Need Advise

I am 70 years old in good shape had both knees replaced one year ago and now I want to buy a canoe to explore, fish and maybe waterfowl hunt quiet back waters, streams and creeks. Most of my canoe outings will be solo. However there may be times when my daughter will accompany me.

I just took a canoe class where I learned and experienced getting in and out of a canoe at the water’s edge and paddeling the canoe in a 3 mile trip across a quiet backwater bay.

I was seated in the bow and the instructor was in the stern. The instructor said that I did an excellent job paddling and balancing my weight. I learned different power strokes to move forward in a straight line and maneuver strokes to turn or change course. I did not get tired during the outing and wasn’t sore the next day. I worked up a sweat but I really had fun.

I have a Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Access Cab Pickup with one Yakima Q-Tower Roof Rack Crossbar atop the cab that I use with a hitch mounted Darby Extend-a-Truck Load “T” Bar Load Carrier. The “T” Bar is in the vertical position so it is even with the rack ontop of the cab. I haul long lumber. PVC pipe, posts and 15 foot high portable ladder tree stands.

I have two limiting factors the first is canoe price and second is canoe weight. I like the 14 foot Old Town Adventurer Canoe and the price that is currently on sale at REI. However I am concerned about the lifting the 75 pound Canoe onto my roof rack and extender “T” Bar and moving it from the truck to the water and vice-versa. I recently looked at a Old Town 14 foot Guide Canoe at Dick’s cheaper than MRI but it didn’t look like the Old Town 14 Guide at MRI.

What I would like to know is how difficult is it to lift a 75 pound canoe from the ground to the roof top level of a pickup truck for other canoeist in the 60-70+ age range ? I would also like to know if there are any easy ways to load and unload the canoe from my truck roof without having to bear the entire 75 pounds of weight at one time ?

I am also open to any suggestions on purchasing a canoe of a different brand or model but I would like to stay within the $600 price limit.

Joe P

Nottingham, MD

A few pointers

– Last Updated: May-25-11 4:23 PM EST –

Here's a quick summary of my thoughts:

1. Loading a canoe onto your truck should be pretty easy if you can solve what's in #2 below.

2. 75 pounds is extremely heavy for a 14-foot canoe. That's why it's only $600. A canoe made of Royalex that's 14 feet long will most likely be about 45 to 50 pounds (but some are lighter), but will cost about $1,000, and big-box stores usually won't sell them. But you can find one used for a whole lot less, but of course that can take more time, and you may have to figure out a way to get the boat delivered.

3. There are lots of different canoes in the 14- to 15-foot range that would be great as solo boats. There are lots in the 15- to 16-foot range that would be great as tandem (two-person) boats. The number of choices that are "good" for both purposes is pretty small (and "good" is in quotes because even then the canoe will be better for one purpose than the other).

Now for a few details. Others here can provide loads of other details, depending on what other questions you have.

Find some instruction (written (like on-line) or in-person) for how to get a canoe up onto your shoulders. There are a couple of different ways to do it, and it's not at all like "lifting" the boat with your arms. It's not hard unless the boat is really heavy (you may find that 75 pounds makes it difficult), but even then, most average-sized people can do it with some practice (still, none of us are getting any younger or stronger, so I DO recommend a lighter boat). Once you can do that, getting it on your roof rack is easy. Just walk up behind the truck, position the front end of the boat on the rear rack, and squat down so the other end of the boat rests on the ground, like this:

Then pick up the end that's on the ground and push the whole boat up there. At no point do you "lift" the whole boat with your arms. That's why it's important to learn how to get the boat up on your shoulders, at which point your arms don't need to do much at all.

If you want a canoe that can be used as a one-person OR a two-person boat, you'll need to tell us more about the size and capability of the other person. That will determine whether you will be best served by a something that's toward the big end or the small end of size ranges for solo/tandem canoes. In the end, you'll be MUCH happier with a solo canoe for most of the use you describe (for many of us, that's just one of many reasons for eventually owning more than one boat).

Did your canoe lesson include any seat time at the back of the boat? You'll need to know some stern-man strokes to paddle solo, at least if you want to have an easy and fun time of it. Additional solo-paddling advice can be as complicated as you want, but but knowing basic stern strokes can get you started, since you'll need to be able to "correct" your power strokes to make the boat go straight.

some experience with that

– Last Updated: May-25-11 4:13 PM EST –

We (guy 63 and gal 61, average heights and fairly fit) have a somewhat vintage Old Town Guide that we carry atop a Ford Ranger pickup (one inch shorter than yours) with a similar rack. It is around 70 pounds and no trouble at all for the two of us to lift and swing up from the side onto the truck.

For rear solo loading, I can do it myself by using a folding plastic sawhorse ($12 at a building store). I place the sawhorse about 10' behind the truck, lift the stern of the canoe and rest it, gunwale down, on the crossbar of the sawhorse. Then I crouch under the front of the canoe and lift it up and slide it onto the rear roof rack crossbar. Then I can go back and lift the stern and push and slide the boat forward until it is over the front roof rack. I suspect I would still have to do it this way even if the boat was 20 lbs lighter since it is so wide and would be hard to pivot from the side to load with just one person handling it. Maybe you are taller than me and could do it, though.

In general we like the Guide for tandem paddling EXCEPT that the bow seat is too far forward so the front paddler (usually me) has cramped options in foot positioning. Adding some foam padding along the inside of the gunwale has enabled me to rest the outside of my knees against the rim without the bruising I used to get. The stern seat is rather far back for solo seated paddling so you will probably want to add a seat more forward for that. The molded seats are surprisingly comfortable. Nicely stable and decent tracking canoe, though it is a barge to steer.

Guideboat guy basically says it all
If I were you I would be looking for a canoe in the 50 pound range.

With that said, I can load and unload my 80 pound Old town Discovery onto the cap of my full size 4x4 pick-up by myself.

I don’t do it too much because I have several other much lighter canoes that I prefer.

If the canoe has a portage yoke it is a simple procedure to get it up on your shoulders.

  1. with the canoe on the ground with the gunnels down, and the bow against a immovable object (such as a tree trunk or house foundation), pick up the stern.

    Put it up over your head with one hand on each gunnel at the stern.

    2, Then walk forward and as you get the canoe higher just keep sliding you hand farther down the gunnels.
  2. One you have the canoe at about a 60 degree angle you should have the portage yoke some where just above your shoulders.
  3. Let the yoke come down on your shoulders and then back up a bit so the bow will come up and the whole canoe will now be balanced on you.

    5 then just walk up to your truck and load it the way Guideboat guy describes above

    With all that said, I strongly advise you to look for a lighter canoe

    Jack L

My Reply Seeking Advice
Guideboatbuy; Thank you for all the information you provided to my topic. You cleared up a lot of uncertainty on my part. I will definetely heed your sage advice. The loading instructions and photo were very helpful. The info about the lighter weight of Rolex hull canoes is enlightening. I looked at the Grumenn Aluminum Canoes and being an old metal man, I liked them the most for strength and their light weight. I was confused between the difference of Rolex and the poly-plastics materials. It looks like I am going to have to up my purchase price limits if I want something decent. Dick’s canoes look nice but when you touch and feel the material in them it seems cheap and won’t withstand any hard use. Again I am no expert but cheap is cheap.

The vast majority of my canoe trips will be solo. I am 6’1" 210lbs. When my daughter comes with me she is 5’7" 120lbs. My daughter took the same canoe class that I did and is a complete novice like myself. I would like a canoe that would handle one person for exploring, fishing or marsh layout waterfowl hunting and still haul two people for touring. The solo canoe that could take an occassional passenger [daughter] touring and taking pictures.

Our canoe lesson did not include any seat time at the back of the boat. In fact, I felt that I was doing all the paddling and when the instructor did paddle we really moved fast. I did not receive any instructions on solo paddling. I guess I only learned the bow strokes and J strokes to turn the front of the canoe right or left. A lot of the strokes seemed common sense moves but only because I did a lot of rowing and sculling with oars in my younger years.

I was able to alternate paddling sides with power strokes to change directions. Again at times I felt like I was powering and guiding the canoe solo.

I would also like to know if you can use a Kayak double bladed paddle on the smaller canoes ?

I live in Maryland and most of my canoeing will be done on streams and quiet estuaries and headwaters of rivers leading into the Chesapeake Bay. I will also be canoeing the Maryland’s Eastern Shore marsh and wetland streams, creeks and cuts. If I go waterfowl hunting in the canoe, I would paddle through the marsh narrow and shallow waterways and hide in the edge of tall phragmitie stalks along the water edge, throw out a few decoys, cover up me and the canoe with some military marsh camo and sit in the canoe and wait for some waterfowl.

I would love to find a nice used canoe that will suite my needs and pocketbook. But I really don’t know what to look for, how to check them out and is the price within reason ? Or should I stick with new canoes ?

Any and all suggestions on paddling, boat size boat brands and models will be greatly appreciated.

Joe P

Need Advise Reply
WillowLeaf & Jack L; again thanks for the very helpful info. I am learning a lot from this forum and website. I also liked the looks of the Old Town 14 Guide and the Mad River Adventure 14. But I am too inexperienced to determine which one if any would be best for me. They both have polyethylen hulls and weigh around 75lbs. The seats in the Adventure appear more comfortable but I am not crazy about the cup holders and storage shelves that seem to occupy a lot of deck space where your feet go and hinder moving from bow to stern & back.

this is worse than buying a new truck.

Joe P

There is a OT Camper for sale
check the Classifieds here.

Its a pretty versatile boat and comes in at under 60 lbs.

The price is not given but ought to fit in your range.

You’ve gotten…
good advice. Here’s the thing…comparing a dedicated solo canoe, which will NOT handle another person of the size of your daughter, and any short tandem canoe, the difference in ease of handling and just plain joy of paddling is like night and day. In other words, a dedicated solo is just plain fun to paddle, while paddling any tandem canoe solo is closer to drudgery. I understand you wanting your daughter to paddle with you occasionally, but think long and hard about what your primary use will be, especially if you’ll be paddling solo more than 80 or 90 percent of the time. Perhaps if you’re in an area where you can paddle somewhere where rental canoes are available, you can rent when your daughter wants to go along, even though you own a solo.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s perfectly possible to enjoy paddling a short tandem canoe solo, but once you get a little experience under your belt, if you had a chance to paddle a dedicated solo you’d never look upon your tandem the same again.

There are always ways to get a 75 pound canoe up onto your racks, and you’ve already heard most of them. Transporting the canoe from your vehicle to the water is the other possible difficulty, depending upon the type of access you are using. A nice little canoe “cart” with wheels may work. I’ve also thought about using bungee cords to strap a piece of thick, hard plastic to the bottom of your canoe (think something like a piece of one of those hard plastic mats that go on a carpeted floor so you can roll your desk chair on it) and just grabbing the other end or tying a rope to the other end and dragging it to the water right side up.

But if you had a solo, you’d have a lot lighter canoe!

you got that
"Combi" boats are usually a disappointment.

However you, for the most part, cannot stuff two people in a true solo…

so usually the tandem comes first.

I have a small tandem…a Swift Otter(15 foot, kevlar) that is quite nice, and it owes us nothing… It can be soloed and my dog refuses to let me sell it. She sits on the bow seat and refuses to paddle.

GOOD People
Finding this web-site forum was a blessing in disguise. The folks here are really kind and helpful. Years ago I was a USCG licensed charter boat captain and ran offshore fishing charters for about 10 years. I loved saltwater fishing but after 10 years of all the gas & diesel powered nutcases on the water I had enough. I still fish but mostly surf, pier, shore and bridge fishing. But the nuts must have followed me there too. So the anticipation of some alone time spent on peacful water is something I am really looking forward too. I just hope I can still pull it off.

Joe P

Canoe choice

You have gotten some good advice here. I am 71, 205lbs. Have an oldtown guide 147, specs says 78lbs. I have no problem loading or unloading. {yet} Both knees are a little prob. thanks to the military. The best advice is to get the one you like. The rest will solve itself. Luck

A few answers

– Last Updated: May-25-11 9:30 PM EST –

You posted some questions in regard to what I said above, but I'm posting my reply here in the mainstream so others will be more likely to see it and add their two cents as well.

You commented on the canoes available at Dicks being cheap and not able to withstand hard use, but that's not totally true. Polyethylene canoes are often very tough, and the ones made by Old Town certainly certainly fit that description. They so tough that you probably need never worry about repairing them, which is a good thing because the material is not conducive to easy repairs. But they are heavy, and heavy boats are not fun to move around, and I'm convinced that lighter canoes get used a lot more simply because it's not so much of a chore to get them ready to use (and lots of people seem to agree with that). Polyethylene canoes are prone to becoming warped as time goes by, especially super-cheap brands like Pelican and Rogue River. Royalex looks pretty similar, but it's lighter and it won't ordinarily become warped. Composite boats are lighter still, and handle much more nicely on the water, but they are expensive. That's why I'm thinking Royalex. You might eventually decide to get a heavy, cheap canoe, and that's okay! Just make sure you know what you are getting into, as far as handling the boat on land.

As others have said, paddling a solo canoe can be a joy once you get the hang of it, while solo-paddling a tandem tends to be "work". In strong wind, solo-paddling a tandem is more than work, it might even become impossible to make it go where you want it to. There are good paddlers who enjoy solo-paddling tandem boats, even in strong wind, but that is mostly limited to symmetrical boats of very traditional design (symmetrical boats can be turned around and paddled backwards, with the paddler sitting on the bow seat so as to be closer to center) and/or boats fitted with a center seat or kneeling thwart. I think that in general, a person who's comfortable kneeling with their butt on a seat or kneeling thwart has an easier time solo-paddling a tandem than someone who sits on the seat "normally". Some people are very comfortable doing a lot of kneeling in a canoe, by the way. Others not so much, and some can't do it at all. And again, it takes a "better" paddler to solo-paddle a tandem and enjoy it than to simply paddle a solo in the first place.

You mentioned learning the J-stroke, and if you really did learn that one, you are closer to being ready than you thought. That's not a stroke that is done from the bow. It's done from the stern, and also when solo paddling. No problem if you haven't learned it, and it's worth mentioning that for most people, the stern pry, which won't provide the same speed or gracefulness as a J-stroke but is extremely easy to learn, gets the job done for far more people than ever learn a proper J-stroke. That'll be a subject for another time.

You mentioned alternating paddling sides to change direction. That's not exactly "wrong", but a person can learn better ways. Anyway, don't worry too much about it right now. And yes, you can use a "kayak paddle" (I prefer to call it a double-blade paddle for canoe use, especially since the ones used for canoes tend to be longer) to solo-paddle a canoe. You'll get quite a bit of dripping water in the boat unless you use a really long paddle and a low-angle stroke, but it works, and it's very easy. I haven't used a double-blade paddle in years, but when I was learning to use a single-blade, I kept a double in the boat "just in case" because it was so much easier to use, especially if I needed to go fast. For some people, a double-blade is all they care to ever learn how to use.

I understand that you want some advice on what brands and models to consider. I can't list them all, but others can help. For solo paddling, I'd recommend the Mohawk Solo 14 and Odyssey 14, and the Wenonah Vagabond. The Bell Rock Star might be okay too - but I know it tends toward being rather "big" as solo canoes go (others will know more about that one). Maybe you'd do okay in a Mad River Freedom Solo, but that's a boat that is less forgiving to either a rank beginner or someone who never plans to develop some paddling skill. There are lots and lots of other solos, but a lot of them tend to be pricey on account of being specialized boats made by non-mainstream companies (though they ARE mainstream companies to some of us nut-cases who really like to paddle). For tandems that can be paddled solo, there's the Wenonah Solo Plus, and a nice one by Bell is the Morning Star. The Morning Star is a nice solo boat IF you install a kneeling thwart in front of the rear seat. I don't know if kneeling is an option for you, and also, Bell seems to be going out of business. Still, you might see one for sale used. The Solo Plus comes with three seats, with the center seat being for solo paddling. Some think of it as rather big for solo paddling, but as compromises go, you could do a lot worse.

Have you looked at Mohawk canoes?

Mohawk Solo 13
My advice: (1) Forget the tandem-and-solo canoe. Any canoe big enough to hold a second adult will have so much of the ends in the air when paddled solo that it is hard to handle in wind. And the wind can definitely blow across the more open Maryland wetlands. I have bad memories of trying to keep my Malecite aimed in the right direction on the Patuxent, with the wind coming from over my right shoulder.

(2) Buy a Mohawk Solo 13 ($746 new, 38 pounds). Let your daughter try it; even let her go on a three-hour trip alone, while you mope in the truck. Then she will fall in love with the boat and get her own :slight_smile: Together-in-solos is a really fine way to canoe. If that doesn’t work and you have a rental outfitter nearby, rent a boat on the few occasions when you take someone with you. (There used to be a few places to rent in the D.C.-Balto.-Annapolis triangle; the only one I can think of now is Springriver.) The Mohawk Solo 13 is a good boat for the kind of paddling you are talking about, and having a light boat makes it so, so easy to just load up and go when you feel like it.

Having told you the advantages of my advice, I should also tell you the disadvantage, in addition to the obvious cost and storage problem of two canoes. Learning to paddle a canoe solo takes some time. It’s a fun process (or it was for me), but be aware of the need, and don’t plan anything too bold at first.

There is also the frequent problem that you learn from your first boat what your second boat needs to be like. But that is not specific to my advice.

And I will close by answering a question you didn’t ask, by repeating good advice that was once given to me: You are better off putting fifty extra dollars in your paddle than putting five hundred extra in your canoe.


options from the classifieds
These might be good for you, if you’re willing to drive to get them, and of course depending on their condition.


4-28 Freedom Solo in MD.

5-16 Yellowstone Solo in Western MD, $700.

5-16 Bowler1’s Mad River Guide in NJ, $600.


5-02 Mad River Royalex in NJ, $600. Model not mentioned – ask the seller and post here for advice.


Learning to paddle a solo does not have
to take time. If you can find a solo canoe instructor its about two hours to get the thing to obey basic commands.

But if you enjoy the challenge of self discovery and don’t mind a few mistakes…enjoy the journey.

I’ve had students that don’t want to get things perfect too fast as they enjoy the journey.

Look on the ACA website to get solo canoe instruction.