Watson Canoe


I’m looking for a canoe. I’ve been scouring the classifieds, checking out the Swift sales, etc. It will be my (our) first canoe and I don’t want to buy a super nice canoe to have us bang it up. Once we get some experience, and figure out what we really want/need, then I’ll buy something nice.

So, it’s been the used canoe search. I was unimpressed with the Swift sale in Guelph, Ontario over the weekend. Most of the boats seemed terribly beaten up for the price they were asking (as compared to new$).

In my searches, I came across a company called Watson canoes in Toronto.

Their prices are right. I guess you get what you pay for, but does anyone have any experience with these canoes?

It’s no Swift, I realize that, but would I go too far wrong? They have a 16’ Prospector that they list at $799 cdn, and it weighs in at 58lb.

I’d like a new Swift Kipawa, with the Superior Blue/Champagne two-tone paint, but thats at least $2000 cdn, not in the cards right now, and good paddling weekends are already passing by. I’m making do right now borrowing my brother-in-laws Coleman, so I would hope this would be better than that.

Anyone have anything to add?


You can get a good canoe at a low price by going with royalex instead of composite. Check out WENONAH they have plenty of canoes under a grand and make awsome boats. People say good things about certain Old Town models but I have never paddled one. Also check out Piragis Northwoods in Ely Minn. They are an outfitter and sell off their rental boats every year, they may have some left and are very knowlegable.piragis.com I think.

You’re right, I think…

– Last Updated: Apr-29-04 11:58 AM EST –

...about getting SOMETHING to start with, knowing you'll want to get pickier with experience, and sticking with major brands such as We-no-nah is a good idea, since they're more easily resellable. Are you following the "classifieds" on this website? Also, if you enter "used canoes-Canada" on a searcher you might broaden your net. Finally, if there are 2 of you, you might look at getting 2 solos rather than a tandem. My wife and I enjoy having our own boats, a good combination of sociability and independence. You might also see if there's a paddling club in your area, since it might be a source, plus a way to meet other paddlers, get training, have fun, etc.

reply to fredf
Fred, I’ll be looking at used Watson canoes this weekend. A 16’ Prospector. It was used by an outfitter on the Wisconsin river. The stretch of the river he works on is very sandy/ not many boulders so I know the canoes will be in good condition. He’s listed his used boats on E-bay, but I spoke with him on the phone and decided to just drive over there this weekend.

Watson Canoes
When my friends at Oak Orchard Canoe began almost 30 years ago, the first canoes they sold from a rack in their front yard were made by Lionel Watson and brought across the border two at a time on their Dodge van. Many of these canoes are still in service.

The Watson canoes are very basic Canadian fiberglass, traditional design, typically 16’x 36"wide at the center, symmetrical hulls with some rocker, full bow and stern, and recurved stems. The trim is not fancy, but is sturdy. The bottoms tend to be more flat than round, some are shallow arch, but very flattened arch. The paddling is very similar to an Old Town Camper in tracking and turning.

If Lionel has held true to the lines of the Prospector desgin it will be a fine paddling boat, you can use for many years. And if an extended trip with many portages is in the works for you, just rent a lightweight Kevlar tripper for that expedition.

If you are buying used, paddle the canoe and check the hull for oilcanning in the bottom of the hull. With your partner, bounce up and down in your seats and watch the bottom of the hull near the center. It should not flex. Then alternately rock from side to side and watch the gunwales for any flexing or distortion. If you lean in opposite directions the hull should not flex. Check also for loose fasteners at the seat attachment points.

These are not to point out shortcomings in the Watson construction, but to check if the canoe was abused. A canoe may not have many scratches on the bottom and may still have been overloaded, stored poorly, buried in snow, walked on while beached, etc.

Good luck and great paddling,


Watson Canoe
Thanks for the information everyone.

I think I’ll rent one for the weekend to check it out, apparently if you buy the canoe they will deduct the rental cost from the canoe.

Seems that while not fancy, they will be a good starter canoe without being too barge-like :slight_smile:

Thanks Again

other Swifts
the Watson sounds like it will be good for you

you can also consider Swifts other than your ideal Kippawa…even their basic 15 footer (I forget what they call it…it’s like their family boats eries and comes in 15, 16, or 17 and has like 1 inch of rocker at both ends and is symmetric) performs very nicely and works well with a wide range of loads…and if you get their more basic lay-up with aluminum trim you should be able to get one around same price as the Watson

and the Old Town Penobscot in Royalex is always a good standby and is sometimes available new for under $800…it’s a sweet boat and a huge upgrade from a Coleman

the Royalex Bell Morningstar is also a great boat

Watson Canoe
Stevenwi - did you go look at the Watson canoes?

What did you think?


Sorry, couldn’t get over there this weekend. I’m looking for a solo and all of theirs were 2/3 person. Based on the other replies, sounds like a good buy. Also, if outfitters are using them, they must be decent.

Swift Muskoka 16
there is a red Swift Muskoke at their Muskoka store for 895. used. or you you may want to check out Hasting marina in Hasting Ont. for their SILHOUETTE CANOES. OR better yet e-mail me I have a like new Fastwater 16 you may like and will back to ont. about the 18th.