Canoe or Kayak?

I have been reading up a bit on decked canoes and looking at lot of pictures on the net but have not been able to find a solid answer to the question of when a decked canoe becomes a kayak. Any thoughts?

I have not seen any decked canoe with a rudder or a skeg.

you haven’t looked very hard …
Kruger boats are decked canoes and have rudders.

canoe and kayak have identical hull’s with the only difference being topside.To me this is absurd.It’s a kayak plain and simple.I’ve seen others that call their kayaks “canoes” and boast about how well they perform.I see nothing to boast about other than perhaps the fact that they manage to get away with this nonsense.

I think with Kruger’s
they are boasting about how well the boat performs compared to any other paddled boat, not merely saying that it is good compared to other canoes.

kayaks are specialized canoes
but of course not all canoes are kayaks. i think the main difference is kayaks are designed to be able to roll. that means they are narrow and decked. and they have relatively small cockpits. so to me most ‘rec yaks’ would more properly be called decked canoes. skegs and rudders are just accessories that can be on either.

You kneel in a canoe
A canoe has a higher seat so you can usually kneel and canoes are genrally made to be used with a single blade paddle.

Kayaks have much lower seats and a lower center of gravity and are made for sitting only. Some white water paddles convert their kayaks to canoes by installing a knealing saddle and paddling with a single blade, this higher position allows more reach but reduces stability. The is generally called a K1 to C1 conversion.

I’ve been told…
You kneel in a canoe, and you sit in a kayak.

However, lets be honest, there are some paddle craft that simply bridge the gap between canoe and kayak. For instance, the Bell Rob Roy: Bell advertises this boat as a canoe, but you sit on the floor, and many propel it with a doulble blade. So is it a kayak, or a decked canoe? Who cares. It’s a damn fine paddlecraft no mater how you use it. I’m sure this thread will be long and involved, so have fun.


kneeling, schmeeling
I certainly don’t kneel in canoes, and nor do the vast majority of canoe users. In fact, it’s questionable whether the first dugout canoe users kneeled, either. Sure, some folks, arguably, perhaps starting with the French fur traders, did discover that they could compensate for the design of the canoe, by kneeling for better control. But, that’s not even the dominant prefered position by most canoeists. Worldwide, I think you’d find more evidence for sitting in, or standing in canoes than for kneeling.

Personally, I think the semantic difference between what is a decked canoe and what is a kayak is meaningless. It’s one of those debates that get a lot of people offering up unsupported opinions. And, it can vary greatly by region, and other influences.

People tend to forget that at one time, stradling a dugout, (ie. legs outside craft, butt inside), and standing to pole or punt were considered quite viable techniques.

I would argue that the biggest difference between canoes and kayaks tends to be that traditionally, kayaks were more fitted to the individual, and less able to be adapted to multiple stances and positions. But, even that probably is at least a little bit historically inaccurate. Apparently, there were kayaks designed to be kneeled in. Perhaps even more important, kayaks were fitted to the individual, whereas canoes were generally more of a utilitarian craft that most could use.

I would offer up this distinction. Kayaks are specially designed canoes, designed to be fitted to the individual so as not to take on water, via such garments as fitted skirts or tuiliks, seal skin coats, wetsuits, gut anoraks, etc. Whereas, canoes are generally more open craft, that can, on some special occasions be more fitted and more closed up, but are generally more open to the elements.

Notice that with that proposed distinction, the category of some wide open tandem kayaks, might be better thought of as canoes. And it throws open the door to reclassification of sit-on-tops,(SOTS), entirely. Personally, I think SOTs are different enough that they deserve their own separate category and word. They’re a lot more like an evolved log, than they are like skin on frame (SOF) canoes or kayaks. And it also throws open the door to re-classification of some of the dedicated C1s that are essentially kneeling kayaks meant to be sealed up with a skirt.

A Rose…
…by any other name.

Try to get past the labels.

and I’ve been told …
I’m voting against America if I don’t vote Republican.

Why not change your statement from “kneel” to “can kneel” soas to bring some resolution to this topic which I’m not sure as to what the point actually is.?

Ever Paddled One?

– Last Updated: Jul-04-06 8:16 PM EST –

I've spent a few hours in the Kruger and many hours in it's predecessor, the Mad River Monarch. IMHO the DO have something to boast about. Darn fine paddling boat, a hull that doesn't seem to be much affected by what the water's doing below water line. Whether it's a canoe or kayak, who cares? Before the advent of big-cockpit Rec kayaks, kayaks typically had small cockpits, canoes had more open cockpits. I guess the final "Say" is up to the designer and whether he or she wants to call it a canoe or kayak. WW

decked canoe or Kayak
The distinction is basically unimportant. However, since the question was asked, I’ll pontificate.

John MacGreggor developed and named the first deck canoe, so he created the category and set the definition. Anyone can create a different definition and then classify boats by the variables in their definition. I follow MacGreggor’s.

MacGregor visited Canada around 1850 and studied native canoes and kayaks. He returned to England and had constructed a craft blending qualities of canoes and kayaks. He used European construction (nailed lapstrake on ribs) and called it a decked canoe. With this decked canoe he traveled all through Europe and some of Africa. Upon returning from each venture he wrote books about the travels. I have one of his books, “A Thousand Miles In The Rob Roy Canoe”, dated 1871. He also wrote “The Rob Roy on the Jordan, Nile, Red Sea”, “The Rob Roy on the Baltic”, “The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy” and some more that I don’t have the titles of.

On the cover illustration of my 1871 copy of “A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy” he is SITTING on the bottom of his decked canoe. He is holding a double paddle (no PFD). He gave the dimensions of his decked canoe (for that trip) as 15’ long, 28" wide and 9" deep. When sitting in his decked canoe. the oval combing appears to extend a bit in front of his knees, maybe 5" to 10". It also had a small sail rig. He used a 7’ unfeathered double blade paddle. In spite of the opinions of later Brits, he was able to go thousands of miles without feathering his paddle! He later had a decked canoe of the same length, but narrower width, constructed for the Baltic trip. It’s likely there were a few others constructed for him. Probable influenced by the popularity of MacGreggor’s books, there was a brief time when sit-on-the bottom, double paddle decked canoes were used for recreation in this country (about 1870-1900).

John MacGreggor has been dead far too long to give a opinion. However, in my opinion most “Rec Kayaks” are decked canoes. Beginning paddlers went into shops asking for a “kayak” because that’s what was becoming popular. Functionally, what they really wanted was something like a decked canoe. So, to make the sales, manufactures created a new slot called rec kayaks and filled in with decked canoes. Now they could sell people the “kayaks” they wanted. If you doubt what my opinion, find early 80’s copies of canoeing and kayaking magazines (before kayaking become popular) and see if there are any listings for “rec kayaks.” There were decked canoes being built in low numbers for the past 150 years.

The late Bart Hauthaway defined kayaks as craft that needed to have the capacity to roll for safety. He built canoes, decked canoes and kayaks. Called them what they were. He called his decked canoes “decked canoes” long before the category “rec kayaks” was invented. If you see one of his decked canoes and don’t know better, you would call it a rec kayak.

It really doesn’t matter in the end, find the craft you enjoy paddling and have fun within the limits of that craft and your skill level.

Macgregor’s contribution
Excellent response, ret603!

Here’s a good article on the subject.

I’ll just post this bit under the fair use clause:

“Many who are new to the sport have a difficult time differentiating between the kayak, especially the sea kayak, and the decked double-paddle canoe. Though there are no hard-and-fast rules, generally speaking on the latter the ends sweep up like a traditional canoe, the hull is wide in relation to its length, the paddle is long to adjust to that width, and stability is achieved more from the shape of the hull than it is from the balance of the paddler. Safety is provided more by the hull’s stability and less from the protection provided by a deck. (A double-paddle canoe without a deck is still a canoe; a sea kayak without a deck is a disaster.) The hull of a double-paddle canoe rides over the waves; the sea kayak drives through them. The decked double-paddle canoe, which cannot be rolled and doesn’t have to be because of its stability, has a large, open cockpit; the sea kayak, which can and must be rolled because of its instability, has a tight, skirted cockpit.”

I love that quote in parhenthesis:

“(A double-paddle canoe without a deck is still a canoe; a sea kayak without a deck is a disaster.)”

“kneel” in a canoe
does that mean I have to get rid of my four canoes?

I have bone on bone in one knee, and the last time I knelt in a canoe was about ten years ago in a five mile race.

At the end they had to about pry me out of the canoe!

I got a third in the same race this year sitting quite comfortably.

I’ll sit thank you!



You have got to have blinders on!

– Last Updated: Jul-05-06 8:36 AM EST –

Just some of the decked canoes of today: Bell Rob Roy, Clipper Sea-1 plus another I think, Kruger Sea Wind and Dream Catcher, Superior Soaring Eagle, Hugh Horton's Sail/Paddler Canoe, Ron Sell's line of Sail/Paddler Canoes, and several more I am sure I am missing.



Well here of course we use the term
Canoe to cover both types. If we are then being specific we talk about canadian canoes or kayaks.

Canadian canoe???

– Last Updated: Jul-06-06 4:02 AM EST –

The use of this nickname 'canadian' for canoe (and calling a kayak a
canoe then) only makes things worse as it amplifies the confusions
to no end. So much in fact, that I know some people here who
actually call a canoe a Canadian kayak... This confusion is,
however, understandable, when you consider that in our European
countries, almost all canoeing books, canoe magazines, canoe clubs
and canoe lessons are mostly about kayaking and very little, if at
all, about canoeing!?

I see a kayak as a decked canoe meant to be paddled with a double
bladed paddle from a sitting position. Variations on this are indeed
difficult to classify consequently. Also there are open canoes that
are more or less meant to be paddled with a double bladed paddle,
and there are also (partially) decked canoes that are meant to be
paddled seated with a double bladed paddle or a single blade paddle.
So when a exactly a canoe can be called a kayak is difficult to
define indeed, and depends on (personal) interpretation.
The essential difference between canoeing and kayaking is the
different paddle used: paddling with a single blade paddle requires
a distinct different technique than paddling with a double bladed
paddle. So I do know for sure that when someone is using
a single blade paddle, that person is canoeing. Although if I
would use a double bladed paddle in my solo canoe,
I would not call myself a kayaker, but would not really call
it canoeing too!

Fuzzy distinction
As others have already pointed out the dividing line between canoes and kayaks has become very blurred – neither look much like the traditional crafts from which modern interpretations descended. Personally I’d call anything with a full rigid deck, a seat on the bottom & propelled with a double blade a kayak. I think of canoe as a boat one kneels in and paddles with a single blade. Others disagree. Whatever…

An alternative definition based on my personal observations:

A kayak is a semi-decked stubby/wide plastic boat of sorts purchased by people who use them primarily as roof ornaments for their SUVs (the intended illusion apparently is that it’s a sea-kayak up there). Owners of these boats dream of using them in far-flung exotic locales accessible only by Subaru Outbacks (and such), but in reality they only get paddled at state park lakes once or twice a year: sit on butt and waddle gracelessly across the pond… Kayaks can not carry much beer.

A canoe on the other hand is deckless, is generally paddled kneeling with a single blade – it’s the old fogy paddle-craft of choice. People who own canoes are old school elitists who like to imagine that they go “tripping” in the North Country (a few actually do – or so they claim). “Canoeists” (as they so smugly refer to themselves) have literally tons of posh gear, tend to wear socks with sandals and geeky wide brimmed hats (the more expensive the better). Neophytes to canoeing sit upright, turn to get a snack from their picnic basket 20 feet from shore & fall out with astounding regularity. …they often wonder aloud (and at this forum) why the darn things are so “tippy”. Canoes excel at carrying vast quantities of beer.

Where the “accessories” straddle both
categories these days, the labels now are simply a means of expanding the inventory…