Nova Craft Prospector 17 stability/speed

Considering a NC Prospector 17. For Tandem Lakes, Slow rivers, bwca. Like to Fish tandem and solo. Wondering about speed on flat water (medium or better is fine) and initial stability for fishing?

Speed is relative
the 17’ NC prospector is a relatively slow boat compared to the average canoe. It is absolutely fine compared to the average moving water tripper. It is comparable to a Grumman, OT Tripper, and other big tripping canoes. Compared to a Wenonah Minnesota 2, it is very slow.

Stability, though, is excellent. Being a bit soft chined, it is not as solid as a Grumman initially, but it is very predictable and resistant to tipping. In five minutes you will be very comfortable in this boat.

The plastics are noticably slower than the composites.

If you have no moving water rivers in your plans, consider a more lake-oriented boat like something from Souris River (Queticos), Clipper, or Wenonah (Champlain).

Nova Craft Prospector

– Last Updated: Apr-20-12 8:12 PM EST –

We've narrowed this down to a Wenonah Boundary Waters 17 and the Nova Craft Prospector 17 for Area Lakes, Slow rivers and BWCA/Quetico trips. We fish a lot, so we want a stabile canoe. We will also use it in some MN and WI rivers. But we've never done any whitewater and really don't plan to.

How in the world did you arrive at that dichotomy?

Wow in one hand is an orange and the
other hand holds an apple.

The NC Prospector is derived from the old Chesnut Prospector albeit loosely. Meant to carry ore down rivers with significant moving water. It has symmetrical rocker so that means you need a nice precise J stroke before you can even think of any speed. And I really have not met a fast Prospector. On rivers speed is not of the essence.

OTOH the Wenonah Boundary Waters seems to be more what you are looking for. Its not going to be fast. Cant say which would be faster.

BTW fast comes from the bow paddler horsepower, and the stern paddler keeping in cadence with the bow and avoiding yaw of the boat.

Nova Craft Prospector
A friend had one in Kevlar - he paddled it just about everywhere, mostly solo, including soloing it down Labrador’s Churchill River with a group. Fine canoe, tough as nails, very solid, predictable and stable. Fast? Well, that’s relative - definitely quicker than my 16’ Bluewater Prospector, and generally a better design.

I’ve never paddled a Wenonah, so I have no idea how they compare.

This discussion should prove interesting
Dear macbadger,

You are asking a question that many of the people who post on this board cannot answer. With no disrepect intended to them, they canoe for the joy of canoeing. I canoe to do what I want to do, and that is, fish.

I own an SP3 Novacraft Prospector 17. I bought it used last year and have been out in it enough to form an informed opinion based on your desired goals. I paddle it in tandem, with the occasional solo on local lakes while fishing.

The lakes I fish are small, a couple hundred acres or less, so what I have to offer might not apply to you if you desire to make a long trip in search of fish.

Having said that, here goes.

The boat is stable, once you understand what makes a canoe capsize. Keep yourself relatively close to the centerline of the boat and you can fish confidently. I fly fish out of mine and I’m a huge dude as far as the typical canoeist is concerned. I’ve never come close to overturning the boat.

Speed is relative to the work done by the bow paddler and myself in the stern. Neither of us are particularly adept canoeists but we manage just fine. I’d never want to try to outrace an approaching thunderstorm with my current, and forever, partner, but we can make hay when we need to make it. Slow and steady is a more practical way to describe the characteristics of the Prospector 17 though.

If you do buy the Novacraft make sure it’s Royalex and not SP3 if you plan to portage much. I can handle the 88 pound SP3 version on short carries from the truck to lake myself, but like I said I’m a big dude.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

The main advantage I see in
Prospector designs is that you can heel them and paddle them solo, and they are OK for tandem. If they have rocker like the originals in days of yore, they are decent class 1-2+ whitewater boats. They’re fairly popular in the UK.

It’s easy to point to many tandem canoes that are faster, and more stable, and almost as maneuverable. The Wenonah Spirit II is one. My Bluewater Chippewa is another. But neither is as comfortable for solo paddling as a good prospector, and neither is as good for tandem whitewater.

True Prospector designs are not particularly stable, but anyone can learn to fish out of them. And stand and pole in them, too. If you’re going to paddle both solo and tandem, a prospector might be a good choice.

NC Prospector = stable fishing platform
But I don’t think it’s what you’re looking for. You can fish out of most any tandem canoe that is not a racing design. Traversing lakes and slow rivers in a NC Prospector is going to be more work than it needs to be.

I’ve often thought of the Bluewater Prospector, which isn’t terribly prospector-like, as a pretty quick boat. If lightly loaded, I bet it would be much easier to paddle than the Novacraft, and likely faster at all but 100% effort.

Thanks for the replies

– Last Updated: Apr-21-12 9:50 AM EST –

Thanks everyone. I'll try to respond. Ok. Ended up at these two because only canoe shop within 7 hour drive sells - limited models of wenonahs, nova craft and mad river. Looking for a fairly versatile canoe - only thing we probably won't do in it is class II or III whitewater. Maybe not class I either, but never know. Lots of lakes, rivers and 5-12 day BWCA/Quetico trips and lots of fishing and 1/3 of the fishing may be solo (would be handy if the canoe was symmetrical and had no thwart behind the bow seat so I could paddle backwards solo). Want good stability (both initial and secondary), good initial stability makes shifting/moving around in the canoe while fishing easier. Also, want to keep dry on windy/wavey lakes. All of the other Nova Crafts in stock seemed to small/short and twitchy/less initial stability. Many Wenonah's seemed too narrow in the bow for longer trips and fishing (spirit II, wenonah 17, MN II). Mad Rivers - many asymmetrical, and 2 thwarts, and lower initial stability. Don't really need a speedy canoe, just don't want an irritatingly slow canoe either. Not necessarily limited to their stock, could probably order any canoe from those three companies.

Get fiberglass then

– Last Updated: Apr-21-12 10:46 AM EST –

If you really want rough water performance, a Prospector 17 will be drier in big waves than most canoes. If the waves are too big for the prospector, they are too big to be out in.

That said, despite my love for Prospectors, there are better canoes for initial stability and lakes.

I haven't tried one myself, but the 17' Wenonah looks good, as does the boundary waters. The Novacraft Haida in fiberglass would be another contender. If you can find a used Quetico 17' that would be excellent as well.

I like Royalex fine for whitewater, but there is absolutely no excuse for it in flatwater only. Fiberglass can be repaired easily, is lighter, performs better, and often costs less. Kevlar is better still, if the price is reasonable to you.

I went on a trip with two NC Prospectors, one glass and one plastic. We almost fought over the 'glass one after a couple of days.

You don’t mean “fiberglass” in the
literal sense. If only fiberglass is used, then depending on the design, a Royalex version may well be as light as a fiberglass version.

Now, if you mean “composite,” even a Wenonah Tufweave version may be somewhat lighter than an equivalent Royalex hull, and the Tufweave will be tougher than pure fiberglass, and very close to Royalex if Royalex is built to about the same weight.

I don’t think any “serious” high quality canoes are offered in pure FG anymore. I own a couple, built in the early 70s.

Everything is a compromise of sorts
Dear MacBadger,

It looks like you are looking for one canoe to do the work of 2 or 3, and do it well to boot? Good luck with that!

I don’t mean that as sarcastically as it sounds. What I’m trying to say is that if there was one canoe that that could do everything perfectly then that would be the only canoe manufactured. Looking around at all the various canoes made by all the different manufacturers makes is obvious that one size does not fit all.

Speaking only for myself, one the things I take pleasure in is the fact that I can and often do, make do with what I have at my disposal.

The Novacraft Prospector 17 is a nice “make do” boat for me, a middle aged fat slob fishing addict. As I look at your lastest criteria I see one thing that stands out in your list, and that is the ability to solo the boat.

In that regard the NC 17 shines because it lacks that annoying thwart immediately behind the bow seat found in many competing brands. That’s what sold me on mine, the lack of that thwart, and the $ 200.00 price tag.

Novacraft canoes are well built canoes. My boat was a rental boat for several years before it was purchased by the fellow I bought it from. It was used heavily on a rocky river and the bottom of the boat has clearly had the shit beaten out of it, which no doubt contributes to it’s relative lack of git up and go.

But when you turn the boat over and sit in it, the inside still looks like new, and it works, and I catch fish which was the entire purpose of my canoe purchase.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

You don’t mean composite
When I say fiberglass, I mean fiber reinforced plastic, and usually that fiber contains silica and usually that plastic contains esters.

Composite, in the literal sense, means that it is made of more than one element. Wood canoes are composite (lingin and cellulose, plus anything we add to the wood such as canvas or varnish), as are aluminum canoes, and plastic canoes and actually every canoe I can think of. When I say aluminum, I don’t mean pure aluminum, but rather the element aluminum alloyed with other metallic elements and tempered with heat for the appropriate use.

I’m pretty sure Wenonah pioneered this “composite” nomenclature in order to differentiate their polyester/fiberglass canoes from other maker’s fiberglass canoes.

Since you have acess to a Novacraft dealer,why not consider A Novacraft Pal? I used to own a Novacraft Prospector and now own the Pal-both in royalex. From my experience, the Pal would be a better choice for what you want to do. It’s lighter,faster and has more initial stability. I have used mine in easy moving water and although not in the Prospectors legue,it did OK. It is 1’ shorter and a litle less capicity,but that souuldn’t be a problem unless you carry a ton.


Great feedback
Thanks all for valuable insight.

Goobs - absolutely dead on about trying to find a do a lot boat (I think the only thing we may not ask of it is whitewater). Through our searching, I have realized that boats lean in certain performance directions (speed/tracking, Turning/staying dry, fishing/stable, etc). Our problem is we haven’t come to a conclusion yet of what to sacrifice a little bit, beyond whitewater.

Rblturtle - We’ve paddled the Nova Craft Cronje. Unfortunately, the dealer is out of prospectors, and does ever order any Haidas. The have a couple of Pals, but the swayed us other directions. Probably because I thought we would want a 17 ft canoe for the boundary waters (stability/capacity). We found the Cronje a little twitchy (less initial stability than the Wenonah 17 or Boundary Waters), so worry about that for fishing.

So my interest in prospectors is purely comparing specs across canoes. Heading over today to paddle again. Probably re-paddle the Wenonah 17, Wenonah Boundary Waters and toss in the Pal too.

Ultimately, I think we’ll need to sacrifice some tracking and speed and give priority to stability, seaworthiness (as Wenonah says).

Love the look of the rounded bow and stern of the Wenonah 17, the Pal and many of the Nova Crafts. The NCs also have the advantage of the bow and stern leads (small ropes through an eyelet) for using to anchor to fish.

Again, I thinks it’s mainly hard because we are asking a lot of a single canoe. Probably have to determine our priorities and think about other future canoes.

Throughout the part of the boatbuilding
community with which I am in contact, “fiberglass” means literally that the boat is made only of glass fiber and a resin (polyester, vinylester, epoxy). “Composite” is used more generally to designate a polyester, vinylester, or epoxy resin binding together a range of possible fiber reinforcements: fiberglass, polyester, Nylon, Kevlar, carbon, etc.

I agree that to use “composite” that way is confusing, but to use “fiberglass” to refer to canoes made with substantial amounts of other reinforcing cloths is misleading. So I am still not sure what you mean by “fiberglass” but it does not refer to (for example) my Bluewater Chippewa, in which fiberglass is only one component.

The proof is in the pudding
Dear MacBadger,

Just keep in mind that canoe manufacturers pay people to write great descriptive literature extolling the virtues of their boats.

Enjoy your test paddles and catch fish always!


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Anchoring to Fish
Your comment about liking the bow eyes for attaching an anchor rope caught my eye. The best anchor attachment point is something you can easily reach with your hands. This allows easy access to the rope, and also easy adjustment of the length between boat and anchor. You can improvise a method to do this with bow eyes, but it involves the use of additional ropes, and it’s not necessary. In various small boats that were used in my family growing up, the one modification ALL of them had was the addition of cleats inside the bow and stern, where an anchor rope could quickly be secured by wrapping a few “figure eights” (why the boat makers refuse to equip small fishing boats with cleats is a mystery). You COULD install cleats on a canoe, but not easily in a way where they wouldn’t be prone to catching on things (mounting them to the tops of thwarts would be easy, but they’d be in the way). However, tying an anchor rope to a thwart is satisfactory and pretty easy. There is NO need for an anchor rope to trail straight off the end of the boat. In fact, doing so causes the boat to wander back and forth much more in wind or current than any off-center method. A slightly off-center tie-off point is good (such as the carry-handle “thwarts”), and “way off-center” is usually fine too (such as the main thwarts). Tie-off knots should be done on a “bite”, rather than the end of the rope, so you can tie the rope at the length you want while all the excess stays in the boat (I store anchor ropes wrapped around a “flat spool” made from 1/4-inch plywood, so I can easily wind or unwind the rope with one hand while raising or lowering the anchor with the other, and there’s never any tangles or loose rope laying in the boat that way)). Two half-hitches is a knot that’s very easy to tie and untie even when the rope is under great tension, so it’s perfect for tying anchor ropes if your boat lacks figure-eight cleats.