I posted this inside another longer thread, but I’m afraid it got burried there. In another thread I basically said I’m looking for a canoe for my wife and 2 and 4 year-old kids to fish, camp, paddle along relatively calm rivers, creeks, and lakes in Kentucky. In that thread several people suggested the Spirit II. So, I started researching and e-mailed several retailers in my area (or within about 100 miles). One retailer suggested that the Champlain might be better for me because it has greater efficiency, stability, and load capacity. Agree or disagree, please? Thanks in advance for the advice.
I think the Champlain would be a great choice. I expect it would have better initial stability (I think it is a little wider, and a little flatter) and good load handling ability. Your kids will probablly be moving around, so you will likely appreciate this.
You will lose a bit of manueverability, and perhaps an insignificant measure of efficiency. My vote is Champlain.
The Spirit II vs the Champlain…
In my opinion, either would do the job that you are looking for. The Champlain is a foot longer and a little wider, so they are right in saying that it will give you more speed and a little more stability. It would also be a good boat to have around for trips when you are going to be loading the boat down. They are very close to being the same boat otherwise and they actually paddle very much alike. The one thing that I would be worried about is what you are going to do when the kids want to be in their own boat. I would say that the 4 year old won’t be long. And if you ever want to go out by youself it is going to be hard, but I guess that is when it is time to look for a new boat. I have am 18’ boat that I keep around for times when I am taking new people and want to be able to take everything but the kitchen sink and it is great. I am just thinking that if you are only using the boat for day use it could be a bit much. I would almost say that you could even go into a 16’ boat if you are not planning on packing the boat out. This would give you the versitility to do lots of different things with the boat including paddling by yourself. My suggestion is to find out what you are going to be doing with the boat 90% of the time and buy a boat based on that alone. If you are going to be with the family all the time and you want the extra room, go with the Champlain. It is a great boat. I think you would like the Spirit II a lot for your family too and it is lighter and cheaper. I also think that you could get away with a 16’ canoe and have a more versitile craft now and when the kids get old enough get them a boat of their own if they want one. Who knows if your kids and wife are going to want to go all the time. In that case I would check out the Aurora, Adirondack, kingfisher, and the prospector 16’(my personal favorite, but may not be stable enough innitially). Let me know if you need any help or if you would like to chat sometime give me a shout. I always recommend trying the boats before you buy them, so if you are ever in the Birmingham area and want to try them bring the family on by anytime.
I’d go with the Champlain
as the kids will continue to grow and require ever more room. We started with a Champlain when the kids were small and it worked great, but now at 9 and 13, plus a big dumb yellow dog, I am looking for a second tandem canoe. The Champlain is a real gear and people hauler, it tracks well, but is still fairly manueverable, it has a fair amount of rocker. We have used it from mountain lakes in Washington State to the bays of Texas and everywhere in between. It makes a good fishing boat for me and a few my mates when we head to the bay. I really like the tuff weave layup, it is very durable nd reasonably light. The Champlain is a big canoe, but it paddles easily with just two paddlers and a light load for just a day trip, or load her up. Here are a few pics of the "Back Bay Cruiser" loaded up for a day on the bay.
Forgot the link, look at "Canoes on the Bay".
Nothing wrong with the Spirt II
I have one in Tuf-weave - great boat. Started out paddling with my wife and kids. Ended up doing most of my paddling with my youngest daughter. Sliding seat in the front made it alot more comfortable for whoever was in the bow, and helped with the trim of the boat.
Having started paddling in KY, 18.5 ft
supercanoe, I recommend going with the Spirit II. The stability issue is completely phony. Our old Moore was markedly arched, yet had all the FINAL stability for kids shifting around. Anyway, the Champlain is not going to be much more stable than its sister craft the Spirit II. Champlaign will not be significantly faster, either, and may actually be pokier at light effort because of higher wetted area.
What you will have with the Champlain is a boat that will blow around more easily on windy lakes, and will work less well in tight quarters on the lower Red and similar rivers.
I’m looking at an old Wenonah ad photo of two big men, a large girl or woman, and a Golden Retriever paddling Lost Lake in Oregon in a Spirit II, and the hull is only just fully engaged, with at least 9" of freeboard still exposed.
When the kids get bigger, they won’t want to go with you, and will prefer a second boat.