Canoe Selection

My wife and I are in the process of research new canoes. We are both strong intermediate paddlers that like to run and play rivers as well as well get out on trips of up to a week.

Because we bought our first house, we don’t have the option of purchasing a tandem playboat and a tripper so we’re looking at something that will do double duty. We’ve paddled the OT Appalachian and love it on moving water but on some of the flatter section it can be a bit sluggish. That isn’t to say that we don’t love the boat because we do but we’re looking at options right now.

The Nova Craft Prospector has been highly recommended to us but we’ve never had the opportunity to paddle it. By all accounts and reviews this boat may be a better option for what we need that just the Appalachian. Since the closest shop that sells Nova Craft is over 8 hrs away (I’m in NH)I’m not sure I can pull the trigger and buy a boat that I’ve never paddled.

What do you think of my situation? If you had to decide between these two boats, what would you pick? What other boats would you consider? This is to be a river boat only.

I look forward to hearing from you all. In advance, thanks for your help.

Buy for most use
Buy a canoe suited for what you do most. If its river playing, get the river canoe. Then rent the lake cruiser for your week long trips until you can afford to buy a second canoe for that purpose whenever your finances allow. Then you can do your canoeing in good boats that perform well for the purpose rather than in a compromise boat with mediocre performance.

tripping will not be on lakes but on rivers as well.

You say “run and play rivers” but
I would need to know what you mean by play, and the proportion of whitewater on these river camping trips you might be taking.

Whitewater tandems like the Dagger Caption and my Mad River Synergy (neither available at present) are great for play, but with two aboard, there is not much capacity for gear. Esquif has a tandem, I think it is called the Canyon, which can haul people and gear, is willing to track on the flats, and can handle whitewater. Raven has at least one ABS boat worth looking at. The ABS Wenonah Cascade would be worth considering. Finally, Bell, which has acquired some Dagger molds, is also going to offer a new wilderness river tandem which Yost developed using input from Cliff Jacobson. It would probably serve your purposes well. Cliff would want a boat which would be quite tolerable on a lake or on wide open, flat areas of rivers, as well as one which could be maneuvered through a rock garded with a lot of gear on board.

I think
you hit on a good point when you suggested we buy a boat for what we’ll doing the most…and that is day trips. I am intrigued about the Esquif Canyon because you are the second person that suggested that boat to me. Now, I if I can just find one to try!

I’m almost embarassed to admit how passionate I am about the Prospector design. I’ve paddled a Mansfield Prospector for almost 15 years and have been using a wood stripper Prospector my wife & I refurbished a couple years ago. We usually paddle tandem, but she’s really beginning to enjoy paddling solo.

Most of our paddling is done on our neighborhood flatwater river. The Prospector is tippy, not particularly swift, suseptable to the wind and tracks like a drunken snake. Then, when you get the feel for its characteristics, it is rock-solid stable (particularly secondary stability), fast enough for gummint work and highly responsive.

It is well suited for poking around narrow creeks, stream & swamps. If you camp, it can carry a mighty load without losing any handling.

I’ve paddled it over beaver dams, on the Great Lakes, among the 1,000 Islands and up & down rivers plus across ponds & lakes in the Adirondacks. Heck, I even learned how to stand up & pole the darn thing a few years ago.

It’s nice to have a boat that does well what you do most…but it’s nicer to have a boat that can handle different situations with confidence.

Here’s some Prospector photos.

I’m not a great photographer, but for years of paddling enjoyment in a boat that can adapt to your growing skills, I heartily endorse a Prospector.

Prospector Design
There are so many companies buiding their interpretation of the Prospector canoe. While I’ve heard great things about the Nova Craft model, what other companies build good designs. Esquif just introduced their Prospector design, has anyone paddled this yet?

Prospector Specs
Yes, there are a lot of boats out there from many manufacturers that are called Prospectors.

When Chestnut made the original Prospectors, it was available in several different models as well. The Bill Mason Prospector was the “Fort” model. Regardless, a Prospector does have certain defining characteristics. Here’s an expensive version, but the specs are good:

Prospector & Whitewater
While I certainly know the prospector’s reputation as a fine tripper, I’m more curious to know about its whitewater capabilities.

Langford Canoe Prospector 16-6
is the Prospector I had and it is available in several layups and many options. I liked the boat best when it was loaded with gear- found it a bit squirrely in the wind when it was not loaded. But certainly is a versatile boat for a variety of water types. However, I have to admit that I like my Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17 much better.

Whitewater Prospector
Well, I guess it depends on your whitewater skills. I have seen some sites rate it as good for Class I-III. Of course, it depends on how you set it up. It certainly has the manuverability of quick turns & the volume to keep you fairly dry.

One anecdote: My wife & I took a whitewater course a couple years back. We showed up with our Prospector and wanted to use it, rather than one of the class Mad Rivers. The guide shrugged and off we went. When we nailed an eddy turn, he said, “Nice going…but your boat is very forgiving.” He made it sound like a bad thing, but it sounded like a good thing to me.

Freedom Tripper 17
Any problems paddling solo since it has an asymetrical hull?

In Rapid Magazine,
there was recently article where the “Ultimate Tripping Canoe” was outfitted for whitewater tripping on Canadian Rivers. The boat selected for this “honor” was the Esquif Canyon. Have any of you heard of this boat?

Solo paddling
Before I had my solo boats, I soloed the Freedom Tripper 17 primarily using a kneeling thwart. However, when I was recovering from knee surgery, I did paddle it backwards from the bow seat (with some ballast/gear in the bow), and though it was not as efficient from a speed standpoint, I was surprised that it handled as well as it did given that the hull is assymetrical. The boat paddles like a dream from the center position and can even perform freestyle maneuvers. As far as tandem paddling, this is one hottest boats I have ever paddled.

Magazine Awards
Years ago, I heard a cynical old broadcaster comment on the Billboard magazine charts. He opined that there is a direct correlation between the chart position of a song and the number of advertising pages purchased by the record company.

He may have been correct. Now, anytime I see an “award” from a magazine, I count ad pages.

The article
was about one tripper’s quest to build the ultimate boat and he chose the Canyon. In no way did the magazine endorse the choice, just published it.

I contacted the Madawaska Kanu Center and they told me now that Dagger is no longer making boats, Esquif will now take their place in the teaching stable. If its good enough for MCK, its more than good enough for me.

I don’t understand the issue about
asymmetrical boats being problematic for solo paddling. Most of the boats I paddle solo are asymmetrical. I would expect the Freedom Tripper 17 to behave better because it’s asymmetrical, not worse.

I have heard that serious freestyle paddlers prefer symmetrical boats, I guess because the boat will be more consistent in the back-and-forth or turn-and-paddle-backwards routines they do. And some seem to think symmetrical is better for backsurfing, but if this isn’t true for kayaks, why would it be true for canoes?

Incidentally, Prospectors do make good “old school” whitewater boats, because they have some rocker and are not particularly edgy. For some things, though, edgy can be good. My MR Guide is a bit edgy, and it actually ferries much better than my WW MR Synergy.

I’ve tripped with Nova Craft Prospectors
Both the 16’ and the 17’. I was really happy with both of them. The 17’ had obviously more capacity and tracked better, and the 16’ was worse on lakes. Don’t worry about capacity though in terms of the 16. A couple friends of mine paddled the Hayes from Norway house to the Bay in a 16, and they are both big guys. And they eat well!

I’ve enjoyed both boats a lot. With a partner, I’ve paddled the 16 empty in class IV water, and soloed it easily through class III.

That being said, my experience with other boats is limited. But a friend of mine paddled the OT 169 (I’m not sure of the supposed characteristics of this boat, it could be a lake boat for all I know) and said it paddled like a bathtub and after even heavy class I, would take on a lot of water.

I’ve also paddled (for a day) the Evergreen prospector, from bow and stern - not at the same time:) I’m tall, and the bow was very cramped, but the boat paddled well in ww and flat, and was faster than the Nova’s. Less capacity, too. I took it for a short solo paddle in the evening and almost fell in love… I had to force myself to give the owners a turn.

enjoy the search.


Nobody’s Mentioned the MR Explorer
I’ve got friends who LOVE the Mad River Explorer. They paddle mostly rivers, but do fine in the flats.

I have two in Expedition kevlar, but have only paddled one of them a couple times. It has excellent stability and great glide for a rockered canoe. It seems to read your intentions, much like a Bell Wildfire.

Dimensions are 16’6" by 33" at widest. Don’t know waterline or rocker. Please compare this with Prospectors you guys have been talking about.

I’ve paddled this
boat before and while it would run whitewater, I don’t think it necessarily ran it that well.