Need some knowledge and advice from Canoers

I bought an Old Town 14.5 foot canoe at Thanksgiving last year when I was in Nevada. The canoe had been tied down to a trailer upside down to keep it from filling with water and also to keep the western Nevada winds from blowing it away. However it was too tight and the result is dents in the bottom of the hull and the whole canoe having a “reverse rocker” to it now.
Using weight and a weed burner I was able to heat the hull and pop out the dents so the outside is not nearly smooth again and the obvious dents are gone. There were 2 of them and the worst one was 8" deep.
But the hull is still bent in the opposite way a hull with some rocker should be. About 6" total bend if stretch a line to measure ( 3" down at both the bow and at the stern")
I may make a rack to give the hull a flat bottom and try weighting it and heating, it to bring the bottom flat, or maybe even give it about 2" of rocker, but having ZERO knowledge of experience with canoes, I don’t know if I have a problem or not, and f I do I have no idea how bad it may be. All the water here is still iced over, so I can’t test it yet.
So I am asking others canoers here to chime in and tell me their thoughts.

You didn’t mention the model but I am guessing it is a three-layer, polyethylene roto-molded hull. Those are quite prone to deformation over time, especially when stored long-term on a rack resulting in “hogging” which is the reverse rocker you describe.

You can try supporting the canoe at its ends. Doing so on a warm day would help. Filling the hull bottom with hot water and leaving it sit for a time might result in some improvement. Eliminating all of the hogging is unlikely and forget about giving the canoe rocker. Fortunately, a bit of hogging really does not adversely effect performance all that much, in my experience.

The Old Town Saranac is a common roto-molded single-layer polyethylene canoe that is 14 1/2 feet in overall length. Canoes of this construction need internal hull stiffening which is provided by molded poly seats with “footers” that extend all the way down to the hull floor. And a 14 1/2’ long boat would also have a center bench seat, again with a footer. Some owners of such boats inadvisably remove the center bench seat which destroys the rigidity (what little of it there is) of this type of hull. If that is what you have and what has been done you will need to find a replacement, or else fashion some type of a vertical strut/footer extending from a center thwart down to the center of the hull floor to restore a modicum of hull rigidity.

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Reverse rocker will make the ends of the boat “sticky” (uncooperative). 3" of reverse rocker is quite a bit; I’d expect it to screw up the handling on rivers. Might be fine on lakes since it should help the boat track straight. I have one canoe with zero rocker and it also has sticky ends and I can’t use it in fast current. If you plan to solo it you might try sitting on a small cooler just behind the center yoke to see how it feels. Some boats will lift the ends out of the water when leaned making them very maneuverable even if they have no rocker (Old Town Penobscot 16 for example).

I have a 147 OT guide 14’7” and it is the three layer poly. When I bought it, it had a decent hog that would oil can while paddling. I stripped it out and put a 2x2 across the bottom of the gunwales and a 2x2 running length wise down the inside of the hull. Between them I made a jack out of a length of all thread fit into a couple holes in the 2x2s with washers and nuts. You could even jack at a couple places depending on what you are dealing with. I did it in the summer and set it out in the sun and it took a lot of it out.

Then when I converted it to a solo with the center seat and moved the thwarts around I made a drop seat support and below the seat support I made a wedge in foam block to fill the space to the hull. It is pushing out about a inch from where it wants to return to. It gave the hull the perfect curve and rocker and I could tell right off it handled much better. IMO OT makes the bottom just too flat and it doesn’t know what way to go especially when lightly loaded. No oil canning now.

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I like that.
I may just do that to mine and see how it works. First I’ll paddle as is, so I can then know what I am comparing this to.

As mentioned above the reverse rocker if the canoe is level trimmed will want to make you hold your straight line and make turning harder. So out on a big lake with cross winds it could even be helpful. In general IMO you want a combination of both.

In my case the guide claims to have stabilizing chines along with that almost flat bottom and is commonly seen as a rental canoe. It has a max rating of something like 800 lbs so when used with just one person lightly loaded there isn’t enough of the hull in the water unless the trim is perfect to prevent the wind from turning it easily. By forcing that almost flat bottom to have a little bit of curve I thought helped a good deal with wind and tracking. The biggest improvement was moving the seat to just behind center. If you look at the picture I posted with the seat in place you will see the two bolts that go thru the gunwales that are not holding anything. They were at the previous center yoke position putting the front edge of the seat about 8” behind CL. I went with that location because my legs cross the CL and I also always have a cooler and some gear on the other side of center where they are easy to access.

The old term is hogged. Not good.
It is worth trying to straighten it out in warm weather, but you may be disappointed with the results.

So far it’s been some work, but I have it almost like new now. It was warmer here for about a week and I took advantage of that time. (now its snowing again)
I made a frame between 2 saw horses and placed fire brick and a few concrete blocks along with some fire wood inside the canoe, then stood back about 5 feet with a weed burner to heat it up. As it sagged back into shape a bit at a time I’d move the weights around an d shim the braces of the frame to even out the bulges and humps. As of now it’s obviously a bit uneven, but placing a machinist rule over the areas the imperfections are now about 1/16" deep at the deepest, and many are about the width of a playing card.
I think (I hope) that’s good enough for what I want it to do. It’s main purpose is going camping up the river or on the more remote places on the lake shore and being able to take my dog. I will keep an eye on wind and never get more then about 50 yards from shore with this canoe because the winds here can shift and come up so fast that from calm to O.M.G. can often be 4-6 minutes. Most times you get about 15 minutes to move, but not every time. You living near the base of the sierras, I know you’ll understand wind shears in mountains. All my kayaking is done with an expectation of winds attacking me, but I have no abilities to handle such wind or waves in a canoe. So I will simply not that that chance. I go out on my kayaks expecting to have conditions change fast, but with a canoe I personably am not able to handle any waves over about a foot and probably no wind faster then about 15 MPH.

So this canoe is for following the shore, fishing and moving my camping site with my dog. It also may be a good tool for bringing deer and antelope out in the hunting seasons, again depending on weather.

I am green as grass when it comes to canoes. So I will approach with a high degree of caution.


It is good to have caution. I have been doing overnight canoe trips since 1960. I hope your caution includes wearing a life jacket and DRESSING FOR IMMERSION. Wyo has plenty of cold water. Fall into and your first involuntary response may be to inhale. Preserve your life by wearing a PFD every time you get in a canoe and wearing the right clothing, usually a wet suit or a dry suit.

Next earn your paddle strokes. Learn to adjust the trim of your canoe. Paddling into the wind you want to be slightly bow heavy. Paddling solo often requires paddling from amidships not in the stern seat. Learn to brace. Those skills will keep you safe in the wind up to a point. Know when to get off the water.

Oh you can bank on that like tomorrows sun rise. I NEVER get into ANY boat without my wetsuit on and my PFD. I am a sinker so swimming very far with no PFD is as likely as me flying the same distance by flapping my ears.
And you are 100% correct about our lakes. They are made of melted snow. Some times not melted very much either.

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I think dog training is going to be needed too. As of now I am unsure if Olaf is going to sit in one place very long, and if he tips the canoe over he tips me over too.
(See comments above about PFDs and wet suites)

He also has a life jacket. For our 1st times out I am thinking water about 2 feet deep should be good. Walking to shore is better for me then swimming, even if I do have on a PFD


Dogs quickly figure out how to ride in a canoe. Put them in one on land, put them in a boat by themselves in the water, then paddle awhile with your dog with the canoe empty near shore. Once you have camping equipment the center of gravity is lower. I have taken three on a trip over night.

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Ppine, That’s a good tip. If my dog was in the canoe and I was not, he’d learn quick not to step hard on the gunnels. Cause and effect!


We are planning an outing with my dog’s GF and she is a rescue from Romania, so I’ll let you know how that goes :wink:

Post pictures.

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After some practice, I took my exuberant Border Collie on a week long paddle trip on the Willamette River in Oregon when she was 6 months old. No problems. Ruby Begonia loves all kinds of boats.

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We have a rambunctious intact male and he sits very still. The first time he whined and so we turned him facing the paddler and he seems to prefer that. I know he likes it because he jumps in if the canoe is sitting out.

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I hope Olaf ends up that way too. He’s been on a kayak ride, but it was our rec kayaks and he’s too much in the way of the paddling, so I brought that canoe back from Nevada last Thanksgiving. So far I have not put t in water, but I will soon. Knowing Olaf s likely to dump us a few times I am caving n the my wimpy side for now, to let the lake get a bit warmer. There is still ice in places go going in now would be a bit unpleasant.
P7080237 by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

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Now is the time for waders and having him in the boat by himself in shallow water. Cold water emphasizes the point that he needs to stay in boat. I have had kids turn over canoes, but never a dog. Not even once.