Watercraft choices : wholly subjective

-- Last Updated: Jul-31-12 9:01 AM EST --

I just finished my first ( and second, and third) day on the water in the new boat, a Mohawk Odyssey 14 that I picked up after reading several reviews and thoughts on this forum . I hope to do a long, detailed review on that boat complete with pictures and things....but I have to wait 'till I stop giggling first. :0

One of the reasons I picked that boat is that I've been fishing and paddling an Old Town Penobscott 16 in RX, with a center seat, as my solo boat for the past few years. While this boat has been great for me to fish or paddle single or tandem, I wanted a lighter, more nimble and "playable" craft that I could also fish from. Initial or secondary stability has never been an issue in the Pea-Nob.

However, one of the guys in the group that I paddled/ fished with on Sunday commented in the course of conversation that he once had a Penobscot for a few years to fish out of, but it was "way too tippy", and he sold it for a song a few years ago. He dumped the Old Town 5 or 6 times in 2 years. It was not his first canoe; but his "first boat" was a giant Aluminum Grumman.

So we have two different paddlers, both with the same stated mission, and completely opposite opinions on what constitutes a "good fishing watercraft."

By the same token, although I am NOT an experienced paddler by any means, I'm finding the Mohawk and my new found maneuverability to be phenomenal; and the secondary stability on the Odyssey to be an absolute treat. There's less initial stability than with the Pea-nob, but I got used to it within a few minutes or so and had zero issues while fishing and making Long casts with my fly rod. The other angler, though, would think the Odyssey a death trap without a doubt.

That makes me think that it's almost impossible to recommend a boat for anyone, except in the very most vague and general terms, unless you've paddled with them and/ or they've paddled the boat they think they may want..

( For the record, btw, I think my Mohawk is bent. It tracks straight with a "C" stroke on my strong side...but when I switch sides it goes in circles...:) )

People change
The other issue with recommending a boat or even reading reviews is that skill levels change with time. A boat that seems too jiddery to trust might seem very boring a few months later. Given the different experience levels of different folks, the every changing comfort level that one individual will have with a boat and the inherant difference in tolerance individuals have for a nimble versus ultra-stable craft it is very hard to match folks to a boat that fits them best. If you get it right for the minute - they are likely to change.

I hope your boat is okay. Flip it over and sight along the keel. That might tell you if you have a bent boat (cantilevered canoe).


It’s like asking which car should I buy. Everyone has different budgets, different expectations, different goals and different physical traits that make it a very personal thing. If this were not true, I doubt there would be so many choices in boats.

Having said that, experienced paddlers who have paddled a variety of boats can often quantify some objective traits or at least differences. But even then, adding 100 lbs can make a boat that is super stable to one paddler much tippier for the next.


very true about changing
experience levels and abilities. I have ran into something with paddling that I haven’t before; that of people who’ve been “doing it” for several years, but never required any skills. Those same folks seem to then consider themselves “experts” based on their years of ownership only. …

Usually, one gains at least a certain amount of skill with experience; but paddling seems wholly dependent on getting the RIGHT experience. Does that make any sense?

( Ohhh… and I was kidding about the boat being bent! If it paddles and tracks on my strong side, but doesn’t hold a line on my off side…there’s a reason it’s my “off” side. :slight_smile: )

Good observation
I have had folks in class who say they have paddled for 30 years and who really don’t know the correct (efficient) way to paddle. I think it’s because it’s realatively easy to paddle a canoe or kayak and get where you want to go…you see people in livery boats get down the river/lake OK so it appears to most folks there is no real skill level required.

Like all things in life you can do it to many different levels. If you’re happy getting down the river that’s fine, if you want to play, good instruction will show you things you never knew existed. Same goes for flatwater.


– Last Updated: Aug-01-12 4:45 PM EST –

I think Bill Mason wrote something very similar in "Path of the Paddle" (Do you have that book? Based on what you've said in various posts, I'd suggest that if you don't have it, you should get it). While describing how various maneuvers could be used to follow a "good" path through a rapid, Mason pointed out that MOST canoers would make it though such situations without knowing how to control the boat and consider it a successful run. Indeed, I think there are plenty of paddlers who consider themselves "good" if they pinball their way down a drop and not tip over, just because they've done it that way enough times that it feels familiar, but they simply don't know how much different it could be.

Ha! Here's a clip showing a couple guys who probably thought they'd been doing really well in low Class-I rapids all day long, but they didn't know enough to recognize a wicked blending of two currents or that it couldn't be crossed without leaning or bracing (not to suggest that they would have been familiar with either of these actions). The only reason other boats in that group made it through was that they barely missed the "sweet spot" that surely would have flipped them. I'd been playing around in that spot for a while before the party group showed up (that's me waiting in the background for the boats to pass). When they arrived, Rena and I expected to see a lot more carnage than there actually was, and it was just dumb luck that only one boat flipped.


Excellent points
I also have owned Penobscots for many years (in fact, just got a great deal on my third Penob 16, minor dents incurred in shipping, brand new boat for $745.) I think it is the best fishing canoe for Ozark type streams there is. But I’ve floated with guys who hated it for the unstable feeling it has. One of them would probably need a 40 inch wide barge to NOT feel unstable, because he’s a tall guy with a long torso and is antsy, always moving around in the boat. So he has a high center of gravity and relatively poor balance. Other people who have floated with me have initially thought the canoe was very tippy feeling, but were totally used to it and comfortable by the end of the day. But still others were used to being able to stand up and fish in other canoes, and didn’t like the Penobscot because it didn’t feel very stable when they tried to stand.

So you’re right, it’s entirely subjective. I’ve learned to stop saying the Penobscot is the perfect tandem fishing canoe for Ozark streams, even though it is for ME, and just be honest about its characteristics when giving advice to others.