need suggestion for good grandpa's canoe

I have four granddaughters, ages 2-8, and hope to teach them all to enjoy paddling. My Old Town Penobscot 16 works great with me in the bow and the 8 year old in the stern, facing the “wrong” direction. The trim is perfect and her paddling station is appropriately narrow enough for her to reach the water with decent form. The only problem is my ability to lift that 60 lb. Royalex Penobscot onto the luggage rack of my Dodge Caravan–and it’s not getting any easier.

I believe what I need to paddle with the grandkids is about a 16 ft. symmetrical Kevlar hull with bench seats, as far under 50 lbs. as possible so I can load it myself. I find myself increasingly reluctant to take the kids paddling, dreading how I am going to load the canoe. The factory luggage rack needs to stay–I just need to find a lighter canoe that can be paddled backwards. I’d appreciate any suggestions.

wenonah adirondack
In kevlar ultralight with sliding seats front and rear. No need to turn around, the seats will acccommodate the weight difference and give the bow paddler a narrow station. Weight will be under 40#.


Or a Wenonah Jensen 17 ultralight
out of kevlar.

with sliding seats and a fixed center one.

It weighs 39 pounds



yes on Adirondack
…probably no on the Jensen 17, unless your grandkids are pretty disciplined and can keep from squirreling around (I’ve used both boats with my kids when they were little, so got a feel for them).

You can also look for a Wenonah Aurora; a little deeper than the Adirondack in the bow and stern and a little more arch to the bottom. In the Kev/Ultralight layup, also a little under 40 pounds.

Give a serious look at loading
assistance devices. They aren’t cheap, but they’re a lot cheaper than an ultralite canoe. You would need to upgrade your factory rack a bit.

Have you considered building
a cedar strip canoe? Good granpa older grandkid project to get them really involved and hopefully excited.

You can easily get one below 50 lbs.

Sounds like the problem is “lifting”.

– Last Updated: Jul-25-09 2:54 PM EST –

With a little ingenuity, there should never be any need to lift a boat over your head when loading it on your car roof. I grew up with small boats, and my dad usually carried them on top of a full-sized van - MUCH taller than a Dodge Caravan - but no overhead lifting was ever required.

Can you mount your rear cross bar close enough to the back of the vehicle that you can lean the boat onto it from the rear and then slide it up? An alternative is to build a snap-on cross bar that mounts to the rear of the vehicle for loading/unloading only. I did that for several years on one of my cars. If that won't work, the trick we always used years ago, which I still use under certain conditions (like when the car is parked on a very steep sideways incline which makes loading from the rear difficult), is to lean one end of the boat against an auxiliary bar on the side of the vehicle, and slide it up from the side. That auxiliary bar runs lengthwise between the two main cross bars, and is probably the simplest and cheapest aid to loading a boat that you can get (I have one of these bars on both sides of my car). I was able to load a 75-pound Jon boat on top of a full-size van by this method way back when I was a scrawny kid weighing less than 130 pounds. It really DOES make loading easy. To this day, I have no intention of EVER lifting the entire boat up over my head unless it's a super-lightweight one.

By the way, all this advice is based on the assumption that you already know how to get the canoe onto your shoulders. Based on your apparent knowledge of paddling, I expect you know how to do this in a non-stressful method, but if you don't be sure to ask. Oh, and if you really don't mind paying for a Kevlar boat, then go for it - You will love it!

And a ladder may help too
The rack on my Tundra cap is way up there on high Q towers (due to short boats with sheerline that would rap the cab without extra height). I am short.

My ladder is my friend. I can load by 65lb Royalex river boat with little effort(myself…I am a solo tripper) even though I am a grandma.

A rear crossbar and a rear load as Guideboatguy described are key. I have to use the ladder as my arms are not long enough to push the boat forward once it is almost but not quite balanced on the back rack.

I gave up side loads when I got the Tundra and saw how high it was. That was ten years ago and I have not gotten younger.

Your canoe is already perfect! Your Old Town is already geared perfectly to you needs…I think if it were easier to load you’d be happy. I would suggest changing your rack to a Yakima, so you can have the Boat Loader hidden inside the front round bar. I have this setup and it works awesome (only $65)…allot better than lifting the whole weight of the canoe, it cuts it roughly in half. I bet your grand kids could almost load it by themselves with the boat loader attachment. Good luck to you.

thanks for the ideas
Thank you for the good suggestions. A person’s paddling priorities do change over time, and it’s great to have the wide array of equipment and expertise available to help find what works.

It seems that my best option will be to stick with the Penobscot and devise a loading mechanism that I can age with. I hope, in about ten years, to have each of the four granddaughters in a solo canoe–won’t that picture make a great Christmas card.

That’s another good idea
It’s especially a good idea for someone who already has a Yakima rack, because you really don’t even need to spend $65 for the loader bar. Yakima bars themselves are already just standard steel pipe that can be purchased at any metal shop (but Yakima puts a plastic coating on it), and any pipe that fits snugly inside the cross bar will function as a loader (so a three- or four-dollar length of the proper pipe will work about as well as Yakima’s 65-dollar option).

In principle, this works the same as the methods I described above. When lifting the “other” end of the boat, the weight is actually less than half, since the boat overhangs the loader bar (either the Yakima loader or the two methods I described above) by a few feet, which “helps” to lift “your” end.

What about getting a trailer?
Putting a canoe on the bottom rack of a trailer is usually pretty easy since it isn’t very high in the air. You and your 4 granddaughers will quickly out grow a single canoe and soon will need a second (kevlar) canoe to take everyone paddling. Most trailers will hold at least two canoes.

trailer works sometimes
Actually, I have a trailer, but logistical reasons usually prevent me from using it when I take the grandkids paddling. Good thought though, thanks.