Experience with large canoes

I’be paddled lots of canoes over the years but I’ve never paddled a large voyageur style canoe. An outfitter in Colorado used to use one (28’?) as a gear boat while his customers paddled C-2’s. I think it was built by Chicagoland Canoe Base if memory serves me correctly. Seemed like a fairly fast boat. Anyone here paddled them much and can discriminate between good/better designs? How much fun are they to paddle with a group of friends as opposed to solo or tandem paddling?

I see that Clipper Canoes builds a lot of varieties of larger canoes.

I would suggest that you
send a PM to topher and ask him about the Clipper Mariner (aka “Bloody Mary”).

Talk with Mac’s livery up in the

He always has a few.

I enjoy watching them bolt the sections together.

In the three day 90 mile race, the crews racing them always seem to be having a good time

jack L

The Big Boat

– Last Updated: Feb-07-11 6:25 PM EST –

As mentioned above I have a Clipper Mariner, but mine is actually The Copious and has a home port of Eureka California. The Bloody Mary belongs to my good friends at Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville Pennsylvania.


These boats can handle up to 8 paddlers but they are most fun with 4-6 people (gives you more room for coolers and dancing). If the wind isn’t blowing too hard they are even manageable with just two paddlers.

The big advantage to the Mriner vs most war canoes is the slight rocker and lack of keel. You end up with a big boat that can do everything a small canoe can do ... it just takes you longer. Most of the other big boat designs have heavy keels that I’m sure help in big crosssings but would be a hinderance in river and tight maneuvering situations.

Mine is the kevlar lay up and comes in at a svelt 185 lbs. Too heavy to car top but in conjunction with an aluminum trailer makes for an easy to maneuver set up. We never even have to get the trailer tires wet. We simply back up close to the water and slide/lift the boat off.


We use ours often as a cheap way to sneak into bay front music venues.



Let me know if I can answer any questions about these amazing boats !

No questions…but
always good to see a “Happy Topher”.


comparison to other boats
I do have questions. I’d be interested in running at least class II rivers in one if I get one. How to compare? I’ve got a bunch of tandem canoes, maybe you are familiar with some of them and might be able to compare the Mariner to one or more of them: OT Tripper, 18’ Jensen, Mohawk Jensen 18 1/2 WWIII, Bluehole Starbust, Dagger Caption.

Grasse River Canoes
The Newman brothers in Canton NY are the designers & builders of Grasse River Canoes. Most of the Voyageur Canoes (previously known as War Canoes) in the 90 Mile Adirondack Canoe Classic are boats that they have custom built for racers. The past several years a group of NY paddlers has run the Yukon races in Grasse River Voyageur designs. The Yukon specific design is wider and deeper than those used in the 90 Miler. None are slow.

Compared to the Jensen designs you mentioned, the Grasse River canoes are faster. Their War Canoes are usually the fastest canoes in the whole race, times on the water are faster than the C-2 comp canoes.

I run a Minnesota IV in C-4 class and in the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta we have gone head to head with 4

or more Grasse River War Canoes along with the C-4s. The two years we won the C-4 class, we were in the middle of the War Canoes, and that was more a function of the crews in the War Canoes, not their potential speed. Those with equal paddlers to our team, were ahead of us. Those that we passed, were fading fast in the headwind.

Its a big jump from C-4s at 64# to the 100#+ Voyageurs. Takes a minimum of 6 paddlers, and a lot of room on the carries. The wider and deeper Yukon class Voyageurs will be over 150#, but they hold the gear for 1000 miles of unsupported travel and will run dry in the big Yukon water.

For lesser expeditions and milder water, the C-4 is much easier to handle. A modest crew; two experienced paddlers in the bow and stern, and two complete novices in the middle can pace an 18.5’ Minnesota II with two good paddlers. 4 good paddlers in a Minnesota IV can leave a tandem without straining. And on the carries, there’s two people to carry the canoe and two for the gear. At 23’ long and 64# the MN-IV is lighter than the Old Town Tripper by about 20# and about the same as a ToughWeave Jensen.

For more on the Voyageur Canoes contact the Newmans at Grasse River Canoes, or Brian McDonnell at Macs Canoes in Lake Clear NY. Brian is the organizer for the 90 miler and has paddled the Yukon in a Voyageur Canoe.


A few thoughts
I haven’t spent much time in the voyageur canoes.

I believe that “war” canoes are not the same as voyageur canoes, with the former being longer and narrower, and a traditional Canadian racing class and the later being used more for recreation.

It is also interesting to contemplate a voyageur canoe in rapids. It seems it would handle the volume rapids with ease, and the technical rapids with difficulty. I’ve taken an 18’ Prospector down some drops solo, and it doesn’t spin as well as a playboat, but it is dry.

Safety is an issue, and some have noted that when one goes down, it means more victims and a tougher recovery. The 22’ is likely no big deal, but a 36’ Montreal might be a challenge.

Hellman Canoes now makes one - same design as what won the Centennial brigade, I believe.

Mariner Handling
I would say that the Mariner handles a bit like a monstrous Prospector.

I have actually done a fair bit of class II+ in Mariners. They won’t do well on super tight technical nor shallow runs, but provided there’s enough water and space they do excellent. We’ve done some amazing surfing on flood stage Susquehanna big water. The boat handles exactly like a smaller boat … it just takes longer to react and takes more room to move.

The secret to river running is to put the best paddler in the bow. The boat responds well to aggressive bow draws and can be captained from the front … as long as the stern paddler is following. Its a bit like driving a fire department ladder truck. The bow leads and the stern follows.

I’ve also had Mariners out in some very nasty windy choppy open water conditions. If you have a crew of 6-8 the boat sits deep and maintains control with all the extra power. With a crew of 4 the boat sits very high and suffers from lack of power as well as windage against the high stems. I’ve had both my best and worst rough water passages in a Mariner … weight and power definitely made the difference between pleasure and agony.

voyageur canoe
I’m more interested in the canoe as a tripping canoe rather than a racing canoe, and in the experience of a big canoe that opened up the continent. It would be interesting to see how the bigger canoes handle large open rapids. I wasn’t even thinking of portaging the boat just trailering it to a put in and take out. The ones I’ve seen on the Colorado River were owned by an outfitter in Greeley, CO I think.

Big Prospector is a useful comparison. How many people/gear would it hold for a one week trip? Have you paddled any of the 26-28’ Voyageur canoes? If so, how does the Mariner compare to those?

Are those high bow and sterns really worth it? Do they keep the boat drier in waves or they just big sails without redeeming features?

More Mariner Info

– Last Updated: Feb-08-11 12:17 PM EST –

For tripping the Mariner works best for 4 people plus gear. We usually set up with paddlers in the front two and rear two seats, leaving the center open for storage. This set up also avoids the paddle smacking that often takes place with a full crew. For a week long trip I’d probably remove the center seat to free up more space.

I have never personally paddled any of the longer builds. I found a used 28’ in Idaho a few years ago, but my lovely wife put the kybosh on me spending $12k on a canoe.

The high stems on the Mariner can be a pain in cross winds, but I have definitely been out in conditions when I was glad to have the extra bow shedding water.

I’ve paddled those big boats
the ones you refer to - weigh about 450lbs or more and are 24’ x 4’ or more wide - made by Ralpf Frese in Chicagoland

the difference between one of the big boats and a more standard tripper is about the same as the diff between a pickup truck and a semi-trailer

one turns slower and harder and carries a lot more weight, and costs a heck of a lot more ( I think the going rate was somewhere around $8,000 for new one last I heard)

you need a good strong bow paddler - your not going to turn them anywheres fast without that. You need a big eddy to turn in to, but you can do eddy turns and most anything else, assuming you have the room

CII shouldn’t be a problem, if it isn’t too technical/rocky/dodgy, and the water is deep enough

they are fast, and even with a load, they will outpace most river tandems - once you get them moving, they are easy to paddle - in a wind, the weight is an advantage and you could run away from smaller lighter boats; only paddled them a couple of times with a full load of people and no gear - you can really fly then, even upstream

If you are looking at taking a group on a big river trip,that’s what they excel at - but not sure that you get any advantage over a something like an Old Town Tripper - maybe if you were taking a group of non-paddlers/inexperieced river paddlers -

I know they’ve done long trips on the Yukon and Missouri - ideal for something like that with no portaging and need for lots of capacity

I’d be looking at those boats someone mentioned built for the 90miler - I’ll bet they are a lot lighter

Good info. The ones I’ve looked at are in the 200-250lb range for 25-26’. You’re right that there’s no huge advantage over 3 Trippers or something like that, except in speed. It’s just that I’ve paddled lots of different canoes; solo, tandem, open, decked but I’m getting older and haven’t paddled arguably the most important style of canoe in transforming the continent so I’d like to give it a try. There are a fair number of rivers around Colorado where a canoe like this can be used on overnight trips.

There’s also the social factor. 4 or 6 people in one boat, all working together to make it go, are going to have a different experience than 3 sets of tandem paddlers. I can imagine that running a class II which requires some manoevering for a boat this size would feel pretty cool if everyone were to coordinate successfully in the moves.