Need advice on 16 versus 17 foot canoe

I can get the PENOBSCOT 16 for 999 or I can get the PENOBSCOT 17 for 999. The 17 has a larger discount. My concern is the turning difference. This will be my first purchase but I have been out on Wenonah 16 foots (Adirondack,16’0) before as rentals. Reviews have stated that the 17 is somewhat harder to turn. I will use it in trips on the Wisconsin river (solo with camping gear) to a state park on the Mississipi. Also when I get the hang of it, I will take my child with me. Later my wife will join after seeing that I do not tip over. My family will be with me only on a large lake (no gear). I am tempted to get the 17.

I ahve not paddled a 17 foot
but I own a 16 foot Penobscot. I seldom paddle it solo as I have other solo canoes but I use it for two person trips. I have had this canoe loaded with two 200 pound men and all their gear for a week and she is very capable with that load. So I would not be concerned about a 16 foot Penobscot handling you, your wife and child. In my opinion, if most of your paddling will be solo, the 16 footer would be a better choice as I believe it will handle your solo needs better.

I too own a Penobscot 16 and have paddled the 17. I didn’t find a lot of difference between the two as far as handling characteristics. The 17 has a thwart behind the front seat so turning it around “backwards” to solo paddle won’t work. A center seat in either makes for better soloing. I use my 16 almost exclusively as a solo canoe. If you will be soloing much go with the 16. Family tripping and such the 17.

“The 17 has a thwart behind the front seat so turning it around “backwards” to solo paddle won’t work”.

How could turning it around help? Yes it has a thwart there.

Neither will disappoint you,
so consider the functional differences. The 17 is more streamlined, and will paddle a little more efficiently on lakes than the 16. The 17 will also go straight down a river with an edge on speed over the 16. If you are going to be doing some quick turns behind rocks, etc., then the 16 has the edge.

I have noticed that people new to canoeing are more comfortable in a shorter canoe than a longer one, so here the 16 has the edge. Just a little closer improves communication and comfort for family.

The 16 is lighter by 7 pounds, undoubtedly an edge for the cartopping you will be doing. Royalex canoes usually feel heavier than their listed weights. 7 more pounds becomes heavier each year.

I have paddled the 16 a couple of times, and really enjoyed it. It’s a literal winner.

My 2 cents. Your decision.

Hfe means paddliing forward from the
from the bow seat, don’t be dense. It helps when paddling solo.

Dissenting view…
We own a 16 and have spent time in a 17. The 16 is a great all round boat if you’re keeping the load under 450lbs. If you’re going to move up to a 17’ boat, look at something different. Bell made some boats for Galyans called the Woodsman(?)that are basically Northwoods. The Penob17 was slower than a Dagger Legend16. It should be the other way around. However, in wind on a lake, the Penob does better.

Actually, we discovered that a Novacraft Prospector16 outperforms the Penob16 for speed, maneuvering and capacity. I would look for a boat for your majority use. I would also look at used boats. OldTown makes a good product and has good customer service, but if you’re going to spend the money on a new boat check out some other options first.

I would go with the 16, though it is
because you say you will paddle solo a lot. Even a tall, heavy guy like me will find that a 17 blows around more, and is a bit harder to turn.

However, I personally would not load a Penobscot 16 with two big guys and a week of food and gear. Sure, you can do it, but the working margin is less. LOADED, a 16 may be harder to turn than a 17.

I’m comfy w/ a 17’
can’t speak for the Old Town 17’ but I’ve been paddling a 17’ MRC Explorer since '87 and I’ve alway preferred a 17 over a 16 just because I know I’m more likely to be able to pack more and feel real stable w/ a load. I’m large sized too 6’3", 260. I can’t picture me in a 16 w/ another person plus both of our gear. (yeah, I know, a 16 work’s for the rest of the paddling world).

The negative of a 17 is that IF it becomes too much to handle with weight, storage and putting around, and loading it by yourself. (and your NOT a big Ogre like me) You might eventually find yourself useing it less and less. So buy TWO ! one for canoe trip’s and w/ the family, and a 15-16 solo so you can cruise w/ the rest of the best ! Gotta have two canoes.

JP, don’t forget…
to check out the PNet classifieds. Might be a canoe there that you’re looking for…


I just bought the Penobscot 16
and paddled in the 17 a month ago. I have also paddled several other 17 foot canoes. I am in a simialr situation to you. I took my 9 year old out in the new Pen. 16 with it “turned backwards” i.e. canoe facing backwards me sitting in the bow seat and son in the stearn seat. It paddles very nice this way and very flat,easy to turn. As mentioned already the 17 has a thwart behind the front seat so it would be difficult to paddle backwards. Also don’t forget the 7lbs difference in weight.

For your need go with the 16 unless you plan to race.


Warning - Biased Opinion Follows

– Last Updated: Aug-27-06 2:27 AM EST –

For solo paddling on the lower Wisconsin River, get the 16-foot boat. End of story. Anyone who's paddled that river as many times as I have knows what I mean. HEADWINDS!! I've yet to meet a paddler who doesn't struggle big-time on that river when the wind really kicks up. Unless you only go paddling in mid-summer, when strong winds are rare, a 17-foot boat will be very difficult to manage on that river a good percentage of the time if you are paddling solo.

This is a classic case of two boats being better than one, because at least in my case, I much prefer a 17-foot boat for typical tandem paddling. But if you do a LOT of solo paddling, being stuck with a 16-footer for tandem trips will be a lot easier to live with than being stuck with the 17-footer for solo trips when the wind blows hard.

Aaah, this gives me an excuse to show everyone one of my favorite days on the Lower Wisconsin River:

One more idea.
If you plan to paddle three in the canoe consider getting this thwart/seat. I can’t completely endorse this product as I just ordered one two days ago. However a friend of mine that paddles a similar canoe has one and raves about his. He tried three other yokes before this one.

Good luck.


Let us know how that seat is.