Penobscot ok for a beginner?


My partner and I have wanted to start flatwater canoeing for some time. There are several used OT Penobscot 17rx and 16rx canoes in our area at reasonable prices. My question is, would the Penobscot be too much canoe for a pair of beginners? We are modestly sized - I am ~165lbs 5’8" and she is ~140lbs 5’5". Ideally we’d like to take our three children with us (ages 5 - 8) once we’ve developed the necessary basic skills. She has some prior canoe experience, but I have none. Eventually we’d probably want to take the boat on slow moving rivers (up to class II WW). We would be using it both for day cruises and multi-day tripping/camping.

The reviews I’ve read on the Penobscot are either very positive, or else claim it has poor initial and secondary stability. I don’t mind a slightly more challenging boat, but I don’t want something that is going to feel unpredictable and dump us in the water everytime we make a rookie mistake.

Your input is appreciated.

They’re average in “initial stability”
and you’d have no problem with them. The 17 is enough for 2 adults and their kids, the 16 is marginal.

I think they’re among the better Old Towns. But if you want something a bit lighter, look for a used Wenonah Spirit II in Tufweave.


– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 12:53 PM EST –

The Spirit II or one of the Bells would definitely be preferred, but I rarely see them come up used in this area, and definitely not at the same price point as the Penobscot (~$600). I'll keep my eyes open for one though.

Thank you.

“Average”, to g2d…
…might mean “poor” to those less experienced, in describing the initial stability. Most beginners would probably describe the 16’ Penobscot as “tippy”. How anyone can describe the secondary stability as poor is beyond me. I would call the secondary very good. A very predictable boat - once you get to know it. The 16’ is definitely too small for your whole family, however - and I have never been in the 17’.

I agree…
I’ve owned a couple of Penobscot 16s and have paddled the 17s. Initial stability is well below the average recreational canoe, secondary stability is well above it. If you know what you’re getting into and you have okay balance, you can fairly quickly get used to the initial tippy feeling, and pretty soon you’ll not even notice it. And then you’ll really like this canoe. But you have to understand that initial learning period, when you’re likely to be uneasy in the canoe for quite a while…and you CAN tip a Penobscot, so you probably will during the learning period. Climb into a wider rec canoe and you won’t be as uneasy, but you’ll still tip it :slight_smile:

I also agree that the 16 is too small for the family. In fact, the 17 is pretty marginal if you are going to have all three kids in the canoe. And three kids will just magnify the tippy feeling unless they are able to sit still. On the other hand, any canoe big enough to take three kids and two adults comfortably is going to be so big it would be a barge to paddle.

So, I’d go with the 17. It feels more stable than the 16, and it might have enough volume for your kids for a year or two. But kids grow up quick, and in a few years carrying them in your canoe ain’t gonna work and you’ll have to get them their own boats!

What do you guys paddle, jonboats?

– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 6:41 PM EST –

Penobscots don't just turn over and turn turtle for anyone. If they did, the very conservative Old Town company would never have put them on the market.

We started with a canoe that was MUCH less stable than a Penobscot. We kneeled, we took two very young kids, and we had no problems. I would not have recommended our Moore to the OP, but neither would I have fed into the pathological OCD concern about "initial stability" by relaying the false information that Penobscots are lacking. False.

Al A, we don't talk about "average recreational canoes" on here. That usually means dumbed down and inferior. Stand up for what you buy.

Not trying to scare 'em off here.
Just trying to explain why a lot of the review posters say what they do. I personally think the Penobscot is great all-around and good for any noob that will stick with it long enough to learn - which shouldn’t be very long at all.

my buddy
downriver races one with his daughter, and they scoot.

I like it
My first canoe was a penobscot 17. I loved that boat. I would have classified it as “rock steady.” For heaven’s sake, it’s like 3 feet wide. It would take committed effort to capsize. Durable, straight tracking, steady, reasonably fast. I’d recommend it for sure.

We’ve owned a Penobscot 17 since
we were married 21 years ago and I think it is close to a perfect family canoe. We’ve done everything up to fast class I in it with our two kids aboard and the boat is reliably predictable. It excels on trips with a load. If the Penobscot has a weakness, it is its weight at over 70 lbs.

I’d have to agree with g2d on initial stability. Maybe it is a bit lively compared with flat-bottom rec canoes, but that quality is exactly what attracted us to it in the first place. Secondary is solid. Any active young couple will be comfortable after only a few times out and it is a canoe that most won’t outgrow right away unless they are looking to portage regularly.

Tippiness is cumulative
I’d say the Penobscot 16 is more initially tippy than the average 16. (Never been in the 17.)

Just about all regular posters here are dedicated paddlers. When they say new paddlers will “get used” to initial tippiness, I think a lot of them are speaking from a solo paddling perspective. Yes, a serious and dedicated new paddler will, most of the time, get used to above average hull tippiness if they are willing to kneel paddle.

But add in a nonserious and occasional tandem partner, such as a spouse, and the tippiness problem may re-emerge even worse, because the serious paddler can’t control the actions of the other newbie. Then add some rambunctious small kids in the canoe and the tippiness risk increases even more.

My first family canoe was a Grumman, and I think it has the ideal symmetrical shape and initial stability for a family canoe. I used to dive off of mine as a kid and climb back in. Only cockroaches will outlast an aluminum lake canoe. Weight is a problem, but not so much more than Royalex, and not really at all for a cottage canoe.

My first canoe as an adult was a 16’ Royalex MRC Explorer, which I consider to be a better 16’ tandem canoe than the Penobscot for general family romping. OTOH, I consider the Penobscot better than an Explorer for an experienced tandem couple on flat or white water who want some better speed.

Penobscot 17
P-17 is a great boat. The initial stability is fine for a beginner. Had enough volume for 2 kids, 2 adults and a dog, when the kids were younger. Still going strong. I don’t think you’d regret the 17. I’ve never paddled the 16.

The OP said he was a beginner, with little or no canoeing experience. So I think comparing the Penobscots to an average recreational canoe (like, for instance, one of the Disco models from Old Town) is valid in this case. And I said the Penobscots have great secondary stability, but they WILL flip if you do something really wrong, which many beginners will do during the learning curve.

I think some of the others said the same thing…excellent canoe, but doesn’t FEEL rock stable. As long as the OP is willing to have that bit of a learning curve, the 17 should be a good choice, though I’m still not sure there’s enough volume for all the kids.

Penobscot for a starter …
Hi All -

New to the forum here; and this is the first topic I’ve seen that I can actually contribute some value to.

My first boat 5 years ago was ( and is) an OT Penobscot 16RX. Before that, I’d rented on probably 8-10 trips total, and been the bow rdier in a Bell Yellowstone on maybe 5 occasions. So I was inexperienced, and still consider myself a beginner, but I did take the time to learn some good technique from experienced paddlers.

I paddle solo probably 75% of the time, having added a cane center seat just aft of the yoke. Most of my paddling is on slow moving rivers or light WW (Class I ), and some paddling on lakes. I’m usually fishing, with or without a passenger.

For me the Penobscot has been a great boat. What others have identified as a lack of initial stability, I saw as a great indicator that things were going to go wrong, and giving me time to correct them. The secondary stability of that boat has kept me from swimming more than once. In fact, when paddling solo, I love the way that boat settles in when heeled over, and becomes a bit more nimble. Had I bought a boat with great initial stability but no secondary, I’d probably be allot wetter overall.

So IMO, its a great 1st boat…but maybe not for the OP. ( WHATDIDHESAY?1?).

With that many small kids, I would get a very, very wide stable boat with high volume, and keep the Penobscot in mind for when the kids were just a bit older and could become participants rather than passengers.

In any case, I’d probably drop the stock seats down a few inches, and lower the center of gravity in any boat that I picked up and planned on having a gaggle of “yoots” in. Young kids get squirrelley, and while tipping a canoe is certainly not the end of the world, it could be traumatic enough for the kids to turn them off the sport…

kind of disagree

– Last Updated: Jul-15-12 11:58 AM EST –

about kids getting turned off by capsizing. I taught boating (sailing/canoeing/skiing) at a summer camp, and these kids loved chaos. Had a kid hiking out on the downwind side of the boat; when he wouldn't join me on the windward side, I sheeted in, put him underwater, then informed the rest of the crew we were having a man-overboard drill. The whole group loved it, including the kid who got swept off the rail.
First ww paddle with my son; he was 5, flooded river, cold, dressed in cotton. We flipped twice; I was miserable, he loved it. I still remember sitting in the truck, windows fogged up, listening to Aaron "Dad, despite everything that happened, that was pretty FUN."
The father/daughter team I linked above just raced on the Yough, toughest conditions they ever faced, carnage everywhere. No complaints from 6 year old Phoebe :-).

Good points!
Good point on the kids “maybe” being okay with tipping!. I have two nephews that would roll a boat on purpose every time they could. However, not knowing the OP, nor his kids, my advice would be to Err on the side of caution on that one.

I guess it all depends on how “young” his young choildren are; and the sense of adventure that the OP’s kids have…:slight_smile:

Not the boat I would pick
in your situation. I’d pick an OT Tripper because it is slow and rock steady. Buy used. If you stick with it maybe down the road pick up a kevlar flatwater boat that will go fast.

Bought one
So we ended up buying a used Penobscot 16RX at the weekend (the 17s were sold quicker than we could get to them and we weren’t willing to wait any longer).

We took the boat out on a local lake yesterday afternoon, and paddled about 4 miles. Both of us were very comfortable with the initial stability and did not feel nervous at all. Winds were varying at 10-15mph, so there were some small waves to contend with also. We started out sitting, and moved to a kneeling position whenever the wind picked up. So long as we were paying attention to our paddling form, the boat remained very stable.

We also deliberately capsized the boat close to shore as a ‘recovery’ practice. We need to do this again with more gradual rocking motion to get a better feel for the secondary, as I used one big tug and lurch from the stern and it flipped the boat in the blink of an eye - so that didn’t teach us much except that the boat will flip easily if you do something stupid. :wink:

We’ve somewhat abandoned the idea of putting all three children in the boat with us at the same time, although we might try paddling with two kids once we’re more confident in our abilities.

So far, we’re pretty satisfied with the purchase. Thanks for the input.

Congrats. Great all-'round boat.
You’ll likely keep that one for a while.