Canoe for the wife and me...

Hello everyone. I am a 24 year old looking to purchase my first canoe. I have limited paddling experience. I am interested in a canoe that I can fish out of while paddling solo, but will also be taking my wife out on occasion. Both my wife and I are smaller framed. I am 5’6" and 165#, my wife is 5’ and 100#. I will be paddling primarily small to medium sized lakes in MN. I have been researching models via this forum for quite some time and have narrowed my options to the Old Town Guide 147 and the Mad River Explorer 14TT. Any comments on these models or suggestions of other models to consider would be more than welcome. Also, I love the simplicity and “leave no trace” aspects of motorless/noiseless/gassles/pollutionless craft, but would like to improve speed a little while paddling solo. Would I be able to rig these canoes for rowing? I have been toying with the idea of the OT Osprey but would like to keep my budget a little lower (500-700) if possible. Any advice would be of great help. Thank you all for your time.

P.S.- Considering our size/weight, would there be a way to rig a solo like the Pack or Vagabond to be a tandem? Thanks again.


not a vagabond tandem
Hi Jon, the smaller solo canoes are not capable of carrying both you and your wife for more than just a little spin around the pond. I’d like to steer you away from the heavier of the Old Town boats and the Mad River TT, whatever that means, I thought it stood for total tonnage, but not sure…these boats weigh 80 pounds or so and are just plain hell to get on and off the truck and carry any distance, say more than a dozen feet. I see more of these kind of canoes sitting unused than just about all the others put together. They are so heavy you just tire of wrestling with them and give up on canoeing. Since you have Old Town and Mad River dealers in your area I’d try to steer you more towards the Old Town Penobscot, or even the Camper. Both are way lighter and more fun to paddle. In the Mad River line up I’m fond of the Horizon 15 with a third seat for solo-ing, or even a Explorer 15. These better canoes are a tad beyond your $700 limit, but I’d still recommend them. If you have a canoe you like to handle you are sure to use it more.This time of year you can get some good deals on closeout stock, and some of the outfitters sell end of season deals. check for example. You might even find a nice light weight kevlar that’s been used pretty good but still useful for your needs. Also in your area Wenonah is a big brand. I like their Prospector 15 for solo or tandem. Also check out ebay, and keep an eye on the classifieds, there’s always a good deal or two popping up there, and lots of them are in your area.




– Last Updated: Nov-04-06 8:37 PM EST –

Whatever boat you decide on; "don't" buy an Old Town Pack or a Wenonah Vagabond, if you plan to paddle tandem. That would be a big mistake on your part, and I am sure you would not be happy with either of them.

I'll leave it to others to make suitable tandem canoe suggestions. Both my wife & I do all our paddling in solo canoes; she happily paddles a Vagabond "solo". It just so happens that I too have a Vagabond; although I'm more often seen in a Bell Wildfire, or Mohawk Odyssey.


P.S. A new Wenonah Vagabond retail for over $900.00.
You could probably find a new one cheaper this winter.
Of course there is always the used boat option. Perhaps 2 used solos ????

Sporting canoe w/ reasonable efficiency?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-06 10:52 PM EST –

Thank you both very much for your input. Newbie as I am, every bit helps. My problem is that I will primarily be paddling solo for fishing purposes but will on occasion bring my wife. I am therefore looking at a boat that paddles well for both scenarios. From what I have researched, most sporting canoes are too wide to have any significant efficiency while solo. Yet the narrower/more efficient boats apparently lack stability. What would be a good mix of stability and efficiency for someone in my situation. From what I have seen, the Wenonah Solo Plus and Prospector 15 (as mentioned above), as well as the Old Town Osprey come to mind, but again, any comments or additional suggestions would be fantastic. Thanks again!

differing parameters
the parameters you state pretty much explain why many – if not most – paddlers have more than one boat as certain hull types are better for certain conditions and there is not one all-around, magical, do-everything boat.

If I read you correctly, you want:

  • a fast solo paddler,
  • a flat-bottomed fly fisher, and,
  • an efficient, but initially stable tandem.

    Regretfully, all of your wishes do not – and cannot – exist in just one boat.

    In light of your price limitations, the Old Town Guide 147 and the Mad River Explorer 14TT probably are your best choices.

mad river 14 tt
Mine only weighed about 72 pounds and was thus easy to lift and carry the carrying thwart is nice and the boat is well balanced. It paddles very well solo but it is not a fast boat. It is good for twisty creeks and rivers and fairly calm lakes. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. I bought it used for about 450 and it was in really good shape.

Many canoes can be rigged for
rowing, but won’t that push your initial budget too high? Spring Creek makes a basic rowing rig. You would want to be able to shift the rowing rig and rowing seat position if your wife is along.

Cost of rowing setup?
That does bring up another one of my questions. I am not sure how much $$ I would need to spend to rig a canoe for rowing. I see pins and locks at Fleet Farm for a total of $20. What else would I need to complete the setup? Also, would any aluminum or royalex canoe be able to be rowed?

Thank you all for your continuing input, this info is just about priceless for a beginner. Great forum!

As a former single sculler, I have only
priced the high end rigs, the ones with true sliding seats. I think you can either find Spring Creek on this site, or google them. Or you could go to I think they stock the Spring Creek stuff.

The one thing about canoes, versus rowboats, is that canoes are really too narrow to just put some pins on the gunwales and drop some oars in them. You would be happier with some sort of outriggers.

Another possibility is to get a double bladed paddle, a long one, maybe 250 cm. Double blades are kind of drippy, but until you get used to solo paddling with a canoe paddle, a double blade can get you over the lakes fairly effectively. You’ll often see discussion of double blades for canoes on pnet.

$500-$700 if possible. That doesn’t
sound like he’s locked in to that range. WW is right that there are many used canoes in MN. It’s worth a trip to the BWAC outfitters to pick up a used 16’-17’boat in a light layup. Longer can be had in something that can be paddled solo. Length adds stability. For fishing, I would consider using deployable stabalizers and securing your gear in the boat.

There are outfitters who specialize in setting up canoes for fishing MN lakes. Contact them. A lighter boat will enable you to fish some of the better spots that require a longer portage. You don’t need a canoe that is an all around lake/river boat. Focus on a lake boat that is more efficient to paddle and portage and you will get to the spots that have more fish. You don’t need Royalex for this job, unless you think you will be rough on the boat while getting in and out of the water or will be taking passengers who can’t be easily trained to deal with a composite boat.

With the price of gas and fishing liscense, it’s worth getting a boat that helps you get the fish and enjoy the lake. You won’t know prices and availability until you shop. If it was me, I’d save up a little extra and buy a boat that is more suited to MN lake fishing. That’s my opinion and I’m a cheap Royalex river paddler that occasionally fishes MN lakes. And I can tell you that WW has logged a number of miles in the BWAC and terrorizes fish. :slight_smile:

Bell Morningstar
I want you to know that sometimes by telling you the price of a new canoe you can sometimes buy a used one for about half the price. (example)I saw a bell Morningstar in for sale in Oregon for $750.00 and it was only used 3times. Which woould be a very good price.

effect of passenger weight on stability?
Thank you all for your help… a better quality used boat does sound more attractive than lower quality new. I have been doing some research about the Solo Plus. The general consensus is that it is rather stable solo but a bit tippy as a tandem. Since my wife and I are a combined 265 lbs, does that help or hurt the stability when paddled tandem? I usually hear that a boat is more stable with a larger load, but for some designs is the opposite true?

rowing set up
I think the Old Town Guide would make the most piggish canoe and the best row boat. It is 38 to 40 inches wide I beleive and I’ve done very well with canoes that wide by just mounting the locks on the outside edge of the gunnels and using 7 foot oars.

If you want to make it a little better I can give you some links to easy and simple outriggers you can build yourself for less than 20 or 30 dollars. I think very few canoes are skinniny and long enought to be good boats for sliding seat rigs so the most expensive part of your canoe rowing rig will most likely be your oars.

OK - - I can see where your coming from
I’m kinda in a similar market myself (except cheaper and always solo 90% of the time)

Tandems and solo’s usually have different profiles. Tandems are usually wide, and can carry a hec of a lot more gear - - But you appear not to be planning on doing this.

Solo’s are usually a bit narrower, have a bit more rocker (I’m generalizing here folks - don’t chew) and haul less gear - - Seating can be a problem (or kneeling)

I’m 180 and my wife is 130 (She’d shoot me for that) but if I came accross a nice larger solo, I’d do that over a tandem since I would be in the boat 90% of the time and with her in a boat the other 10%

If it had a bit too much rocker or questionable stability as a tandem, I’d just have to adjust. She’s gonna paddle just to do it, and I’m gonna have to do the real work anyways.

Since I’m on a very strict budget (Ney Cheap) If a 14TT was close by and cheap, I’d probably consider it. I’m not gonna do any 2 mile portages (My heart and soul say’s yes, but by back always wins out) so a bit of weight off the truck won’t kill me - - It’s the long hauls that do me in. You could also consider a double paddle if you do go with a tandem and go solo.

based on your budget, I’d be looking for a damned good solo used, and come up with a creative way to do some temporary seating for two. maybe a clamp on seat off the gunwalls.

As a side line - - In a solo, your gonna be closer to the little lady - - not sure if that’s a bad thing or not. You could even get real close and be both in the middle - - - - Never mind.

used Shearwater
One option is a Swift Shearwater if you can find one used in your price range.

Lovely high volume solo that would be dreamy perfect for you to paddle and fish from, and plenty of room and capacity to take the wife for a ride…just slide the seat back and have her sit in front of you…my wife uses a crazy creek folding chair when I’ve taken her out in a solo canoe.

Personally I recommend against the idea of adding a rowing rig. There must be some reason that you rarely/ever see canoes with rowing rigs. It will add a ton of weight and hassle to transport the boat, and it would put a lot of stress on the boat (I would not do this to a kevlar or carbon boat) so if you go for a decently efficient boat in the first place you’ll be satisfied with the speed and efficiency. I don’t think you would gain much if any speed with a rowing rig; boats want to run at their hull speeds and decent boats are easy to get to hull speed with single blade paddles.

==> used Shearwater

Of the two, …
I’d go with the Mad River Explorer 14tt. It looks like it will be a better paddler. The bench-type seat will allow you to sit backwards in the front seat to paddle solo (ie. you paddle it backwards. Sitting in the front seat puts you closer to the center). When paddling this way, you may have to put a bit of wieght in the front to keep it a little lower.

If you go with the Old Town Guide 147, you’ll want to hang a center seat. This canoe has the molded plastic seats which won’t allow you to sit backwards.

As far as speed, I would go with a kayak paddle. Get a long one – 8’ minimum; 9’ if you can find one.

So, get the Mad River Explorer 14tt. When paddling solo, paddle it backwards from the front seat with a long kayak paddle. Be sure to get a good life jacket and ALWAYS wear it.

I throw something different into the mix
I would look at buying a used Souris River Quetico 16, or 17. The 16 can be paddle solo by simply sitting in the bow seat backwards and the 17 is a great tandem.


MR Explorer 14TT
is a good boat… it was my first canoe. I’m about the same size as you, and i use the boat in the same way you intend to, and the MR14TT does fine. Its tough as nails but as mentioned before its pretty heavy. Mines closer to 75 lbs. Its easy enough to paddle solo from the front seat backwards. I used mine about 90% solo, and i’ve had the boat since 2002. Just this year I bought a new boat in royalex, its a big improvement over the poly, and I wouldn’t want to go back… but it was twice the price of the 14tt. I recommend this boat as a first boat to most anybody… i’m having a tough time deciding if I want to sell mine or just hang on to it for a loaner.

Actually, the canoe that would make
the best rowing shell is the Wenonah Minnesota 4.