Newbie canoe recommendations

I am looking to buy a first canoe. It will likely be used in a couple of small lakes and perhaps small streams or rivers with no higher than a class 2. It will probably be used for fishing too. I know that no one boat can do everything. I have been considering either an old town discovery or saranac or a mad river explorer. Someone is selling a mad river explorer locally for around 300 and it is the 16’ model.

Any thoughts as to whether I am on the right track for my intended use? I am hoping to find a good used deal so that if I upgrade I can get part of the money back out of it.

Yeah used is best at first.
You are on the right track and those choices are pretty good. If you are physically fit to haul, lift, transport, portage and carry a 80lb canoe like I didn’t mind in my younger days,…go for a Old Town discovery 158 or better 164. The MR Explorer is good also. Getting a royalex canoe instead of multi-layer poly will save you about 8-10lbs on a 16ft canoe which is huge when picking it up and moving it out of the water. Do a little searching here on the advice column because there are NUMEROUS posts exactly like your with a plethora of advice.

Solo or two man?
If you don’t have a regular paddling partner consider a solo. I go alone most of the time and a solo is much nicer than a two person canoe. I have 4 solos with my most recent being a Swift Osprey in the carbon fusion layup. It wasn’t cheap but what a wonderful canoe to handle both in and out of the water.

If you can handle its size and weight
off the water (loading, etc.) that Explorer would be a good choice for you. If it’s Royalex with vinyl trim it should be around 65 pounds (think they make a TT that weighs a lot more), which while not light is certainly not too much for a guy with decent strength to manage. With a little bit of skill it can be paddled solo from the bow position including in class II, but it’s big enough for a second paddler and/or lots of camping and/or fishing gear. It’s a canoe that’s not a superstar but does many things pretty well, which is what lots of people (including you it sounds like) need. Unless it’s in really bad shape it would be hard to go wrong for $300.

an 80-84 lb. canoe , you’ll need help

– Last Updated: Jul-22-13 9:37 PM EST –

...... your a female , doubt you could handle picking it up by yourself . I'm a guy , been slinging heavy things my whole life , and I much prefer help moving our OT 169 , it's 84 lb.) , like the canoe a bunch though ... on the other hand our 16'-10" Royalex canoe seems so much easier to toss around by myself (maybe 72 lb.) .

It's more than just picking a canoe up ... you have to move it around also , many times on steeper and uneven terrain , then there's the loading - un loading and storing at home to consider .

Depending on your age , size and physical strength ... I'll suggest you go and check some canoes out at places where they sell various brands and models , both light and heavier ones ... pick them up , move around with them and see what you think is comfortable to you weight wise .

Once you know what weight you can be happy with , go from there . My wife is pretty strong and she complains sometimes anymore carrying half the 84 lb. one with me . They make carts but that's another piece of luggage unless absolutely needed .

Used is always a good thing to consider , saves lots a bucks and you get just as much fun and enjoyment , but it's not good if you have to compromise much ... you want an easy paddler w/reasonable stability , it doesn't have to be extra wide .

Maybe if you can tell us a bit more about yourself like size , strength , etc. ... some of the gals here might tell you what they think about there solo canoes and a good fit for you .

One thing about solo canoeing is you can go when and where you want w/o having to depend on someone else , which can often limit you and hold you back , plus you can pick that canoe up easy and away you go ... just sayin

Boat purpose
I am not too worried about the weight even though I am a gal. The places I intend to go for now are small inland lakes which allow me to back my car or truck to the waters edge and launch. Lake Robinson is 800 acres and Lake Cunningham is 400 acres. If his comfort level and interest grow, then I would consider going out on Lake Jocassee which is 7500 acres and possibly going on the lower Green River which has a max of class 2 rapids.

Someone beat me to the Mad River Explorer. I am thinking of buying an Old Town Saranac 146 new for $450 from Academy Sports. From the reviews it seems it is a decent lake and small stream boat and it is set up with fishing rod holders right out of the gate.

My objective is to introduce my nephew who is 21 to the outdoors. My brother died a couple of years ago and my nephew has been struggling, He came to live with me 11 months ago to get a new start in life. I am very comfortable and in my younger days, I am now 43, did a good bit of white water rafting and duckies on class 3 and 4. I have since moved on personally to scuba diving.

Anyway, I am very comfortable around the water whether it be a river, lake or the ocean. I am as comfortable on it as in it. My nephew not so much. He acts tough but it a bit nervous when it comes to anything but a city slicker activity. He has been in a canoe once in Michigan on a short flat water trip and had a good experience. He likes to fish, so the rod holders in the Saranac look appealing to me.

For now I am just looking to get in the game and find a way to spend time with him.

I was looking at the paddle section and they had both wooden and aluminum paddles. Any thoughts? And they had both 4 and 5 foot paddles. Which one would you recommend.

I have a budget of $540 for a boat, 2 paddles, foam block set for the car, and 1 life jacket.

Here is a link to the Saranac

So I guess all that to say I am looking for a stable versatile boat to create a quite place to spend time with my nephew in a setting that will lend itself to talking and connecting. When I can get him out away from the house or away from his friends and video games we are able to connect.

I have been checking craigslist and most of what is showing up there are Pelicans, Colemans and beat up aluminum canoes. There are a few Old Town’s but they are way out of my price range.

Good for you!
Thank you for taking such an interest in your nephew. Far too many times 21 year old man-boys in situations like that fall through the cracks. Have you checked with nearby canoe liveries? They often have rentals for sale. Some are toast, but some still have some life left in them. Also, check, and if you have a paddling club message board in your area keep an eye on the gear swap section, not only for a boat, but for PFD and paddle needs too. You can get some great gear cheap, and sometimes free, that way. gear swap is a good place for that as well. Sorry I missed that you’re a gal. Not sure how I flubbed that one. D’oh!

paddle type
The local rental place doesn’t sell them until September. They have good deals. I just don’t feel I can wait that long. I feel I need to regroup and try to engage him again sooner rather than later. It is a long complicated and sad story.

I think I can get done what I need to get happen with what they sell at Academy for $546.91 and then $30 for the boat use fee at the lake.

I will try to find a local message board and check out the one you listed. Thanks for the lead. I live in the upstate of South Carolina if you happen to know of any message boards I ought to check out or other ideas.

Any thoughts on paddle length and type? I am looking for low end just to get in the game. Our trips will be short 1 to 2 hours more than likely. I have used both in the past from commercial opps but it has been so long I don’t remember the feel.

Paddle type: Mohawk paddles should serve you fine and can be had for a little over twenty bucks apiece. Carlisle Economy or Standard paddles should be fine too. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Academy will have any of these. However, if you have a nearby independent shop they probably will. As for length, a good uncomplicated way to get “close enough” is to rest the grip on your foot, and if the blade is just below your chin that length will work. Most people can use a paddle in the 56 to 58 inch range.

As for the boat, rather than buying something at the big box store why not enlist your nephew’s help in the hunt? That’s part of the fun. Task him with ferreting out gear swap finds and perusing paddleswap. This would be a great way to engage him without rushing into a purchase decision, and I guarantee he’ll take great pride in paddling a boat he helped find and vet. You’ll both look back on the process with fond memories. BTW, just for giggles I changed my location in paddleswap to upstate SC and got several results that I think would work, but I’m not positive since I don’t know exactly where you are, how far you’re willing to travel, etc. But, that’s promising at least.

Found Old Town on clearance.
I got the paddles your recommended. Tonight when I went to help tend the honeybees with a friend in another town I stopped by the Academy Sports out that way just to look again. They had an old Town Rouge River 14 with bench seats on clearance for $250. It seems to have gotten good reviews on this site so I decided to get it. Now to get on the water this week. I am hoping Friday if the weather forecast holds.

let us know how it goes OK …
… is your OT 14’ Rogue River a flat back stern , and about 42" wide overall .

I think I’ve seen a 14’ Rogue River that is not a flat back before .

Hope your wishes for your nephew go well . With an underseabumblebee on his side , I think he’s already got half the battle won .

That is the one
The rouge river has a slight keel and it about 42 wide and just under 14’ long. It has two molded bench seats and a wood support bar in the middle. There is a metal rod that runs down the center of the floor and is exposed. Each end has two molded handles to carry and two molded recepticles for fishing rod holders. I read several reviews from families, hunters and fishermen here and it seems to be a good leisure canoe. It won’t win a race, but it will get you there and haul your stuff.

If you know of anyone else looking Academy Sports in Greenville sc has one in green and the Easley store has two in red. Neither store has them listed in inventory. The Easley store was shocked to have that many big ticket items not in their system.

I will let you all know how it goes. Thanks for the help and talking me through this. I am excited on a number of levels.

what it looks like
The inside looks like this pic

But the ends look like this pic with the handle and rod holder. Mine does not have the center bench seat.

Glad you found something, but,
one word of caution. Last June I literally watched one of those fall apart on a pretty easy class II rapid. The guys in it were BIG boys (probably too big for the boat) and the seats collapsed. Since they’re bolted through the hull this was a big problem, and the boat suddenly turned into a floppy mess. It was not a good situation. I’m not trying to be a buzz kill, and I don’t think in your case this is something to worry too much about; merely something to keep in mind as you consider possible trips. Have a great time on the water!

first trip out
I can see what you mean about it not being a canoe that should be taken on white water. The hull is a little more flexible than I would be comfortable with even in a class 2.

I took it to Lake Cunningham in Greer, SC with a friend. He is a pretty strong guy and me not so much. We were able to get it on and off the car without issue. It isn’t one I could carry by myself and I would not want to portage it anywhere. It has since moved from my car to my pickup truck. I was able to slide it off the car and into the bed with only one minor issue and there are some small scrapes on the tip of the canoe as a memory reminder. If I want to paddle solo, I can load and unload it from the truck alone. Leverage is a gals friend–and duct tape.

The first part of our trip we paddled upstream through the small creek that feeds the lake. It winds back and forth through a field of lily pads and it really pretty. My steering and paddling skills need a bit of work. I am out of practice. We hit one bend where the current was too strong and there were downed trees and we could not get enough speed up to get around it so we turned around.

In the open lake area it handled very well and paddled with ease. In that area I feel I could paddle alone and not have an issue.

It does a decent job as a flat water creek boat or a small lake boat for just knocking about or fishing. I think it will do the job I am asking of it and serve me well.

Hopefully I will be able to get my nephew out on Monday afternoon.

the books
Thanks for the book recommendations. I will check those out.

While you’re waiting for the book…
How about a nice video?


– Last Updated: Jul-27-13 10:35 PM EST –

I think you might be referring to my deleted post. I deleted it because I mis-read what you were doing and therefore my comments may not have applied. Still, those books could be very helpful (to name them again, "Path of the Paddle" by Bill Mason and "Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Gary and Joanie McGuffin). Best of luck.

By the way, you can buy the video mentioned above by Steve, I think even from the p-net store. The quality of your own copy will be far better than on that website, but on that note, I've seen that video played on a few different TV/disc-player combinations, and some don't allow you to see it in the original, squarish format. Instead, the view is like what most people have their wide-screen TVs set up to show (I think out of ignorance, mostly) - stretch everything out a lot fatter than it really is. That's something to keep in mind when buying TVs or video equipment unless you don't mind "modern distortion" of the format that's so commonplace now.

No harm
Guide, I think you did misread, but that misreading led you to recommend some books. My paddling skills could use some work so in the end your post is helpful. Thank you for takin time to share the things you know that will help me.

Enjoyed the video.
I really enjoyed the video link provided above. That was incredibly informative. He mentioned in the film that there were others that he produced. I will certainly make an effort to find them.

Hopefully I will get the chance on Monday to try them out. Today I did better steering when we were going upstream. Downstream the current was fast and the water made very sharp turns. I think I know how my stroke was wrong.

When we were in flat water on the lake I did ok, but I think what I learned in the video will make the paddling smoother and more efficient.

Thanks again for all the helpful info.