Unstable Canoe?

Anyone any experience of a Coleman Explorer 166 canoe?.

First time out (in a lake) and the damn thing capsized twice.

Sitting on the seats seemed to make it top heavy and very unstable hence it capsized.(we didn’t exceed the weight capacity).

Ignoring the seats and sitting in the bottom of the canoe stablized it somewhat (well, we didn’t capsize!!!) but it still didn’t feel right…and it was a damn uncomfortable position.

Advice anyone?



Given your experience it sounds
like lessons are a good idea. When paddling in rough conditions a more stable platform includes having the paddlers butt on the edge of the seat and kneeling with their legs spread. This increases balance.

Canoes and kayaks don’t capsize !
People capsize them.

I hope I am not sounding sarcastic, but that is a fact.

We do a lot of racing, (C-2) and in reviewing each time we swam, it was a mistake that we had made, not the canoes fault.

Suggestion: if it feels tippy just paddle it. Don’t wait for it to tip over.



Suggestions from an old instructor
1. Start out kneeling. This lowers the center of gravity significantly and allows you to adjust balance with your hips.

2. Assuming you are paddling tandem (two of you, that is) paddle on opposite sides. Controlled switching is an advanced technique, not to be confused with random, willy-nilly switching.

3. Learn the following: forward stroke, reverse, pry, draw. Practice making the canoe go forward, backward, sideways, and in a controlled circle. Practice, practice, practice.

4. Learn high and low braces. If each paddler is low bracing on his/her own side, the canoe is impossible to capsize. Practice until you can kiss the water (literally) during a low brace.

5. Get lessons. The learning curve is much steeper if you do not have to figure out everything for yourselves.

There are no tippy canoes, only tippy paddlers.


How old is the boat?
Is it new? Sometimes old boats have a deformed hull from being stored outside or stored improperly and the hull is said to be “hog backed”, at least I think that is the term. Basically the hull is concave, this can result in a very tippy boat. Just a thought.

Only Coleman I ever paddled had a noticeable “Hogback” from bent tubes. This actually gives the canoe a reverse rocker and makes it very unstable. That could be the problem. WW

This is a tricky boat
For some unknown reason this is one of the trickiest flat bottomed canoes in the world of paddlcraft. I have witnessed dozens of people in rental Colemans do the InstaFlip in these canoes. None were standing and none were reaching way out of the canoe for anything. they just seem to get out of sync with each others paddling or a large bodied paddler got his shoulders out over the gunwales and in a flash they were over. You would hear the famous Oh Shit and they were in the water.

Any flat bottomed canoe gives a false impression of stability.Upright it puts a lot of width in the water. But as it is leaned the weighted side goes deeper in the water and the unloaded side rises. When the unloaded side breaks out of the water there is suddenly much less canoe width in the water and the weighted side goes much deeper into the water and over it goes. There is little warning like in a flared vee or shallow arch hull. A skilled paddler can take one of these to the capsize point and feel the hull go unstable. But a novice learns this point of no return by swimming a lot.

As mentioned by the others, if the hull bottom is deformed into the hogbacked keel profile of negative rocker, it becomes very unstable.

To learn your canoe, keep your shoulders inside the gunwale line and swivel at the hips as the canoe rolls from side to side with the waves. lean it slowly from side to side and feel how it reacts. Learn the point of no return, swim when you are ready for it, and adjust to the hulls characteristics.

And by all means try other canoes till you find the one you feel really at home in. The people on this board will recommend their favorites in the 16-17 foot range and all are probably within an inch or so of each other in all hull measuements. But on the water they will all feel different to you, or any of us. The search is for the one that feels best to you.


Old true saying:“Canoes do not tip over,
people fall out of them.”

Another true saying is: “You can not fall out of a canoe if you keep your nose over your belly button.”

Even if it is a tricky beginners hull, you just need practice and balance. Lessons would not hurt either.

Happy Paddl’n!



Having paddled a Coleman, I can
relate to your experience. We never dumped, but they don’t give much warning. Not what we would call ‘tender’, but more like less predictable. Also the hull lacks stiffness and deforms. This is why some folks like them for slopping down creeks, but you need to develop a relationship with the boat. Coleman makes some durable stuff, so it should be serviceable. We fished out of the one we paddled and it got us to the fish and back. We sat and paddled and fished. It was an older boat,so could be different than yours.

These boats can get deformed in shipping and storage, so have someone look at it. The advice about lessons is excellent. Try to find a club in your area.

Thanks to all for your excellent feedback.

First lesson I’ve learned is that I need some :frowning:

I’ll also get the boat checked out.

Thanks again.