Need help choosing a canoe.

-- Last Updated: Sep-15-11 9:58 PM EST --

I am looking for a canoe that will work in a few different situations I,m looking at the novacraft prospector 16' but I would appreciate any recommendations on canoes and material based on the following.
I'm 6'4" and 300 lbs
I canoe solo, solo with an 74 lb American bulldog who loves to jump out of the canoe and make me haul him back in, tandem with wife.
The water is mostly downriver with class I and II but I also do some tidal fishing and would like it to handle class III solo.
Canoeing is on the Rapahannock, Potomac, Rapidan, and Shenandoah rivers
Needs carrying capacity for me, the dog, and about 80-100 lbs of camping gear. (yes it's a lot of weight combined with the canoe, but it's manageable.)

I should probably get two canoes, but the wife would kill me.

Thank you in advance for your help.
I'd like it to be under 75 lbs for portaging.

Right track
I think you are on the right track with the Prospector. OT Appalachain is similar. I know folks who paddled the Nova Craft and the Wenona prospectors, all very nice and similar to the Appy. Just going off memory here, but aren’t these boats rated for 800 - 1000 pounds?, so should be enough boat for you.

These are rockered boats and I have seen novices that couldn’t make them go straight, but that is the price of paddling a boat that is made to maneuver in rapids. You get the hang of it after awhile.

You want a Royalex hull.

You might also consider a Mohawk Intrepid. MR Explorer’s are a popular choice for the conditions you describe, though I’m not a fan.


You may need another foot of length
for the loads you contemplate. I think the Prospector designs are good for what you want to do. Don’t rush into class 3 until you are in full command on class 2.

Yep - right track.
And I agree that you should consider the 17’. Don’t know about your heavier loads (tandem + dog + gear?) in class 3, but the rest sounds reasonable. For upper class 2 and above, I do like the idea of NC’s “standard” royalex - which is what my 16’ NC Prospector is. Although it scratches easily, it takes a beating pretty well. It is a bit heavy though (74lbs for the 16’ and 80lbs for the 17’).

I don’t have any experience with NC’s "royalex-lite, but if it’s anything like what Wenonah uses on their RX canoes, I would prefer the NC standard layup for bigger whitewater.

Expect to get pushed around a lot by the wind in those tidal waters if you leave the dog and the wife home. Getting both ends of the boat down in the water makes a noticeable difference.

Large enough

– Last Updated: Sep-18-11 12:13 PM EST –

What ever you do make sure the canoe is large enough for you. By that I mean leg room wise as I'm 6' 1" and have a tough time with 16' canoes for leg room to stretch out, with my 17' Wenonah Spirit II I have no problems with leg room. This is due to the thwart and seat distance.Plus there is a lot more cargo space.

Can’t go wrong with
the Prospector. 16 is a great length if you paddle solo. You will love that canoe. Not the best in my opinion for tandem paddling on long - 2 week or more _ trips because the 17 has an extra foot of space in the center of the canoe but truth is in a pinch the 16 will work fine and you will love it for EVERYTHING else.

Good Advice
Thank you all for the advice. I’m still looking around but I think I’ve got it narrowed down to the NC prospector 17 and the Esquif Prospecteur 17.

an encounter
wenonah encounter won’t know you, the dog and gear are in the hull


– Last Updated: Sep-19-11 11:23 AM EST –

I haven't seen the Esquif Prospecteur, so I don't know - but they list it as having 3.5" of rocker. Nova Craft, claims 2" for all of their Prospectors. It seems everybody has a different way of measuring rocker, but I don't think NC has underestimated theirs to the tune of 1.5" difference.

All that is important to look into, because the two boats (assuming that much difference in rocker) may handle very differently. More rocker will likely = more maneuverability in rapids and more of a handful on a windy lake. If you have an opportunity to sample both and compare, you are a lucky guy.

Are you planning on paddling the same boat tandem with the wife?

The range of usage, from flatwater lakes through class III is unrealistic. Sorry, but NO boat will do well on lakes and class III water. You’ll need to give up one or the other end of that continuum, and probably the WW. How about lakes and moving water through classI?

Even at 300 lbs with extra burden, you are discussing a tandem canoe, not a solo. I’d look for a Bell RockStar or a Hemlock Eaglet; both available in HD composites. The main advantage of rubber boats is price, but they paddle horribly.

Esquif vs. Nova Craft
From what I’ve read/heard, the scoop on the Esquif Prospector is that it is more biased towards moving water than other brands’ Prospectors, hence the copious rocker. And since Esquif is the big WW company, that makes perfect sense. The NC Prospectors are widely touted as some of the most versatile canoes on the market. Since the Virginia rivers you mentioned are loaded with flat sections, I’d say advantage Nova Craft unless you are actively targetting the frothy bits. 'Course, that’s just comparing specs and as always, you probably want to test paddle both to determine what’s best for you. I believe Appomatax River Company in Virginia carries both brands. Don’t know how far you are from one of their stores, but it might be worth a drive out.

For what its worth, I read somewhere that Wenonah’s Prospector is the closest to the orginial Chestnut model, although even Chestnut had multiple versions.

More down river than flat
I’ll be doing more down river paddling than anything. It’s usually class 1&2 unless I’m caught in a flash flood like last month. I’d rather have the maneuverability of a moderate rocker or more since the flats aren’t very wide. Where I see the most problem with it is fishing, but even then th river is only about 50 yds across and I don’t go more than a mile from the launch in either direction. The wind can pick up, and if it does I anchor, go to shore, or look at it as good practice for paddling technique. The Encounter looks like a great canoe, but with minimal rocker and single seat I don’t think it would work for me.

DO you want to run the Class 3 with your gear and dog too? Are you truly honest as to knowing what class 3 is/like? Most people i feel over rate water.

Here is a good class 3…obviously a dump but again…do you want your dog to jump out when you’re going through this?

Good show for the Olympus 1030!
That looks more like cl2 to me, but rapids always look easier in photos/videos, so…Anyway - the point is a good one that cl3 is way more difficulty than a lot might think.

Wind example…
Two trips in the same NC Prospector down the Snake River in mostly cl1 with some cl2 rapids. One with me and about 100 lbs of gear between the yoke and the front seat, and one with just me and light gear (~10 lbs or less) - both times paddling from a kneeling thwart between rear seat and yoke…Both trips meeting ~ 15-20 mph winds in the flats…with light gear, a constant battle to maintain speed and direction, but with 100 lbs up front…not too bad.

Neither case would be easy to maintain course while operating a fishing pole.

No heavy gear for ballast? Bring a large dry bag or two to fill with water and place ahead of you when needed.

I’m not trying to kill my dog…
I guess I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was. I take the dog fishing and down river on some class one and possibly two rapids. It’s shallow so he gets out and runs the beach for the harder class twos. When I fish I use an anchor, pull up to a sandbar, or just float. Im not looking to race so I’m not too concerned with the tracking.

While I know a canoe can’t do everything well,I want a canoe that won’t sink in the situations I may put it in. Realistically that’s class 1 and two, but I want to be able to work up to class III eventually. Since I like having my dog around, I wouldn’t take him on a class III rapids. However, last month I was caught in a flash flood (weather service gave 3 minutes notice) and I’m told it was class III conditions. Had my dog been with me I’d want a canoe that wouldn’t sink and would let me get to shore.

I think the NC prospector will handle all of this well

I agree - good choice
Old Town Tripper would work too.

I ordered a…

– Last Updated: Sep-22-11 3:58 PM EST –

Nova Craft Prospector 17! Should be here in a week. I'll post pictures when I figure out how. Thanks to everyone for the advice.

Great Choice
You will love it. I paddled one on the Thelon - maybe on the Horton too - can’t remember. Very popular boat in the Arctic for good reason.

rocker schmocker
"Rocker" is a marketing an engineering term. Do not feel your ability to cruise and turn are restricted by a such definitions except when comparing opposite ends of the rocker spectrum.

An encounter is a great hull and can do whatever you need. I set one up as a tandem and it flew. It is not a runaway train that can’t get out of its own way or avoid rocks.

Again the marketing descriptions are to be taken with a grain of salt. A paddler can take a dy special or advantage down whitewater like the kenduskeag stream in ME and run it dry. OOOh, OOOh the rocker won’t let me turn…