canoe for both solo and tandem ww(II-III

our whole family is learning to paddle ww (2 adults, 3 kids 6-13): can anyone recommend a mid-sized canoe that would be good for learning both solo and tandem paddling? our local DR races are usually class II-III (kenduskeag, Passagassawaukeag, etc.) (and we don’t have a whole lot of money to spend…)


river running or downriver racing?
Some of the hulls that have been most commonly used either tandem or solo whitewater play boating and river running include the Mad River ME (or composite Millbrook ME), Dagger Caper, Dagger or now Mad River Caption, Mohawk XL 14 or Mohawk Probe 14, and Mad River Howler (or composite Millbrook Howler).

Some have also adapted older whitewater hulls originally designed to be solo boats for tandem use. These include Blue Hole Sunburst IIs and Whitesell Pirhanas.

Most of these are probably not going to be very competitive for downriver racing, if that is your intention and if you care about being competitive. Most are also out of production, but it sounds as if you are looking to purchase something used anyway. The Millbrook ME or Howler, the Mohawk XL 14 and Probe 14, and the Mad River Caption are available new.

no suggestions aside from
looking for older Jensens…

Both are longish flatwater mixed with whitewater races.

A dedidcated ww boat is going to be a lot of work.

I see lots of Old Towns and Jensen designs in both races. You might ask the MACKRO folks at a race.

I have an old Wenonah Odyssey that when we were younger and stronger did well by us.

A friend of mine has an Old Town Penobscot rigged with 3 saddles for tandem and solo. It works well.

16’ Penobscott for the races
A play boat such as Pblanc suggests will be more fun in the rapids and can be rigged with triple saddles to make the tandem/solo switch easy.

But those will be slow pigs on the flats.

The 16’ Old Town Penobscot is an often used boat for the races you mention. Tough as nails so you won’t cry when you hit a few rocks and still reasonably fast. For solo you can add a center seat or paddle it backwards from the bow. (Might need to remove the thwart behind the bow seat for that.)

But it won’t spin or surf like the playboats will.

also depends on what you call Class III
A boat that will be competitive in a downriver race, like a Jensen 17, is going to have a narrow prow that will knife into, rather than ride over waves, and will therefore easily swamp in big wavetrains unless they can be cheated.

Dedicated whitewater boats, like the ones I mentioned, will be much more forgiving in Class III water, but much slower, as has been noted.

A small tandem river tripper like a Penobscot or a 15’ Prospector will be somewhere in between.

thinking if you’re not too big
a used (obviously) MR ME would work well. Friend of mine has one with triple thwarts, way lighter than the saddle set-up.

There’s only one boat that’ll fill the bill of those post… the Old Town Pack! “America’s Canoe”…God’s gift to Royalex…green sexiness…12 feet of pure adrenaline!

Bluehole Starburst?
I’ve got a Starburst I bought from a guy who paddled it solo in whitewater. Kinda big for solo according to my tastes but it’s a pretty fast boat for a big tandem whitewater/play capable boat. It’s not that much longer than an ME but it’s not as nimble. Not in production anymore either so you’d have to look around to find a used one. It’s way more fun in whitewater than any of the Jensen designs in my opinion unless you just want to go downriver fast.

you could cut the deck off a Pamlico 140…the most awesomest bestest boat ever.

Adrenaline in a Pack
Well sure… just pack the three kids and the two adults in and run it through Six Mile and Shopping Cart and you will find the true meaning of “yard sale”.

Is, in retrospect, by far my favorite WW boat for both solo and tandem. It slaloms brilliantly. Downriver, it won’t win any medals but it’s surely much faster than today’s absurdly short scarab beetle solo canoes.

Not sure the ME would be the best solo/tandem learner canoe for WW, unless you had some competent instruction in controlled circumstances.

The Penobscot or MR Explorer are good choices for learning. I and my kids learned both solo and tandem WW in an Explorer. Then, I moved on the the ME, Whitesell Piranha (talk about slow), Dagger Encore, and C-1 … but the ME was the most versatile and friendly in my opinion.

look for used penobscott 16 royalex, you will love it. I have one with a center seat for soloing/extra person and use it on rivers mostly, read some reviews of the suggestions above, and try to paddle a few and see what you like. Find out who lives by you and see if they will let you go out with them, or go to an outfitter and test paddle one or two…

6 year old and class III in a canoe?
You sound like an enthusiastic beginner, and I love to see this type of family enthusism. However I’m a bit concerned that your children are 6-13 and you’re wanting to do class III water in an open canoe. Nothing wrong with kids canoeing and nothing wrong with class III in an open canoe, but the combination is a bit concerning, especially if you are a beginner. Learn to do whitewater with adults before you put your kids in the boat. There are classes available for children to learn ww paddling, but they are usually kayaks and very experienced instructors.

Regarding boats, the Penobscot 16 is a good all-around boat for 1 or 2 paddlers. You’re not going to get all 5 of you in any boat you want to use for downriver races though. Thinking of each adult as a solo paddler that happens to have children along is probably a better approach. As the kids get older you’ll move to more tandem paddling. Of course the 13 year old is capable of being a “real” paddler, but planning on a 6 year old padlding more than a short time is not very realistic in my experience as a mother of 4.


I am not concerned
the OP is thinking of running races with kids with class 2 and 3. The races cited have full safety teams on shore in place with throw ropes.

The races actually are good supervised training in a sense. The younger child is probably too young but lots of parent kid teams with the kid about 8 or 9 do the Kenduskeag. There are only a couple of class 3 and they are short and with ample rescue pools.

Of course to do a race and keep upright does not give you sufficient skills to do a wilderness trip with the same grade of rapids.

One of my friends does the race with her five year old. He has grown up around boats though and has canoed for almost all his life.

by the age of 13
my son Aaron was a better ww paddler than I. A friends son, age 12, kayaker, does amazing things. Big difference between 2 and 3 though, but kids mostly seem to crave being on the edge.

find some rentals…
and learn by renting. Imho it’s a lot easier finding opinion on a boat-comparison basis, but then again, paddling is a learn-by-doing activity…

First you might make your goals
clear and consistent. To race downriver in whitewater, one first has to learn to run whitewater. That can’t be done by starting in a Jensen, or even in a Penobscot 16. A Dagger Caption makes an excellent solo/tandem learning platform. My Mad River Synergy is faster, but takes too much water unless the tandem crew is light.

Once one knows how to go slow in whitewater, going fast is much easier and safer. Then one can try some really fast canoes with some prospect of getting down the whole course with the boat intact.