekboat, guess I could try and sell/trade one of those, since I don’t use much anymore.

Docked vs weight
If you’re going to keep the canoe outside and uncovered, a used aluminum canoe is the way to go. All other materials will suffer from weather and UV damage.

40 lbs limits you to either a solo canoe or a lightweight composite. The first is rare around here and most likely too small for your agenda on Cascade with dog & bike, and the second will be spendy.

An aluminum canoe has the added advantage (in your case) of the protruding keel - which will help in tracking and in resisting wind. Besides that, we see some good ones on CL in the +/- $300 range around here. For those reasons and the outside storage reason, it might be best to find one of those and then decide if you need a different boat for other uses. At the usual used price, if not seriously damaged, you should be able to recover all or most of your investment should you decide it’s the wrong boat altogether.

Canoe size

– Last Updated: May-04-15 6:39 PM EST –

Putting a bike and dog in a solo wouldn't be that hard, unless the solo is pretty small. Take the front wheel off and set the bike so that a thwart goes between the front down tube and the fork. I just checked against my solo boats, and there's enough room. It'd probably be best to put the bike in front and the dog right behind the seat, but I know most people would say the heck with trim and do the reverse.

I'd further suggest putting a board crosswise on the floor of the canoe with a fork mount attached to it. With the rear wheel facing closer to the end of the boat, the fork will be in a wide part of the boat where there's room for this fork-mounting board to be fairly long. That way the bike can just stand vertically and not lean out over the side of the boat.

I still wouldn't rule out a rowboat, especially since it's just going to be kept at the lake anyway. For a person who has no interest in doing the kind of paddling that causes skills to develop, a rowboat would be enormously more practical.

Trying to picture me and a 50 lb dog plus bike in my Sojourn, crossing Cascade res. Nah - I think it’s gonna take a bigger boat. Problem is, there aren’t a lot of solos that come up for sale around here - and of those that do, they tend to be either whitewater solos or something like an Old Town Pack.

If Ed could find a Shearwater or an Independence or something similar at a great price, that might be just what he needs. But he’s gonna have to beat me to it. :wink:

I can’t remember where Wagon Wheel is. Is that by the mouth of Gold Fork?

I’m kind of jealous of your situation there. Nice area to paddle and really nice area to ride. Friends of ours have a place there we have visited, and it just doesn’t get much better.

More on boat size
Well Steve, I think you would find imagining and measuring how the the bike will bit to be two different things. And if worse came to worse, one could even slip off the back wheel as well, or mount that fork clamp I suggested on the peak of the front deck of the boat. What really matters most is the dog, as bikes don’t weigh much, which is also why the dog needs to be right behind the seat (just like would be best if only carrying the dog). However, getting back to the skill issue, I’d agree that a rank beginner in this situation might be stretching things, but that will also be true in a larger canoe if there’s any kind of breeze.

Here’s an important question

– Last Updated: May-05-15 10:51 AM EST –

Tell us how far it would be to drive to your destination. I just looked at the map, and at one location where the lake is 1.5 miles wide, it's about 6 miles to the nearest bridge as the crow flies, and about 10 miles by road. To get to the exact opposite side of the lake might be 30 miles, maybe even more, but a lot less if you aren't aiming for the exact opposite side (and surely the trails are accessible by road, or no one would ride them). Until you develop good technique, you can expect the crossing to take close to an hour if there's even a moderate breeze, and probably half an hour if there's no breeze. A good paddler will do it in less than 20 minutes, but with prep time it will still be more than half an hour (it's amazing where the time goes, and you'll be doing prep work on both sides of the lake). I see no time savings there for a beginner and little if any for a good paddler. There will certainly be a greater safety risk. How cold is that water??

At the other end of the lake where the width is 1.5 miles, the driving distance to the other side is only 6 or 7 miles, so I assume that's not your location.

slow boat vs slow drive

– Last Updated: May-05-15 3:00 PM EST –

Ed's prospective destination is the Tamarack resort area. There are ski lifts there that operate in the summer months for ATB users to run the trails downhill. IIRC, those lifts also get you quickly up to some ridge trails on NFS land, and from there, the sky's the limit. That's where I'd head too, with that in mind. All the roads leading there from where I think he is are restricted in speed. Most of it IIRC is 25 or 35 mph, and during peak periods can be congested, and then parking can be an issue. Boating across the lake makes sense. With some practice and conditioning, it makes even more sense.

Water temps? I don't know, as I've not spent a lot of time there in the summer - but it isn't known as a particularly cold lake in summer months. It's kind of shallow. But I think he's good to go with a shorty wetsuit while he's on the water in the months that they allow ATB on the slope.

I still think an aluminum canoe is the default best choice in this case. He can rig it for rowing - at least, that's what I'd do - and just leave it at the dock. And then dragging it up on the far shore is a cinch. I think it will get used a lot that way, and his trips across the lake will be frequent and cost nothing. He will have to watch the weather though, because you do get a blow sneaking in from behind the west mountains now and then. The good news is that it will be blowing towards home.

A good rowboat might be better - but I don't think he's going to find one in his price range that will be as easy to use without a long search. One can find a decent aluminum canoe on CL here most of the time in short order. But the rowboats that are listed are mostly heavy pigs of questionable condition.

My 50 lb dog
is pretty well behaved, but I don’t think she’d do well cramped in behind the seat of my solo for that trip. She’d have to stay laying down, or that tender hull would be doing things I’m not prepared for - especially since her movements would be out of my sight. But that isn’t the OP’s problem so much as the dearth of good solo canoes for flat water here.

He really needs to buy my extra Malecite. :wink: