New Canoe

I am trying to buy my wife a tandum canoe for lakes and slow rivers. we are very new to this sport and have been using a very old ugly canoe(doesnt even have a name on it). I talked with a friend about the right canoe to get and her recommended the Old Towne Penobscot 164 or 174. I was hoping to keep the price down a little bit, being that we are still new at canoeing. any advice would be greatly appriciated!! Oh ya, no idea about paddles either!!! Guess we are confused rookies… Have a great day


The Penobscot is a good boat!
If you want a pretty good all-purpose tandem canoe, there are plenty to choose from, but if you go with the Old Town brand, the Penobscot would be high on anybody’s list.

I’d recommend that you look at the Wenonah catalog (and the catalog info may be available on their website too) just to read about some of the design aspects of canoes and how they affect performance. Also, be sure to read the “Guidelines” section right here on! Lots of good info there too.

Any of the general-purpose tandem canoes by Bell or Wenonah would probably serve you well, and there are a number of other companies that make very fine boats which usually cost more. For all-around canoeing, that Old Town Penobscot will do the job nicely though.


– Last Updated: Nov-05-09 1:46 PM EST –

Choosing paddles is worse than choosing boats! To get the most bang for the buck, I'd start out looking at paddles by Bending Branches or Sawyer. I'm not sure about Sawyer, but with Bending Branches paddles, there's a HUGE increase in quality from the lowest-price models to the higher-priced ones (I haven't seen any "cheap and crude" Sawyer paddles, but they might make some), and you will do well to avoid the cheapest ones they make.

One big thing to consider is whether you want bent-shaft paddles or straight-shaft. Bent-shaft paddles are more efficient if you sit, while straight-shaft paddles are fine if you kneel (knees on floor, butt resting against the seat) and are quite a bit more versatile when it comes to "fancier" paddle strokes and combinations of strokes.

Here's an article on choosing paddles and the right size paddles.

That site is a good place to buy paddles too if you don't have a good shop for that nearby. Remember that paddle length is chosen according to the length of the shaft (and to some extent how high you sit/kneel above the water if that height is not "average"), so the right TOTAL length can vary depending on the length of the blade.

my 2 cts worth …
Hi…the caveat here in Pnet is “try b4 you buy” …find the nearest dealer who will allow test paddles of boats and paddles and make the effort to test different boats…it is time/$$/effort well spent , even if it means a weekend/getaway trip to get it done. I have bought and sold a few kayaks now, wasted time & $$$ buying ones I never tested and finding out it wasn’t what i wanted. also , I would google up canoe only forums for additionally advice and input, if you have not done so already. search craigslist for boats in your area too. You may find something @ considerable savings over new.good luck.


– Last Updated: Nov-05-09 2:50 PM EST –

The Penobscots are made in two different materials -- polyethylene and Royalex. The Royalex versions are more expensive but almost 20 pounds lighter. That's a huge difference when you're loading or unloading. If you dread loading the boat you won't use it.

The Penobscot is narrower than many canoes -- that makes it faster, but it may seen tippy to a beginner. The Old Town Camper trades off some speed for more stability. The Discoveries paddle OK but they are heavy. Test-paddle before you buy anything. The best canoe for you is probably not the same one that I'd choose.

If you're trying to save money look for a used canoe. The local Craigslist is often a good place. Canoe rental businesses often sell off their boats at the end of the year.

REI sometimes has good sales prices
on Penobscots. Even back in '70 there was an REI in Portland, and other larger cities in your area may be delivery points. If you buy from them on the internet, the boat can be shipped to a store where you can pick it up.

Hull Materials
That’s new info to me, and good to know. I had previously heard that SOME Old Town canoes had different names for the same boats made from different materials, having heard so much from all the people who love the Penobscot, I assumed it was a Royalex-only boat.

To the original poster, by all means, seriously consider getting Royalex instead of the cheaper Polyethylene (and if a used composite boat is available and IF it suits your needs, that’s even lighter). Most people under-estimate how important weight reduction is until they’ve been paddling for a while. It makes the most difference when getting the boat on and off the roof of your car or a storage rack, or when carrying the boat to and from the water alone, but even when two people carry the boat, lighter is SO much nicer.

Dont get hung up on Old Towns
Others make decent boats too and Clipper is out West

I suggest a Royalex canoe for you …

– Last Updated: Nov-06-09 7:25 AM EST –

...... because for paddling purposes you will appreciate it more than a Polyethylene canoe .

Most Polyethylene canoes , even Old Town's special 3 layer lay ups , tend to do some oil canning when the water and air are warm to hot .
I didn't notice any oil canning even on the hottest day with the Royalex canoe !!

We have two Old Towns , one is Poly , the other Royalex , similar lengths 16'-9" and 10" . The Poly has a bit more volumn (on avg. an inch deeper) than the Royalex . Both have just the mildest arch bottom hauls .

I love the Royalex , but use the Poly most . Not because the Poly paddles nicer (it doesn't) but because the O.T.Poly canoe suites me best for "fishing" . The Royalex canoe is faster , more responsive and lighter by about 13 lbs.

I keep saying it , try the Carlisle Beavertail paddles for a real nice , light , comfortable , powerful , and inexpensive paddle (has a urethane tip guard too) ... 54" and 57" (get both) . You can order these direct from Old Town for $55. bucks or so .
For what it's worth , I like my Whiskey Strait alot , but like the Carlisle Beavertails just as much !!!

Plenty of nice Royalex canoes out there ... they cost more but are definately worth it for paddling purposes .

After Royalex comes the big bucks canoes that might be just as much of a performance increase and weight savings from Royalex , as Royalex is from Poly .

The Old TRown Penobscot is a good canoe
but before you settle on it, take a look at the Wenonah tandems.

I have a Penobscot, but much prefer my Wenonah Jensen for ease of paddling. They do cost quite a bit more though.



Penobscot 16 & 17 are royalex only.
The 164 and 174 are poly only.

Two solo canoes
would be more than twice as much fun.

In the long run, that can work out. But
while my spouse has always enjoyed paddling solo on small lakes, she expects to tandem on rivers, especially those with rapids.

carlisle paddle
You are right about the inexpensive carlisle beavertail. I bought one for getting through shallow areas where I did not want to scratch up or damage my ZRE or Cricket paddle. The Carlisle is very light and makes a very good back up or main paddle if you are short on funds. I actually like paddling with it.