I like to paddle the NFCT and similar routes in the Northeast U.S., so that includes big lakes, ascending, Class 1-2, portaging, etc. My solo boat, which serves me well on most sections, is a kevlar (Black Gold) Wildfire of about 35 lbs.
I’d like to begin taking one of my sons along on trips like this, so am thinking of an appropriate tandem. The boys are 6 to 10, so it is likely I will have several years of an eager but not yet adult-sized/strength bow paddler. I also have a serious knee problem that does not allow me to carry heavy boats the way I used to. Our only tandem is a Royalex 63 pounder.
What I am considering is one of the kevlar (ultralight variety) tandems of about 16-16.5 ft in length, about 40-44 lbs, with some moderate rocker. I would fit a spray cover, mainly to help us manage the inevitable wind on the big lakes. We would pack fairly light, with the Allagash being our longest trip, of about a week. I find myself most interested in the older symmetrical designs, like one of the many Prospectors, because I imagine myself on occasion paddling solo - or nearly so, with a tired son along. At the same time, I wonder about the compromise of using such a short boat on the big lakes.
For reference, my Wildfire wiggles quite a bit in wind and waves too, and I have settled into a 3-5 stroke per side sit and switch technique that is serving me well. I would be fine with that sort of approach in the tandem, even if the switching requires cooperation!
Other than the length/size question, I wonder if I can expect a kevlar ultralight lay-up to survive the rocks I do typically run into on river trips particularly. I don’t mind getting it all banged up, or even a true repair once in a while, but don’t want to set us up to expect to be stranded with a fatally cracked boat, simply because I chose a lay-up that is obviously too weak for this purpose. The ones I am looking at include the Swift “kevlar fusion” and Wenonah “kevlar ultra-light”, for example. The Bell equivalent might be the “kevlight”.
I would welcome any feedback or suggestions.
Prospector would be a good choice
I don’t own any lightweight tandems yet, and if I was to take one on some of those big lakes, I may be more inclined to go with a longer boat (17 feet minimum), which could cramp a solo style.
That being said, one of my constant companions on the NFCT has used a Kevlar Prospector (built by a company no longer in business) on several segments, including Moosehead Lake, Umbagog, Chesuncook, and the lakes in the Rangely region. It performed quite well (16’6" boat); fine entry lines with enough bow flare to shed waves. And some of those days (notably on Moosehead) were a lot crazier wind-wise than we would have liked.
He did manage to crack it once…had to repair it with plumbers putty…when his portage cart collapsed on the trail by the Rapid River. And I would not like it’s chances broached on a river rock. But for most rock collisions, it should survive OK. An extra half a pound, or a pound, of weight would be a good trade off for a more robust hull, in my opinion.
Why “moderate rocker”?
How is that going to get you to the next campsite?
My boats have lots of rocker because they are for whitewater.
Maybe you should look at the Millbrook AC/DC. Go to cboats.net to see a rave review.
I have 2 kids 7 and 11. I have also thru paddled the NFCT. I paddled solo a bell merlin 2 in black gold that was great though I wish I had installed a bow skid plate for impacts. If I were to take one of my kids on a secotion of thé trip i would use my bell Northstar. A skid plate would be paramount but I wouldn’t worry about a spray skirt with my kid in the boat, if the wind were blowing hard enough to need it we would be shore bound. My kids aren’t that strong yet where it would matter. I really liked the black gold for all the carries.
However, because it wasn’t royalex I carried more than others On the knobbly stuff
Trash a Northstar with a skidplate?
I paddle rough conditions, and I have yet to install one of those thick, stiff, ugly Kevlar felt skid plates.
Part of the secret is, stop hitting stuff. But if eventually you do wear the stems, you can make a much better skid zone out of S-glass and epoxy.
I’ll second the suggestion that you check out the Millbrook AC/DC.
Kaz builds whitewater race boats. His layups are light and they are skincoat rather than gellcoat so they flex rather than crack.
If you are still in the Boston area I might be able to hook you up with a friend’s for a demo.
Can’t speak for the AC-DC,
but I do know the Millbrook boats take a hit well. Tommy can tell you how one might not want to be broached on a rock with one. My Millbrook Coho has taken a few hard glancing blows with nothing more than a surface scratch. The Coho is another you might consider, BTW - but I suspect you would prefer the AC-DC. That boat is on my list of considerations to replace my heavy Prospector.
Steve, the Coho appears to have some
rocker in the pictures, while the slightly smaller Souhegan appears to have very little rocker. Comment?
I don’t have a Souhegan to compare. …
....but the Coho does have slight rocker. Not as much as my NC Prospector (not even close), but enough for cl2 rivers - if one is not too careless or sloppy. Better for cl2 than a Penobscot or a Malecite, to be sure. But not the easy ride of a NC Prospector in cl2. Given it's 46 lb weight (with seats - which mine doesn't have), I could live with the Coho as my only tandem in the rivers and lakes I frequent. Just carry around anything greater than cl2. I'd say it's performance falls somewhere between a Malecite and a Prospector.
I think the Coho might work for the OP if he can portage the 3's and up. I think the AC/DC would work for him if he can tolerate a little extra work on the flats. When I asked Kaz about the idea of poling an AC/DC, he was doubtful - but admitted he never has poled so he doesn't know. I mention that because I hoped he could compare it to a Prospector, but he wasn't familiar enough with Prospectors to do so. So any assumption that the AC/DC is "Prospector-ish" must come from somewhere else. Not that it's not a valid assumption - it's just not his.....or wasn't at the time.
Oh, BTW, I think the photos on the Millbrook website are a little deceiving regarding rocker. Not intentionally so. It's just hard to get photos to accurately compare rocker. (As a trained photographer, one of the first things you learn is that, contrary to popular myth, photos lie.) Just a slight difference in angle to the broadside will change the way rocker looks in a photo. When I look at my Coho, I don't see as much rocker as what appears n the photos there (which is a good thing, IMO). Probably more value in reading the descriptions than relying on the photos. Best thing to do if really considering one is to call Kaz and ask.
Was just remembering…
...that, IIRC, Kaz was describing to me that the Souhegan is livelier than the Coho and turns easier. That, and the fact I would be carrying a tripping load some of the time, made me choose the bigger of the two - the Coho.
I agree about strange photography on
the Millbrook site. The ACDC used to look near zero rocker, and now the rocker appears generous.
Notwithstanding, the Souhegan photo looks "straight" and the Coho photo looks rockered.
Asking Kaz may not help if he hasn't paddled a boat much, or paddled it with its design purpose in mind. I don't think he ever paddled my "Big Boy" which I call the Edsel because he retired the mold.
Kaz doesn't keep examples of his boats in or around his shop. So if asked about rocker, he would have to look at the mold, which may be hard to get at. And visualizing rocker from a mold is tricky.
on some parts of the NFCT at low
water levels the only way to avoid bashing the stems is to walk with the canoe on your shoulders…
I take it ez that you haven’t paddled it much. Not all of it is dam controlle or predictable for water levels.
Right now things are darn low on it in Maine.
Prospector, Millbrook, and poling
Thanks for all the helpful suggestions so far. I am thinking seriously of the Swift 16' Prospector, but will take a look at the Millbrook boats as well.
I did not mention poling, but that would be a big bonus capability for this boat vs. my Wildfire. My understanding is that a 16' boat, 35" or so wide, and moderate rocker (there I've said it again) is well suited for upriver poling, yes? My skills there are modest, but with a more stable boat I would be more apt to try it when needed, and would plan dedicated poling trips with the new tandem in several places on the trail.
Moderate rocker - poling
That's the common opinion. Moderate rocker (such as my NC Prospector) makes things easier, as far as controlling the boat. But a more mild rocker, in my experience, gives better upstream speed against current.
It's all compromise. The Prospector is more forgiving of minor mistakes in bow control, but the less-rockered Coho is more efficient. When I poled in a Penobscot, the majority of effort was bow control. Bow control is much easier in the Coho, and easier still in the Prospector. Glide and efficiency comparison is inverse of that.
You can pole in pretty much any recreational tandem canoe. Some will have advantages over others, but I haven't met a tandem recreational canoe that wouldn't be useful for poling. Racing hulls - maybe another matter. ~34-36" width does make balancing easier without being excessively wide.