Canoe Newbie

We are a family of 4, 11 yo boy, 8 yo girl, 6 yo boy. I would like to introduce them to canoeing and wanted to know what would be the best canoe for 4 people with the least amount of tipping. We would be on lakes. I am a novice and the 11 yo would be paddling with me.

Looking forward to some great suggestions.

Its a worthwhile investment to take
lessons. You will tip sometime. Better to learn now how to deal with it.

The other reason is that if you want that big a group in one boat you have enough to pay attention to. Your skills should be solid before taking them all out. That includes rescue skills.

The specific boat can wait. Don’t put the cart before the horse.

I have a somewhat different take -

– Last Updated: Jun-12-12 8:58 PM EST –

Consider that the vast majority of canoe paddlers would generally paddle with one or two - not four people. I think if you are learning to paddle as a family that is wonderful. Consider buying two canoes. It is a tough thing for the most experienced paddler to be safe with four in a boat.

Or maybe buy one 17 foot boat to start but paddle two at a time. A used old town tripper would be a good choice as a starter boat.

OOh my aching back!
Remember how often you get on the water will depend on how easily you can transport a boat. Yes its possible for a single woman to load a Tripper on a car but its not high on the fun list.

There are sizeable boats that fit four. The problem is the kids are spread out in age. Three years from now you will probably need two boats. Now not so much. However all the kids are old enough to paddle. Yes even the six year old.

Maybe buy a normal sized Kevlar canoe and have special time with each child separately? That way also you can learn who wants to paddle and who could care less. I bet you will have one of the latter at least?

Wenonah Spirit II
I faced the same dilemma about 30 years ago and did a ton of research and test paddling. The spirit is light enough in Kevlar so that a single mom can load it on the car. Kids are very ambitious at the start; they all want to go paddle. But at the end of the paddle they all want to run to the car and not be too much help loading.

Your younger ones can sit side by side on a bench seat mounted near the center. You will be slightly stern heavy, but the Spirit accomodates this well. As the kids get bigger you can use two drop in seats.

The 17’ Spirit is long enough to handle the 4 of you and not be too big for you to keep on course with only youngsters in the bow. Got mine to get all 4kids out on the water to fish. Still have it and all 4 still paddle. The youngest of mine has 4 kids of her own and they will all learn to paddle.

Get the lightest layup you can afford, and definitely get a sliding front seat. Kids are light, kids have narrow shoulders, kids have small arms. The sliding front seat lets you move them front to where the canoe is narrower. There they can reach the water and keep their paddle vertical. It is less tiring and promotes a better paddle stroke.

Kayamedics advice to get paddling lessons is good advice. There are canoe clubs in your area, look them up and take lessons. It will make things fun quicker, and prevent you from developing bad habits that will need to be broken later. And paddling clubs know the best local spots to paddle.


I canoe with three of my kids all the time. They are very similar in age to yours - 11, 9, and 7. My 16 ft. canoe is plenty capable of handling all of them plus me for day trips. If we did any multiday trips, we’d definitely need another canoe. Some will say that safety requires 1 adult per 1 kid ratio. That’s a little impractical for large families like ours. When paddling with the kids, we pay extra attention to other safety precautions - everyone where’s a PFD (especially me), never paddle in unsheltered water or attempt deep water crossings, only paddle when the water is warm enough for a swim, prefer to paddle in areas where other paddlers are around if we need help. And, of course, we always carry plenty of water, food, a first aid kit, sunscreen and bug jiuce with us.

I typically paddle from a kneeling thwart at the center of the canoe and have the kids in the bow and stern seats. The third kid sits in a beach chair just behind the bow seat. That seating arrangement trims it best since I weigh more than the three of them combined and allows me the best control of the canoe.

With the kids I find that sometimes they are really into helping with the paddling and sometimes they are not. Ironically, my 11 year old in particular - the strongest, most capable paddller in our crew - is often more interesting in having a fishing line in the water rather than a paddle. Sooo, we often start outings with a full Voyageur crew and finish with Dad soloing the boat with 3 passengers. I don’t know if your kids are more dilegent than mine or you are stricter captain than me, but in any case, you should probably be prepared to handle the canoe by yourself, IN the water as well as out of it.

Canoeing is a great sport for kids. My kids always have fun. When I give them the choice between hiking, biking, or canoeing for the day’s activity, usually they shout “canoeing!!” Sorry for the long post, but I guess this is something I’m passionate about too. I wish you all the best.

By the age of 6
Most children should have there own boat. the wave kayaks at Dicks are fine and about $120 each. Then buy a tandem canoe for the 11 year old to share with you. By 11 most can handle there own canoe.

Boat ownership and management develop skills needed for other vehicles in much more dangerous environments. Before you know it they will be riding there bikes to school and driving cars all while dealing with auto drivers on cell phones. The foresight they develop boating will help a lot.

If there are lessons in a tandem boat

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 12:45 PM EST –

available...OR double up in two ~16' boats to lesson in= probably a better idea. do them with the whole crew or fewer. 18'+ will work fine..(don't settle for anything less than 17')...and when there's only one or two that wanna play...remember that no tandem canoe is too big for two paddlers...might seem so during initial 6-10days with them learning to paddle, but they'll get the hang of it quickly. You'll want them sitting in seats lower than gunwale height. Kevlar[/carbon] , Wenonah's "Ultralight" and "Flexcore" layups along with Bell's "Black/Gold" layup are the best canoes out there for carrying, efficiency, and wear....slightly tippier, initial-stability, than Royalex..*In the first week* get them to practice, and they'll work out great. Going USED can often get you a great boat cheaper.
Oldtown: Try a PenobII, Tripper or TripperII(both heavier Royalex...but both stable)
Wenonah: Champlain, Sundowner, Jensen 18?, Minnesota 2?
and others...
Bell's Northwoods and others...
Others will have more info for good tandem boats...many out there.

No tandem canoe is too big for 2?

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 12:16 PM EST –

Surely you jest. An 18.5 foot kevlar boat that is unloaded except for the paddlers is a handful in wind.

The hull, being pinned at the ends, twists and tosses amidships. Not only have I read John Winters Shape of the Canoe for info on too large a boat and deadwood and skin friction, I have experience (unfortunate) in paddling large boats unloaded. It is indeed scary to paddle a large relatively flexible boat unloaded in waves.

I don’t know. If we had to paddle at the speed and stamina of my 6 year old, we’d never get anywhere. And anyway, I don’t have the ability to transport more than one boat on my car. I think kid-sized kayaks are one of those things that may work fine for a small family with one or two kids, but aren’t very practical for a bigger family. That is unless you’ve got a trailer, or a cabin by the lake, or something else that takes care of the transportation issues.

with growing kids I think the OP will
want something that can handle some weight. I think their tutorage should include advice on what kind of conditions where they should simply say no to. Yes, I guess I should possibly eliminate the Jensen18. I hope they will get out to grab a lesson or two.