Navarro Canoe

Ok, I have no idea why my user name got doubled, but what the heck, here I am and I staying with it.

I recently bought a used Navarro Otter 14 ft canoe and I’m interested in the history of the company and the history of this particular canoe, if that is possible.

The canoe has a sticker on the side reading as follows:



I’ve searched a bit on the internet and I can’t find any info indicating that Navarro was ever in Mendocino County. Any information that those more knowledgable than myself can provide would be greatly appreciated, and that’s all of you as I am a paddling newbie. Specific questions in my mind are: what’s the age of this boat (I’m guessing sometime in the 1990’s, but that’s really just a guess), is this really a Navarro or some knock-off imitation, is Navarro still in business if I should want some support or replacement pats, and is there some relationship between Navarro and Merrimack. I’ve read that the maker at Merrimack is Randy Pew and my boat is labelled V.L. Pew. Seems entirely too coincidental. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks much,


I don’t know a lot about Navarro, but what I have seen I like. Since there are no other responses, I’ll jump in.

They’re from the Pacific North West. They’re light. And its the only company I know of that uses wooden “ribs” in a molded glass or kevlar hull. That’s pretty innovative, I’m thinking. Don’t know if that is something they do in all their models though.

All the ones I’ve seen are older, but if its a company that mostly does business in the NW, perhaps there just aren’t that many that have made it out this far east. All the ones I’ve seen look like “cruising/tripping” canoes. Never seen one that looks like it was made for whitewater. A local dealer, Carl’s in Lone Rock, has one and it catches my eye every time I’m in there.

Nice boats as far as I’ve seen.

Some info
I believe that Randy Pew and Vernon Pew are related, maybe brothers. The original concept of fiberglass re-enforced wood rib construction was started by L.H. Beach, the founder of Merrimack Canoe. That company was owned by Lem Beach, then Randy Pew. IIRC, Vernon moved to the west coast and started his own company, Navarro, and continued building boats using that construction method. See some mighty fine canoes at

Back when I was considering buying one…
…I seem to recall reading that Vernon was Randy’s son - but I’m not sure about that. Anyway, the company was in western Oregon for a while after leaving California, according to a previous company website. There is a new website now, which gives the location in Rock Island, Illinois.

Very nice “eye-candy” canoes.

They are for sure, but

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 2:00 PM EST –

I could never figure out the reasoning behind the Merrimack-style canoe construction. The ones I've hefted didn't strike me as particularly light, and the ones I've seen that had suffered neglect looked virtually impossible to restore.

Wood canvas is similarly hard to restore
But the Navarros I’ve seen reviewed have gotten very good comments on hull behavior.

The construction isn’t “rational” but it is beautiful. The boats aren’t as light as composite, but they’re stiff and owners won’t complain about oil-canning.

I think that if someone buys one, the cost may guarantee that the owner stores it inside and doesn’t trash it on the rivers.

Ease of w/c restoration is arguable,
but, as for the rest, I agree. They do seem good and stiff. Pricewise, too!

I wouldn’t say impossible to restore…
…but there can be some difficulties if it’s really needy.

Like this one that some dreamer keeps trying to sell locally…

That one doesn’t look half bad!
It’s gone now, but there was one on cl around here for months with its gunnels rotted off and rib ends gray and sprung loose. The seller had it listed as a valuable “antique” in need of restoration.

Half bad

– Last Updated: Jul-19-12 9:00 PM EST –

Well after seeing that boat I feel pretty good about the condition of the canoe I bought and the much lower price I paid. A little bit of chipping on the interior epoxy that should be easy to handle and the gunwales needed sanding and oiling, but the exterior is in very good condition. In any case, back to my original question. Does anyone know when Navarro left Mendocino County?

Have you contacted Navarro?
Seems like maybe your best bet for detailed history and advice on availability of parts.

had a Navarro 16’ Loon about 20 years ago and I think it was made in Oregon. Navarro was also made near Ukiah (Navarro, CA) on the road between Ukiah and Mendocino, but I think they are long gone. My was fiberglass and a joy to paddle…wish I still had it as it was the ultimate freight hauler-go fast canoe.

Not half bad,
but not worth half the price either.

Contact Navarro
Good advice, I’ll do that. I didn’t realize they were still in business. Thanks everyone.

On the epoxy, careful heating may
soften damaged areas for easier scraping or chipping.

I hope you don’t have problems matching shade of the new epoxy you may put in. Some epoxies darken with sun exposure. And West 205 hardener gets a reddish tinge as it ages. Still works, but you get a mahogany red tone. Fresh hardens to honey shade.

Navarro History
So I just bought a used Navarro Loon 16 and can’t find out much about this history of the company either. Seems like it moved around a lot. Currently in Illinois. See this about the current owners:

Navarro Canoes
Originally built in Mendocino County, CA, home of the Navarro River. Then moved to Talent Oregon, north of Ashland, Oregon, in Southern Oregon. I hear that tough economic times got 'em, even though I thought they made some fine canoes. Now in Illinois, lost track of them, and as noted, they are not the lightest…but handle well.

Vernon Pew operated Merrimack Canoes out of Ukiah, California in the mid 1980’s. His family also built them back east. After a family squabble, Vern changed the name of his branch of the business to Navarro Canoe, and later moved to Oregon. I’m sure of this because I worked for Vern/Merrimack.