Family Canoe-Light and Quick?

Is this possible? My wife and I until recently owned touring kayaks. We have two kids not in school yat and want to get out on some flat water soon with them. Both are pretty small. We would like to have a light boat which is not a dog to paddle. I own an old 119K old town which is nice to float around in but tough to get from A to B. We also got pretty spoiled with the speed of the kayaks.

We would like ot use the boat to paddle to new spots and camp or picnic. lakes, inland bays…


Sure it is possible

– Last Updated: Jul-05-10 9:10 PM EST –

Canoes are affected by wind more than kayaks but a good tandem team in an efficient hull can certainly approximate, if not exceed, the speed of a kayak if the winds are not adverse. And your kids are not going to be able to keep up with you paddling in small kayaks.

Look for something like an 18 foot Jensen composite, or a Wenonah Minnesota II or III.

Family Touring Canoe
I would look at composite for sure to keep the weight down. Check out the Bell Northwoods and add a seat or get something similar like the Wenonah Minn II. There are a lot of great boats out there that will fit the bill, but I think that 2 that I have mentioned do a great job and are probably the best in this category.

I have a Wenonah Odyssey
which certainly has the capacity.Its discontinued but 18.5 feet.

Its light at 43 lbs. But be aware that some boats are meant to be paddled with a load. This apparantly is one of them. With just two of us on a day trip, we decided to make that day trip out to an island three miles off shore. We got caught in a squall…the wind had a lot of effect on the boat. When we wound up in the water there was a lot of freeboard to mount over!

You might pick something a little shorter and ask about what is called a “performance load”. Seems you would be OK with something that will handle a minimum of 350 lbs. Ours was rated for something more like a minimum of 500.

Of course we could have been smarter and stayed near shore…

Another tack
Big tandems are one way to go, and Bell’s NW, Wenonah’s Minn II are two you should look at, but here’s another tack.

Get a midsized tandem; outfit it with a kneeling thwart and a another loose seat in the bottom for picnics and day cruises. [Bell’ NorthStar, MRC Malecite, Swift Algonquin, Wenonah’s Escapade.]

As the kids get bigger, plant them both on the bow seat, one paddle each side, and you can paddle solo and a half from the stern seat while your partner runs a kayak. Later, the kids will be able to keep up with both kayaks paddling tandem by themselves. Later yet, you may discover the joys of tandem canoeing as a couple.

Family Canoe…light…quick…stable

– Last Updated: Jul-10-10 11:35 PM EST –

o.k. I am hearing Bell Northwoods at 18'6" or the Northstar at 16' 6", Swift Algonquin at 16', and the Wenonah Minn II at 18' 6" are good choices. I would like to have a quicker canoe but this will be the first time my 3 year old has been in a boat and i would like to take my 2 year old also along with my wife. so...stability is a big issue also. Still need a very light canoe as i or my wife may need to laod it on the car by ourselves...

still think the boats above are the best bets?


Quick and stable?

– Last Updated: Jul-11-10 12:43 AM EST –

Those two are tradeoffs. Stable means wide. Quick means narrow.

Why the need for quick for a family canoe with two small kids? Are you going to be entering a race?

I'd go for a versatile canoe that can be fun for 2, 3 or 4 and forget the quickness requirement. The kids will want to horse around in it, dive off it, climb in it as they get a little older, and they may want their own kayaks by age 8 or so.

I did all that with a 16' Mad River Explorer, and now the Vermont Canoe version is available. Get the lightest kevlar layup. I put in a wide cane center seat to solo paddle it in white and flat water. The kids (or any two people) can sit on this center seat side-by-side. Kids and even adults can sit on the side of an Explorer, feet dangling in the water, without it tipping over. Yet it's reasonably fast and has been used as a tripping canoe all over the world for 35 years. And it's less klutzy to maneuver on and off the water than an 18.5' canoe.

along the shorter boat route
I just picked up a used Escapade with center seat. I took it out the first afternoon I got it after I got in from a training run in my kayak. It was blowing 10-15. I was surprised at how neutral it was into, quartering, beam-on, and downwind paddled solo totally unloaded. I was bobbing around like a cork but the wind hardly affected my heading, just my pace. I wasn’t getting anywhere in a hurry as I was only making 3-5 mph but it went wherever I wanted paddling sit-switch using the only canoe paddle I have which is 52" outrigger paddle. Dead upwind was a crawl but I still made effective headway. I’m kayak person that paddles ICF boats almost exclusively so I’m not exactly skilled in a canoe but the boat went straight irrespective of wind direction and turned easily with just a twitch of lean to one side or the other. Turning radius was similar to my rudder ICF racing kayak which is pretty tight on the Nelo which has a lot of rocker. Initial stability should be suitable for putting the kids in the center and mom and dad at the ends, that is if the kids can sit side by side without sqabbling. Touring tandem all day at 4mph should be easy.

One question with composites. How well can the composite canoes handle a kid being sloppy with the paddle and banging the heck out of the sides of the canoe. I remember when I was little at camp and you could hear kids paddling those old grummans for miles. Bang, splash, bang, splash, bang, bang, splash…

keep suggestions coming!
thanks! yes. the safety of the kids and their enjoyment is a priority…

Spirit II
I have a Wenonah Spirit II in kevlar – great family boat. Mine has a sliding bow seat which made it easy to adjust the trim back in the days when my youngest daughter liked to go paddling with me.

If the children come first…
Big tandems are not much fun for youngsters: no-one is too small to be holding a paddle (even if the paddle is more like a wooden spoon)… but small folk can note their own impact more on smaller, lighter, more manouverable craft.

Within a few years you might be thinking of pair of small tandems with one child and one adult in each… although youngsters can graduate to their own kayak by the age of 6… and a pair of youngsters can control a SMALL open canoe quite nicely by themselves from that sort of age.

If that’s in the near future… you’re looking for a short term solution. CEW seems to me to be on the right lines: one adult and two children in one small tandem… with the other adult in a different craft (solo canoe, small tandem, kayak: whatever).

One alternative: a pair of fast solo canoes. A user called jjmish on MYCCR recommends a Wenonah Encounter for an adult and child tandem… and if you’ve an extensive kayaking background and want an efficient hull, I’d have thought that could work - though my preference is always for something with more rocker!!!

Fast and stable
I was looking for a fast and light C2 stock boat. I tried a Carbon/Kevlar Savage River Susquehanna(34lbs). It is very very fast and nimble for a 18’6" canoe. In NY, the Susquehanna wins most C2 stock races. Even though it is designed to be very fast, it is very stable. It is more stable than our Wenonah Jenson 18. John Diller is very easy to work with and the options can make a very versatile canoe

family canoe hunt
these are awesome suggestions- quite inventive o.k. the oldest child is only 3 and the youngest is just 18 months so we would all need to be in the same boat i assume. i hear what you are saying that i want my kids to experience the water as much as possible and not just be in this huge boat and not as connected with the experience. what about fitting into a 16’ canoe rather than an 18’. this is a temporary solution as the kids are young and we would change boats as they grow over the next couple of years… rather than me thinking i am going to glide around like my sea kayak i am more thinking of just getting from a to be safely and with lots of fun and memories for the kids…

Fast Tandem for Family of 4
Fast means narrow, and to retain stability you add length. For capacity you either go wide quickly or add length. For seaworthiness you add depth and flare the bow. Its more complex than that, but those are the basics.

Canadians trip with 16’ canoes that are usually 36" wide in the center and get wide quickly. They look at 18’ canoes as freighters. In MInnesota a 16’ canoe is a day tripper, serious paddling happens in 18’ canoes or larger.

Your needs can be met easily with a Wenonah Minnesota II. Or an 18’ Wenonah Champlain. The Minnesota II is quicker, and the Champlain will carry more. All Canoe choices are a compromise. You have kayak experience, you have a tough little solo already; so go with a big fast canoe and have the speed you are used to.Stability is not an issue with small kids, they are short and the center of gravity stays low. A long legged dog is a bigger problem. The MN-II in core-stiffened (now called Ultra-Light) Kevlar will be under 50# even with two sliding seats and the best portage yoke. For the children you can use a drop-in bench seat and put them side by side in the best balance position. You can also put the drop-in seat behind the center yoke and put the children in the end seats, slid all the way towards the ends where the canoe is narrow. With an adult in the center seat to control the canoe they can sit in the ends and really paddle. Probably not for long, but they will have fun.

Buy them good light paddles with grips sized for their hands.

My first family canoe hauled 4 children and me all over. It was 17’ and carried all of us. No camping gear then, just fishing. And the fishing proved to me that 17’ was tight for us all fishing. It really limits the casting by those seated in the middle. Ok dropping lines overboard and bait fishing. We added a second canoe as soon as the oldest two could paddle tandem.


When all my grandsons were small
we took all three out in the Mad River Malecite.With 2 decent paddlers,it is pretty quick.

The youngest kept saying"Slow down Papa!" No reflection on speed, just his first canoe trip and a small boat wake.

Fiberglass Mohawk?
I’m in a similiar situation to Joe.

Anyone have opinions on an older 17ft fiberglass Mohawk? There’s a deal on one near me but being a kayaker a 36" beam screams slow barge to me.