I ask fearfully, which boat to pole

I have built my Home Depot pole (a winter project–giving you some idea how handy I am) and now, down here in Texas, spring is close.

I have a decision to make–what boat should I try it on.

I have solos, and inflatables, and folders, but I rather think that poling requires a tandem (and no, I’m not ready to buy a dedicated poling boat!). But I’ll listen if you gurus tell me otherwise.

So, I have a Sawyer Cruiser and a Grumman Eagle–which one do you think gives me the best odds of staying dry the longest?

I await your wisdom.

Maybe the Grumman, though I don’t
recall whether the “Eagle” differs from the usual flat-bottomed Grumman aluminum tub.

After you have your sea legs, consider switching to the Sawyer. Your Grumman may have a keel, a liability for poling in shallows and maneuvers. The Sawyer will be less stable, but will drive upstream against current fairly easily.

Neither the typical Grumman, nor the Sawyer, is the ideal for poling, but you can solve the boat selection problem later. Consider wearing a helmet. If you have a lake with a very shallow, even-tapering gradient away from shore, you can practice there at first, then try a river with easy current in shallows.

Doesn’t differ much
The Eagle was the “sporty” Grumman–in the 1970s. All is relative. It’s maybe 5-10

pounds lighter than the average tub and has maybe a little more rocker. No keel.

The spiders are going to be mad when I take it out–neither it nor the Cruiser has been out much the last couple of years. We’ve pretty much gone to paddling solos exclusively.

I’ll try to make myself wear a helmet–although it violates a personal safety rule–ever since high school football, I don’t do any sport where the other guy has a stick to hit you with or you need a helmet.

Thanks for the advice. I’ll start in the local lake (even though swimming is banned, so I’m risking a ticket). Assuming I survive, I’ll let you know how I do.

I’m not familiar with either boat but a few things to consider.

A lot of poling happens in shallow rocky water. Aluminum sticks to rocks like superglue. The sudden stops may well warrent the helmet!

Composite hulls slide better but may not hold up to the grinding.

About 36" of beam and strong secondary stability will help. Ideally you want to be able to put all of your weight on one side of the boat without turtling.

The fewer thwarts and seats in the boat the fewer things you will need to climb over.

Have fun!


Need some rocker in moving water
so I would start with the Eagle. The Cruiser should be OK in shallow flatwater, but unless you are standing at one end of the canoe or the other to lift the bow or the stern (depending on whether you’re poling upstream or snubbing downstream) you’re gonna want a little rocker, especially at the ends. Not too much (you don’t need a whitewater boat). That way the bow or stern aren’t catching current and creating difficulties in directional control when you’re in moving water.

Also, I second TommyC1…a boat with about a 35-36" beam and good secondary stability (semi-V hull, like on a MR Explorer) will make for a much more stable boat.


Grumman Eagle
this is a unique hull as production aluminum canoes go. It was designed as a kit boat with a stackable hull that was shipped without thwarts or seats installed. It has continuous flare in the hull to facilitate nesting the hulls for shipping.

It is the driest Grumman in rough water and has the most secondary stability of any aluminum hull without foam sponsons. I would figure it to be a great hull for learning to pole; maybe not an experts hull, but a forgiving learners hull.

The Sawyer would not be my pick for standing, even with a pole in hand. The Sawyer cruisers I have paddled all had very flexible hull bottoms kept in place with wooden props from the cross pieces down to the keel line. Not factory, but user added pieces to prevent oilcanning. Perhaps the writers hull is a good one, but its still a very tender hull and with no rocker at all.


Cruiser’s floor
I do have a pretty sound Cruiser. No oil canning. But it certainly isn’t very maneuverable (but a real joy to paddle on the flats). My wife and I took it down a pretty twisty section of the Llano River last spring, without much difficulty, but making the corners required a pretty strong draw on her part and pry on my part–down a right or left turning chute and force the boat almost to a stop in order to make the corner.

I don’t think I’ve ever stood up in the Cruiser though, while I have in the Grumman Eagle–and a friend of mine that paddles freestyle and my brother managed to lay it over on its side and spin it. Then it filled with water and they paddled it to shore, swamped but still upright.

So the Eagle is, for the moment, my poling boat.

Again with the wrong boat for the job.

The cruiser is just that - one of the best fast canoes out there. NOT for poling.

The Grumman might work, but I’d be looking at something without a pronounced keel (maybe a Grumman doesn’t have a keel line).

Anyway, a Mad River Explorer comes to mind. Or a Mad River Malecite.