Tracking and the V bottom

I just bought and paddled for the first time a 16’ Vermont canoe which has a slight V bottom. I was surprised to find that it is hard tracking and difficult to turn. This is my first encounter with a canoe of this design. Is that a characteristic of these boats?


How much rocker did it have?

It does not have a lot of rocker. Just sighting the keel line I would say maybe an inch. In that regard, it is similar to the Old Town Penobscot that I have spent a lot of time in and is easier to turn.


Wow. Hard tracking AND difficult to turn? I’d think you’d get one or the other, but not both.

May have misused the term hard tracking. What I meant to convey was that the boat maintains course and it is difficult to turn off of that course. It wants to go straight.


The 16’ Vermont Encore is more or less a copy of the Mad River Explorer. No, it doesn’t have much rocker.

To get a V bottom hull to turn easier, heel it over onto one of the “flats” of the hull bottom, or further. On flat water, on off-side heel usually works best. Still won’t be quick turning.

Shallow vees like to carve turns and don’t skid on top of the water as easily as newer shallow arch designs. It’s the lack of rocker along with the shallow vee that makes your boat feel hard to turn (since shallow vee hulls with significant rocker can still spin on a dime). As pblanc said you can experiment with leaning it over…try leaning it way over at low speed and it should turn well. Try a bow edge at low speed and I bet it will turn pretty sharply.

Peter you will be happy to have engaged in FreeStyle classes. What the other Pete and Tom are describing is a wedge so low speed at first with just a little heel otherwise ejection can follow…

Thanks to all for the replies. As soon as the weather warms (I am in CT) I will heel the boat over farther and see if I can get it to turn quickly enough that I won’t mind doing mild white water with it. That was the hope when I bought it. If not, a boat that tracks well will be appreciated on flat water and windy days.


A friend of mine from many years ago started building his own design of cedar strip canoes. The first one was designed for racing in the adirondacks. It was a shallow V with no rocker. It was fast and tracked extremely straight, making it very slow to negotiate the sharp turns in many sections of the Adirondack 90 miler. I paddled it recreationally some time later and saw that it was extremely difficult to turn at all. Since then my friend has built several hundred canoes and guideboats for a living, all with much better turning as well as straight line performance.

Many people do not realize that when attempting to negotiate a sharp turn in most standard design canoes, it is unexpectedly far easier to carve a sharp turn with an outward lean and tip, not inward as you would lean a bicycle to bank around a curve.

Isn’t a V bottom SUPPOSED to be for better tracking with less drift and not as maneuverable

OK, point of order. We are "edging"(kayak term) the boat not leaning .

It is more moving the boat over to one side while remaining vertical over the seat. Lift a hip, bend at the pelvis, put a foot/knee on that side just don’t LEAN over to the side. That is when gravity capsizes the boat. Unless you put a equal brace/sweep with that “lean”.

To a newbie (as the OP appears to be) watching they would likeylconclude that the boat (canoe) is leaning, even though the paddler may (or may not) remain upright. And I believe we are talking about canoes here in which the proper term is heeling. Apply the rule to keep your head inside the plane of the gunwale and you are generally safe to shift around in a canoe seat for maneuverablilty.

I think you got the point yknpdlr.

Of course heeling is a sailing term.

Rather condescending remark… He and his wife have paddled many canoes and own many and have for years. A V bottom is new to him that is all. No need to try to impress ( again)
He has attended many Freestyle classes and the term heeling is used there too. He also kneels and moves around to facilitate on and offside heels.

Peter, Are you planning to paddle this solo or tandem? I do know people who have paddled both the composite and Royalex versions of the Mad River Explorer on whitewater, so it can obviously be done, even though it is not the most nimble.

In whitewater, you probably won’t be wanting to use an off-side heel to make dramatic turns too often. If paddling tandem, with a paddler at each end using complementary strokes and a healthy on-side heel you should be able to get the boat to turn reasonably well. If you are paddling solo, you will probably have to heel the boat on-side more dramatically to get the stems up out of the water, and perhaps use a reverse sweeping low brace to get it to turn quickly. That might require installing some decent outfitting.

Oh dear, what have I started?

More explanation will hopefully help. I own an old pickup truck which I drive around in CT. My son would like to have it, he lives in Oregon. I would like to visit with the good folks at the Ozark Rendezvous once more before I am hauled off to the nursing home. So…two birds, one stone. Trouble is that the boat for Ozarks will end in Oregon. That set me looking for a beater since I do not want to leave behind one of my favorite boats. I found/bought the Vermont described in the original post.

When I got it home I launched in the pond behind my house for a quick trial. I was solo sitting backward in the front seat. My initial impression was that the boat was too hard to turn to serve for the Ozark outing - the venues there are not difficult, but some maneuvering is required.

The boat is currently in the garage with the furniture out for varnishing. When it goes back together it will also get a kneeling thwart. The 10 day forecast calls for temps in the 40s so it looks as though I will get another chance to try it before we ice up for good. When I do I will leave my wallet and cell phone in the house, stay close to shore and and will paddle the boat forward from the kneeling thwart. I will heel the boat until it turns or I go for a swim and then report back. Stay tuned.


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concur with the aggressive heeling for turns in an explorer v hull. Get the technique and the boat will slice through the turn or wave, less bobbing( riding up and over) than many other canoes and more slicy. challenging but fun to paddle in ww

Peter, I sent you a PM re: the Ozark Rendezvous and canoes.

SO…the boat is finished and out of the shop. This morning I launched it again in the pond behind the house. This time I was solo using the newly installed kneeling thwart. The thwart puts me 6 inches closer to the center of the boat than sitting backwards on the front seat did. By aggressively heeling the boat I was able to achieve a rate and duration of turn that will probably serve well enough for the intended Ozark outing. I am not sure that the original question, which asked if hard turning was a characteristic of the shallow v design. has been answered. It is clearly a characteristic of this boat with a shallow v design.

As I read through the responses to my original post I find myself agreeing with the need to aggressively heel the boat and also the statement the the boat is not nimble (thanks pblanc and tdaniel). That’s OK. If all goes according to plan it will be used for a few days in the Ozarks and then sold when it gets to Oregon.

Thanks to all for your responses and Happy New Year.