Tracking and the V bottom

You don’t need to heel that boat too terribly much to take the “V” out of the equation, but then it becomes a flat bottom hull (more or less). Heel it more aggressively and it will behave more like a shallow arch hull.

As a general rule, any 16+ foot tandem canoe with relatively little rocker is going to be a bit stubborn to turn when paddled solo unless heeled, V bottom or not. With a paddler in both ends of the canoe, using effective strokes and positioned farther from the pivot point of the hull, it will turn effectively with less heel.

I have paddled my Mad River Traveler on overnight trips on the Ozark rivers which is a large volume solo canoe the same length as the Explorer and with the same shallow V bottom hull cross section and minimal rocker. I found it generally easier to maneuver around obstacles using a combination of back ferries and side slips as opposed to trying to execute a rapid sequence of turns in a boat of that size and hull configuration.

Hi Peter, good to see you’re still around and collecting canoes.

A Mad River Royalex Explorer was my first canoe 40 years ago, and I still have it. I paddled it in whitewater (up to class 3+), lakes and the ocean in California and, after moving, all over the northeast. I also poled it, rowed it and put a 2hp motor on it.

It has massive secondary stability on a heel. I used to be able to sit on the gunwale amidships and dangle my feet in the water without submerging the rail. Heel it aggressively off the V bottom and it will turn well enough. It was the first open canoe to run the Grand Canyon, by Jim Shelander in 1979. It was also famous whitewater photographer and racer Robert Harrison’s favorite canoe for rivers like Section IV of the Chattooga in the 80’s. It was also Harry Rock’s favorite poling canoe years ago, and perhaps still is.

As to the question of whether the V bottom aids tracking, I never formed a firm conclusion about that. I think it does, but only slightly and only if paddled level. Paddling it solo from a wide cane center seat, I was always slightly heeled (a la Canadian style) and always on the flat sides during turns – so it was somewhat hard to tell.

Good mornin’ and Happy New Year to all.

Yes, Glenn and Pete describe my experience with the Vermont canoe better than I did. You definitely put the boat on a flat section as you first heel it over and that does not do much to pick the ends out of the water. To get it off the flat section and heeled over far enough to pick up the ends requires a lot of effort and maybe more than my spindly 150 lbs.

None of this stuff would be very interesting if all the boats behaved the same and were predictable.

Edit: As for my still buying boats, yes, I am still in need of a 12 step program for compulsive canoe buyers.

Looking forward to spring.


Yes, I would tend to agree with you, Glenn. The shallow V bottom might enhance tracking a little when paddled flat but probably not enough to make up for its idiosyncrasies. Jim Henry obviously liked that design but I think most people would be better off with a shallow arch hull cross section.

Having said that, the shallow V bottom is not hard to get used to and I would not reject a canoe because of that design. When I lived on a lake in Tennessee in the early 1990s my solo flat water canoe was the big Mad River Traveler and I paddled that boat solo on many miles of flat water. I nearly always paddled it with a fair bit of on-side heel.

Happy New Year! Yeah I learned same as the OP. I was used to paddling Kruger Sea Winds which have some rocker and a rounded hull. They track good because they have a rudder, but only because they have a rudder. I bought a Clipper Sea 1 which is a V bottom and man the thing tracks straight as an arrow. I even went as far as putting a bigger rudder on it so it would turn. The Sea 1, as a result of this V bottom, is wonderful in very rough and confused seas. It doesn’t weathercock at all. And with a Falcon sail, it is a wonderful way to cover the miles!