LL Bean West Branch 169

What about this…


Which looks to me to be a Discovery 169, outfitted differently for LL Bean. It’s about $400 less than the other canoes I’ve been looking at? Other than the weight difference between poly and Royalex, does anyone have any thoughts on this for a novice family with 2 kids? Thanks!

a few thoughts

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 8:24 AM EST –

Yes it is an Old Town Discovery 169. The Disco 169 is a pretty stable, user-friendly hull design with a lot of carrying capacity.

Three layer polyethylene is not a bad material if you can put up with the weight. It is a bit more abrasion resistant than Royalex but it does have a tendency to oil can or hog a bit in the center, although not usually enough to affect performance that much.

The weight is a bear though, and lacking any type of center yoke that canoe would be very difficult for one person to portage.

The LL Bean canoe looks to be an Old Town Disco 169 in which the thwarts have been omitted and a long bench seat installed near center. The bench seat looks to be a good bit forward of center (note that in the photo the bow of the boat is to the left). That might be OK if the stern paddler is a good bit heavier than the bow paddler, but if they are about the same weight and you put two kids on that center bench the canoe is going to be bow heavy for sure. Bow heavy canoes do not paddle well.

Also, lacking any thwarts this canoe might have more flex than is desirable. It isn't clear from the photo whether the center bench is mounted to the underside of the gunwales or suspended from dowel hangers. if it is mounted at gunwale level, the kids in the center could raise the center of gravity considerably and have a long reach to the water if they want to paddle. If the center seat is suspended, it won't provide nearly the rigidity that a center thwart or yoke would.

Some of these things are fairly easily modified. You could for example buy a thwart from Essex Industries or Ed's Canoe and mount it to the gunwales using stainless steel machine screws and nuts in a position between the stern seat and the center bench (look at the image of the Disco 169 on the Old Town site to see the position of this thwart).

If the canoe trims bow heavy because of the center bench seat position, you could probably mount it a little further aft by turning in around, using the same set of gunwale holes nearest the center of the boat for the longer seat frame and drilling a new pair aft of that set for the shorter seat frame.

So in short, the boat might fit your needs well, but it will be rather ungodly heavy (but durable) and might require some minor modifications to paddle well.

Seat Comments

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 10:57 AM EST –

I took a closer look at that seat. It's a pretty effective illusion that the seat is forward of center, probably because the bow seat is farther from the bow than the stern seat is from the stern. When taking measurements right on the photo, one can see that the seat is almost exactly centered between the two ends. Even a perfectly centered seat will put the person's weight forward of center (a person's legs are forward of the seat), but for a kid sitting there, it may not be enough to matter, and if it did, it could easily be counterbalanced with a bit of baggage located farther to the rear (a small amount of weight in one end of the boat will counterbalance a much larger weight that's a small distance toward the other side of dead-center).

There's an angled view of that boat available, which shows the seat to be mounted on drops, so it's at a normal height. There's also a set of diagonal braces between the seat rails and the gunwales to help make up for the lack of gunwale bracing which would be provided by the seat drops alone. It's probably not quite as rigid as a thwart, but better than it looks at first glance.

So, it looks like no modifications would be necessary. Other things mentioned about the boat still apply. I'm not sure if Pete was talking about true "oilcanning" or "warping". Oilcanning is a lack of rigidity, but poly canoes have a tendancy to permenantly warp as well, and most people also call that "oilcanning". I've seen many warped Discovery canoes, but usually the warping is not severe.

too expensive for that canoe …

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 1:16 PM EST –

....... 1000. is too much IMO ... we own an Old Town 169 . I think it's a great canoe for what we use it for , which is mainly fishing mountain rivers , large reservours and small lakes . It's performed excellent and gotten us through some rough conditions we probably should have avoided .

Two 5-6 yr.old boys (all the time standing , using the thwarts to sit on , sitting on the gunnels and constanly moving around inside) and both her and I on a lake wasn't a stability problem , the canoe was fine even as they hung over the gunnels . My point here is the OT 169 is good canoe for your purposes .

Has alot of room inside and is very stable . Weighs 84 lbs. , which is OK by us . Loads easy on top the truck with our system . Two of us (her and I) carry it to and from the water . Launches we use are almost always within a 100' of where the truck can get to , most times closer than that . If you had to carry any distance to launch , you'd be wanting a wheel cart instead of carrying .

We got ours at Bass Pro in 06 for 575. total , that included tax . Now a days it will cost you 670. total from Bass Pro . Unfortunately I don't think you have a Bass Pro near you in Nebraska .

I'd buy the OT 169 again at current Bass Pro prices , but not at a higher price .

How about those canoes you said you saw that looked like no one ever used them anymore ... maybe one them will sell to you for a reasonable price (like 300.-400. for a good canoe) . Our OT 16'-10" Royalex cost 400. used , nice canoe in great condition .

Decision time…
Thanks for everyones input. I put the Bell Eveningstar on layaway today. It was a lot more than I had planned on spending, but I think it will be much better for us. I’ll pay it off next week and have it shipped. Can’t wait!

I can’t wait either
I must admit to being excited for you. Your background of other outdoor activities makes me think there’s potential for you to really get hooked on this. Before you know it, you might be planning trips to more exciting waters. I think the Eveningstar is the best candidate of all the ones you’ve talked about, and you won’t ever decide it’s “wrong” for you even if you eventually pick up some other boat that’s more highly specialized for some particular use.

You “want” to spend a little more money, right? My best beginner advice is to get the DVD, “Path of the Paddle” by Bill Mason. It has super-nice demonstrations of the basic strokes, and seeing them and how the boat responds is better than reading about them and then trying it yourself and not knowing if you’ve gotten the right result. Bill Mason’s book of the same name is is great too, as is “Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Gary and Joanie McGuffin, once you have some seat time in the new boat.

you’re gonna enjoy canoeing …

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 8:33 PM EST –

...... next the PFD's , paddles , load bars/straps and misc. gear . Don't be a paddler who doesn't wear a PFD , and it's mandatory for kids , and in winter months most states mandatory for adults as well on certain waters ... check your states regs. on the matter .

Stay out of the cold water , wait till it warms up ... cold water is dangerous and deadly stuff , don't be tempted unless you have the proper submersion clothing (drysuit and other clothing gear) . I'm not hyping this issue either , it kills on a regular basis , so be warned .

I like the tumblehome on the Bell canoes .

Path Of The Paddle
I’ve watched Bill Mason’s Solo Basics on the NFB Canada website several times now. I’m soaking up all this info like a sponge. I even made my wife watch it. Can you believe she’s still excited about getting a canoe? She’s actually already planning out of state adventures for our new canoe!

The other stuff…
Yep, I’m planning out all the other goods we need to get. We will definately always be wearing good PFDs. ATGATT, all the gear, all the time! Thinking about the Bending Branches Beavertail paddles. Any thoughts on those for our situation?

Tandem Basics too
If you found that on the Canada Film Board site, you probably found the other “Path of the Paddle” films too. The film on tandem basics is particularly nice, especially considering your plans.


– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 10:57 PM EST –

You might want to start a new thread on choosing a paddle. Beavertails were once the main kind of paddle available, and they still have their place. Personally, I don't think a beavertail is the best all-around shape nowadays, especially once you start dealing with shallow water. From Bending Branches, this paddle...


... is pretty nice for general use if you don't abuse it too much. I've broken two of them by snagging them between rocks, but that's not what they are made for. There are lots of paddles, including some basic ones I like more, but I'll let you decide when to start that topic. Make sure you know how to choose the right length too (you go by shaft length, so the best total length for each person will vary by blade type).