Whitewater Canoe Design Question

My wife and I recently paddled the Wausau Whitewater course in tandem canoes and had a blast, but puzzled by our very different experiences in an old Dagger WW boat and our own Nova Craft Prospector 16. We swam most of the class II±class III course in the Dagger and had difficulty executing basic maneauvers. With our Prospector (with a modest about 3 inches of rocker) we were able to pretty much do what we wanted and stay dry, seldom having to empty out our canoe. With the Dagger, we emptyed out (or tipped), after almost every drop.

We feel reasonably confident with basic WW maneuvers including ferrying, eddy turns, peel outs, bracing,draws, prys, and even surfing smaller waves. We had a pretty extensive 2 days of WW tandem canoe training (in a WW boat) and were on a 7 day WW wilderness trip on a pushy class II river in Canada (without tipping a loaded canoe). We’ve done several other class II rivers as well. We are not great, but are reasonably confident and competent canoeists.

That’s why we did not understand our experience. We had been more successful in our whitewater lessons in a different WW canoe. We were a little puzzled as to why the Dagger we paddled would be so tippy and so difficult to keep dry? It was expecially tippy with an inch (or less) of water in it, whereas we could confidently surf with the same amount of water in our Prospector. I don’t understand the advantage of paddling a boat that is so finicky in bigger WW. The maneuverability doesn’t seem to do much good if it is hard to stay in the canoe.

So, any comments? We are trying to get more serious about paddling whitewater and tandems in particular and would like to better understand hull design. Do we just not know how to paddle these types of boats? I have a genuine curiosity here. Pls help me out.


– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 6:13 AM EST –

Without knowing which old Dagger tandem you were paddling I can only guess.

Higher performance more manuverable WW boats often are challenging to paddle at least at first. They can be narrow and have more defined chines which will make it easier to go over when you are not used to them.

The trade off is that once you get used to such boats they will respond quicker and allow you more precise control. That will let you paddle more difficult water and increase the grin factor exponentially.

It's the grin factor that keeps most of us coming back.

Having said that there are whitewater boats that are too demanding for me at least. Boats that others, with better skills and faster reflexes, paddle well and enjoy very much. It really comes down to personal taste. If you are happier in you Prospector and can do what you want to do in it, who's to say that's not the best boat for you? Just realize that your tastes may change as your experience grows.

which boat?
What Dagger canoe were you paddling and how was it set up?

Dagger made a number of canoes which might be called “whitewater tandems” including the Caper-T, Caption, Legend 15, Legend 16, and Dimension.

How the Dagger was set up . . …
I think it may have been a Caper. It was an older model according to the owner and the model lettering had worn off. She told me the model, but I forget. It was set up with thigh straps and a dropped down padded thwart type of a kneeling seat. Seats toward the center. Flotation in the ends.

Grin Factor
Yeah, I think you’ve got that one right. I was almost ready to throw in the towel after my first run in the Dagger that day. I thought I had forgotten everything. Also, it’s good to know that WW tandems can be very different. I paddled in another fully outfitted WW tandem (though about 2 years ago) that I was very comfortable in. I found it ironic, though, that I could balance my canoe better which was not outfitted at all (besides flotation). That said, I know that I likely couldn’t ever roll that canoe or do some other WW maneuvers. I am looking forward to improving my skills and trying other boats. I really hope the next time I try one I’ll swim less and grin more!

I’m surprised that you had the trouble you did with the Caper. The only complaint I’ve heard about that boat is that it’s too beamy.

I’d suggest that you try as many different boats as you can. You most likely will find some boats suit you better than others. Many folks making the transition seem to like the Dagger Dimension.

Also give yourselves and the boats some seat time before you discount them. They are certainly very different from tripping boats.

I think that in tandem, especially,
more rocker, harder chines, and shorter length are not necessarily the advantage one would expect. It takes getting used to. My wife and I were always more secure in our old Tripper than we were in our MR Synergy.

And for solo, I’m still adapting after a year in my shorter, flatter bottomed, higher rockered Millbrook to duplicate some tricky maneuvers that I could do more dependably when paddling the Synergy solo.

sounds like a Caper or Caption

– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 10:43 AM EST –

The Dagger Caper is 14' 4" long and 31.5" wide. The Dagger Caption is 14' long and 32" wide. Your Prospector is 16' long and 36" wide. The Prospector has a fair degree of rocker and fullness and is a capable boat for a lot of whitewater.

Obviously, the Prospector has quite a bit more volume than either the Caper or Caption which contributes to stability and dryness. For "point and shoot" style whitewater paddling, a boat like the Prospector will do very well on Class II whitewater and less technical Class III (in good hands).

A shorter boat like the Caper or Caption has considerably more potential for maneuverability, especially in technical whitewater, but you wouldn't be able to exploit that without more experience especially if you were continually concerned about falling out of the boat.

A lot of whitewater open boaters will gladly give up some stability and dryness to gain maneuverability. With increasing experience, you don't need as much stability, and you figure out ways to keep the boat drier.

As Tommy said, the Dimension is a swell boat that you may have found more familiar, but they are pretty hard to find, these days. And even that boat, which is the same length as your Prospector, is 2 inches narrower.

I have a 17’ Nova Craft Prospector. I has confidence inspiring stability and it the best all around boat I have ever paddled.

The more specific white water boats are more maneuverable but this requires a deft hand to keep them going where you want. The Prospector is more forgiving and its larger volume allows it to float over instead of through waves and holes.

I used to paddle a Dagger RPM Max kayak and I could bomb through just about anything. When I took a hard chined playboat out for the first time I hated it. I could feel the advantages for very specific occasions but the overall feeling was one of uselessness compared to the RPM.

I could make the same comparison about road bikes, motorcycles and sports cars.

You will probably never out paddle the Prospector, it’s a great boat…enjoy!



I had similar experiences…
transitioning from my own canoe into Daggers back when they first came out. I was more comfortable in my own hull which I had been paddling in mild waters, but stuck with the Daggers after friends assured me that it would pay off and it did. Once I got used to the WW boats I found a great resource. They are better in WW. I think Tommyc1 and other are spot on.

BTW, I never use seats or kneeling thwarts in WW; too easy to center broach or foot entrap.


sounds like the flare, length, and

– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 12:21 PM EST –

overall hull design of the Dagger made it a little twitchy for your combined weight. Sounds like the Prospector was a pretty good match...that's why different hulls sell. Now if we can just keep those designs alive amidst company buyouts...(wishful thinking).