Looking for a good family canoe

-- Last Updated: Dec-02-05 12:40 AM EST --

Hello. Just signed up on this list. Would like a recommendation on a good muti-purpose canoe. Family of 4, kids are girl 12, boy 8. So it will be mostly me and my wife (beginners)paddling but carrying the 4 of us. We've rented canoes on the Swuannee River that was ok, at lest for just moseying along while the kids played. Want one that is stable but fast, the in-laws have a Blackhawk 16', so need to be able to best it in performance. They (he)likes to compete at everything. We go camping a lot so it will be going a lot of places, but mostly lakes, rivers and streams in Georgia, Florida. May try class I/II eventuallly. Also need one light enough that I can load up on a Suburban 4X4 by myself, I'm 5'7".
Thanks in advance.

we need to know this…

too many variables
Do you want a canoe that can beat your 'bro or do you want a canoe your family won’t be afraid to get into?

My advice: buy a wide, flat-bottomed pretty-canoe your family will enjoy (like a Navarro Otter 16) and let the 'bro "win.

You’ll win more by not competing because your wife and kids won’t be afraid to go with you (i.e. the boat being too tippy or Captain “Daddy” Queeg makes us work too hard!), but you and yours will be having fun and looking gooooood!

As a consolation prize the Otter 16 is a rocketship compared to most other general-purpose canoes, which means you’re not going to get whupped too badly … and as an added bonus it doesn’t cost but a few hundred more than an Old Town Camper.

You bet. I’ve been looking and the things are high dollar. I want to stay fairly cheap, the wife will freak out if I drop a grand on one. So I want to stay $500-600, maybe $800 if I have too. Guess it could be the next however many b-days, and christmas gifts to make up for it.

About the only way …
I can imagine you coming close to (but not matching) the speed of a 16 ft Blackhawk for less than a grand would be to luck into buying a used 17 ft fiberglass canoe with good (i.e. thin & efficient) entry lines (weighing 65 to 70 lbs) … and setting it up with gunwale mounted oar sockets and rowing it while facing backwards on the bow seat. The stern paddler can contribute with paddling and/or steering/ruddering effort … but the rower will be doing most of the work for forward propulsion (use spoon blade 7’ oars @ < $100/pr). This way … your family’s inexperience won’t hamper you much as rowing is extremely easy … your kids will be able to do it right away.

There is no way…
you are going to find a canoe that will best the Blackhawk 16 and hold four of you for under a grand!

Check out the Penobscots and look for a used one.



Even if
If the Blackhack has 4 people in it also it seems like there should be something comparable. Or maybe I can find a used Blackhawk. Hmmn

Fast and stable do not mix…
, you are going to have to choose on or the other. I would look at the Mad River Explorer 16 and add a center bench seat or get a snap-in center seat. The reason that I am putting this suggestion out there is because this boat is a good all-around boat and a staple for Mad River for many years as a recreational canoe that performs better than most. You may also want to get something even longer than the Explorer due to the four person capacity that you require. In that case, the only way o stay in you budget is to go with an Old Town Discovery 169, the staple boat for Old Town. These boats are both going to be heavy(1 80lbs and the other 85lbs), but the only way to get lighter is to go into royalex which cost in the neighborhood of $1100-$1300 for the size you are looking for. You will get lighter weight and a much more repairable material than plastic. It is also just as impact resistant and not as prone to hog back, oil can, or whatever you call it(the disfiguring of the bottom). It sounds like you are in Florida or somewhere like that, so I don’t know how much I can help you, but I have a discovery, brand new red, for $650 and they are usually $850. If you are interested or if you have any questions, call me at (800)874-5272 and I will try to help you. --Gavin


Competing requirements
As the others said, speed and stability are conflicting requirements. You’ve gotten recommendations for decent 16’ canoes, but I can’t imagine putting 4 people in one, especially as old as your kids are. All kids do is get bigger! Add your desire to put camping gear in it too, and you’re looking at something much bigger. I would recommend at least a 17’, and if you’re serious about the camping in one boat with 4 people, maybe 18’. The thought of Class II water with 4 people in a boat is pretty spooky too.

I know you don’t want to spend a lot of money, so look for a single used boat in the 16-17’ range. A good OT Penobscot or a MR Explorer, as previously recommended, are good for this type of use, though you might be somewhat concerned about the weight (60-70 pounds). Later on you’ll be looking for another boat, maybe a 16’ that one adult can handle with the smaller child. That will get you enough capacity to take 4 people plus gear. Just let your FIL win the speed contest.

BTW: As a canoeing mom with 4 kids (now 14-24), a 12 year old will be pretty bored with being just a passenger. Put them up front and let them paddle. The 8 year old may be able to be a passenger for a while, but it won’t be long before you’ll want them paddling too. Bored kids are not fun paddling companions, and kids thrive on getting real jobs! The earlier they start paddling the more they’ll like it later.


Wenonah Spirit II in Tuffweave.
Good on both rivers and lakes, good glide, easy turning, light enough to load. Reasonable price.

No camping gear
We want be canoeing with camping gear, maybe a cooler at most. We RV camp.

tight fit
The kids will grow and you’ll run out of room quickly. Might want to consider staying over 17’.

Fairly fast, Very stable …
… and a good “family canoe” … the Wenonah Champlain. Yes, it’s 18 feet long and 3 feet wide and heavy if you don’t fork over the $'s for kevlar … but the rewards of “wholesome family togetherness” (i.e.quality time) in a competently designed and made canoe large enough to acommodate everyone safely … is worth $1500 - $2000 bucks. My theory is that the pre-teenage years are critical for programing fledgling human beings who care about each other and the world. Canoeing really helps out in this endeavor if approached rightly … and so … DON’T BE TOO CHEAP IN YOUR CANOE SEARCH !!!.

PS: Get a sail rig and/or tractor kite
… to go along with it. Seeking out free wind power will be a lot of fun for everyone … and the Champlain is stable enough that it won’t dump over as easily as most canoes with the inevitable surprises that are encountered when sailing and vectoring are momentarily confused.

Wenonah Spirit II…
is what I bought off of a PNet member here. Royalex, 68lbs. 17ft. I have a family of 4 as well. Everyone fits and it glides well through the water and maneuvers well too. Look in PNets classified ads section. You won’t be disappointed if you can find one. The OT Penobscot was going to be my second choice. This is our first canoe so take it for what it’s worth. The kids love it and our lab has plenty of room too…

don’t remember if I mentioned it

– Last Updated: Dec-03-05 8:34 AM EST –

Those daisy chains attached low and in the center of your Spirit II were put there primarily to provide attachment points for a milk crate. You need a good old sturdy one. The wallmarters won't cut it. Cut about an inch and a half off of the top so it is the same height as the seats when turned upside down.

A single bungie run through the crate and onto the daisy chains provides a solid and adjustable system to keep the crate from moving around. Best to run the bungie through near top (seat) of the crate so the bungie places downward pressure on the crate.

To top it off, I attached a garden kneeling pad (closed cell) from Lowes to the seat of the crate.

With the crate, you can paddle from the center and put the kid on the ends. Works great for fishing, creek and river work where you don't really need a lot of forward paddling efficiency when messing about with the kids.

The Spirit II worked great for our family of five. Our kids were around the 3, 5 and 7 year ages when we put the whole family in it. Now we have more boats so that's no longer necessary.

I remember you telling me about the crates of which I do have 2 of the oldies. I went out and got the carabiners to hook up to and I have plenty of bungy’s. The idea of being in the middle is cool. I’d have probably put the kids up front with me at the stern. Tried to convince my wife to take the canoe out on Spring Creek while it was flooded the other day but didn’t work. Might have to start saving for a short solo boat that I can just run across the street and toss in during high water times. Thanks Brian.


Same Blackhawk??
I’m wondering if everyone is talking about the same Blackhawk canoe. I seem to recall seeing a “Blackhawk” canoe featuring the face of an Indian as a decal and those boats seemed approximately equivalent to one of the Oscoda models. More of a “general purpose” canoe. Then there are the Blackhawks made in Janesville, WI. Those are great boats that are harder to find equivalents for.