Square Stern Canoes

-- Last Updated: Mar-09-12 8:24 PM EST --

Hello. I'm about to purchase an Old Town Predator SS150 -- $1079. I'd like some confirmation as to my reasonings for purchase before I go ahead and plunk down all the $$$$. :-) I can also get a Wenonah Back Water for about $40 more made of Royaflex.....while the predator is 3 layers of Polyethylene. Is the Royaflex a better material in the long term?

1. I'll mainly be using it for taking out the family (with many little kids) to paddle around lakes and fish. However, I understand that it is quite difficult to paddle. The salesman advised me to get some oars instead. Thoughts?

2. With 2 people paddling would there be that much difference compared to a regular canoe (no square stern)?

3. Would an electric trolling motor with about 45 pounds of thrust help out in a sufficient way?

Thanks for any isight on these questions or other things I might consider.

Royalex vs Polyethylene
Both Royalex and three layer polyethylene are pretty tough materials but Royalex is quite significantly lighter. You are looking at buying a canoe with an advertised weight of well over 100 lbs. Unless you park it on a lake it is going to be a bear to transport.

I would only buy a square stern canoe if you definitely plan to use a motor on it. Otherwise it has no advantage over a regular canoe.

Of the two I would definitely go for the Royalex boat because of the enormous weight savings.

Thanks for the reply. It seems that square sterns don’t track/paddle well and it isn’t advisable to put a side mounted motor on a regular canoe. I can see my boys wanted to do some of both although fishing is there main point. They want to be able to get out into the middle of the lake and not be stuck on the shore. Although, I can see that at times it would be fun to paddle.

Also, I am going to get a motor…looking at a MinnKoto 45 pound thrust…hoping that is enough power. I didn’t know Marine batteries were so expensive…the ones I’ve seen are over $150. Some have said they just use a car battery and recharge it often…

Square stern paddleability
Most Square stern canoes paddle poorly because cutting the back of a canoe off removes it’s rudder. Block co-efficient is the prime indicator of paddlecraft course keeping. Take the waterline length, width and depth for the block: the less of it the hull fills the better it tracks. That cut off back ruins any concept of fineness of lines.

Secondly, we tend to drop the stern relative to the bow, ie differential rocker, to compensate for the stern paddler carrying the blade behind his body into a sweep. With the stern cut off there is no resistance to that arcing end to the stern’s forward stroke.

There is a compromise. Sawyer did their square sterns with canoe waterlines and a box above waterline to accommodate the flat surface needed to mount a motor.

If you will want to paddle the hull as well as drive it with a motor, find a hull with a box section above the usual, sharply pointed, canoe stern waterline shape. Sorry I cannot get specific, I haven’t been paying much attention to Square Sterns.

And, i completely agree with Pblanc, RX is so much lighter than triple dump rotomolding there is no comparison. Composites are another quantum leap lighter. Again, sorry, just don’t know what’s available.

A few thoughts

– Last Updated: Mar-10-12 12:21 AM EST –

Oars would be a good thing to consider. In addition to the square stern, one reason those boats won't paddle well is the enormous width. Each of those "canoes" has much more in common with a basic utilitarian rowboat than a canoe. To paddle either boat, you'd definitely need two good paddlers (one good paddler plus one poor or weak paddler will leave you almost helpless if your motor fails). Rowing will let you provide all the power needed to move the boat nicely (don't count on getting significant help from the kids on a boat that huge), and will let you do so even when it's windy enough to make paddling look almost hopeless.

Various pros and cons:
The Wenonah weighs a lot less, but it is also a foot shorter and has two seats instead of three. You can probably install a third seat in the Wenonah if you wish, but at 15 feet, it's kind of short as three-person boats go, but with kids, 15 feet might still be enough.

If you go with the Wenonah, make sure it really IS 15 feet long. Some of Wenonah's other boats are substantially shorter when made of Royalex than when made of composite, but their catalog will not tell you this. If it ends up being 14.3 feet or something like that, you at least want to know ahead of time.

The oarlocks, as shown in the photo of the Old Town, are too close to the center seat. To make oars work at that location they will have to be shorter than they ought to be (so the handles cut a very short arc and miss your body as you pull them back) and that'll put your arms in a very inefficient position, but then, most people use oars that are way too short and mounted way too close the their seat and happily don't know how much better life could be with a proper rig. If you mount the oarlocks yourself, sit up straight in the seat, reach out in front of you with your arms mostly extended (if your rowing will always be slow and easy) or fully extended (if you sometimes want to row faster or more efficiently), and the location on the gunwales which is the same distance from the seat as your hands is the place to mount the oarlocks. 8-foot oars would be great, 7-footers would be pretty good, and 6-footers would be "too short" but it's the length that practically every casual boater ends up using.

Electric motors:
Most likely, you are required by law to mount the battery so that it can't tip over, be pushed around, or have something come in contact with the terminals. Enclosing the battery is easy, but securing it to the hull might take some ingenuity. You will probably never swamp the boat, but if you do, the weight of the electric motor and battery might well be enough to overcome the limited amount of built-in floatation and take the boat to the bottom. You might consider extra floatation, but that's your choice. That's one advantage of a "real" square-stern rowboat over a square-stern canoe - lots of additional floatation that no canoe has unless it's added later by the owner. Of course, only the smaller rowboats can be car-topped, so there's always trade-offs.

Great advice
I appreciate all the detailed advice. Like you said, there are trade-offs which ever way I go.

Do you know if the Predator SS150 allows for securing the oar hardware closer to the front of the boat. If that is the case, I just might go with that. My main purpose is to get the kids out on the water (lake), have some fun rowing around, and do a little fishing. I like the stability, but think I might enjoy the something like a discovery 169 (which the salesman was also trying to sell me).

On the Old Town discovery 169 – what are thoughts on the stability compared to the Wenonah or Predator? I have no way to test any of this out as their “test pond” is frozen at this time of year. I could always had a motor if I wanted with a side mount in the future.

They have “Blem product” so there are good deals right now (e.g Predator is usually $1579).

Thanks for all the advice on the board. This is my first canoe, so all he insight is appreciated.

Discovery 169
The Old Town Discovery 169 is very stable. It would certainly be more fun to paddle than the square stern canoes. It is made of three layer polyethylene and most folks on this forum would probably consider it to be very heavy, but it is a positive light weight compared to the Predator.

You might possibly be able to lift the Discovery unassisted to car top it if you need to. Generally you can’t lift nearly as many pounds of canoe to a roof rack as you can military press a barbell. Grasping the gunwales of a canoe is less ergonomic and unless you have your hands exactly at the balance point, you have to compensate for the bow or stern wanting to dip down, and if there is any wind at all the whole boat wants to twist like a weather vane.

I haven’t used motors on canoes so I don’t speak from any experience. With a side mount motor the thrust is going to want to turn the boat toward the side opposite the mount, so you will have to angle the motor to compensate and it won’t be as efficient. You will also need to compensate for the weight of the motor wanting to drop the gunwale but I would think you could do that with battery placement. It wouldn’t be as efficient as a motor mounted on a transom but if you want to paddle the boat at all I wonder if it wouldn’t be a better compromise.

Square stern canoes

– Last Updated: Mar-10-12 11:03 AM EST –

Dear kimoj,

I own an Old Town Discovery Sport 13 which is similar to the boat you are looking at but shorter in length.

It "only" weighs 92 pounds but it is a handfull to wrestle in and out of the bed of my truck. Hopefully your children are big enough to assist you with loading and unloading otherwise you might find your canoe sitting in the garage gathering dust most of the time.

Once my canoe is on the water it is a joy to fish out of solo and only slightly less fun to fish out of with a friend. It is supremely stable and has plenty of capacity to hold fishing gear, a cooler with food and drink, and just about anything else you might care to bring along.

I row mine from the center seat. You can order a second set of oarlocks from Old Town and mount them anywhere you choose on your boat.

I also use an electric trolling motor and 45 pounds of thrust will be more than sufficient to move you around all day on a lake of modest size with a fully charged battery. It will also work fine on a slow moving river to power you back upstream to repeat a drift through a good fishing spot. It won't run rapids though.

Absolutely get a deep cycle battery to power the trolling motor. They are designed to be drained and re-charged repeatedly. You will destroy a car battery in a few trips by discharging it and recharging it.

Sears had a Die-Hard Group 27 deep cycle battery advertised for $ 99.00 this week, which is about as good a price as you will typically get for a standard deep cycle battery. Gander Mountain has Interstate batteries for about the same price, and both are good brands with good warranties.

As far as brands go both Old Town and Wenonah make a quality product. Everyone will tell you that lighter is better but everyone isn't you and only you can decide how much money you are willing to exchange for a lighter boat. If fishing and putzing around are all you want to accomplish then cheaper and heavier is the way to go, provided you have an adequate means for transport.

I hope this helped some.


Tim Murphy AKA GOOBS

Rowing an SS150
It is a great rowboat and simply an awful canoe! Get the standard Factory set up for the middle seat rowing and put one child in front of the boat and one in back.

I had the 160 that was pointed at both ends and it rowed well but was heavier on land.

Here are some Yahoo Rowing groups that cover rowing canoes:



A rowing canoe is an ideal set up for a dad with small children. Have everyone wear life vests, Carry a bailer, bring dry clothes in a dry bag, and get them paddles so they can “help”. Also get a pair of those 3 foot long dip nets so they can swipe at minnows, bugs, and leaves. That will reduce the times they will fall out. Young boys will lunge out at things in the water just like dogs do!

Have a blast!

oil canning
Thanks for those yahoo groups. Very insightful. I read of one guy who was wanting to get a Discovery Sport 15 (same as Predator) but he was concerned about the flex that might happen with royalex and 3-ply polyethlene during the rowing process – and that oil canning would make for a bad experience? Is this a concern? He thought he should stick to fiberglass for its rigidity.

Also, how do I get around the narrow (40 in) with? Is this why it is import to place the oar hardware nearer the front? Sorry for all the questions…

composite vs plastic canoes
Composite boats are stiffer (as well as lighter) and they paddle better than either Royalex or polyethylene.

That would certainly be a factor if you were in to performance paddling (racing or paddling long distances) but for fishing and tooling about the lake it is not likely to be a big deal.

I have heard some owners of Old Town polyethylene canoes and some thin Royalex canoes (like the Wenonah Rogue) note flexing of the bottom while paddling, although this complaint seems to be more frequent with the longer Discovery 174 (now Penobscot 174) than with the Disco 169. Discovery canoes also have a tendency to become slightly hogged over time. Hog backed canoes have a central portion that is less deep than the stems. Again, unless this is really pronounced it probably wouldn’t greatly affect the canoe for your intended use.

Tripper 172
I have a bead on a Tripper 172… would this be a good consideration for family outings? Again, this would be my main use.

Motor mounts

– Last Updated: Mar-11-12 10:42 AM EST –

Yes, mounting a small motor off one side of a conventional canoe actually works pretty well. Losses in efficiency are very minor. I would not hesitate to mount an electric motor that way. The question in this case is not whether it's better to mount the motor on a standard or square-stern canoe. The question is which kind of boat will serve you better. Do you want a wide, stable platform that is virtually impossible to tip over, or do you want a sleeker boat that can be propelled more easily by hand, and is easier to carry to and from the water, but is not immune to tipping?

When it comes to off-center motor mounting, the biggest concern, at least with bigger motors (it's certainly a risk with a 3- or 4-horsepower outboard) is that if you accidentally turn the motor sharply and open the throttle suddenly, the canoe will simply roll over. That won't happen with a traditional square-stern fishing boat (the stern of the boat will side-skid so flipping is not much of a risk), and perhaps not with one of these wide, square-stern canoes. Oh, and let me add that this difference of which boat will be pried into flipping by the motor is a result of boat width, not motor location. I should have made that more clear. If you used a square-stern canoe having the same dimensions of a standard canoe, the rollover risk from improper tiller and throttle control would be the same as with a standard canoe.

Tripper is
an excellent all around canoe that will last a lifetime.

The seller sent me some pics… seems the hull is a bit more rounded than a discovery sport…

Am I going to notice this much? Will my family be just as “safe” as in a flat hulled canoe, fishing, rowing around, the kids leaning a bit over the side?

Also, it is an older model (the seller didn’t know as she bought it used)… am I better off getting something newer? (design changes, etc. )

I wonder if you
would be better off with a small boat rather than a canoe? Leaning over the side of canoe is not generally recommended. Canoes are terrific for speed, shallow water performance and portability. Many people bring children in a canoe - I did - but it does requires some awareness of the limits of the craft. The Tripper is a very stable canoe and a great all around canoe.

Safety and Fun in Canoes
I think you eventually find out that safety is more about preparation and experience than the type of watercraft you are in. People overload, drink, fail to watch the weather, etc. and get themselves into trouble.

I’d choose a canoe that can be paddled well over a wide tub and a trolling motor anyday and saftey and versitility are big concerns for me. I’ve got two daughters, a wobbly father in law, two golden retrievers and I’ve been carrying them (though not always all together) and similar loads for decades with never a problem.

If you have an opportunity to rent canoes and small boats few times that might be a really good idea. Then you can find out what will work well for you before you plunk down your money. Giving a good canoe a few trips to prove itself and let you get comfortable in it could be a small investment toward a lifetime of reward.