Which tracks better tunnel hull or keel?

Indian River Canoe has two 14 ft. models. The Back Country has a tunnel hull with a 36" beam and the Arrowhead has a keel with a 35" beam.

I am wondering which would track better on lakes in the wind. The main use would be for fishing and general paddling.

Thanks for any help.

Can’t answer without trying them. But
I’d urge you to look at some canoes that are a little longer and designed for easy cruising. Check out Wenonah canoes. They have some that are very stable but still decent cruisers.

When I see a canoe that’s roughly 36" wide and only 14’ long, I know I’m not looking at a craft that moves. Sits and fishes, yes. Moves, no.

not answering
Your question but that arrowhead actually looks like a decent canoe for flatwater fishing and rec. Paddling. The tunnel hull, at least on my 4" screen lucks like a beast to paddle and it is 8 pounds heavier. Not much keel ( i am down to 5 canoes, never had a keel on anything but sailboats).

Tunnel hits me as a gimmick. The arrowhead looks like it will handle much more predictably both stability and steerability wise.

1 Like

No tunnels
Haven’t paddled the canoes but I’ve seen tunnels pop up in all sorts of craft as a fad. They didn’t stick in sailing, power boats or kayaks. I agree with the above poster: try to get a nice handling canoe that is efficient. The better the canoe handles for yourself and your conditions, the more time you will spend on the water. I promise. Good luck. Finding that perfect canoe can take a lifetime. :slight_smile:

I doubt either would be a great
tracker. Both are tub shaped. A better comparison would be either of those with the same width canoe some two feet longer.

OTOH what does it matter if you are fishing? I would think what matters most is how much weight you have to heft to go fishing.

Tunnel hulls rule !

– Last Updated: Oct-15-13 4:55 PM EST –

At least in power boats they do.



Seems like …

– Last Updated: Oct-15-13 5:13 PM EST –

... the with the tunnel style's vertical edges tucked up above the main hull they'd be less effective than a keel. My first inclination was that it looked like there was more surface area to induce drag with the tunnel style as well, figuring that out would require a closer look.

That said, I agree with the others, that a boat of those dimensions won't be a real efficient cruiser anyway, and that a keel isn't usually valued by decent paddlers. Still, I can't say neither boat would work for you.

Most people find a 14-foot canoe to be a little small for two-person use (my personal favorite solo canoe, which maneuvers pretty well and isn't too bad for long-distance travel, is 14 feet long, but a cruiser-style solo would be 15 or 16 feet, and tandems for such uses are always a bit longer), but again, if you aren't paddling far, you may be happy enough with it. I happen to think 15 feet is a better minimum length for two-person paddling, but I don't "like" that length either. 16 feet is even better, but then, I'm a "traveler" more than a "sit-in-one-placer". If you plan to paddle any appreciable distance while fishing, you'll appreciate something longer and (therefore, proportionally) sleeker.

Or course keeping is mostly a function of block co-efficient, which can be simplified to length to width ratio for most discussions. Longer, more slender boats track better than short wide ones. Tunnels, keels and pretzels have little effect except to compromise handling.

The second greatest determinant of tracking is stern rocker, the less the better, but that is mostly a function of the hull countering poor paddling technique: not getting the paddleshaft vertical, carrying the blade aft of the body, paddling along the rail not parallel to the centerline, etc. Tunnels, keels and pretzels don’t help much there either, but a SUP fin would. All in all, it’s easier to learn to paddle.

Thanks for all of your replies.
Now you have me thinking I should be looking at longer canoes. I’m thinking now maybe a 16 ft. Would this be to hard to solo for someone who hasn’t been a canoe in about 22 yrs and that was a 17 ft. aluminum. Most of the time I would probably be solo but occasionally I would have someone with me.

From what most of you have said the keel doesn’t help much with tracking. I did not know that.

Keels really don’t do much
but some do add stiffness to the bottom of the canoe.

I wouldn’t just expect them to be much of a hindrance or an asset unless you are going over rocky streambeds, where keels just seem to grab rocks.

Hard to say . . .
. . . for those of us who have never paddled those two models. And I don’t understand what the benefit of a “tunnel hull” is supposed to be.

I think a 14’ canoe, in general, is a better solo length than a 16’ canoe just for messing around on short day trips. If both are 35" wide, the longer canoe will have a higher top speed but may actually be less efficient to paddle.

The Back Country looks definitely more stable as a platform for fishing. I would guess the Arrowhead is probably easier to paddle and control, and its 8 lbs. lighter weight is not trivial. Weight adds up, especially as you age.

The best bet is always to try to test paddle, even if you have to travel a ways to find demo canoes.

as far as lengths go
I think the 14’ would be easier to handle solo.16’ provides a lot more hull to get blown around, and soloing a 16’ would have a bit higher in the water. You’ll need to consider capacity when tandem, and realize load capacity ratings are quite optimistic.

Looking at another boat
I was amazed at the relative speed of the Lincoln Hidden Pond 14. It was for years raffled as a fundraiser for the Source to Sea Androscoggin River trek. First it was paddled the 177 miles of the river, then the raffle took place.

Both paddlers had room and it was not that slow. And there were some riffles in the river and some waves at the mouth.

So a 14 foot tandem is not necessarily out of the question if the bow paddler has enough room to kneel when conditions get scary (and it will happen). Pelicans don’t allow that room and bow paddler ejection is always a real concern. I don’t know about Indian River canoes.

I think there might be more issues than which is better…keel or tunnel.

Not sure
that a tunnel hull has any special attributes at paddling speeds over a keel. I can see why these high speed racing boats use what is basically pontoons, but there is no way you’ll get this type of performance while paddling. One simply can’t move quickly enough (watch the speed of the racing boat in the video when the bow comes up off the water and how quickly the boat goes from 129-170 - pretty amazing).

As for tracking, I’m certain that a tunnel will have more slippage than a keel, but whether that is appreciable at low speeds, I cannot actually say, though I would guess that in following wave conditions, it would be noticable.


pontoon is different
than a tunnel hull. even pontoons have failed at the kayak/canoe game. Catamaran sailing is awesome. I’m sure that facet translates well to top speed in power boats.

16 foot OK
for solo and, if you’re going to have a partner at times it will serve you well as a tandem. You want to select one that is symmetrical, or nearly so, that can be “turned around” for solo paddling. That gets you closer to the middle which gets you better longitudinal trim. This means you’ll be sitting backward in the front seat and that in turn means that the boat cannot have a thwart directly behind the front seat.

There are a number of boats out there that fit the bill, Old Town has several - Penobscot, Camper, Discovery. I owned and soloed a Bell Morningstar for a while. I thought it was a good fishing boat. Others may chime in with more recommendations.


Different in minor ways
but at low speeds, the advantages of a tunnel hull over a pontoon would likely be nonexistent.

The idea of a tunnel is to close off the space between the pontoons to create an air trap and use the pressure imbalance to lift the hull and minimize contact with the water. This cannot happen at the speed of a kayak and would, essentially, function as pontoons.

I have seen kayak hydrofoils (there are videos on Utube) and those do work at surprisingly low speeds, though it is a lot of effort to get the lift one needs. Not sure there is a practical method of doing this with pedal power alone.

But all this isn’t the point. The point was about tracking and I don’t see a tunnel system as benig of any appreciable advantage, though I’ll admit I could be wrong about that.


Which hull
A keel will definitely track better, but once you learn your strokes that is of little consequence.

Short beamy boats might be just the thing for a short paddle on a pond or small lake, but they really handicap a paddler that wants to carry gear for overnight or go somewhere, or bring a partner or a couple of dogs.

I have had good luck using tandem boats solo on overnight trips even on fast rivers. Turn them around and paddle from the bow seat if they are symmetrical hulls. A kayak paddle is not traditional but in fast water and windy conditions it can be a great help. I have never wished a canoe was shorter on a trip, but have often wished one was longer. My favorite boats have all been 18 or 18 1/2 feet. Many of the best solo boats are 15-16 feet long.

Short vs long

– Last Updated: Oct-21-13 1:52 PM EST –

Seeing as how we seem to have dismissed the two boats in the OP....

If the majority of your time will be solo, a 16' tandem may frustrate you....unless you are very careful about *which* tandem. As has been stated above, a tandem paddled solo sits higher in the water than while tandem. If the boat has high sides (and especially high ends) to begin with, that presents so much area to the breeze that it will be a major handful to keep it pointed in the right direction or to hold a position in a stiff breeze. (Look at a 16' Nova Craft Prospector or the Old Town Camper for a fairly extreme example) You *can* reduce the problem considerably with added ballast - but then, of course, it takes a little more effort to get it moving.

Another way to counter that, is to pick a canoe with less shear (lower sides) and lower ends. The classic Mad River Malecite is one example, and it is a great boat for lake fishing. Still a good tandem for not-really-large paddlers.

I also agree with above sentiments that a 14' tandem may prove easier to solo - sort of. For a 14' canoe to be usable as a tandem, it needs to be wider and/or have higher sides for the needed weight capacity. Good example of this is the 14' Wenonah Fisherman. Tandems pretty well with trim-and-fit paddlers (even on some choppy class 1 river) and solos okay, while not presenting as much leverage for the wind to use against you.

The obvious (for the experienced) trade-off is as Charlie stated (edit: alluded to) - much less straight-line tracking tendency. What is not so obvious, unless you've tried one out, is that the 39"-wide canoe is considerably more awkward to pick up and shoulder for carrying than a 35-36" beam canoe of greater length but similar weight. Fortunately, it can be had in Kevlar - which may make up for that.

A good compromise, IMO, is the Wenonah Heron - with the caveat that I have owned and paddled all of the above mentioned canoes except except the Heron.

Go Learn to Paddle
As recommended by CE Wilson above. Learn to paddle only on one side and you’ll be amazed at how much an improved paddler you’ve become with just a few sessions with an expert instructor. Canoe paddling with a single blade is becoming a lost art.