Hello all! I need help figuring out what canoe would be best for my situation. It will be myself and 2 children (3 and 5). They are both good swimmers, and are used to their PFDs. I’ve canoed often in my pre-children days, but have not with children so this will be a new experience for my kids and myself. We will be going on this adventure in a covered bay, and though it will be just the three of us in the canoe we plan on having friends in kayaks going along with us. On top of which canoe I should look into, also how should I seat them? My 5 year old is about 40lbs while my younger is about 25lbs. Any and all advice is very much appreciated.
Can’t opine on which canoe, but with two small kids you will need to plant them in front (and out of arm’s reach) to balance the canoe. Put the 40 pounder on the front seat and the smaller one on the floor behind. Take along a bathroom rug to sit on; they tend to use any float cushion as a back rest. They will get bored; supply a paddle for them but you will be doing all the work.
Something with good initial stability is nice, and helps my kids stay pretty comfortable with it all. I’m totally comfortable in responsive, “tippy” canoes, but my middle son (he’s 5 now), get’s very anxious if it’s moving at all, so a really wide flat-bottomed boat is perfect for him. That also helps a bit when they want to look over the sides as it makes it easier for me to just shift the other way in my seat to try to steady things. Are you looking to do camping out of the canoe or just paddling? If not camping, I’d say go with a nice short fishing canoe. I work for Merrimack and Sanborn Canoe Companies, and when going out with the kids on non-moving water I like to use our Osprey model. It’s only 13’ long so reaching the kids to help them out is really easy, and it has enough initial stability so they feel good about it.
I agree with what has been said already about putting the kids out in front of you and having a stable boat. I recently bought an Old 16’ Vermont canoe which was made by the folks who used to make Mad River canoes and is very similar to the Mad River Explorer. The boat tracks very well and has exceptional secondary stability. It is probably a bit bigger than what you need right now, but your kids will grow. You probably will not find a Vermont canoe, but the Mad River Explorers are usually available in the used market.
Will you kneel or sit? Kneeling adds a lot of stability. Do you have a budget?
If your budget is generous you can consider a Northstar Polaris with the optional center seat or a Swift Prospector 16. Both could be under 40 pounds but are well over $3000. The Northstar is more efficient. The Swift is symmetric and can be paddled backwards from the bow seat with both kids in front of you. The 13 foot Merrimack would be a (short/fat) dog but would work well for your needs if you just want to putter around and I just saw a used one on Craigslist in the Midwest. My Swift Shearwater solo with sliding seat could easily handle both kids…I’ve had a ten year old plus 60 pound dog in it. Lots of used boats could fulfill your needs.
In your position with really small kids I would go with a Wenonah Solo Plus and put the kids and each end with you in the center solo seat. Put the smallest in front where you can keep and an eye on him/her. the kids can paddle when they want and stop if tired and they will be in the narrow ends where the reach to the water is easy. You will have full control in the middle and if they both stop no problem. If you paddle stern with both up front it will be a challenge to control the canoe in wind or current. As the kids get a few years older they will be able to paddle the Solo Plus as a small tandem. There are other small tandems you could add a center seat to and accomplish the same thing. Just don’t get a fat short canoe that is too big a reach for you to paddle from the center. I started two of my boys in a Wenonah Solitude using sling seats in the ends and they were really good in it as 8 & 10 year olds. Bill