Good first canoe, have 3 small kids

-- Last Updated: May-10-07 6:38 AM EST --

Hello - I've been digging through the product reviews and message boards for weeks - this is the best website!

I'm a beginner with 3 kids (aged 4,5,7) and want a good used canoe, hopefully soon! We tent camp near lakes, so lake paddling would be a must, but non-whitewater river trips are hopefully in our future. On lakes I usually take at least one kid, or my husband paddles too. And we'll want to canoe camp one day.

Whew - solo, tandem, 5 people, lake, river - is there a canoe out there at a decent price for us?
The guy at the store recommended a Mad River Adventure 16, but after reading posts here, I thought something different might be preferable over the long haul. I'm considering a Mohawk Nova 16, or possibly a Penobscot 16, though I'm limited because, of course, money is an issue and I need one near enough to Georgia. Plus it'll have to travel cartop. Any ideas on these, or other available models?

Thank you very much - Carole

I’m in Atlanta, so e-mail if you want
so we can be in touch in case I see a good used tandem. Occasionally they come up in the Georgia Canoeing Association newsletter.

A Penobscot 16 is a bit marginal. You really would need a 17 to carry two adults, three kids, and (eventually) canoe camping gear. I never hesitated to load a boat right up to its limits on small mountain lakes, as long as all wore PFDs, but if you get on a river, you want the boat to have plenty of margin. When our kids were little, we were using an 18.5 foot, 15 inch deep canoe, and it could carry the four of us plus camping gear.

Of course if you get a 17 foot or more, you may have trouble solo paddling the boat with your littler kids on board. That’s where the 16 would be better. No ideal solution. Maybe by the time you get into camping you can get a small canoe or a rec or WW kayak for the oldest, largest child.

I think…
I’m thinking that 16ft would work fine now, but as your children get older you will either want something longer or possibly two canoes! I am somewhat new to the canoe but have found the 16ft Mad River Explorer to be stable enough to take an energetic dog and wife boating. I have had several instances (3 to be exact) that I have had the Explorer on it’s side far enough that many other canoes would have fliped. As far as canoes go I believe most would agree that it is considered a stable boat. Just my .2

Yes, the MR Explorer is one of very few
16 footers with the capacity for two adults, three kids, and some camping gear. But it’s still a stretch.

Explorer paddled from bow
One of the main reasons I bought an Explorer is that it doesn’t have a bow thwart, meaning I can turn around on the bow seat and paddle “backwards” (facing the stern) with my kids. It would be a good boat to use for a (short) while - until the kids get too big - and you can use it for a boat with one adult and one or two kids.

The “backwards” approach is a good way for an adult to keep the boat in trim with a small person in the front. It moves the paddler closer to the middle of the boat without being a true solo boat. I paddled this way 5 days in the Boundary Waters with my 10 year old daughter. She paddled some, but I had full control of the boat full of gear, no problem.