Canoe for SMALL paddler

-- Last Updated: Aug-19-08 8:47 PM EST --

It seems as if canoe makers have conspired to define a "small paddler" as someone who weighs 125 pounds and UP. When you tell them that the paddler weighs just 95 pounds, you're told, "Everything will be fine... but if the wind kicks up, add another 35 pounds of ballast." I think few of us would appreciate having to deal with that kind of constraint each time we leave shore.

Is there a canoe out there that is actually designed for a 95 pound paddler who is interested in:

(1) lakes and flat water -- with reasonably good tracking

(2) sitting on a "normal" gunwale-hung seat and using a single blade paddle--not flat on the floor of some Wee Lassie and playing kayak.

(3) a hull that weighs not much more than 35 pounds

(4) a quite narrow beam.

I've beat the bushes quite hard, and have already looked at most of what is normally recommended for "small paddlers" (who weigh at LEAST 125 pounds).

Any suggestions?

Wenonah J-120 or Bell FlashFire
The J-120 was a flatwater racing canoe designed for a girl from out west. It was for paddlers up to 120#, but better for the 100#paddler. It was fast,narrow, and light(about 19#).

The Flashfire was also for the small paddler, others will chime in with its attributes.

In Wenonahs present lineup, the Sandpiper is the smallest solo. It is usually found in Royalex, but is made in glass, kevlar and carbonfiber. It is not in the catalog, being replaced there by its larger sibling, the Vagabond, but is still available.

Many wooden boat builders offer small solos that are regular canoes, not sit-on-the-bottom pack canoes. They can be very light when that is the prime directive. Al Bratton at Woodstrip Watercraft in Gilbertsville PA is one who comes to mind.


We got the Wenonoah Sandpiper for my 11 yr old son and it works great. He is 85 lb. and about 5ft. He took right to it. I also paddle it in races and I am 5’10" and 185 lb. And I can give the Penobscot guys a good run. It is a bit tipsy though, if you paddle whitewater or lakes/ocean with waves, but all in all it may be just what you need.

Canoe for really small paddler
Although it is no longer made, perhaps you could find a Blackhawk “Nighthawk.”

Or,Tom McKenzie (Loonworks Canoes) makes a wood/canvas canoes. He has a little one called called Button.

Good luck!


I don’t normally do this, but…
While i think it tacky for a mfg to promote his/her own boats except in generic terms, we’ve got your daisy, and I don’t think anyone else does.

Consider a Placid boatworks SpitFire in Double Diamond configuration. []

12 ft long, 27.5" max wide, with extreme shouldered tumblehome; 24" molded beam at rails. Weight is 24 lbs with cherry trim, 21 with CobraSox. Rocker 1.5 bow, .8" stern. Weights are guesses for a kneeling seat.

We make it as a pack canoe for 120- 220 lb folks. It’s easy to add the carbon belly band and double diamond lamination we use for WildFire and FlashFire; then hand a seat from the rails.

Thanks to PlaidPaddler, but Flash is designed for 120-180lb paddlers - way large for you; to wide and more skin drag and carry weight than you need unless for a great northern river trip.

For day use?
It doesn’t sound like loaded tripping is in the plan, but just to check. CEWilson is promoting a very nicely made boat - even if it is his.

The only other thing I can think of is to check with some of the canoe makers out there, like Hornbeck, that may be willing to tweak one of their boats for you. Only reason I think of them is that a guy in our paddling group had a Hornbeck that had been tweaked for him, albeit in the opposite direction re width. But others may as well.

If Charlie didn’t recommend his
boats, and he seldom does, lots of us would.

Day use
Just to confirm: this paddler (who happens to be my wife…) is interested only short day trips with little more than a bottle of water and an apple.

Years ago, we worked out our wanderlust during a year-long cruise on a very small boat. A few hours on the water is all we are after at this stage.

Presently we are paddling a Nova Craft PAL tandem (which also suits me just fine as a solo) and are looking for just the right second solo for this lovely, but diminutive, young lady.

Rail width

– Last Updated: Aug-20-08 8:51 AM EST –

The issue with any single blade paddling of current pack canoes is rail width. Most are based on the original Lap-streak built Rushton based, constant flare, every widening, hulls.

SpitFire is unique, in having tumblehome. The rails are narrower than maximum hull width.

This is a special case; a very petite women. Flared hulls will not allow her to achieve the vertical paddleshaft that is the key to controlling the solo canoe.

I second the Sandpiper
My 4’-11", 120 pound daughter has one and it is awesome.

It is not only good for a small paddler, but this 5’-8", 162 pounder won a down river race in it against a bunch of 16 and 17 footers.

If she didn’t have one, I would have got one for myself by now.



seat height
If the SpitFire is made as a pack canoe for 120-220 lb folks in which “the paddler sits slightly off the canoe bottom for great stability”… are you saying that a much lighter (95 lb) paddler would be able to sit considerably higher up and still have the same measure of stability?

I assume the purpose of a “belly band” in the layup would be to stiffen the side walls in order to carry the weight on the gunwale.

Check with Tom MacKenzie
about a Button model…11 feet, 24 lbs. Tom has been ill lately and I don’t know if he has anything for sale. You might try getting someone who owns one to part with it, but that might be tough as Tom’s boats are works of art.

Dbl D SpitFire

– Last Updated: Aug-20-08 9:00 AM EST –

Stability for kneeling paddlers is a function of hull design and paddler triangulation.

David Yost's has designed SpitFire with soft chines and constant flare to th shoulder, then a quick tuck to the tumblehomed rail. As the hull is heeled, more volume is presented to the water, so heeling the hull lifts the stems and increases stability.

That tucked tumblehome improves hull stability and our ability to keep a vertical paddle shaft which minimizes yaw but it can also be considered a Z hinge. We add an 11.5 oz belly band at the seat and a second diamond to reinforce the "cockpit".

This is overkill, but it's hard to resist the "Can I try your boat?" requests. I've loaned my Bell BlackGold WildFire to 280 lb guys and watched the gel crack at the shoulder. That will not happen to a Pb.

It is important for paddlers to fit their hull[s] to their bodies. Hull and rail width needs to allow the paddler to get both hands across the rail. Seat height should be adjusted to comfortably place the knees in the chines. Knee pad thickness can help adjust fit to some extent, but generally indicates the hull is way large.

Vermont Tupper
Paddles like a kayak but at 24lbs and fun in waves it might fit the canoe category that’d work for a

Grasse River Peeper or Rambler?

Oak Orchard’s - Wee Lassie
I’ve been looking for a small lightweight canoe, have not tried this one but take a look at the Wee Lassie at 19 and 28 pounds depending upon your price range it has several seating options as well. shows a used 28 pound demo for about $800 and a couple of 19 pound kevlar for $1300. There is a link to the canoes website there as well.

Small Canoes
I’m also in the hunt so I’d like it if the people replying would post website links if they have them. I’d like to find something in Canada for myself.

Old Town Pack 12 and Pack 12 Angler
This canoe especially the angler version looks to be my choice, now the only problem will be getting it shipped up here to Newfoundland. :slight_smile:

Also The Bell Bucktail looks good as well.

Those look interesting.
I like the sliding seats that are off the floor.

other possibilities
I paddle a RapidFire from a kneeling seat. (The RapidFire is the 15’ big brother to the 12’ SpitFire.) It’s a lot of fun, and I recommend you try a SpitFire if you can get to Lake Placid. (You don’t have a profile to tell us where you are.)

Two other possibilities, thinking outside the box a little because I suspect even the 27.5" width of the SpitFire could be too wide:

Used 26" slalom canoe (which will probably have a pedestal rather than a hung seat, but that is still a proper height for paddling a canoe).

26" rec kayak outfitted with either a hung seat or a pedestal seat.

– Mark