coastal canoing?

My wife and I are considering buying a canoe for coastal waters. We live on an island in a large sound off the coast where the water can be a little rough at times. We only plan to canoe on calm days.

But, the problem is that no one here rents canoes for us to try out. My wife is not a confident swimmer and we prefer a stable canoe that is easier to get in an out of, but wonder if a canoe is practical in coastal sound waters.

Any advice on a canoe that would make sense for us.

I live
near Tampa and take my canoe in the Bay and surrounding backwaters. I have a 17" Grumman. It’s not bad, a little tippy but we’re getting used to it. I took the kids for a ride last night and we went through a small inlet where the Bay enters the backwater area. It was a bit rough but the kids were laughing and saying “Do it again”! As far as stability, I’ve heard the Old Town Guide canoes are pretty stable. Also check any of the canoes aimed at fishing or sportsman.

You might want to check out a
tandem sit on top kayak. Usually, plenty of stability and should handle well in mildly rough water. A stable canoe will work, but will not be easy to right if swamped. As for the SOT, they’re not always the driest of rides. Of course, the other option might be two kayaks. Once you are used to them, they’re easy to get in and out of and come in all different flavors as far as stability goes.

Good Question, More Info.

Good question. Could you give us some more info? At least the general area where you are paddling. That will clue us in to the conditions you face and maybe some p.netters will have specific knowledge of that area.

Even though you plan to go out only on calm days, understand that the forcast isn’t always correct and it is good to have a boat and skills that can handle more trouble than you expect.

A canoe that is wider and has a flatter bottom will tend to FEEL more stable. But they tend to paddle less efficiently and be less stable in rough or moving water and thus less seaworthy.

Check out the Guidelines link off to the left of the screen for some info. on bottom selection.

If you are day tripping in protected waters, something like a Mad River Explorer, Wenonah Spirit II, one of the prospectors, Swift Dumoine, etc. might fit the bill. There are lots of choices depending on what is availabel in your area.

Try to find outfitters and other paddlers in your area to learn from. Specific knowledge of local conditions is very important to staying safe and enjoying yourselves.

Get your wife a good pfd. Keep her in it. Swimming practice/lessons would be a very good idea. You also need to practice capsizing and self rescue in safe controlled conditions.

These are just my thoughts. Hope they are some help.

Learn all you can. Be safe and have fun.

I 2nd the tandem kayak. A little harder
to get out of , but a lot easier to stay in. I am a budding canoedelist, but I would be very hesitant to take them in salt water.

Choose larger rather than smaller
Your post … “We live on an island in a large sound off the coast where the water can be a little rough at times. We only plan to canoe on calm days.” makes it sound as though you may inhabit more northern waters … which also means colder waters.

So, to increase your chances of staying dry (and safer from hypothermia/drowning risks), I’d recommend looking at larger, more tripping-oriented canoes. What looks a “little rough” is almost always rougher than you think. From a higher vantage point on shore, the ocean surface is deceptively percieved as being flatter than it really is.

I’d say that a canoe like the Spirit II by Wenonah has just enough sea worthiness to consider. A little bigger might be better … maybe even a WHOLE LOT BETTER … on a day when things kicked up to be rougher than anticipated. If you’re on the West coast, you can’t do too much better than the larger offerings by Clipper (Sea Clipper & McKensie models). In the Northeast, you can get the larger Wenonahs (i.e. Itasca, Champlain), the larger Souris River canoes (Wilderness, Quetico) or the larger Bells (Northwoods). Large (17+ ft.) Prospectors by various manufacturers would also work but may be too slow and constrain daytripping range.

Ofcourse you can get even more seaworthy boats if you look into rowing boats (more hull flare, better control and range). The boats I wouldn’t recommend would be the smaller recreational class of canoes (14-16 ft.). They’ll be prone to rougher rides in the swells and may ship solid water into the boat too easily. Sure, they’re cheaper, lighter and more easily acquire/managed … but they may let you down big time when you need hull volume for safety.

Maybe a Poke Boat Vagabond.

– Last Updated: Jun-10-05 12:11 PM EST –

Large cockpit kayak that seems to be pretty stable and maneuverable. I've only had it on rivers & lakes without the sprayskirt, but the addition of the sprayskirt would make it a drier ride when there's a little wave action.

Before you decide
I think there is something you should evaluate before deciding on what boat, or even what kind. Your highest risk is if the boat goes over and you have to get yourself and your wife back in, yes? Everything that happens as long as the boat stays upright is subservient to that. If your wife is not a confident swimmer, you could face both the issue of having to assist her back into the boat, and needing to be able to do it very quickly to prevent her panicking because of fear she can’t stay floating.

You don’t need to be way out from shore or in terribly cold water for these to be issues.

I would suggest that you get a couple of lessons in both canoes and sit-on-top kayaks targeted specifically at self-rescue before you go out and buy anything. You may find that the canoe is manageable, but it sounds equally likely that a tandem sit-on-top kayak will be a more viable solution for self-rescue.

Coastal canoeing
I have a Old Town 17’ Tripper that my wife and I take out in South Puget Sound in Washington. It’s very protected salt water but still can get wickid if the wind kicks up. We always prepare for the worst (capsize) and always stay close to shore. The water temp. is never over 55 degrees here so being prepared includes not wearing cotton and having dry non-cotton clothes on board in a dry bag in case we swim. As for the canoe… it’s a great open water boat. Been out in pretty big wind without much trouble also handles larger waves (usually from passing non-human powered vessels) without any trouble.

I urge you to get some experience on smaller, quieter, calmer, water before heading out on the coast. And prepare yourself for the possible swim.

And above all Have Fun Paddling.

I Like The Tandem SOT Yak Idea

If you’re in the NW …
Another regional company making “sound” canoes that could be used in coastal waters (besides Clipper, mentioned earlier, up in Abbotsford, BC) is Easy Rider in/near Seattle. Most of their canoes are made with Royalex, but I think they claim their’s is a tougher spec than most (more external vinyl thickness?). The model that would seem best suited for salt water is their largest Raven (18.5 ft). It’s volume is such that you could take friends along as well … and still have plenty of freeboard and stability on rougher days. They also make it easy to add on oarlocks for rowing too (see their “dinghy style” rowing option).

Here’s a link to the Raven page of their website.

PS: If you’re in the NE …
Old Town’s 18’6" Penobscot model would offer very similar performance and would be easily obtainable without exorbitant shipping fees through well dispersed dealers. It may not be quite as tough, but would probably hold up OK if you don’t abrade it’s vinyl skin by dragging it around too much. Royalex is best for insulation and impact … not very good in terms of abrasion resitance. In other words, when out of water … carry or cart it! If you drag it much, it will quickly be rendered worthless by having too much of it’s skin removed.

Coastal Canoes
I routinely canoe the coastal bays of Texas, as a solo I use a Swift Shearwater, but for tandem canoeing, my Wenonah Champlain is a comfortable bay cruiser, a dry ride, it is stable and has good speed. The other coastal canoe to consider is the Wenonah Itasca, truely a big water canoe. A good thing to do with whatever canoe you wind up with is to get a cover made, these help with dealing with wind and waves. Canoes are a great way to explore coastal waters, loads of gear can be hauled in comfort, but caution is warranted, be prepared for rough water, know your rescues, keep your gear tied in. Best of luck.

In the boat thinking
needs to be avoided. Seems to be a theme in accident reports. I have the “no boat” way of thinking - I make sure I can swim to shore unless there’s no other way to go somewhere, then I get nervous. Now in the distant past I’ve had a Grumman 17 ft well offshore, but I was young. Very difficult to surf in and blows around horribly.

If I were looking to poke around in salt water more than 1/2 hour away from home I’d certainly be looking at the sit on top approach. I’ve only paddled those a little bit, but they look great. My father in law used one until he was in his 70s to free dive for abalone in the Pacific. Never had a problem getting back in. Impressive safty feature - no sink!

You won’t be able to get a canoe unswamped in worsening conditions including wind. I’ve tried and have seen others try this experimentally in the lake here. Perfectly competent people can’t consistently get going again even in a canoe with moderate amounts of floatation.

So now I just use the canoe for very inshore oystering and clamming and cargo. And I go with kayaks along.

Thanks for to everyone…

– Last Updated: Jun-15-05 8:33 AM EST –

... for your help. My wife and I live on Roanoke Island on the NC Outer Banks. We have lots of places to paddle, both on the coastal sounds and the inland rivers. After looking into this more the last few days, and talking to a couple of Outer Banks paddling guides, and going out on our second kayak tour, we've decided to go with a kayak after all. From postings here and from other advice we've gotten, it sounds like a canoe may not be the best choice for this area, even for calm days.

We've now tried out a Perception Arcadia II and a Wilderness Systems 145t. We liked them both. My wife preferred the Arcadia II as feeling more stable to her (33" width). I preferred the WS 145t. But, now after talking and reading more, we are leaning toward the Wilderness Systems 135t - a little wider than the 145t and shorter. In many ways similar to the Arcadia II, but not quite as wide. We'll be trying out a 135t this weekend and if that goes well, we'll probably order one.

And, my wife and I are scheduling some kayak safety/self-rescue instruction as well.

This web site and forum has been a great resource for us and I again thank everyone for offering so much generous help!