What canoe would you get....


New to all of this and I have a very basic question. I paddled as a kid but not in many years. I want to buy my first canoe and here are my criteria:

Tandem for my wife and I.

Occasionally solo for me.

High secondary stability.

Mostly flatwater use.

Maybe some slow river use. Unlikely to see rapids.

Possible fishing/sport/photography use.

Mostly day trips and casual paddling.

I used to sell Mad Rivers 30 years ago and really liked the Explorer but I think much has changed and the Royalex seemed ‘bulky’ and blunt…

If the price range for used is under $1000 and new is under $1500, what would you recommend?

If you sold Mad Rivers …

… you know the Malecite. That would be my choice. One of the better solo/tandem choices out there … especially if you are a tallish guy who can paddle it effectively as a solo.

Others have experience with several Novacraft models, including the PAL. I do not. But looking at them, they will certainly handle the tandem part well, it’s the solo part I’d like to try out sometime. Maybe some of those folks will weigh in.

solo/tandem canoes
Finding a boat that is big enough to feel stable when paddled tandem that does not feel like a pig when paddled solo is tricky and always involves compromises.

Three boats that are frequently recommended here for this application are the Mad River Malecite, the Wenonah Solo Plus, and the 17’ Wenonah Jensen.

Royalex boats are nearly always blunter than composite boats. The sheet cannot be formed into sharp angles without compromising its strength and stiffness. A couple of Royalex boats that might deserve a look are a 16 or 17’ Old Town Penobscot or a 15’ or 16’ Prospector (many makers produce a boat they call Prospector, Nova Craft is one).

I would suggest shopping the classified ads such as Craigslist for all the cities you are willing to drive to from your location. See what high-quality composite boats are up for sale and research them to see if they would meet your needs.

Suggest you look at used…

– Last Updated: Jul-08-10 3:42 PM EST –

...if you have to stick with those prices - with the exception of the Penobscot. If there is a possibility that you might see some mild rapids, the Penobscot makes a lot of sense, and you can get a new one in your price range. Otherwise, I think you'd be real happy in a Malecite.

It doesn't sound like you have reason to give up speed of either of those for the volume and stability you would gain in a Prospector.

I have all three of those boats. On lakes and flattish rivers, my hands-down favorite (for tandem or solo) of the three is the Malecite, with the Penobscot being second best and better for the rough stuff on account of it's deeper hull.

By comparison, the Prospector is slow - but much more forgiving in rough water. If I had a "do-over", I would hold out for a used composite over new royalex if going for the Prospector.

Other models in the class of the Malecite that look good to me (although I have looked closely at them, I have not paddled them) include the Bell Northstar and Wenonah Escapade (in composites).

Bell morningstar
might be worth looking at also - if one is to be found used. I have a friend who uses one and he definitely can make it dance as a solo.

Hemlock Eaglet III
A short, narrow tandem that is fitted with a third solo seat. Can be as light as 39 lbs.


There is currently a used Malecite on the Hemlock site.

Haven’t even seen either in person…

– Last Updated: Jul-09-10 11:05 AM EST –

...but I think based on specs (not an entirely reliable base, I know) the Eagle may be a more suitable all-around mostly-tandem boat. Smaller paddlers, mostly solo, mostly twisty rivers would weight towards the Eaglet.

Also noticed a used White-Gold Northstar below that Malecite. Are those boats that were traded in on Hemlocks? That might say a lot...

nova craft, bob special
Good all rounder

Saw a 16’ Grumman for sale the other
day, but it’s now gone. That would be a compromise for you. I’d avoid royalex for flatwater.

The Eaglet is
more a solo for a big person with a tripping load.

Its going to be tight for two even on day trips unless they are Cliffie Jacobsen size.

Yes Dave takes tradeins.

It would be sweet if you could make the SWPA Solo Canoe event in June. Just about every solo boat made and formerly made seems to show up.

Another reason…
…to go to New England in June! Hmmm…

The Malecite did not come in as a trade

Don’t know about the Northstar

explorer 14 tt
That is the one I would get. I had one and like it a lot. Sad I had to sell it.

Don’t discount the MR Explorer
The Malecite is a damn good boat, but so is the Explorer, and I think it is slightly more versatile. I tandem mine with my wife frequently, and I have had it out on extensive trips (6 days) through a variety of water paddling it solo from a center seat. I’m sure you can still find them out there used. They may be pokey and heavey, but if you’re not in a race and don’t need to carry it far, don’t fear the Royalex.


Before I had a solo canoe
I paddled my 16 1/2’ Kevlar MRC Explorer solo all the time for distances up to 16 miles of flat water at a stretch. I have probably paddled that boat more miles solo than tandem.

It is a little too wide to be what most people would consider ideal for solo paddling, but it certainly can be done, and beats the heck out of not paddling at all.

Again, any boat that you buy for both tandem use and solo use is going to require you to compromise on its tandem performance, its solo performance, or both. It might be better to buy a canoe that feels stable to you and your wife when paddled tandem, and put up with its size when you paddle it solo.