free board for solo?

I am in the early stages of building next canoe. How much free board should I allow for a flat water

solo, probobly never to be used in a tripping situation? Never to be used in white water although

waves from bass-boats will be an issue.

the reason I ask is I see some respected designers

putting in 15" for a SRT and others 9" to 11" for a solo. My plans call for 11" but I will never

carry any significant weight. A lower freeboard

and shear would be a benifit with wind…

don’t know
Here’s a stitch & glue solo I built a while ago:

Never measured the freeboard, but it’s probably below 12". I’ve had it out in starting-to-whitecap conditions and haven’t felt that I needed more freeboard. I suspect that a big part of that is loading to keep the ends light – if they couldn’t rise to the waves it might be a different story.

freeboard or depth?
Sounds as if you are asking about depth at center. The freeboard is the vertical height above the waterline which will of course vary with the load, but also with the hull dimensions and contour which determine water displacement.

A broad, beamy canoe with a relatively flat bottom can have less center depth for the same freeboard as a narrower, deeply arched one.

Probably you don’t need to add more
than an inch.

If you were Fat Elmo, I’d suggest both room and board.

Compared to existing boats
Do you think comparing it to an existing flatwater rec racer would work? The Savage River Otegan is 16/12/12 (bow/midships/stern. The Wenonah Advantage is 17/13/14. I’ve only been in the Otegan once, but it seemed like it was plenty deep to me for what you are describing.

11" depth

– Last Updated: Sep-26-11 11:43 AM EST –

I happen to have a Bell Backwaters Angler Royalex tandem sitting in the backyard which I am applying abrasion plates to. That boat is used as a livery canoe on lakes and easy streams. It is 11" deep at center.

That boat does seem to have about as little freeboard when loaded with 2 adults as I would care to have in a canoe. It is a broad (37" max width) and relatively flat-bottomed hull with little rocker, so it doesn't draw much water. My guess is that this tandem has about 8" of freeboard with a paddler load of around 350 lbs. Next time I have this model on the water, I will try to estimate the freeboard. Of course, a lighter solo boat with not much rocker might not draw any more water than this boat does.

Conceivably you could go with less than 11" depth amidships if the boat was only going to be used on calm waters with minimal load. I wouldn't be inclined to do so. Mad River, and I believe other manufacturers, used to publish 6" freeboard capacities for their boats. I took this to suggest that 6" of freeboard was what MRC considered to be the absolute minimum "safe" freeboard, and these capacities were quite large. The MRC Kevlar Explorer, for example, had a published 6" freeboard capacity of 1100 lbs. I haven't even had half that much weight in my Kevlar Explorer, and there have been times I have had that boat out on a big Canadian lake with whitecaps, and have been glad for every inch of freeboard it had.

Freeboard for a Solo Definite Answer
The freeboard is the difference between the waterline and the sheerline measured at the center of the canoe (or lowest point of the sheerline). For a solo canoe, you can get by with as little as 6 inches of freeboard.

So, if your depth is 11 inches at center, then if you load it to the 5-inch waterline or less, you’re good to go. If you’re not using it for tripping, 11 inches is probably fine.

6" freeboard

– Last Updated: Sep-26-11 3:08 PM EST –

To each his own, but I personally would consider 6" of freeboard adequate only in a canoe that had zero chance of being paddled in rapids or waves of any significance whatsoever, at least in any circumstances in which a swim had potentially adverse consequences.

For what it is worth, here is what Cliff Jacobson has to say about freeboard in "Canoeing Wild Rivers":

"Some canoe "experts" recommend a minimum safe freeboard of six inches, which is ridiculous. A boat that heavily loaded will drown you in the first big rapid if you don't have a fabric splash cover. Open canoes should maintain at least nine inches of freeboard for safety in turbulent waters."

Granted, Cliff is talking about canoes to be used for river tripping on streams with significant rapids. But wind can whip up waves on sizable lakes pretty quickly, and boat wakes ricocheting off of lake or river banks can generate echo waves that double the amplitude of the original when the peaks are in phase.

Your quote
I appreciate what you’re saying, and for a tandem canoe, I’d agree. But if we’re quoting the cult-of-Cliff, like he says, “Solo canoes are different.” Six inches of freeboard is fine for a solo. You’d have to seriously load the canoe to get even close to 6 inches of freeboard on a solo. Not going to happen for the OP even on a canoe with 11 inches of depth.

Closest I might go is to say
"Six inches of freeboard might be ok for a solo."

I used to campaign a little 13’ Mad River with less than a foot of depth. Run dry, it could handle most class 1-2 water. With overnight gear, freeboard was down to 6", and taking water was getting to be too much of a problem.

My MR Guide Solo is much deeper. Would I run it loaded to 6" freeboard? No, and as you say, I wouldn’t have to. If I was never going to haul gear, just solo on day trips, would I cut it down to 6" freeboard to cheat wind? No.

I also interpret “freeboard” to mean “remaining depth after the boat is loaded,” so it depends on the load. I think you are asking about “midship depth” or some other term that describes the total depth, rails to center bottom, where the boat is shallowest.

I paddle my Placid RapidFire (11" depth amidships) on windy flat water all the time (the Hudson River at New York City). I usually appreciate the low windage caused by the low depth. The only time the low depth is bad is when there is short, steep chop coming in from the side; the waves tend to splash over at the center, which can be really annoying if you have to go a long way at a suboptimal heading, just to stay dry. I don’t think you need to worry much about wakes; they aren’t so steep, in my experience, and the boat will just bob over if you stay loose in the hips.

I paddled a WildFire (12.5" depth amidships) for years in the same conditions, and it didn’t have the problem with chop from the side. I am skeptical that the difference is caused entirely by the extra inch and a half; I suspect something about the design of the bottom and the sides also contributes to the deflection of steep little waves, but I am out of my depth here, as it were. It might also be that the WildFire was more comfortable to heel, so I might have been unconsciously heeling a little away from the incoming chip, which would probably make a big difference in splash entry.

I paddled an SRT recently for the first time, and it felt vast. It is definitely a river-tripping boat, and for your described usage, I don’t think you need anything like the SRT’s depth, width, and fullness.

I recommend 12". Easy to measure :slight_smile:


Sheer line not shear line
As long as we are defining terms.

I wouldn’t want to paddle a loaded solo canoe in waves with just 6" of freeboard. Dangerous.

As to center depth, I think 11" should be about the minimum for a solo canoe. And only then with a modest load on flat water.

I like deep canoes. You don’t need the SRT’s 14" of center depth if you are not paddling in whitewater or big waves, but I would always like about 12.5" rather than my minimum of 11". To me, the deeper boat is safer and better for loads, and it’s worth the trade-off of a little more windage.