Canoe or Kayak?

-- Last Updated: Mar-18-08 7:16 PM EST --

Hi all - I am planning on buying either a canoe or kayak before this spring and am having a hard time deciding which to get and specifically which canoe or kayak once i make the decission between the two. I am 6' 200lbs and plan on using it with a chesapeake(will be getting this fall)probably 75-100lbs. I plan on fishing, hunting and camping out of it. Most of the time I will be on small rivers(creeks) to medium sized rivers in up to high class 2 rapids(most paddling will be done in class 1 or less). I would say 80 percent on rivers and 20 percent on lakes. All camping will be just weekend camping so i don't need something that will support a weeks worth of gear. The hunting I will do is duck hunting, drifting down river and jump shooting ducks. I would like to be able to shoot from the canoe or kayak without too much risk of capsizing(will be doing this in below freezing temps). On some of the rivers I will have to get out and pull over beaver dams and go through pretty thick vegitation(wild rice) on others. I would like it to draft in as shallow of water as possible. I would say that i will be fishing out of it 85 percent of the time and hunting 15 percent. I would also like it to be able to track up river well since i will most likely fish down and paddle back up once done. As far as weight i would say i would like to keep it under 75 pounds(will be portaging it occasionaly and also will be carrying it into accesses up to a mile. Thats about it for now, ask questions if they will help you answer better. My overall question is Should i get a kayak or canoe? What kayak or Canoe should i get? Why would this kayak or Canoe work good for my situation? Thanks for the help,


This has Pamlico 145T written all over
I’ve paddled one of these Pamlico 145 Tandem kayaks as a solo with a huge load, like about 100 pounds of water testing gear and batteries, and it was solid, responsive, fast enough, turns well enough, and costs a lot less than a decent canoe. One poster here refers to it as the “poor man’s Kruger”. Learning curve for a recreational kayak is about 5 minutes, and your Lab will fit just fine, I’d put him in the back on those day’s you’re jump shooting, though. Muzzle blast tends to make them nervous after the first time or two.

And while your at it, how about shooting like a gadzillin of these damn “domesticated” Canadian Geese that are crapping up our waterways? I think the legal limit is 20 per day or something like that. These aren’t the fly-way geese, these are the ones that hang around all summer and turn the water green with poop and stink up all the islands so you don’t want to stop there for lunch break.

As a once and future chessie owner, I resent you referring to his dog as a “lab”! I’ll be getting a chesapeake pup this fall as well, and hope to take him in my Vagabond, but don’t know how that will work. Chessies are very hard to control around water, and I don’t doubt that we’ll be taking a few unscheduled swims together. The kayak suggestion may be a better idea, it will just be more stable than most canoes.

I’d Prefer a Canoe

– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 12:06 AM EST –

Anyone who knows me knows that for situations like yours, I think a canoe is the way to go, especially once a person learns to paddle well. Kayaks have certain advantages, but not for what you want to do. A kayak will be cheaper though.

The Dog:
You can’t use a one-person rec kayak and carry a big dog with any degree of comfort. A two-person rec kayak will probably handle the dog, but trim is likely to be a problem since you really can't do much about the seating positions. A canoe will allow room for your dog plus lots of options on where to put him, and you can re-install your seat at any location that pleases you, if adjustment is necessary. Chances are, you can just throw a light pack in the opposite end of the boat to balance-out the dog (the teeter-totter effect: a heavy person who’s a little off-center on a teeter-totter can be counterbalanced by a small child sitting at one end). With the canoe, it’s easy to throw something all the way in one end as ballast. It’s not as easy with a kayak, and probably not even possible unless the ballast is very dense (a big weight in a very small package).

It will be best to have the dog behind you for jump-shooting of ducks. In a solo canoe, that's no problem - just throw some extra gear into the front end of the boat to counterbalance the dog and sit where you always do. In a tandem kayak, you'll need to sit in the front seat to have the dog behind you, and boat-handling will suffer that way. It's much easier to maneuver a boat if you are at or behind the centerpoint than in front of the centerpoint.

It might be harder to pull the dog into a canoe than into a kayak, and that alone might make you choose the kayak instead. On the other hand, you might dip the edges of the kayak cockpit
pulling in your dog, and that wouldn't be fun. If I had a young, rambunctious dog that wouldn't stay in the boat, I'd rig up a quick-release tie-down to anchor him to a thwart. When I was a kid, we trained our duck-hunting dogs to stay in the boat that way. They quickly figure out that it's better to behave than get tied down.

Gear Storage For Fishing, Camping, Hunting:
Nothing offers more options for storing bulky gear than a canoe. Further, you will be able to walk from one end of the canoe to the other, stepping over and between packs as needed, for tricky launchings and landings (more on that later).

Small Rivers and Creeks, and Wild Rice:
No recreational kayak, especially a tandem kayak, can even come close to matching the manueverability of a solo canoe. This maneuverability comes at a price, though. It takes a fair amount of time to learn to paddle a canoe solo with a single-bladed paddle with any degree of effectiveness, but you can "cheat" and use a double-blade when you get too frustrated with the single. It's also worth mentioning that most people in your situation don't ever get such an interest in paddling as to delve into finer aspects of boat control, but if you do that, your small-creek wanderings will be much more productive and fun. This is even more true when running rapids.

Aside from the maneuverability aspect, the big advantages of a solo canoe on small creeks are the ability to use a single-blade paddle, and the ability to enter/exit the canoe from any part of the boat. Double-blade paddles are a pain when there’re overhead branches, even for brief stretches. If you need to climb out of the boat where access is poor, like next to a fallen tree or up against a beaver dam, with the canoe you can walk to one end of the boat and climb out there. For crossing beaver dams in situations where stray logs and branches don’t allow the boat to be pulled up parallel to the dam on either side, you just pull up, walk to the front, step out, drag the boat over, climb in the back, get back in the center, and go. You can’t walk on the decks of a kayak to pull off this same trick – you’ll either tip the boat or slip off and fall for sure.

The same goes for going through wild rice. With a single-blade paddle you can do your recovery stroke close alongside the boat, even within the boat’s edges, so the blade doesn’t hang up on the grass. A double-blade will require a pretty awkward stroke to keep the blade from snagging the grass on the way down to the water each time. Pick up a broom and pretend it’s a kayak paddle and imagine yourself going through thick rice fields that way.

In most comparisons, the one place the rec kayak will have some advantage over the solo canoe is for going upstream, because they tend to be a little faster, but I seriously doubt a tandem rec kayak (what you’ll need to take your dog) paddled by one person has any speed advantage over a decent solo canoe. You can always use your “cheat paddle” (double-blade paddle) to make the canoe go as fast as a rec kayak on those upstream runs.

Duck Hunting:
Using a double-blade paddle has two distinct disadvantages for duck hunting. First, it's cool to cold that time of year, and the paddle will be dripping water on you and in your boat all the time. This applies to either a kayak or a canoe when you use a double blade. Second, that paddle is waving around in the air on every stroke, and the ducks will spook significantly farther in front of you than if you use a canoe and a single blade. Proper use of a canoe means use of a single-blade paddle, which means you will stay dry, and you can use an underwater recovery (the paddle blade never leaves the water) for sneaking along in low-visibility mode if you think there may be ducks on the other side of that fallen tree up ahead. Even when paddling normally with a single blade, nothing ever sticks up higher than your head, and you are much sneakier.

Don’t think that you can ONLY drift as you go downstream to control what the boat does. Every little breath of wind and every little swirl of the current will conspire to spin your boat so it’s pointed in a bad direction for shooting. Thus, even up to the moment before you shoot, you’ll need to control the boat. With a canoe and single-blade paddle, you can easily keep your boat aimed properly while holding the paddle with just one hand, a handy thing when you are already holding your gun (same is true when fishing). Technically you can do the same with a double-blade while in a kayak, but it would be much more difficult, and you’d have that extra blade waving up in the air again. Also, a single-blade paddle is much easier to toss into the boat as you reach for your shotgun. If you DO get a kayak, a short single-blade paddle might be a good investment.

Have you ever tried to shoot from a very-low sitting position? That's what you will be doing if you do any jump shooting for ducks in a kayak. Sit on a pillow on the floor with your shotgun and see how large a range you can swing across. Now try the same thing kneeling with your knees spread wide and your butt against low stool (or a three-gallon bucket, etc.) to simulate kneeling against a canoe seat. You’ll see that kneeling is almost as good as standing – a much better position to shoot from than sitting almost on the floor of the boat.

As pointed out for shotgun-shooting, kneeling against a canoe seat is much better for casting, since you can easily twist your body to aim your cast in many directions. This really helps when pulling in a fish too, since fish don’t stay in the direction you are facing. A canoe is easier to anchor too, since you don’t need to rig up elaborate pulley mechanisms to access an anchor line that attaches to one end of the boat (look at any good kayak-fishing website and you’ll see plans for these anchor-line control systems).

Portage Weight:
For a given class of hull material, solo canoes are lighter than kayaks. A “decent” solo canoe won’t be made from polyethylene like most cheaper kayaks though. The best low-cost option as a hull material for canoes is Royalex, and Royalex is lighter than the plastic used for most cheaper kayaks. My 14-foot Royalex solo canoe weighs about the same as a 13-foot plastic kayak paddled by one of my friends, and it has at least three or four times as much storage volume. A tandem kayak made from plastic will be heavy with a capital “H”. Canoes are also much easier to carry over longer distances because you put it up on both shoulders. For portaging “up to a mile” as you say you will, make sure you get a nice portage yoke to clamp to the rails of the canoe. You might even be able to attach a yoke to a kayak, but it will need to be a fancier design to keep the boat high enough so there’s room for your head.

High Class II Rapids
Any kayak in Class-II rapids will need a spray skirt. For solo-paddling a tandem kayak, I doubt you'll find an effective way to cover that huge cockpit and keep the waves from splashing in. A canoe will stay pretty dry in average Class-II rapids for the most part, and may need some bailing after doing high Class II, but make sure your paddling skills are up to the task. Once again, the combination of "dog room" and boating ability gives the advantage to the canoe.

Choices of Boat Models:
If you want to use a solo canoe, something around 14 to 14.5 feet would be good for a person your size paddling the waters you describe. Something with a little rocker will maneuver better than a boat with no rocker. I really like my Mohawk Odyssey 14 for just the sort of waters you describe. It can cruise comfortably (it’s not a speed demon, but it’s nearly as fast as a solo rec kayak, and probably just as fast as a tandem rec kayak paddled solo), and it can spin like a top or go diagonally or sideways (handier than you might think on small creeks) once you have the skills. I seem to remember that it weighs 49 pounds. The Wenonah Vagabond would work well too; it’s a little faster and a little lighter, but not as maneuverable. The same would be true of the Mohawk Solo 14. The Mad River Freedom Solo would be nice; it’s very maneuverable but it would be heavier (~55 pounds?) and it requires a bit more skill to handle, especially when the wind blows hard. Other people here can offer more suggestions.

I thought he was describing my boat
Manta Ray 14

Great for fishing, lotsa storage, great tracking, can float in about 4-5 inches of water, etc.

Check it out and see what you think. Might be the right compromise betweena sit-in and a canoe.

the differences between canoe and kayak, based on your list of needs, are pretty even for both crafts. the main use that makes me think a canoe over kayak is the need to get out and drag over beaver dams.

having done my fair share of it in both crafts, i can’t tell you how easy it is to just paddle up to the obstructions and step out of a canoe. sometimes, you can even keep 1 foot in and get over the hump. not so in a kayak, it’s just more cumbersome. to give you an idea, last year, i went on an overnight trip and decided to rent a canoe and leave my kayak home just because of this very reason.

with the lab, you’re basically looking at a tandem kayak, which don’t offer that much of a performance advantage over a good canoe.

a canoe definitely has the edge over a tandem kayak in storage capacity for camping. however, i wouldn’t consider this a deciding factor because of the length of your stated trip.

ease of paddle would edge towards the kayak. there’s really not much to learn, whereas paddling a canoe, solo, does take some skill. i’ve never used a canoe double paddle so i can’t say about that.

fishing is probably a split between the 2. it is nice to move around in a canoe but kayak fishing is just as nice. you just don’t move around, so what! don’t hunt so can’t comment pro/con.

cost might be a factor towards tandem kayak, not sure tho, haven’t paid attention to prices in a long time.

poling your way upstream is fairly easy. you can probably do it in a tandem, too, but never done it so i don’t know.

Dog = Canoe
Even the best wide, open cockpit kayaks can’t be a canoe when you plan to take a dog.

Old Town -Predator

Will the Chessie be retrieving?
From the boat, like hopping out to get the duck and swimming back with it? Wondering how that affects which canoe is best.

I don’t know squat about hunting from a boat, so folks like guideboatguy are way ahead of me there. Just thought it was worth asking. Also, I suspect that you can find a Chesapeake Retriever online group where you might be able to get some good advice on the boats they prefer. These are pretty special dogs, really still a dog that works better to actually hunt with than try to keep as just a pet.

thanks for the replies so far!

Canoedancing - I’m with texican on this one, enough people already call chesapeakes labs by just looking at them, we don’t need people calling them labs when they hear or read chesapeake, lol! I checked out the pamlico 145t and it looks like a nice yak, i think i am leaning more towards the canoe right now though. If I get some honkers flying off the river I will definatly make sure to shoot some of them tasty birds, limit is only 2 though not 20, lol.

Texican - What place are you getting your chessie from(who are the parents going to be)? I love chessies, i lived with a friend that had one and they have amazing drive and intesity and just awsome personalities. I am getting my chessie from cold creek chesapeakes(parents are cold creeks storm and bur oaks unique trapper). Definatly getting excited for this one!!

guideboatguy - Wow!! thank you very much for the long reply. This is exactly what i was looking for, a break down of all the situations i would see and why a canoe or kayak would be better for each of these situations. I think you have made me lean more towards getting a canoe even though i was leaning towards a kayak. Do you shoot from your canoe and how stable is it for this? Is it stable enough for fast swings of gun, im not to worried about recoil as long as im not aiming directly to the side of me. About how little of water will float a canoe loaded with around 350-400 lbs? What would you think of a tandem canoe for these situations, such as the wenonah adirondack(found a pretty good deal on one and like what i read) How stable do you feel this canoe is? I have always heard that solo canoes are quite a bit less stable… again thanks for the great reply!

jimyaker - I checked out the manta ray 14 and it is a nice yak, one that i had not looked at before and i definatly like it. thanks

hogwild - the dragging over beaver dams from a kayak was definatly a worry for me, thats why i think im leaning a lot more towards a canoe now.(chessie not lab :)… ) how would you compare a tandem kayak to a good tandem canoe paddled backwards? It seems for a nice kayak it can come close to the price of a decent canoe…$700-1000 for kayaks i have looked at that i like.

paddlefish - yea, i have started to think that a dog in a kayak with me might equal me getting wet…

agongos - Have you used the predator, im assuming you are talking about the predator k140…this is the kayak that was highest on my list and i still really like it alot, that one and the x-factor are the things keeping me still considering the kayak over canoe

celia - Yes the chessie will be retrieving from the canoe or kayak(hopping out and all that fun stuff) I will have him trained to only do it on command and hope to mostly use the canoe to get to a out of the way hunting spot and hunt out of canoe if shallow enough with dog in canoe, but if i shoot one while floating a river which i plan to do the dog will be sent for the retrieve if duck/goose lands on land or in very thick vegitation otherwise will most likely paddle up to waterfowl and let dog just pick up out of boat…a nice lazy retrieve, lol. They are awsome dogs, and mine will be hunted plenty…waterfowl/grouse/pheasants…When is fall going to get here!! lol

Again thanks for the replies so far and keep them comming!! If anyone reads this that has paddled the wenonah adirondack i would love to hear your opinion of stability and how it would track up river paddling solo…


wow, good responses
especialy Guideboatguy, that’s very well considered and thoughtful and I’m leaning towards recommending a canoe, too, now that I read all you’ve said.

In the classifieds there are a couple of solo canoes you might consider, and a bueat of a deal on a Nova Craft Bob Special Kevlar which I would choose before the Wenonah Adirondack. The 'dack is a good canoe for what you have in mind; stable, fast, not terribly heavy, and you won’t have to worry as much about your Chessie :slight_smile: tipping you over on re-entry. But the shorter and slightly narrower Bob Special would be my first choice. It’s lighter, more nimble, turns much better, just a delightful small tandem. In Royalite, which IMHO is sufficient for your needs, the Bobs weighs about 55 pounds and will cost about the same as a Pamlico 145 tandem, especially if you can search out the sales that are going on right now.

For your stated purposes I think a canoe is a far better choice. I’ve fished from a kayak and from a canoe and the canoe is much better. You can move around much more in the canoe to get better angles for casting. You can sit,kneel, or even stand if you have a fairly stable canoe.

The dog definitely calls for a canoe. If you were to get a kayak you’d need a tandem for the dog and it’s much more difficult to handle a tandem kayak solo, than it is to handle many tandem canoes solo.

For camping a canoe wins hands down. It can carry a lot more than a kayak. You can camp in relative luxury with a canoe if you like. Cooler, beach chair, roomy tent. Try putting stuff like that in a kayak.

You don’t say if you will be solo all the time, or if you will be paddling with a partner some of the time. If the latter you can get a shorter tandem that handles nicely as a solo, like the Wenonah Solo Plus, Nova Craft Prospector 15 or a Nova Craft Bob Special. If you are always going solo, a versatile solo boat like a Bell Yellowstone or a Wenonah Argosy might be worth a look.

you need a canoe
There is not a kayak I can think of that will make you happy duck hunting. Having paddle in hand and then picking up a shotgun at a moments notice, all this points to easy, instant access available only on a canoe.

A DOG on board? You are brave. Canoe again and add some outriggers maybe while the dog is on board.

I hunt and fish a ton. The canoe goes on all hunting trips. The kayaks are OK for camping and fishing and making some time on the water. I have a fleet of boats to choose from, so I know what works for me.

A whole bunch more stuff

– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 8:19 PM EST –

To answer your question about draft, 350 to 400 pounds is a mighty big load. I’m betting that most of the time you will carry a lot less than that. Anyway, I just looked at Bell Canoe’s website, and I see that a couple of their solo canoes of average size have a 4-inch waterline depth when loaded to 340 pounds. You can expect "similar" draft from the average 14-foot solo canoe. Two of my own solo canoes will float 170 to 180 pounds over rocks and logs which “appear” to be two inches below the surface.

I don’t do so much hunting nowadays, but I hunted a lot with my dad when I was a kid so I understand the details. I still do a little jump-shooting for ducks every fall, and I know that recoil while kneeling in a canoe is no big deal. You can shoot sideways with no problem and you can swing as fast as you want. You DO need to have enough experience in your boat to feel comfortable though, but that’s no problem, because you’ll have all summer to practice!

You are correct in assuming that solo canoes (in general, at least) are less stable than tandem canoes, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With boats, everything is a trade-off. A solo canoe which is fairly agile and responsive to the paddle will feel more tippy than a tandem canoe of similar design, but with experience you come to accept that trait because you know that the steadier tandem model is much more sluggish, and more difficult propel and maneuver. A solo canoe won’t feel nearly so tippy once you get used to it. As a general rule, keep your head directly over the centerline of the boat when crawling/walking the length of the boat, or when getting in and out. Put your hands on the gunwales for boat and body awareness only, NOT to brace your weight against. The first footstep into the boat and the last footstep out should also be placed near the centerline. After a while, the getting-in-and-out game gets pretty easy, no matter how scary it seems at first.

Would you be better off with a tandem boat which can be paddled solo? MAYBE, but for the things you want to do, it had better be a tandem boat with some maneuverability, rather than a flat-bottomed rec canoe or one with no rocker. That Wenonah Adirondack you asked about is a fine boat “for what it’s made to do”, but it has virtually no rocker, so it will be a real effort to turn that thing when paddling solo. A boat like a 15- or 16-foot Prospector should have plenty of rocker (I know that Prospector styles made by Nova Craft Canoe have a lot of rocker) and will maneuver “so well” that your first worry as you learn to paddle will be how to get from Point A to Point B in a semi-straight line instead of doing zig-zags or even circles. On the other hand, a 14-foot solo canoe with moderate rocker (such as the Mohawk Odyssey 14 or Bell Yellowstone Solo) will be just as maneuverable as the bigger Prospector but learning to paddle it will be much easier.

You have listed a number of different paddling scenarios which are greatly different from each other, and you need to decide which ones are most important as far as choosing your boat, and which ones will allow some compromise. For example, is it more important to carry 400 pounds with minimal draft, or is it more important to have a boat which will respond well to turning and side-skidding strokes while carrying 280 pounds as you maneuver around fallen trees or negotiate rapids? Is it more important to have a canoe that feels like an aircraft carrier under your dog, or can you tolerate a canoe which leans suddenly as your dog moves around but which takes you upstream faster and with less effort during your fishing trips? I’m guessing the second choice of both those situations would be the deciding factor for picking the boat you want, but that’ll be up to you. Using your dog as an example of something you might compromise on, I’ve paddled a 14-foot solo canoe (it was a Wenonah Vagabond) with a 110 pound friend kneeling on the floor right behind me, and though the handling was a bit awkward because the boat was stern-heavy, it was very do-able and the boat was quite responsive. With a 70 pound dog back there and a medium-sized pack tossed up front as a counterbalance, it wouldn’t have been "perfect" but it would have been comfortable.

In general, a tandem canoe will be more stable, have less draft when loaded, and if you are a strong enough paddler, it will be faster. On the other hand, it will get blown around by the wind more (usually slowing you down), it will be harder to turn in general (except for Prospectors and similar styles) and harder to “un-turn” when fighting the wind or eddy currents, it will be slower when paddled with “reasonable” effort, the extra width will make solo paddling more awkward (though you can partially overcome this problem by leaning the boat to one side “Canadian Style”), and it will be harder to carry. In general, a solo canoe with moderate rocker will be more responsive to paddle strokes and much more enjoyable to use with average loads of camping gear or no gear at all. You won’t be able to get a boat which is “best” for everything, and it’s usually a bad idea to get a boat which is best for one extreme situation because then you have a boat which is hard to work with all the rest of the time.

If you do choose a tandem canoe, pick one that’s small (15 or 16 feet), and see if it’s symmetrical so you can paddle it backward from the bow seat (most boats are not symmetrical in some way). Also, make sure you can actually sit on the front seat facing backward (there might be a thwart in the way). If it’s not symmetrical, the best way to paddle solo is to add a third seat or a kneeling thwart a short distance to the rear of center (you can also do this with a symmetrical boat). Boats like Nova Craft’s Prospector and the Bob Special are completely symmetrical and paddle forwards or backwards equally well (there are now a few companies which make “Prospectors”, but they are not all designed the same. I only know that I really like the Nova Craft version).


This is why those of us who are seriously afflicted with this canoeing disease usually have more than one boat.


Once you get reasonably competent in your boat, you'll be able to let the dog jump out just fine. You will probably need some instruction or advice as you learn to paddle anyway, so I'll save any comments until then. To get your dog back INTO the boat, it would be best to just pull over by shore so he can hop in by himself without your help.

You will NOT need outriggers to carry your dog if he is at all well-behaved. Your dog will be able to make the canoe lean, probably in a sudden and scary manner (though it won't be scary later on), but he won't be able to tip it over as long as he keeps all four feet on the floor. All the canoes mentioned by name so far can be leaned over so far that one gunwale touches the water, and they still won't flip as long as you keep yourself between the gunwales in the process. The flatter the bottom of the canoe, the more precarious it will be when leaned too far. On the other hand, canoes with more rounded bottoms (as viewed from one end) seem more tippy at first, but they actually feel pretty comfortable and solid when leaned, once you get the hang of it.

My pup is coming from Flying B Kennels in San Antonio. He will be of the same line as my last dog, whom I lost to cancer this past fall. Bill was just an amazing dog, intelligent, incredible retriever instincts, and a great companion. I am still trying to get over his loss, but I’m excited about being able to get a dog that will be, in human terms, his great nephew. My wife has labs, and they’re great dogs, but I can’t imagine owning anything but chessies.

Having read all the incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful replies, I’m convinced that a canoe is the way to go. Like I mentioned, I’m planning on taking my new pup out in my Vagabond, though I think a 100# dog might be pushing it. However, having occasionally jumped ducks out of a canoe, I don’t know how well it will work trying to send a dog from the canoe. In these instances, it might be best just to paddle over to the duck and pick it up. A chessie jumping out of a canoe is going to be hard enough to handle, but getting him back in without capsizing will be quite a trick, though I haven’t tried it myself. Good luck with your dog–you’re going to love him!

dog canoe

– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 7:50 PM EST –

The Bell Morningstar makes a decent human + big dog canoe. It's a bit wide for solo paddling, but quite maneuverable and very stable. I've had a 85-lb lab launch out of it several times with no problems.

I have yet to find a good way of getting a big dog back into a canoe without going to shore.

I generally agree with the canoe advocates here, but on the kayak side, the Native Watercraft solo/tandem models might be worth a look. It looks like you could slide the seat to trim for a dog.

Sounds like a canoe
Sounds like a canoe would meet most of your needs but fall short in one area.

I do alot of fishing by myself which means i put in at one spot and float down river a couple of miles sometimes,i then turn around and paddle back up…this is where the yak excels and would be a real challenge in a canoe.

I find i can fish longer with more comfort from a kayak vs a canoe but i would,nt want to hunt out of it.

My border collie does ride at my feet on small lake trips but its a little to tight for me to fish the way i like.

lots of great info again
Ok, i have realized that i do want to much out of one canoe after doing a ton of reasearch and all the replies. I am leaning more towards the smaller tandem canoe at this point, always nice to have the extra room and stability and the possibility of bringing a friend along. As far as being able to go in extra shallow water it is really only important when i hunt in shallow bog ponds where its muck and then 4 inches water max on top of that…with 2-3 ft of sinking mud. its a lot nicer to paddle over then get out and try to walk through this crap, but i will most likely only be in that shallow of stuff not often enough to make a difference in my choice. I got 350-400 lbs by taken me…200…dog 85…decoys and accesories…50lbs… and then if camping while doing this it would add up. As far as paddling a tandom would kneeling give me the best stability and how comfy is this for longer periods of time? how agile the canoe is important, but i would stay stability is just as important and tracking up river rather important also. I would like the canoe to meet in the middle and just do all of them reasonably well i think. How sluggish would say a wenonah fisherman be actually? I dont think i want to go to that extreme of stability but wouldnt mind having it. If money wasnt a conern at all i think i would purchase the nova craft bob special right now, but the cheapest i have found it is reatail price plus shipping with will put me around 1300 dollars…the adirondack i found near me so dont have to ship and at $800 for a factory second, just a small scratch on it. I also found the bell morningstar for $950 brand new… Do you feel that a canoe like the bob special would really have a 300-500 dollar advantage over the others? It definatly seems like it would fit what i want almost perfectly but just dont know if i can justify the extra expense. Do you know of any places that have specials on the nova craft canoes right now? thanks again…still a lot to think about and thinking it might not be a bad idea to test paddle some and just wait until some small rivers around here are running. I’m sure ill have plenty of questions to come as i narrow it down more…keep comments comming, i think most of them should focus on small tandem canoes right now or possibly solo since it is not out of the question if i could find one that i felt stable enough to do what i want and have a good capicity level.



– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 9:48 PM EST –

I have a kneeling thwart in my Morningstar. I think it's comfortable if you have decent padding for your knees and some support for your ankles. I sometimes use a small cooler as a "saddle" to take some weight off my knees on flat water.

Setting up a seat with a slight forward tilt will also give you good support for kneeling. The tradeoff is that a seat that's high enough for good foot clearance kneeling may be too high for the best stability when sitting.

Moving and adjusting seats and thwarts in a canoe is simple if you're comfortable with basic tools. You might have to do some customizing on any canoe to make it fit your mission.

The Morningstar is an asymmetric hull so you don't have the option of paddling reversed from the bow seat.

Is this a bit like what you're imagining?

If you're new to canoes, almost any one will feel unstable at first. Realize that some motion is normal -- your job is to learn to relax and let the boat move under you whil you stay mostly upright. People often fall out of canoes well before the canoe actually capsizes.

One thing to look for is how a canoe feels when it heels. A good river canoe should feel predictable all the way down until the gunwale goes under water. Some of the very flat-bottomed designs can feel solid at first but reach an abrupt tipping point when heeled.

Still More Stuff!

– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 10:53 PM EST –

I’m sort of dominating the discussion here, but at least I’m pretty familiar with most of your needs, and it’s fun to help someone choose a boat when I can picture the things they will do. Still, you don’t need to put any more value on my advice than “what you paid for it”. Here are some of my thoughts regarding your latest questions and comments.

Shallow Water:
As far as going in shallow water over a mucky bottom, the amount of difference you will see between a tandem canoe and a solo canoe will hardly be noticeable. Once the water gets that shallow, paddling becomes a real chore even if the bottom of the canoe clears the bottom by a few inches. However, the advantage of a tandem in that situation is that it will be easier to stand up and push the boat along with a push-pole. You’re a duck hunter so you may have seen these, but if not, check out the hunting supplies from one of the big mail-order outdoor shops and look for an aluminum “duck bill” that attaches to the end of a wooden pole. You push that duck bill against the mud and the “mouth” opens up wide so it won’t sink in too far. Then when you pull it out, the mouth closes so it slips out of the mud more easily without sticking.

Heavy Loads:
As far as the load you will carry, as well as any other “occasional-use” aspects, remember - and this is important - don’t buy a boat that suits your most-extreme need. Most likely it would be better to slightly overload a boat two or three times per year than to put up with the hassle of using a boat that’s too big 100 times per year. There are plenty of non-hunters who choose a canoe because it’s a great choice for their “dream trip” of spending two weeks in the Boundary Waters, but not good at all for all the weekend and day trips they do “in real life”. Still, I think the “right” tandem canoe may be a good choice for you.

Before anyone jumps on me, when I say to "slightly overload" a boat, I'm talking about boat-handling characteristics and paddling ease, not safety. All boats can carry more than their "best" load and still perform reasonably well. On the other hand, it's good to be aware that the "maximum load" indicated by many canoe makers is actually a lot heavier than what any sane person would try to carry. Only some experience lets you know which maximum load ratings are "real" and which are "optimistic".

As far as your question about kneeling goes, yes, kneeling is the most stable method of paddling and that’s true for both solo and tandem canoes. Not only is it more stable to begin with, it gives you lots more control of how much the boat leans, and it makes you become “one with the boat” to a much greater degree than sitting so your control of the boat is much better. Mainly, it eliminates that “pivot point” between your butt and the seat, so the canoe can’t suddenly tip out from under you if you get hit with a strong eddy current or if you drift sideways into a log.

How comfortable is kneeling? I’m not you so I don’t know. There are MANY people on p-net who can’t kneel or who hate to kneel. Personally, I love to kneel in a canoe, and find it to be the most comfortable position of all, but I DO need to occasionally extend one leg for a while, and then the other. A slanted seat works best for kneeling (it slopes forward, with the front edge being roughly 1.5 inches lower than the back edge), but if you install a footbrace in the boat, that sloping seat ALSO becomes very comfy for sitting. Your feet against the footbrace keeps you from sliding forward on the seat, and the slope of the seat keeps your feet from pushing you back, so you really get “locked in” much better than when sitting on a level seat. A seat set up for kneeling is a little higher than one set up for sitting, because your feet need to fit underneath. With bulky boots on, this may be tough. I can wear hip boots and get my feet under the seat, but it’s not as comfortable as with my normal paddling boots which allow my ankles to flex. For both sitting AND kneeling, a seat with some curvature (side to side) is a lot more comfy than the flat seat that most boats come equipped with. Changing and adjusting seats to suit you is pretty easy.

Going Upstream:
You often mention “tracking for going upstream”, but I think there might be a bit of a misunderstanding there. “Tracking” in paddling lingo refers to how strongly the boat tends to resist turning, and good tracking is basically good for straight-line paddling, and it tends to be a trait of faster boats. However, good tracking is not always such a good thing when going upstream. It CAN be a good thing, but often it’s not. It depends on the nature of the river. A boat which tracks well and resists turning ALSO tends to get “caught” by little swirls or minor changes in current direction, and is more likely to react by being “blown” off course. It’s harder to get such a boat back on course than it would be with a more maneuverable boat, and the more maneuverable boat is less susceptible to being tossed off course by swirly currents in the first place. The bigger the boat, the more important this becomes, so if you get a tandem, I’d recommend (again) that you get one with some rocker for ease of turning. You’ll need that rocker for negotiating those Class-II rapids you talked about in your first post anyway.

The Wenonah Fisherman:
I don’t think the Wenonah Fisherman is a good boat for you. If all you wanted to do was putz around on a little pond or small lake, fine, but you need a boat with some real performance capability to cover the distances you want and to also do so while carrying a load. You can’t escape the fact that a boat which can cruise nicely is going to feel a little more tippy than any of those “sporting canoes” like the Fisherman. Like I said before, I’m confident that you will appreciate the feel of a canoe that’s more performance-oriented once you get the hang of it. Learning to paddle solo takes time, though. It won’t be easy at first. Once you get halfway decent at paddling, you’ll be really glad you didn’t buy the Fisherman.

Bell Morningstar:
I have a friend who paddles a Bell Morningstar almost exclusively, and he paddles solo almost 100-percent of the time. He can make that boat fly, but he’s also a very experienced paddler. I think the Morningstar would be fine choice for what you want to do, but you might sacrifice a bit of maneuverability compared to a 14-foot solo, especially one with a symmetrical hull. Speaking of that, the Morningstar is a strongly asymmetrical boat, so you will need to install a third seat or a kneeling thwart for solo paddling. Having three seats in a boat as short as the Morningstar will limit your storage space, but you can always remove one or two seats for those days when you carry the most stuff. It might be good to put a temporary thwart in place of the rear seat if you remove that one, and if it looks like that’s needed, it would be very easy to do. Chances are you’d be fine just taking the seat out.

I suspect that the asymmetrical design of the Morningstar will not allow it to back-paddle as well as many other boats, but that same design also will make it a lot more forgiving during forward travel, and thus easier for a beginner to paddle well for average conditions. Being able to back-paddle with good control is a nice thing when running whitewater, but as always, no boat does everything well.

Nova Craft Bob Special:
I haven’t paddled this boat, but it sure is pretty! One of the other posters here said he thought it was pretty maneuverable, and the Nova Craft site says it’s a nice cruiser. They don’t say how much rocker it has, only that it does have some rocker.

Wenonah Adirondack:
I already said this, but since you mentioned the Adirondack again, here goes. That boat will be tough to turn when paddled solo, and will be equally tough to “un-turn” when wind or swirly currents cause it to veer off course. For solo paddling, I’d stay away from tandem boats that don’t have any rocker (Wenonah says this boat has “minimal rocker” but by Wenonah’s definition, that means there’s essentially none at all).

Sorry, I can’t help much here. I don’t know much about prices and I don’t know how important saving money is to you in the long run. Personally, I’ve agonized over a few expensive pieces of outdoor gear, but never regretted spending the money later. All I can say is to remember that this canoe will last you a long time. Chances are you will do best with a Royalex hull. It’s heavier and probably a bit more expensive than Royalite, but it’s tougher when it comes to hitting rocks, and there’re “just a few rocks” in your waters.

Test Paddling:
Test Paddling is always a good idea. What’s unfortunate in this case is that without much experience, it will be hard for you to make good comparisons. What’s good about this is that you live in canoe country and there are lots of outfitters you can talk to about boats. Most of their experience will be with go-straight trippers for lake paddlers, but some of them will be experienced paddlers who know quite a bit.