Nova Craft Pal vs. Bob Special

New paddler looking for a tandem I can solo comfortably. Will be river tripping in Wisconsin, and am planning a solo 2 to 3 week trip to Quetico. I’m fairly light at 150 lbs, come from a cycle touring background, and am used to touring with fairly minimal gear(30lbs plus food). I know I’ll be adding some weight to this, but not much.

I was leaning toward a Royalex Light Bob Special(partially due to good reviews from here), but the introduction of the Pal has me second guessing. If anyone’s paddled both, I’d appreciate your insight.

I guess the question really is will the extra 1’ of length add enough to the tracking and speed of the boat, or will it just be that much more to struggle with in the wind?


Bob vs Pal
While it might keep you from a few days paddling, I’d wait until Rutabaga opens the demo pond out back (probably April 14th) and then paddle them side by side. A direct comparison in identical circumstances is so seldom possible with canoes that you should take advantage of it when it avails itself. I have a Bob and absolutely love it, especially on the little streams and rivers here in Wisconsin. However, I understand your thoughts about the Pal, as it looks like a fine boat (and, of course, historically it has a such a superb reputation). The Bob tracks well and always surprises one with its speed. However, it is a beamier boat than the Pal, so if you are going to sit when you solo (as opposed to leaning it over with a Canadian kneel) this could be a consideration depending on your size. But do take the time to paddle both together and see for yourself, since the opportunity is available soon at Rutabaga.

Pal vs Bob Special…be still my heart!!
I love both boats!! I will say I am rather partial to the Bob as I have yet to paddle the Pal. To that end, i have talked extensively with the folks at Rutabaga in Madison. It sounds like th ePla will be faster, and it has a low bow and stern. A 2 - 3 week trip with gear in the bow should trim it fine. They have told me it handles wind and waves very well. The Pal is said to be easily soloed. I would caution however, the Pal bow is narrow and if going to tandem, a taller person not enjoy the front of the boat. Even though the pal has a higher listed tripping load, My guess is the Bob would still be better as it may not as trim sensitive.

To that end, the Bob has good speed for a 15 footer and may surprize you … while not as fast as the Pal I think it is pretty close. The Bob (when trimmed with weight in the bow) is good in waves and wind. I t is very stable for fishing and will haul lot of gear for an extended trip. I would give Rutabaga a call. YOu can ask for Jim, he may be the most knowledgable staff person relative to Nova Craft, but I guess all the staff are well versed in thier products sold.

What Wisconsin rivers do you travel. I boat the Wisconsin often. I go up stream from Lone Rock to Spring Green, fish for a while then go back down. It is an underutilized resource in my opinion.

Best of luck with your choice … have agreat trip in the Quitico!!


They are both extra special IMHO
Both these boats are just extra special. I have the Bob kevlar, and I’ve paddled the Bob royalite in 20 mph winds with no trouble. There isn’t a lot of info out here on the net about the Pal yet because its so new. Rolf Kraiker, Canadian Style paddler extraordinaire paddled the Pal prototype as a reviewer for Nova Craft and he has probably more time in boat than anyone else and he has lots of good things to say about it. Go to and search on Pal and you’ll get some good feedback.

Personally, for what you have in mind I’d go with a nice solo, and when your family wants to come along just rent a tandem for the day.

Of the two, Pal or Bob, for the trips you envision I’d select the Pal for speed and it is slightly less beamy so will be easier to paddle solo. Paddled flat with a double blade is probably one good way for a beginner to get good all day speed out of either of the two.

The build quality of the Nova Crafts, and their excellent customer service makes them a really good company to do business with.