First Canoe Help

I am new to the forum and am mostly new to canoeing but I have some experience with small rowboats, rafts, kayaks, etc. I am looking into getting a used canoe which I want to use solo for fishing, possibly some small-scale waterfowl hunting, and back country paddling and camping. I plan on sticking to lakes and ponds as well as small, sluggish rivers. I currently have my eyes on a 1974 Old Town Carleton Voyageur which appears to be in excellent condition for $200. The boat is fiberglass, 17ft. long and weighs 85 lbs. I think it’s a great looking canoe, not that that matters. Would this be a good fit for what I need it for? Is this canoe too large for solo paddling? I’m pretty light, about 5’11" and 145 lbs. ; how far would I realistically be able to portage it? Is this known to be a decent model (stable, durable)? Overall, would this be a fine first canoe for me, or should I keep looking? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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That boat is a monster . Can you go pick it up and try to caŕry it?


I weigh 10 pounds more than you and am fairly fit (I regularly load and carry 50 pound kayaks) but would not even attempt to portage an 85 canoe myself. That’s more than half your weight.

There are plenty of solo canoes that would be more manageable for what you want for just a little more money on the used market. My 13’ 8" fiberglass solo canoe only weighs 35 pounds and I can easily carry it over my head by grabbing the gunwales. I paid $900 for it used, but I often see used Old Town and Mad River short canoes in my area for half that. I had an Old Town Guide 146 for a while, though a tandem it could be paddled solo backwards from the bow seat – they often turn up for $400 to $500. An Old Town Discovery 119 (just under 12’) would be a good choice – there is one in my area for $500, for example and these are only around 45 pounds.

Per the only review on here for the Carleton, the owner who had one reported that it had poor secondary stability, which would make it tippy and this could be even worse for somebody soloing it at your moderate weight.

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Thanks for the input. It’s kind of a far drive so going and testing it out isn’t really an option. I regularly drag and load a 100+lb. Jon boat into the bed of my pickup so I’m confident I would at least be able to drag this canoe, but definitely not lift it above the shoulders. I’ll attach a picture from the seller if that helps but it looks like I should probably pass on this one.

If you care to share your approximate location there are quite a few knowledgeable people on this site who watch the classifieds and may be able to help you out.

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Yes, your location would be helpful. There is an ad on this site in the classifieds for an Old Towm Guide 147 (for $600 I think) near Philadelphia and the seller is including paddles and some fishing gear.

It’s a nice-looking boat for sure and looks like it’s in very good shape so a fine deal for $200. You might need to buy a new seat for it. The flat bottom would make it a good hunting and fishing platform. But for backcountry paddling (covering distance) it’s big so would take more effort than a smaller boat and wind would affect you a lot since a big lightly loaded boat with a flat bottom is sitting on (not in) the water so it has very little resistance to wind.

IMO it is a little long and a little heavy to be used as a solo.

I was in your same place at the beginning of covid and I bought a fairly nice Old Town Guide 147 14’7” from a neighbor for 150 bucks. I wanted it for river floats with some of my rec-kayak friends and also fishing on inland lakes in NW Pa.

Long story short I didn’t have much luck at first taking that length tandem out as a solo and it was fairly heavy to move around and dragging across parking lots was not a good idea. I solved the weight problem with a 50 dollar kayak dolly that folds down and can ride with me in the canoe. I haven’t needed it to move the boat thru a woods or such and just use it car to water and back. The second problem was keeping the canoe trimmed so the wind didn’t blow me around. I removed the center carry yoke and seats and put in a center seat. Doing that solved the trim issue but made paddling difficult as sitting near the widest point on the canoe made it super stable it made single blade paddling harder. I solved that with a 260cm double blade kayak paddle.

It took me most of my first summer sorting out all this as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and made a lot of changes I had to reverse. I have a thread I documented all this in.

All in all I used to use a 10’ Jon boat some and you will think you went to heaven when you get a canoe dialed in.

What I found in the end what I really wanted is a pack boat (canoe) but something way out of my budget. What I made was kind of a poor mans pack boat that is heavy duty and I don’t mind taking it over some shallow rocky areas.

I’d like to stick to the northern OH/PA region. I have also found the following in my area for a similar price: Pelican Explorer 16, Old Town Guide 147, and an Old Town Discovery 158. Most of them are still tandem canoes, but a little smaller. Would these be better options?

The pelican and the OT Guide will both have molded seats with seat backs and even though the seat backs are removable going solo without altering anything will mean paddling backwards sitting in the bow seat backwards. The molded seat bottoms don’t feel to good backwards.

I did figure a way to turn the bow seat around that wasn’t that hard to do and it even moved it forward about 8”. That would work well if you always planned on hauling some gear in the new bow or if not at least loading some jugs of water in the bow as ballast. It would even work ok in sheltered areas where wind wasn’t an issue.

The OT Discovery has bench seats and is a better OT model by most accounts. It is a bit longer than I would like as a solo but many have soloed them without issues. A lot of the creeks I go in get narrow and require some agility of a shorter canoe. The people I paddle with have 10’ kayaks so they go anyplace they want and I have to try and keep up.

I think I have a photo of my backwards Guide seat. Mine didn’t come with the seat back so I made one. In the end I didn’t use it and the seat I went for was a Wal-Mart stadium seat back. Very comfortable for fishing.
IMG_1138 (1)

I’m about half way between Meadville and Erie. Sounds like you are nearby.

If you want to try out my setup with the Guide come warmer weather we could figure something out. I’m right on French Creek.

You can do better than the boat in the photo. 85 pounds is no fun to portage. I have used a wood and canvas canoe for decades that weighs even more when wet. I almost never portage it but line it sometimes around rapids. For a portage I use 2 people, mostly just to get on and off the water.

Find a common boat like an Old Town or Wenonah. Find one that has not been stored outside and has life left in the hull. . Even a 70 pound canoe would be much better., A flat bottom is not so good.

The good news is that you are in an excellent area for used canoe shopping. You will find what you want.

When I looked at Facebook marketplace Cleveland the boat I liked best for you is the Old Town 119 solo but they are asking $500. Maybe they’d take $300. People like that boat.

I don’t know enough about the Discovery 158 or 147 to know whether you should wait for something else.

The boat that really caught my eye is the Sawyer Safari for $250. That is a rare boat that would be a dream with a trolling motor or 2 hp outboard. That’s the problem with looking for desirable used canoes…you always find them.


Truth. :grimacing:

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If you don’t mind making a few hours drive, there tend to be a lot of used solo canoes that come up for sale in central NY, between Buffalo and Utica. I’m in Pittsburgh and had wanted a Curtis Ladybug solo canoe 5 years ago. I missed getting 2 that popped up on Craiglist and Facebook (they go fast when they are offered for under $1000) but finally found one listed just southwest of Rochester, NY, near the Finger Lakes, which is the area where Curtis canoes were made. It was a 4 hour drive (which I could have done in one day but instead I decided to keep going another 5 hours and visit my brother in Saratoga Springs for a while. But I still would have made the one day trip to get it because it was a good deal). If you are nearer to Erie in would that far or less to that part of NY.

I just did a random check on Facebook Marketplace for canoes for sale within a 60 mile radius of Rochester and there were more than 30 non-aluminum canoes under $600 up there including at least half a dozen $400 or less. Like this clean 14’ one:

There are a lot of canoes that will work for your purpose. These are but two companies with suitable canoes that should show up on the used market.

If I remember right the Mohawk 14 even came in camo. The Mohawk Odessey would also be good for what you want. They would be made of Royalex.

The old town guide 147 was mentioned. Also mentioned, the Old Town 119 Discovery solo made of three-layer polyethylene, and especially the Old Town Sportsman Discovery 119 Solo Canoe as it has the seat with a lower center of gravity and profile for shooting waterfowl. It also can be found in camo.

There was also the 13’ OT NEXT.

I agree that the Old Town you found is too heavy. Also the seats are too high for stability. For hunting and fishing, you are active in the boat instead of just paddling, so stability is important. That Old Town does have a flat bottom, which is a plus for stability.
A lot of the light boats people are recommending would be easy to portage but fall short on the stability you need for hunting and fishing.

Been paddling canoes for more than 60 years. 200 bucks and 17 feet Old Town. Take it ! 85 pounds is heavy, by modern standards. 85 pounds is what a Grumman aluminum weighs. and I have seen 19 yo girls at the livery put them up on their shoulders to load the racks. It IS technique, not pure strength. 85 pounds is still 85 pounds, most people will only be able to easily portage that a few hundred yards. 85 pounds will wear you down on a long trail. I own 5 canoes, only one is less than 85 pounds, a Wenonah 18’ Sundowner, about 60 pounds. My two big boats are both 20’ and 110 pounds each. I’m 72, I shoulder them and walk to the truck and load the ladder rack on top routinely. So, 200 bucks for a good canoe to fish, hunt, learn to paddle, wide enough and stable enough you can stand up and dance in it? Buy it!
Seats on Old Towns can be lowered, I recommend it. Though bolts to the top rail of the gunnels. Buy longer bolts, use a 2.5 inch piece of tube, plus or minus a half inch. Lower is more stable, higher is more comfortable.
If you are using it solo, sit the front seat facing the stern. Or kneel near the center yoke, or ballast the ‘bow’, the boat needs to sit even, or slightly down by the bow into the wind, slightly down to the ‘stern running with the wind.
Learn to paddle kneeling, Indian style. They knew what they were doing. and the slight down by the bow, or down by the stern, just move your kneeling position fore or aft.
Getting a canoe onto your shoulders. Yoke must be in the center or a scotia to the stern. With the canoe sitting on the ground upright. Grasp the yoke at the gunnel on your side and pick up so that the up or open side is away from you and the nice big round bottom of the boat is tucked tight into your belly and the weight is resting on your thighs. reach across with one hand and give a heave and don’t really lift it, just kinda roll it up over your head. Settle it onto your shoulders and walk. Takes some practice, but imagine me, 72, putting a 20’ Old Town Tripper over my head to walk from the backyard to the truck in the drive and loading it onto ladder racks on an F150.
If my old fart fat butt can do it, you can. Make sure you have a beer and a friend handy when you are learning. He or she can lift the canoe off of you and laugh at you as you laugh at yourself. And you will KNOW why everyone here is telling you to spend the next 500 bucks, or 3,000 bucks to buy a better, lighter, less stable boat.
Learn the gooney and the J-stroke I use both all the time. Both work just fine.
Oh !! And remember to smile, when the boat falls on you, when the boat rolls you over, etc. forget to smile and laugh when it does not go perfectly to plan, or we will make you do it all over again. AND, only, only tie the things in the canoe to the canoe, that you want to keep. There are two pair of glasses, and a beautiful stainless steel water bottle at the bottom of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. I know exactly where they are, right down at the bottom.


There is a facebook group North American Canoe Traders that lists several used canoes a day. I found one there. It’s a good resource for anyone looking for a used canoe.