canoe suggestions for kayaker

My wife and I are and have been avid kayakers, doing 10-12 3-5 day wilderness camping trips in the Adirondacks each year, flat water and slow moving water only. We’ve decided that we want to complement our kayaking trips with a few more multi-day remote trips that are not appropriate for kayaks because of long carry-only type portages, for example the Little Tupper to Lake Lila trip. Also, we want to bring our 1-year old granddaughter on a camping trip or two with us. So we’ve decided to purchase a canoe for these occasional uses and could use some advice. I’ll be reviewing the Product Reviews and looking through the Archives because I know this topic has come up many times and there’s already a wealth of info out there. What I need help with is with narrowing the field from what I know is an extensive list of potential candidate boats, each with its own virtues and staunch advocates. One candidate that presents itself almost immediately is the Bell Northwind. I’m looking for other suggestions and, perhaps more importantly, advice about boats to steer clear of. My goal is to select 2 or 3 boats from my research and the suggestions I receive here, and the wife and I will test paddle them to make a final selection. Here are our requirements in prioritized order:

Efficiency: Most important! We need a boat that will move forward easily while loaded. The main reason we switched to kayaks in the first place was because our Wenonah Adirondack was such a slow and sluggish paddle.

Weight: To facilitate the longer portages we want to do, we’ll be buying a boat with Kevlar construction. My goal is around a 45 lb. or so boat.

Capacity: We’re 340 lbs. between us so with a half-weeks worth of gear and supplies, possibly the granddaughter and a dog, we’d be looking at a 600-700 lb. minimum loading capacity.

Tracking/Maneuverability: A boat that you don’t have to fight to keep tracked straight is desireable at the obvious expense of decreased maneuverability.

Stability: Okay, so the boat I’m describing is going to have poor initial stability. So be it. Secondary stability, especially loaded, is more important.

Price: Don’t care. I’m willing to spend what it takes to get the boat that meets my needs. Who knows, we may end up using the kayaks as our secondary water transportation means if we find a great boat.

In addition, the boat needs to be able to handle the wind, moderate chop and waves that accompany the larger lakes. I understand that all boats are compromises and design tradeoffs are intended to enhance one quality or feature at the expense of another and that no one boat can perfectly balance the conflicting requirements I describe. What comes close and why? I appreciate all feedback and thanks in advance!

One piece of advice…

Repeat after me, “Half the paddle, half the man.”

Fight it. Do not let the dark side claim yet

another honest paddler.

You Could
Look at it a different way, “Half the paddle, twice the paddler.”


too late
It’s too late for me. I was winning the battle up until the time my wife decided we were going to have to take our granddaughter with us on one of our camping trips. Up until that point, my wife’s motto was “once you go kayak, you never go back”. She hated canoeing after the first 5 minutes in her first kayak. This is a serious and unprecedented turnabout for her, and I have to be VERY VERY Careful with the canoe selection process! Let’s just say I’ll be just visiting the dark side, not going over completely!

A few Ideas
Take a look at the 17’ Wenona Sundowner.

Regardless of which boat you buy, I would suggest bent shaft paddles and a little time on the water practicing “sit & switch” paddling. Done properly, it greatly enhances straight tracking of any canoe, plus it is less tiring on long journeys.

Remember, when paddling tandem, the object is to move the boat together…not “you paddle & I’ll steer.” After so much time in a kayak, it may be difficult at first to get a shared feel for the boat, so it is a good idea to switch seats frequently during your acclimation phase. It helps to develop understanding of each position to facilitate communication between paddlers.

Don’t get hung up on “doing the J-stroke.”

Relax. Enjoy being on the water. Take your dog for a boat ride. Then you’ll feel more comfortable with a grandchild on board.

thanks, good advice!
I forgot about the need to get used to tandem canoe paddling again! So many bad habits to unlearn!!!

3 options
1. My favorite: Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17; the 33" beam is unusual for a boat this length and it flies. Also, the vacuum bagged epoxy process makes for a an extremely durable hull

2. Bell “Canadienne” This is a 17 ft tripper designed by Ralph Frese and was formerly produced by Old Town. Two years ago Bell started producing it and is currently catalogued under “discontinued” models as it is not a regular production item for them.

3. The Bell Northwind ( as you already noted)

I too am a kayaker

– Last Updated: Mar-02-04 6:36 PM EST –

and now have a solo canoe to add to my boat list. I am still trying to get the technique right. I mostly get it right unless the conditions get "real bad". Then I panic and reach for MY KAYAK PADDLE! Yes, you can use a double blade in a canoe in bad wind conditions until you learn to paddle with a single blade properly. There is a couple on our paddling group that uses a double blade in their tandem Mad River Explorer and they fly past all us kayakers......
This post might get me in trouble with alot of purists but it's not easy to go from kayaker to canoer without a crutch.

600-700 LBS LOAD ? !!!
That’s a pretty hefty load for the Northwind. My guess is that it paddles with an “optimal max” of between 500 and 600. If you like the David Yost “North” series, think about going for the Northwoods for efficiency and safety @ 6-700 lbs. And if efficiency is REALLY the priority (“Adirondack too sluggish”), go for a long (18+ ft.) Wenonah or Swift tripper (i.e. Champlain or Quetico, respectively). They can both handle the load, manuever and go fast.

do your self a favor. Talk to Brien Macdonald of Mac’s aderondack adventures, or Dave Gilley ofSt.regis outfitters. Rent one of their fleet for a few days. Then make your decision. They cater to that area and I personnally have nothing but good to say about both of them. I suspect that with the load you envision they will steer you to A Minn2 or 18 Sundowner. But talk to them. Oh with Brien I can say he is alot better paddler then me, other then that he is a fine fellow.!


North Carolina

Yes, but…
…I’ll bet he can’t keep a flat water canoe upright in a class III ocean the way you can!



Take a vacation to Bowren and…
rent a Clipper Tripper in Kevlar or their version of Tuff Weave. Very stable, lots of freeboard, hauls a major load, faster than average. You’ll have a great trip and get to try the canoe under actual use conditions. You could do the same with Bell and Wenonah boats if you head up to Ely, MN.

I have paddled a tandem canoe with a doubleblade and when the team is in sync, you can cover some miles. Last Saturday I used a doubleblade in my solo and kept up with a tandem canoe. The Tripper can be set up with sliding seats and footpegs. You’ll feel right at home. Easier to get in and out of than a kayak.

Do what works for you. And have fun! :slight_smile:

I’ve a Wenonah Sundowner 18’
I believe the 17’ would leave you a bit short on volume. I love my 18’ but it clearly is happy when carrying no more than 800lbs. Above 800 lbs the boat seems to wallow in bigger waters. The 18’ really cruises, can be handled in wind and stays reasonably dry so long as you don’t plow the bow into the wave (not enough flare to take on a bow wave) and has been a great family boat and tripper.

If price isn’t an objection, then the only boat I’d consider trading the Sundowner 18’ for is the Wenonah Itasca. The Itasca offers more volume, stability and I believe would be more suited to your purpose. Due to its unique design I also believe that the Itasca would lend itself to my preference, placing the lighter/weaker paddler in the stern allowing the power paddler to be placed up front.

Another thought (not my choice) would be the Minn II or III if you’re entertaining a “voyageur” style paddle. The lines of these boats lend themselves to 3+ paddlers.

Consider that any of these boats may be a bit of a shock for a Yak paddler, but they may also help you discover a whole new pleasure…

Minn II over Sundowner
The Minn II is more efficient than the Sundowner, which I have always thought is a bit sluggish compared to most other Wenonah designs. The Sundowner has a bit more rocker IIRC. And as others have suggested, go for a longer boat. Many think that 18"+ long boats are too hard to turn, but with two competent paddlers they turn fine.

Canoe Choice
One canoe I would suggest that would meet most, if not all of your needs is a 16’ Le Voyager from Great Canadian Canoe in Worcester Mass. I live in the Capital Region in New York and it was worth the travel. These are beautiful cedar canoes. It turns head wherever we go. Very stable (38" beam) and a dream to paddle. The canoe is as light as some comperable kevlar boats – 57lbs. I can get it on the truck by myself. And its rated to carry upto 850 lbs. (I tip the scales at about 230)

We bought the boat last spring to take my 5 year old (now six) canoing in the Adirondacks, Berkshires and in Maine. We are novice paddlers and have had nothing but pleasure with this boat. We had it fitted with a center seat so that my son can try his hand at paddling. He can sit at the side of the boat to dip his paddle in the water and there is no sense that the boat will tip – very good primary and secondary stability. we were on the Hudson River with three adults and a child and had to navigate some rather large barge wakes without a problem.

The price of the boat is about the same as a kevlar boat. Since you say price is not an issue I strongly recomeng you look at these boats. Ian at Great Canadian is very knowledgable and one of the nicest dealers I have ever met. Also the nice thing about cedar is that if it gets scratched, a little sandpaper and marine varnish and no more scratch. can’t say that about a plastic boat. I really can’t say enough about this boat. Also it might just be an hierloom to hand down to your grandchild.

Canoe Choice
Beachcamper is right. Since your canoeing is going to be a secondary choice overall to kayaking, don’t get hung up on learning to coordinate bow and stern paddling. You both already know how to paddle with a double- blade so use that for your canoeing. The tracking problem is eliminated right off the bat and your speed is improved. When I bought my canoe 15-20 years ago I wanted the portability of a canoe but the speed a double-blade afforded. It works great. Since then I have become proficient with a single blade and love it but if I have to cover a lot of ground quickly I break out the kayak paddle.

Your instincts are right looking at Bell canoes. I have a Merlin 11 in Black Gold and love it. As far as double-blading a canoe you may need longer paddles than you already have as the canoe will be wider. Email me if you don’t have access to a canoe to try this out on as I have an Old Town Penobscot you could try and I may live in your area.


I wouldn’t know from sluggish. Generally most boats, yaks included, have had trouble just keeping pace with the Sundowner 18! In the Sundowner we’ve been able to do multi day trips as well as race the boat successfully against Jensen 17s. I would agree that the Minn II is a bit more efficient, but have found the Sundowner more responsive.

capacity vs. optimum weight

– Last Updated: Mar-02-04 10:42 PM EST –

Perhaps I'm the only one who is wondering this, but when you say 600-700 pounds, are you talking about maximum rated capacity or are you talking about the optimum loaded weight for the boat? The maximum capacity is general quite a bit higher than the load range at which the boat will perform best. I assume those numbers do not include the weight of the boat? I'm just curious because it sounds like a heck of a big load for a half-week trip.

Bell, Swift, and Bluewater show the optimum load for their boats. Bell also shows how far the boat will sink into the water with a given load.
If you look at those figures on their web sites, you should be able to get a reasonable idea of the size boat you need.

As far as manufacturers to look at, Bell, Wenonah, Souris River, Grasse River and Savage River all have boats that should work for you in weights that you will be satisfied with, and all are quality manufacturers.

Websites are:

I’m being really ultra-conservative in my weight estimates. It’s the engineer in me coming through. I figure on 400 lbs. of people max. (granddaughter, dog, wife & myself). paddles, pfds, outerwear, tent, sleeping bags & thermarests, tarps, rope, saws, cookwear & utensils, camera, med kit, shovel, drybags, clothing and food combined weigh in easily around 100 lbs. I’m not ruling out the possibility (rare, but not totally out of the question) of our youngest son coming along at an additional 140 lbs. plus his gear & clothes. This stuff adds up fast when you sit down and think about what stuff actually weighs. While we aren’t minimalists, we’ve learned how to pack light because of the kayaks. I think we’ve struck a pretty happy balance and camp comfortably. So 600 lbs. total combined boat cargo weight is an absolute maximum, more realistically we will be well under 500 lbs. most of the time but I want to plan for every possibility. Maybe we’ll learn how to become ultra-minimalists when we have to start carrying gear & supplies over the longer portages without the benefit of kayak carts. So if I suppress the engineer instinct that makes me add 20% to every estimate, let me revise my weight requirements to 500-600 instead of 600-700. this should open up some other possibilities for boat candidates. So far, Bell seems to be the only manufacturer that lists optimum load specs, wish others did as well. Maximum load specs don’t help much.

With a load of around 700 lb.
I wouldn’t look at any canoe shorter than 18’

if you also want the most efficient vessel.

If you can bring that load down to 600 lb.

17’6" will do.

However I would also take in account that an occasional

overload of 10-20% should not be a real problem,

and that is important too to consider, if you also want

the most efficient boat with much lighter loads.

It is one of the reasons I have chosen for a 16’6"

canoe, because much bigger than neccessary isn’t

efficient too, as I have learned the hard way.