Retirement canoe

I’m not getting any younger, but I am getting closer to retirement: 3-4 mos. At 5’6", 155 lbs., 57 yrs. old, I’m looking for a canoe to put on the water and decipher the meaning of life. I’ll also need the canoe for weeklong deer hunting trips on large Sierra Nevada reservoirs, with a second paddler. I really don’t see much river floating as I don’t want to hassle with the put-in, take-out planning and coordination. I’ve decided that a 16-footer would best meet my solo/tandem needs and am willing to pay for a light one, i.e., less than 45 lbs. I’ll be loading on a F250 extended cab, shortbed.

I’ve been looking for some time now, but haven’t made the move. I’m not an experienced paddler, but there are small lakes and gentle flatwater preserves in my area where I could get my sea legs. I’ve looked at Wenonah, Bell, Nova Craft, and Old Town catalogs.

I am open to all suggestions and supporting theories. Would like to hear everyone’s thoughts: brand, model, specs, likes and dislikes. Get this ol’ swabie on the water, where I can watch the morning rat race from a new perspective.

Ahh retirement
I only have 3-4 decades to go!

Well, if you want light, and tough, and will be doing a mix of solo and tandem paddling, here is my top 5 list.

  1. Bluewater Saugeen 16/6
  2. Bluewater Prospector
  3. Souris River Prospector 16 (made for Trailhead) - very maneuverable - 17 Quetico might be better if more tandem is expected
  4. Hellman Scout
  5. Esquif Champlain

    If you will mostly be doing tandem, substitute a Hellman Prospector for the Hellman Scout, and a Quetico 17 for the Souris River Prospector.

    I really think the Saugeen would be perfect, and the Champlain or Bluewater Prospector would be very good as well.

    Note: “Prospector” is a meaningless term in this sense, the Bluewater, Hellman, and Souris River are all very different canoes.

    Good Luck! I’m envious.

Kipawa has flare
A boat with flare all the way up to the rails will feel most stable and will (all other things being equal, which they never are) carry the biggest load. By “flare” I mean ever-increasing width above the calm-water waterline; it aids stability because the boat gets wider the more you tilt it.

The Swift Kipawa is one such boat, and it brings the added benefit of being fun to paddle solo (at least in calm conditions). If solo paddling is a goal, consider a true center seat or at least a kneeling thwart. The Kip is available in very light layups.

If you need to haul a big hunting load and want a light boat, you may need to increase your length spec beyond 16 feet.

– Mark

Two Boats Possible?
Lanny, congrats on the retirement. Enjoy it!

I like paddling tandems solo. I like general purpose boats. But I think you are asking too much from one boat here. If a fellow of average size is going to really get into the Zen of canoeing and enjoy it to the fullest you’d need a fairly smallish tandem. If you are going to be going on week long deer hunts on big water in the mountains (I don’t know the Sierras, so I’m guessing here.) you’re going to want a big tandem – something in the 18’ or better range. You want to be able to cary plenty of gear and maybe a nice buck plus have the reserve bouyancy to be seaworthy if you are trying to haul everthing out of there in poor weather conditions.

Do you have a rental place nearby where you could get something like a Bell Northwoods or a Wenonah Champlain for the deer hunts? If so, I’d go that route, then buy myself a nice solo boat for your regular workout/philosophy sessions.

retirement boat
Last year, I sold my trusty Royalex MR Explorer and replaced it with a carbon/Kevlar Bell Prospector retirement boat. I was interested in a decent everything-up-down-paddle-pole-line-flat-moving-white boat.

So far I’m very happy with the choice. I miss the MREx mightily sometimes (like when I crash into something), but not others (like when I have to carry or load.) I wish the Prospector did a few of those things better, but I think it’ll extend my paddling career another, oh, I dunno how long.



yeah, what osprey says

Good advice
Thanks for all your input. I will look up these boats and their specs, prices. Any others out there willing to comment?


– Last Updated: Jul-14-07 9:47 PM EST –

I'm roughly your size(5'9", 160), and have a couple of small tandems in the family -- a Bell MorningStar and an Old Town Penobscot 16, both of which are considered good solo/tandem choices. I have enjoyed soloing both of them, but being so light means that there's a ton of freeboard and very little draft, so any breeze that kicks up becomes a challenge. The beam of a tandem also makes strokes less comfortable. You can certainly do it -- Bill Mason made it look downright elegant -- but if most of your paddling is going to be solo with a light load I'd look at a solo boat.

If I had to buy a solo/tandem boat tomorow I'd get a Bell NorthStar in the BlackGold layup. It has a slightly narower beam and a bit less freeboard than the MorningStar with the same load.

There are lots of options for solo canoes in the Bell, Wenonah, and Swift lines. One small builder you might want to consider is Hemlock -- a Kestrel or Peregrine is a sweet boat for flatwater.

I agree
The real bugaboo is that you’re asking for a boat that will solo, AND tandem with two men, a week’s worth of camping gear, plus hunting gear, and (hopefully) two deer. You can find cross over boats that will both work as a solo and a tandem and even carry gear for a weekend. But when you add those two deer and additional gear, that’s a lot to ask.

I own a wenonah Prospector 16. That will carry a lot of gear and two guys. If you want to stick with a 16 footer, that might work for you deer hunting boat. IMHO, however, I don’t think it paddles that well solo. The wind catches it and is hard to control by yourself.

Wenonah also makes a model called the Escapade. It solos well and is a tandem. It will carry two guys and gear, but when you add those deer into the equation … I don’t know. I don’t think it is big enough.

You know, realistically you can solo any canoe, so you could just get a big one and solo it. The problem becomes that paddling it is a chore. It’s not a relaxing paddle to contemplate life and commune with nature, but rather more like riding a half broke horse.

Retirement Canoe

I recently purchased a Quetico 17 Souris River tandem canoe. If you intend to load it down and mostly operate it tandem it is a great boat. It weighs 43 pounds, it’s very stable and seaworthy. It is also very tough and durable.

Decisions, Decisions. Lots of good canoes out there.


solo/hunting camping
Difficult to point at 1 particular boat. Especially since your talking about using it for 2 men and gear for hunting extended times. For that I agree the OT Penobscot 16 or the Wenonah Prospector 16 would work great, but solo could get tricky under certain conditions. If you can reduce your gear to bare minimum you might get away with an OT Guide or Stillwater which is shorter and would be a little easier soloing.

Wenonah Kingfisher

– Last Updated: Jul-16-07 4:20 PM EST –

I recently purchased the Wenonah Kingfisher in Tuf-weave and like it.

I have paddled it solo using a kayak paddle sitting in the bow facing the stern. I have had 4 people in it, 2 adults and 2 kids and it cruised at 4.5-mph with a 30-lb trolling motor.

This is my first canoe so I really did not know what to expect or have anything to compare too. I like the the Kingfisher a lot but now I'm sure if I needed a 40" wide canoe. With the trolling motor its not an issue but I think it maybe a little wide to paddle solo. I think a 17', 36-inch wide canoe such as the Wenonah Spirit II or the Wenonah Prospecter 17' would have been other canoes worth checking out. The Quetico 17 Souris River also looks like a nice canoe

Retire in style in the sporty class
buy a kayak. I’m 59 and been retired 15 years and still full of viss and pinegar. Kayaks are the BMW’s of the river.

and I will probably catch well for this post.

Bell Northstar & Souris River Quetico 16
…Are two valid options in tandems. I own each. These are smaller tandems that can be paddled solo well (for tandems, but nothing like a dedicated solo model, however).

The Northstar (16.5’) is efficient/fast while the Quetico 16 provides more initial stability and higher capacity. I prefer the Northstar for its speed, but your needs may be different. The challenge is that you will stretch either of these canoes with two men and a lot of gear. But larger tandems will be difficult to paddle solo. What is more important?


I agree with other posters who recommend getting two – a good-sized tandem plus a solo – if the budget possibly allows it. That opens up many more options, like Bell Northwind or Northwoods, Souris River Quetico 17 (or maybe 18.5), or Wenonah Champlain or Boundary Waters, to name a few. For solos, check out Bell Merlin II and Wenonah Prism.

Enjoy the journey!

Nova Craft
NovaCraft prospector in Blue Steel… 48lbs. sure looks like a winner to me.

Great info. I’m printing it up and checking the boats out. Sorry, don’t think the kayak is what I’m looking for. Thanks for the posts folks.