weight capacity and stability q's

I’m new to canoeing, or at least owning one, so I’m googling this and that and reading and have some questions…

For better or worse I bought a 17’ grumman. It says, if I recall, that the capacity is 690 for people and a total cap of 785…why two different numbers?

We rented an alum canoe a few weeks back (i assume 17’, but I don’t know for sure) and it had a cap of 585 pounds…this I remember as we (me, wife, 2 young kids) were kinda close to that amount, perhaps even over it with PFDs on. It’s the tippiest I ever felt in a canoe too.

So what decides the weight capacity of a canoe? The current grumman (marathon) lists a higher weight, and for the same size osagian the wt cap is higher yet, and it’s not broken down into people/total. I just figure the count of passengers is ficticious - I can’t see putting 5 people in my canoe, but the rating sticker says 5.

Second part - stability. Reading some other threads here there is talk of stability, round/flat bottom, etc. Iv’e only every paddled alum canoes, mostly grumman livery units (heavier gage metal and different keel than what I bought). What should I be aware of stability wise? Don’t stand up I suppose, but otherwise?

We plan to take it to a small local lake and ‘play’ on sunday - I want to swamp it, roll it, teach my kids (ages 5 & 8) what it’s like to be in the water in a PFD, try and climb back into the canoe - basic safety stuff I guess you’d call it. Any other suggestions on what to try, or what I’m in for in rolling,righting, boarding and bailing a boat?

Weight capacity
There is no industry standard for determining capacity. Some companies use load to a given waterline depth, some use load to a given freeboard, and some base it on undefined paddling qualities. The number is best used to compare different boats from the same manufacturer.

Some companies are very optimistic. They’ll cite a load that the canoe can carry without sinking in calm water, but it’s not realistic for actually paddling.

The paddler vs. total load is generally because cargo is carried lower in the boat and enhances stability. Paddlers have a much higher center of gravity than cargo, and heavy paddlers can make the canoe less stable.

before you dump it in deep water
Keep in mind that unless you have a second canoe helping you, there’s probably no way you can bail and reboard your canoe in deep water. They float too low, and if you climb onto a swamped canoe it will just sink.

Experimenting with this stuff is good to do, but do it in shallow water.

On rivers, especially whitewater,
overloading may seriously decrease a canoe’s ability to spin, side-slip, etc. Grummans once were used extensively on whitewater in the SE, and when so used, they were kept lightly loaded for good handling.

More weight in the bottom of the boat increases the tendency to return to dead center. More weight also makes the boat less affected by side winds. But there does come a point when a heavy load not only makes it easier for waves to slosh over the gunwales, but also makes lake handling really poor.

Having owned deep tandems up to 18.5’, I think people should just quit thinking about carrying more than 600 pounds. Unless they like bailing.

Every canoe has its limitations…
I’d suggest reading the articles under the “Canoeing”

menu, as well as the posts you are already researching.

A swamped canoe, in deep water, can be flipped and then entered again,

although the technique is tricky,

and only for those with very good dexterity.

Definitely not a basic skill for kids.

All skills improve with experience, so learn the ropes,

and have a good time!

A Few More Answers

– Last Updated: Jul-18-09 1:01 PM EST –

You asked quite a few questions, some of which have not been addressed. I'll try not to miss any.

The reason the weight capacity is different for people than for gear is because your gear sits low in the boat and doesn't move around. It would be rare to load a canoe ONLY with gear, but perhaps a little "educated interpolation" will allow you to figure out a reasonable maximum load for gear and people. That said, what's already been stated by others is true, in that every manufacturer has a different standard for determining maximum load, some of which are realistic in the real world and some of which are not. If I had to guess based on experience, a 17-foot Grumman could carry two 300-pound adults and a small amount of gear, but it would be a total dog. Almost any canoe would be a dog in that case, but at least the Grumman CAN do this. You are right that a canoe like this one will feel a lot more tippy when loaded to that degree. That's a sign you are getting beyond any reasonable "ideal", or real-world maximum load.

As to putting five passengers in your boat, sure you can do that, as long as all of them are kids!

Aluminum canoes have a flat bottom (as viewed from one end). That means the boat will feel very stable, and won't lean as much to one side if your weight is not exactly centered. Boats with more rounded bottoms will lean more easily, but with most designs, tend to resist additional leaning so it gets harder and harder to lean farther and farther. A flat-bottom canoe will be hard to lean, but if you lean if far enough you won't get much warning as it approaches the tipping point. In real life, this is seldom much of a problem, except that people who want good performance appreciate a boat that is predictable when leaned. Of greater everyday concern for typical paddlers is the fact that a flat-bottom boat has more surface area exposed to the water relative to its displacement. The displacement is the SAME for EVERY boat if the overall weight of the boat and the load it carries is the same, so a boat with less wetted surface area will require less effort to move through the water. By the way, a flat-bottom canoe is not a bad platform for standing up, unless you are a very large person. It may take practice, though.

You are on the right track by wanting to experiment with what it takes to tip it, swamp it, get back in and all that. Most people don't do that, but anyone who does will be a lot better off in their knowledge of what their boat can "take" and what risks they'd be better off avoiding. You may NOT be able to get back in the boat by yourself, but with two or more people
helping, it is much easier. Start out in shallow water so you know what your up against.