“Feel” of the boats
– Last Updated: Mar-11-12 8:35 PM EST –
A flat-bottomed boat will not tip as much as a boat with a shallow-arch hull when people or cargo move from side to side. It's a reassuring feeling if you are new to canoes. With a more arched bottom, the canoe will easily tip toward the side to which weight is shifted, and that's unsettling until you get used to it. If you are used to it, you will know that the boat continues to feel "solid", usually more so as it tips more, and that the initial rolling off of dead-center is easy but that continued tipping won't happen unless the tipping force also increases.
Much is made of the idea that flat-bottomed boat, when leaned farther and farther, will reach a tipping point of no return with no real warning - that is - it happens by surprise. No need to worry about that in spite of all the hype. You won't be leaning the canoe over that far once you have just a bit of practice with the thing. However, in swift water or very big waves, anything that launches the boat into a steep lean to one side WILL be more dangerous in a flat-bottomed boat because stability won't "get firmer" as the tipping continues. For most people, this is of no concern either because if they wanted to go out in such conditions, they'd gradually gain the skill and ability to feel comfortable in boats with a more-rounded bottom, and they wouldn't be taking flat-bottomed boats out in such conditions.
In mildly choppy conditions, the rounded bottom will feel much nicer, because the boat will not constantly be forced to "match" the inclination of the waves. That "easier tipping" of the rounder bottom allows the boat's inertia to keep it more nearly upright during those brief periods of having "tilted water" beneath it as the waves pass by. Also, you can use your body to intentionally tip the boat relative to the tilt of the water to maintain a degree of lean which is most advantageous at any given moment (for example, I often briefly tilt a boat well off-center to avoid having the gunwales overtopped by a curling wave). In mildly choppy conditions, this is mainly a comfort issue since tipping over still is not much of a risk. Again, if you have the experience to be happy in VERY choppy conditions, you will have the experience to be comfortable in a boat with a more-rounded bottom and that is what you will want to use.
A non-flat-bottomed canoe is also easy to lean for various turns and pivots, but once again, once you learn to do such things, you will feel comfortable in such a boat and won't worry about the more-tippy feel.