General purpose canoe for wife and I

I’m looking for recommendations for purchasing a canoe for my wife and I to use in NE Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. We would both be considered beginners and would be paddling (only occasionally camping)and fishing the Illinois river mostly but make trips to the Buffalo and other Ozark rivers sometimes. Also plan to use it for fishing small lakes (less than 1,000 acres)in sometimes windy conditions where I would be solo sometimes. We are in our mid 50’s so it needs to be fairly light for easy loading. We only have Mad River, Old Town and Pelican dealers here in Tulsa. Currently leaning toward Old Town Penobscot 16’ but looking for more input from locals. Thanks for your help.

Ozark streams
In my opinion, the Penobscot 16 is an excellent canoe for Ozark streams. This canoe tracks very well, is fast for a Royalex canoe, lightweight, and it can be paddled solo. Most Ozark streams don’t have serious whitewater where you need extreme maneuverability, and most have quite a bit of flatwater where tracking ability and ease of paddling really come in handy.

However, the Penobscot is not a beginner canoe. The narrowness and shallow arch bottom make it feel a little tippy, especially for larger paddlers. It has very good final stability (you can’t easily flip it), but for those unaccustomed to it, it FEELS like it’s going to tip until you get used to it.

Use it for a while and you WILL get used to it, and then you’ll probably love it.

OT Tripper. Not as fast as the Pene but more stable and some may say not as nimble but I’ve solo’d class II’s in it

I agree on the Pennobscot.
I wouldn’t put beginners in it even though it is a great canoe.

Look at something a little wider



not a local
but I’d avoid the pelican. Seems like they weigh about a ton and a half.

Properly trimmed, OT Tripper is MORE
nimble than a 16 or 17 foot Penobscot. Tripper has a big center pivot section. Of course it is slower…

Review all the relevant canoe reviews,
and do a search on each canoe in the bulletin board messages for more information. Study the Guidelines articles for good descriptive information to make sure all aspects are considered. Prioritize your needs and match them to the compiled information. See what is available, and where. Don’t forget the Bell Northwind in royalex. Try to get a paddle demo.

Don’t ignore a used Wenonah Solo Plus
if you come across one in the classifieds. My wife and I have a royalex version and it works fine as a tandem for us. I’m 5’6" and 150 lbs and my wife is about the samy as yours.

The Solo Plus is a bit more boat than I prefer to paddle solo on a windy day, but you’re a bit larger than I am, so it may work fine for you.

Some Good Advice
I do most of my paddling here in the Ozarks and have a royalex 16’ Mad River Explorer and a polyethylene 14TT. Both work well, but due to the weight, I’d steer clear of the 16’ polyethylene. It’s too darn heavy, and the longer polyethylene hull will be more prone to warping over time. I TOO would steer clear of a dealer who would push you to buy that rather than the royalex version. The 16’ is a bit much for solo paddling IMHO, especially on a lake. I like the 14TT myself, it’s actually about 14.5’. I think it would handle well on small lakes, but I’ve only paddled mine on rivers. I had one back when they called it the St. Croix, so I’ve spent a fair ammont of time in the boat. Another person here on who paddles this boat quite a bit is Packhorse (Ric). Al_A had good imfo regarding the Penobscot, but if your wife feels uncomfortable the first few times out, you may find yourself going solo! Two other boats I would look closely at are the OT Osprey 15.5 and the Wenonah Adirondack Both solo well with the boat turned arround and paddling in the bow seat and both work well on Ozark Rivers. Read the boat reviews here and paddle a few boats if you can. GOod luck! WW

Someone else mentioned
the Adirondack earlier and I have been reading some on it now also. It looks like a pretty good fit for us.

Doe the fact that it is not symetrical hinder its performance when its turned around for solo paddling? One of the things that had me leaning to the Pene was that fact that it is symetrical in all respects and had planned on turning it around and using the bow seat when going solo.

Go with the Penobscot 16
Great boat. I read a lot of suggestions in here about what to do regarding your wife but you did not say she was fearful or anything… She should do fine. I hung a center seat in mine and solo paddle and sail it all the time. This boat will hold all your gear and safely take you both on your trips. Should your wife need some adjustment time, have her sit on the floor on a throw cushion first time out. You can do this easily by paddling backwards and having her sit on the floor between the yoke and the brace. You should be able to paddle her around for a brief sea trial this way just fine if she needs it.

Good luck.

Why not get 2 solos?
My wife and I really enjoy having separate craft. We can move at our own speeds, explore separate nooks and byways, pass snacks on the end of a paddle, and each craft is easier to load/unload. Smooching is risky if you don’t both have good secondary stability (the boats, that is).

Boat-to-boat smooching is still a problem Pat? Come on now – you’ve had enough practice time! Get with the program! (er, well, don’t ask Barb and I to demonstrate – we’re still workin’ on our over the rails lip-locks). ;^)

Tapelgan makes a good suggestion. Two solos really are more fun to paddle – either together or separately. In solos there are never any arguments that involve shouted phrases like: “Your OTHER left!!!” and so forth. Conversations can be much quieter when you’re side-by-side and eye-to-eye which is a bonus for both romance and wildlife spotting. We have several canoes in the family fleet at this point, but the solos get used 20 to 1 over the tandems. How’s that saying go: “… paddle your own canoe…”

Of course there are financial and transportation considerations. Most folks start with one tandem and progress to solos later, if they get into it.

As to the boats that have been mentioned I can only say good things about the OT Penob. It’s one of the few hull designs I personally enjoy that OT makes. It’s fairly efficient, has reasonable stability and is reasonably maneuverable – yet it tracks very well. It makes a good solo and a better tandem. I wouldn’t be shy of it for a first boat in terms of its initial stability – it’s only “tippy” compared to wider/flatter bottomed canoes. It has a short learning curve.

Best of luck with your decision and welcome to canoeing. Enjoy! Randall

Canoe smootching . . .
… Can you still do that in your 50’s? LOL

Two solos is an interesting idea for later maybe. Tandem for now . . . that way she can’t get too far ahead of me.

Wenonah Adirondack Is Symetrical
I’ve owned 2 tuffweave Adirondacks (One in the barn right now) and one royalex and unless the design recently changed the only difference is the stern depth is shallower, which works in your favor when soloing with a wind. This is actually the first canoe I ever paddled solo, and does a good job for a tandem. If I could own only one canoe for everything from paddling in the Ozarks to paddling the BWCAW of MN it would be the Adirondack. If possible, try to paddle a few of these boats before making a decision. Good luck! WW

Will definately

– Last Updated: Dec-26-05 9:53 PM EST –

give the Adirondack serious consideration. There is a Wenonah dealer in Fayetteville, AR (approx 100 mi.)

Thanks to all for the entertaining and educational discussion. Might ultimately make the decision harder since there are (fortunately) many good options from which to choose.

I’m 71, she’s 60. …
…true love never dies.

Not sure if this has been mentioned…
…it sounds like this is your first canoe. You’ll surely want to change in a year or two anyway, so go for a good quality, cheap used canoe(s) (get a friendly old hand to help). Especially in winter, I see used boats for $300-500 that sound like good deals.

Mad River Explorer
I’ve used a 16’ royalex Explorer for years.

It’s an good tandem boat for rivers and streams. It’s OK on lakes.

It will feel a little steadier and turn a little easier than the Penobscot. You will work a little harder to move it along though.

It will handle two adults and weekend camping gear if you don’t go crazy.

It paddles solo nicely turned around from the bow seat.

Unloaded, paddled solo on open water, the wind will have its way with you. I keep a double bladed paddle just for that.

I’ve paddled, poled and dragged my Explorer all over New Englands rockiest rivers. She’s pretty beat up but paddles as well as she did when I got her.

The only reason I’d even think about the poly boat is if I could not afford the royalex. I still wouldn’t buy it but I’d think about it.

Best of luck,


Nova Craft
makes a good canoe. I have a Bob’s Special in Royalex. It is 15 foot and 52 pounds. Handles me (200 lbs) and my lady (130 lbs) very well and solos extremely well as it is symetrical. I have canoed the Ozark rivers in it solo and it performed well. Not alot of room for camping gear - but sufficient for a couple of nights if you pack light. I fish out of mine mostly and often on small lakes. Just a thought. A Nova Craft Prospector 16 might be a suggestioon also.