Tippy canoe

I just bought a wenonah 16’ prospector and it seems very unstable if I sit on the seat. I’ve been paddling on my knees, which seems fine, but with my wife I’d like to relax and just sit comfortably. I was wondering if there is anything simple to make the canoe more stable.

Just spend more time with the boat

Two answers

– Last Updated: Apr-29-06 5:36 PM EST –

Pick one.

1. If you are interested only in flat water excursions in favorable weather, combined with fishing or bird watching, sell/trade the boat while it is practically new and replace it with a model with the words 'fishing' or 'bird watching' in the description.

2. If you and your wife want to become canoepersons comfortable in bad weather, wind, chop, moving, or turbulent water, then invest the time and effort getting comfortable in the Prospector. It has performance features that make it feel tippy on level water, but if you give it a chance, you'll find that it firms up considerably as you heel it over.

The features that make it not so inclined to stay level with flat water allow it (and you) to stay level when the water is tilted. This is a good thing.

The modern OC-1 playboats take it to the extreme that they're hard to keep upright without forward motion or without a paddle in the water. But they're enormously composed in turbulence. Even experienced canoeists have been known to swim at the put-in the first time.

->Spend time in the boat.

more time
Like Suntan said, more time in the boat is all you need. The Wenonah Prospector does tend to roll side-to-side fairly easily, which can be a bit unsettling at first. However, the secondary stability (i.e., stability when leaned) is very good. If you talk to other folks who bought boats that seemed a bit rolly at first, you’ll find that they adjusted to them relatively well once they got a little time in the boats.

go on over
As the other posters have mentioned, you just have to get used to it. I’d recommend getting in a nice area for swimming that you can walk out of, putting on your suit and PFD and go over a few times. You’ll find the limits of your boat and you’ll learn to trust it. It will be way harder to tip over than you think due to secondary stability and once you find the limits it won’t seem tippy at all. It’s also a good thing to know how to get out of a canoe, how to pull it to shore, empty it, and re-board.



wieght down low
My son has an MCA explorer he built with scouts. I find it very rolly and unsettling when riding empty. Put a couple of 40 pound packs down in the bilges and she rides like a dream even in snotty water. I enjoy that boat but love it when she has a load!

What did the salesperson tell you
about this canoe? You probably got a good deal on it, with some talk it being a canoe that you can “grow into”. Well, I went through a similar situation some years ago, and I wish you luck. I would advise you to complain to the factory, and see if they will encourage the salesperson to trade it back for a canoe that will better suit you and your wife’s canoeing desires and skills. Read the reviews of many canoes in the “Product Reviews”, and base your next selection upon those. Remember that an actual paddling test before you buy is the best way to buy in the future. There is no guarantee that both you and your wife will become accustomed to the Prospector’s design and stability together. If it doesn’t happen, you will pay more severely through frustration and bad experiences. Best wishes.

Have to agree with Suntan and Bo36
Don’t knock it just yet. I got a Penobscot because I wanted the BETTER secondary stability. I was used to useing rental/flat bottom canoes which we flipped quite a few times in them. Yes they felt good at first when you just get in, but they will flip, and some are a chore to paddle/manuver. But when I finally decided I wanted one for myself & kids. I read up on them for about 4 months before getting the Penob. Anyway I LOVE it. Yes, it’s tippsy when you first get in, but once your butts in the seat it’s great. My kids were a little skittish at first to, but we finally took it to a good place were we could see how far it will go before it flips. Oh yea! A lot farther than a flat bottom one will. Plus they paddle and manuver easier.

Weight Helps…

– Last Updated: Apr-30-06 12:49 AM EST –

We have a BlueWater 16 Prospector which, like yours, tends to be a bit on the lively side when lightly loaded compared to our previous canoes. We did adjust to it, as other posters have suggested, and find ourselves quite comfortable in it now.
When you get weight aboard, however, it's a different animal entirely. The Prospector-type hull was deisgned to carry heavy loads - hence the name. When loaded for short camping trips, the initial stability seems much better, and it doesn't blow around in the wind nearly as much.
Once we started to trust it with weight aboard, it became easier to trust the hull when lightly loaded. Try chucking some weight aboard, and see if it makes a real difference - for us, it helped with making the adjustment to the Prospector.
Finally, you can look into lowering the seats by a few inches (longer hanger bolts) - dropping the centre of gravity even a little can make a significant difference in the boat's 'feel'.

Ride A Horse
I ove the Prospector design and have paddled two for years. Whenever I take someone new out in it, I always tell them to swivel their hips, as if riding a horse. Let your hips wobble from side to side while your shoulders remain upright.

Everything said about how differently it handles when loaded is true, but don’t go loading the boat just for the heck of it. I would go screwing around with the seats, either. Spend more time in the boat and it soon will fit like a glove. The Prospector, while a very old design, is actually a higher performance boat and you need to learn its charms.

And by all means, read “Path of the Paddle” by Bill Mason.

Spend time & actually play in your boat

– Last Updated: Apr-30-06 7:02 AM EST –

as well! Make it a fun day at the beach with a little paddle trip after playing. Time actually spent in the boat pushing your abilities and play will get you where you want to go!!!

Canoes and kayaks DO NOT tip over, dumping people out. People fall out of boats when they break the laws of nature. If you keep your nose over your belly button it is impossible to fall out of your canoe! ;^)

When I teach canoe, especially with kids we play in the boats first. Leave the gear on the beach, put on life jackets and play. Get in, tip and wobble the boat. Kids love this part; TIP it over. Learn the balance. Learn to work together; learn to counterbalance one another. See who has the loosest hips; sit in the boat and hula. Very good to build confidence and remind yourselves to loosen and stay loose. The water is near ready to start. I was paddling in Northern Ohio last week and the water temp is there for me. The kids and wife may like it a little warmer, but do not put off too long as it can become a great loss to your fun and enjoyment.

Exercises we do in teaching (These are done both with external help and without. Move away from external help quickly and do these unassisted.): Stand in the canoe. Move around in a canoe by yourself. Lean it over to find the secondary stability. Lean it further to see if it stops before the gunwale is under or resists going over. You may find a surprise here as it fights going over! Move around with another aboard. Have them hold onto the gunwales and counterbalance. Change places with the another person. Move from one canoe to another if one is available. And so on... Use your imagination.

Have fun!



mickjetblue, both your assertions are
questionable. The reviews are only a useful source of information for those who are experienced enough already to read them knowledgeably.

And I can absolutely guarantee that if the original poster and his wife stick with the Prospector, they will find it plenty stable when paddled sitting. Our first canoe had even less initial stability, and we never has a problem, even with two kids running around the boat.

Those who would like to improve sitting control should consider footbraces and thigh hooks. But in larger boats they usually make relatively little difference.

It’s a big IF and only time will tell.
I would like to see another post later this summer from the poster to find out how things turned out. That is up to the poster. Advice is almost always conditional and sometimes from a variety of viewpoints. It’s better to hear all sides of a matter, and be aware of all possibilities, than to assume an outcome on a matter.

It would be very interesting to see statistics on how many canoes that are sold with various types of hull shapes. There could be 3 primary categories, flat hull for sporting and recreation use, compromise hull with a shallow arch to enhance secondary stability and decrease initial stability, and the more rounded hull for secondary stability in white water. The highest number of sales would show what category of stability is more popular, with considerations to different types of usage. Happy paddling!

A couple more thoughts…
You’re getting really good advice here. I’m mostly in the camp that says give it time. Particularly if it is you and your wife that will use the boat together regularly, you should get comfortable quickly. Play and learning the limits will speed that greatly as has been said.

Something struck me in your post. Are you finding the boat unstable when sitting in it by yourself? Is that by chance your biggest problem? Even paddling the boat backwards from the bow seat, if it is only you in the boat, you wind up having the boat trimmed at a bad angle. Much of the hull is out of the water. You wind up having a very narrow part of the hull still in the water. It effect you’re in a very skinny canoe all of a sudden. To paddle solo you really ought to have your weight nearer to the center of the boat, just behind the center thwart.

Many folks will talk about paddling tandems backwards by sitting in the bow seat facing backwards. That does get you somewhat closer to the center and works fine in lots of casual situations for lots of folks no doubt. But for more stability and particularly if you’re in wind or other challenging conditions you need to be up toward the center. Look at a center seat or kneeling thwart perhaps.

If you already know all this and I’ve guessed wrong at part of your difficulty, no offense ment.

Hope you get comfortable in your new boat soon and enjoy it to the fullest!

Tippy Canoe…

– Last Updated: May-01-06 1:15 PM EST –

... and Tyler Too!

A bad pun, and I know that somebody out there gets it. :)

You beat me to it!

There’s a drill you can do called
The Boat Boogie-Wiggle. Just start rocking the boat from side to side going a little farther each time until your start taking on water. Next, sit with your eyes closed and have someone suddenly pull down hard on one side. The next step is to practice setting a consistant lean. Here’s how: Kneel or sit with your hands on the gunwales. Lean to one side and hold it there. Keep going deeper and deeper until the gunwale is half submerged. You’ll get your sea legs in no time.

#1 is a bit harsh
Beginners tend to read into “fishing” and “bird watching” more than necessary. Nobody wants to be stuck with such limitations after making a somewhat major purchase.

If someone is just trying to get their wife & kids away from the TV on Saturday afternoons, a flatbottom boat is the way to go. This crowd is better off growing out of a recreational boat than growing into a traditional one. The “spend more time” thing will become a chore, and the boat will rot.

My wife & I ran a $400 rotomold “bird watching” canoe down fourteen miles of Level II last Saturday. Had the time of our lives.

2 adults, relaxed in a 16’ boat…
that’s efficient. My $.01 says no way, unless you both become relaxed paddling the canoe on edge a bit. The chines are where the stability kicks in, not when it’s paddled flat.

I just got a mad river outrage x 13 ftx27inches now that my friend is tippy! I just did a post WW open canoe , asking for advice check it out there may be some good advice there.All i can say is tender boats always feel tender till you get the feel for it then you will be fine.Good luck