shopping for my first

The last child has left home and we now have extra time and money.

All my life I’ve been wanting to get a canoe for my wife and I, but as there are so many choices I don’t know where to begin.

I’ve been out a few times with a local group. Half have Colemans and most of the others have Old Towns, except for one older couple that have a fancy, wood-trimmed Bell.

The Coleman crowd says don’t spend more than $400 and the Bell guy says he paid $1,600 and has no regrets.

I have noticed that the Old Town crowd shakes their heads at those on both ends of the spectrum.

This group mostly does afternoon paddles on coastal lagoons, estuaries and lakes.

While I could afford to pay $1,600, I’d rather not.

If I do pay more than $400, what will I get for spending the extra money?

It sounds like

– Last Updated: Feb-27-06 2:02 PM EST –

you're in a good position to answer that question for yourself. I'm sure the folks in your group would let you borrow boats to evaluate them. If you don't feel a difference worth paying for ...don't.

More money generally gets you less weight and better performance, but what those are worth is entirely up to you.

When you're trying out boats, one good test(in shallow water) is to slowly bring the canoe up on edge until you find the "tipping point". Some canoes feel very stable to a point and then sudddenly go over. Others may feel less stable when flat but can be leaned until the gunwale is in the water with no suprises.

You'll also find differences in how easily different canoes track and turn, how much effort it takes to maintain a pace, and how they handle waves.

Inexpensive canoes tend to be designed for folks who want something that feels very stable, and are willing to give up some efficiency to get it. If you'd like to cover the same distance with less effort, the Old Town Penobscots should be on your list.

consider used
I’d rather buy a good used quality canoe than a new clunker, and there are always several available in the classifieds. I have gotten a nice canoe at a fair price on ebay too.

Like angstrom said
more money usually means less weight and better performance. I, like you, do not want to spend more money than I have to yet weight is a factor for me. I have found that if the canoe is too heavy for me to easily load and unload without a lot of stain, I just won’t use it much. I have tried to keep my canoes at 60 pounds or less. Most poly boats and rotomolded plastics come in at more than that. Royalex is a good durable material that is mid-priced and fairly light. I have an Old Town Penobscot 16’ (royalex)that weighs 58 pounds and is rated to carry 850 pounds. I also have a Nova Craft Bob Special 15’ that weighs 58 pounds in royalex. Both are good tandem boats for flatwater and moving water not exceeding class II. Both have sufficient capacity for short trips of a few nights. Both can also be used solo easly. These types of boats sell in the $850 dollar range new. There is a dealer in Missouri who sells Old Town on Ebay (as well as through his store). I bought my Penobscot from him. He has fair prices and does ship. There is a thread on his store. His store is Ozark River Canoes. I looked at a Bell Morningstar when I bought my Bob Special and test paddled one. Very nice boat but it is not a symmetrical design so would not paddle as well solo which was important to me. The high end boats are typically made of kevlar or carbon fiber and are lighter than royalex but the price tag is much higher. Check out some of the product reviews here for information on some of these boats.

information, information, information
starting here was great. Everyone (for a change) seems to be giving you similar advise. some more ideas may come from your paddling group, and any rental experience you may have. Try looking in We-No-Nah’s catalog. It is pretty straight forward in understanding all the aspects for basic canoe design and choices. thier catalog will help you decide if you want a used 17’ Gruman, or anti-up to an ultra-light of a special design.

Personally I would go with the used middle range canoe, maybe a new one. You will have this boat for many years. There is no reason to go too cheap on it. you want to enojoy it, get years of use, ease of paddling, if your children are now gone, you are probably not twenty anymore, so think about lifiting it in 5 or 10 years. (I am 28 and still went for an Ultra-light, because I don’t want to EVER think, ‘man, I don’t feel like lifting that onto the rack’)

a canoe purchase is like a retirement plan, it is not just for now, but later. when you put money away in retirement it is to know what your life-style goals are, and be able to afford them. This canoe is not just for this year, but for a LIFETIME of use. Yes you may choose to sell it, but you may have it for 30 years, and then off to the kids and grand children. Think about the material and the design when you make a decision. The extra couple hundred dollars went somewhere, be it material or design, it isn’t just mark up.

have fun deciding, and let everyone know what you get!!


The folks at Piragis Northwoods

– Last Updated: Feb-27-06 5:24 PM EST –

are very helpful on their toll free number and carry Wenonah and Bell. The Tuffweave Wenonahs are reasonably priced ,and lighter than Royalex.

plastic, layered plastic, royalex, fg,
same as the kayak stuff,get the right size, shape for the use then look at the range. A used Mad River Malecite would be nice if you two are around 150lbs.

and for another opinion:
why not an inflatable?

they are much safer, and you can carry them in a bag.

Soar canoes and the Aire traveler are the boats of choice among Alaskan/western outdoorsman.

Unless you NEED a double…
…you might consider 2 solos. That’s what my bride and I do. Pluses: each is light to carry, each person has freedom to go faster/slower/elsewhere in his/her own boat. Also easier to kiss, as long as you balance carefully.

Jun and I paddled

– Last Updated: Feb-28-06 1:37 AM EST –

a couple of rec type Old Towns and a Coleman a couple of times. Nothing to to write home about. Then , a couple of years ago, Ethan , the Bell rep, put Jun and I in a Northwind? and a Northstar? and gave us a quick lesson. What incredible boat!. I was ready to sell our double and get one. What a rush! Jun prefers the stability of our kayak so we kept that. But from this kayaker's perspective, a nice, fast canoe is the way to go. The rec Old Town felt like a Pungo and the Bells like a Kajaksports.

Coleman/Old Town/Bell
I think of those three brands as examples of: Poor - Medium - Good quality.

Poor - Coleman canoes are aimed squarely at the low-end box store market. I consider this brand to be well below “entry level” (junk in my opinion). While they are cheap as dirt and very durable they have very poor performance. I’ve never known an experienced canoeist who would want one. There are other examples of poor canoe brands - just look around at a Wall-Mart or other big box store: Pelican, Rogue River, etc… If all you want to do is get out on the water once or twice a year in easy flatwater conditions these brands might be good enough.

Medium - Old Town is an older brand name that used to produce top quality canoes. Unfortunately OT was bought out years ago by a huge corporation and is now run as a division. The OT division dropped the ball years ago in terms of innovation. They do however still make a few canoe models that are worth consideration for family use, but they also make some real “stinkers”. The Penobscot 16 springs to mind as an example of a fairly good OT. Another canoe manufacturer in this “medium quality” range is Mad River. I think of this category as the basic entry level family canoe for occasional use.

Good - Bell is a much smaller independent canoe manufacturer that produces much higher quality boats with far better performance. Other canoe manufacturers in this quality range include We-no-nah, Nova Craft, Clipper, Souris River – among others. If you are going to get “into” canoeing and spend much time on the water you’ll probably want something in this category.

Then there is yet another canoe category not yet discussed: the top end builders. These would include Merrimack, Hemlock and Placid - among others. These canoes tend to be a bit pricey, but if canoeing becomes a passion for you eventually you may want a top end canoe.

All of the above is no more than my two cents worth – just a broad overview. Opinions DO vary.

hi rvwen! There are more contentious
things than B&B! Such as which is the ‘best’ canoe and paddling tandem when the pair is not in agreement. :^) I’ll throw in my thoughts and you can mull them over…or not.

The hubby and I used a Coleman for fishing and it was ok sitting still. I’ve used one for slopping down creeks. They are tough, slow, and don’t have good secondary stability. You can do better.

Most of my early experience was with aluminum and they have their usefulness. I wouldn’t choose this for your type of paddling.

Our Penobscot 16 has been a good boat for day/overnight trips. We fished out of it on windy lakes and it did well. It handles well with a load up to 500 lbs. It is unpleasant with 3 adults, but ok with 2 adults and a light child. We’ve paddled classII in it, but would choose a different boat for that use. For your use, it would be ok, but I would choose something else.

Bell Northwind is the same as the Woodsman sold by the former Galyans and might work for you. It sounds like you will be paddling big, open water so I would look for a cruiser.

If I was buying a boat to paddle tandem in your waters, I would look at kevlar or some composite about 17-18’ long with a shallow arch hull. Medium depth/freeboard to make it seaworthy but minimize the exposure to the wind. But before you make the investment, take some tandem lessons in a plastic boat. This will reduce damage to your new boat while you learn control/handling and tell you if you want to paddle tandem. The hubby and I are much happier solo on rivers, but tandem paddlers on a lake can make better time.

Try to find a demo day and paddle as many boats as you can. Paddle your friends’ boats(carefully). Visit a paddle shop that offers test paddling. Rent different boats. Or buy a used boat and plan to buy another when you decide what you enjoy.

Make sure you take the wife boat and gear shopping. If she’s not interested in that phase, you will probably be a solo paddler most of the time.

Have fun shopping and paddle safe!

Your type of paddling is perfect
for a kevlar canoe. Do yourself a favor and go light. The canoe is going to be around a long time and later, as you get older you’ll be happier with a lighter canoe. The only strong argument, besides price, for a plastic boat would be if you do river paddling and need the durability of a plastic boat. My 18 ft kevlar canoe is lighter than my both 14 ft and 15 ft Royalex canoes. I’m sixty and in good health, but if I want to keep paddling as I get older, I know I’ll have to get an ultra-light kevlar.