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Old 01-02-2012, 03:41 PM   #1
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Canoe recommendations?

Okay, I am an utter canoe n00b so I am not sure where to start. We moved last spring and there is a large pond/small lake behind our new place. What I want is a cheap, beater canoe that can hold two adults, and which is forgiving of poor technique. Is there anything in particular I should seek or avoid?
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Old 01-02-2012, 05:29 PM   #2
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I had an Old Town Discovery 158 and a Discovery 119. They were simple, durable, fun, and very forgiving. I was really impressed as to how well they held up just sitting out in the weather and sun. 10 years of being stored outdoors and they still looked great when I sold them for 2/3 of new prices.

The 119 solo was a hoot to paddle around in. Even though I didn't use them much the last few years, I really miss that 119.
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Old 01-02-2012, 05:47 PM   #3
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Avoid anything with a secondary hull or frame supports (usually hollow tubes running down the keel), they weigh waaaay too much and don't flex right, and are very hard to self-recover if you swamp.

Every Old Town boat I've ever had in the water was a pure joy. Sometimes you can get them for cheap, especially if you can do a little repair work on a damaged one, but you get what you pay for, generally.
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Old 01-02-2012, 06:25 PM   #4
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I picked up my current Old Town(Stillwater 12) via Craigs List. It was less than half the going retail price and it was new with just minor garage scratches(it's a fiberglass one). CL is thy friend here.

I think about the only thing to perhaps avoid would be boats without much primary stability. A flat bottom with little rocker is a sure sign of plenty of primary stability. I can stand up and fish in mine, which I would classify as a sportsman type canoe, as in hunting/fishing, not whitewater or touring. As in everything, pros/cons to the setup have to be considered as to the target use and experience of the users. We don't get to have a super-stable, straight-tracking boat that is also nimble and turns "on a dime". New paddlers and a little lake speaks of stability as a major factor to me. Besides, you buy used and then can easily unload it without major loss if you want to "move up".

That all said, if you get a line on an OT Canadienne within your price range, don't pass it up.

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Old 01-02-2012, 06:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AlanCT View Post
Okay, I am an utter canoe n00b so I am not sure where to start. We moved last spring and there is a large pond/small lake behind our new place. What I want is a cheap, beater canoe that can hold two adults, and which is forgiving of poor technique. Is there anything in particular I should seek or avoid?
Always take a test ride soon after purchase, even if there's no lake, river or stream nearby.

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Old 01-02-2012, 07:37 PM   #6
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I know Old Town had an awesome lifetime warranty, you could return the canoe in 2 pieces and they'd give ya a new one no questions asked. I have seen them recently in discount sporting good stores and wonder if the quality has declined. I paddled a few back in the 90s when I lived on a lake and they were hands down the fastest fiberglass canoes; so much better than the junk Colemans that were popular back then (Pelican is a junk brand I've seen a lot in recent years). I personally don't mind the old aluminum canoes myself and sometimes you can find people practically giving those away. You'd have to pay me to take a Coleman or Pelican.

I knew some folks back in Louisiana that swore by the Wenonah Canoes. If you find a deal on one of those grab it!
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Old 01-02-2012, 08:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by IHWillys View Post
CL is thy friend here.

if you get a line on an OT Canadienne within your price range, don't pass it up.
For two people and easy maneuverability - 15 feet is best. The Old Town craft are sturdy and subsequently weigh a TON. The crappy, old Colemans are cheap and light and hard to kill. Yes to Craig's List. If you're a noob and just messing around get any damn thing in your price range without a hole in it. Have fun, and if it really speaks to you your next boat will reflect your preferences.
Spend some money on decent paddles, though.
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:32 AM   #8
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Let Aquadog help you...I deal in Swift canoes, high quality, high performance boats made in Ontario. You don't want one of those yet. There have been good replies from Smithy and IHWillys. Don't worry about brand, a particular model, or the material it's made from at this point, if you just want to go out and have fun on your large pond. However, you need the right hull shape to be happy and enjoy starting out.

Hull basics - IHWillys referred to primary stability, which is a solid feel to the boat when it is flat on the water. This typically is confidence inspiring for a noob, as it doesn't feel like the canoe will scoot out from under him. Such canoes often don't offer secondary stability, which is a predictable feeling when they are heeled over on their side or tossed in waves, common in river paddling. An experienced paddler will prefer secondary stability and won't care much about primary stability (they automatically compensate for it). A canoe with high primary stability will often have poor secondary stability, you don't get both.

We won't get into this, but your paddling position also influences this, and how stable you feel in the boat. Kneeling (kneepads or glued in foam padding) with your butt against the front edge of the seat is going to feel more stable than sitting on a seat. If you kneel, raise the seat if necessary to ensure you can easily get your feet out if you capsize. If you're kneeling, you can lock yourself in and reach/do paddle moves that are hard when sitting. Remember, it's all about leverage and the right strokes. Leverage means reaching out to paddle near the ends of the canoe when you need to, not just dipping the paddle beside your body. There's lots more moving around going on in a canoe than you think.

For a beginner, a hull that has little rocker (that's bow to stern curvature) will tend to track (paddle in a straight line) better than one with more rocker, but be harder to turn. Once you learn a bit more, you can trick the canoe a bit by rolling it on it's side when you turn, which puts the part in the water in a more curved portion of the hull, so it "thinks it's got rocker". To start, tracking in a straight line will probably feel better.

Next is side to side hull curvature. A flat hull side to side gives more primary stability, a hull with a continuous curve will feel "tender" (unstable) at rest. Here's the big trick: what's called tumblehome. This is the shape of the hull as it clears the water, up to the gunnels. In order to keep the hull narrow for ease of paddling (if you sit like a robot in the centre of the seat), some hulls have a reverse curve, so they bend in towards the centre of the boat, then go vertical to form the gunnel. If you cross sectioned the canoe, it would look like the bottom half of a violin. This puts a sharp curve just near the waterline, and that can be a knife edge if the boat rolls on it's side a bit. That's why some canoes that feel stable at rest can be very tricky if they roll a bit in waves, once they start going over, they do so quickly and are hard to stop.

A canoe with a continuous curve will often carry that sweeping curve (in reduced proportion) right up to the gunnel, so they remain predictable all the way, the hull just keeps flaring out. This also lends itself to paddling moves where you want the boat on it's side a bit, and gives high secondary stability when tossed around in waves.

For starting out, a canoe without rocker (end to end), and a fairly flat bottom that transitions into vertical or slightly flared sides without pinching back in towards the centre much will probably serve you best. A boat with excessive tumblehome will end up putting you in the water and will scare you off.

There are finer factors, like how much the bow and stern stick up and catch the wind, and how you trim it for weight (like loading your motorcycle for a trip) so one end doesn't dig into the water, but don't worry about those for now.

Get a canoe where the material is the structure, the ones with internal skeletons, like the Colemans with the aluminium tubes, are low quality - tough, though. Most plastic canoes like the Old Towns are pretty tough. Don't discount the aluminium boats like Grummans, it's still the only material that you can leave outside 365 and not have UV degradation, plus the hull shape is pretty good for your purpose. People dis them as noisy, cold, etc. Who cares at this point? The price is usually right, as they're out of fashion. Minor dents don't detract from them. The canoe in the picture is a Grumman (sold to the workforce, may be called something else now). Most materials are fairly easy to patch.

For size, standards are 15', 16' and 17', with extremes above and below that. A 15' is considered a cottage canoe, two people, not going to load it up and go anywhere. A 16' is the standard of standards and quite versatile, room for trip gear. A 17' is a more "serious" canoe and usually means you're planning on going somewhere more often.

Lots of makes out there, any billybob with a chopper gun can make a canoe - and beware of that, low quality and heavy. Try to stick with a recognized brand that has the hull shape. Grumman 17', Old Town 169 or 174 (sucky seats), lots of others. Go to a canoe show this spring, they'll have paddling demos you can try. Take a course.
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Old 01-03-2012, 07:40 AM   #9
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Wow. Learned a lot from aquadog's post. Excellent tutorial for this landlubber!
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Old 01-03-2012, 03:58 PM   #10
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Wow, thanks for the comprehensive advice!
"You wouldn't be riding a motorcycle if you weren't an optimist."
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:20 PM   #11
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Some good info here:

Canoes are like bikes and cars - they can't do something well without giving something up in return, so it might be a good idea to buy a beater for a bit and see what kind of canoeing you are going to do most, then put money into a quality craft that addresses most of your needs.

If you really begin to enjoy canoeing you'll see that you'll need at least four to seven boats for different occasions.
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:41 PM   #12
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As a raw beginner, I think I'll look for used Old Town designed for primary stability, or maybe one of those aluminum Grummans. My plan is simply to paddle around the big pond out behind the house with my wife or my young daughter, and maybe do a bit of casual fishing out there.
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Old 01-04-2012, 12:37 PM   #13
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Canoe liveries sometimes sell their rental boats at low cost in the off-season. They may be very well used, but still perfectly fine for what you have in mind. You might be able to find a good deal.
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Old 01-04-2012, 01:00 PM   #14
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If you have an REI close they have demo days where you can try out a varriety of boats. And they carry Old town by the way. Most shops also have rental boats available.

If you have a local canoe and kayak shop they usually have demo days and rentals as well if you're not quite sure what you are looking for.

If you plan on transporting it be sure you can load it with one person on your car or trailer.

Capsized canoes are my number one rescue at work. After you get your boat and gear learn how to self-rescue. Some nice hot day during the summer, turn the boat over and practice righting it and getting back in. Its actually a lot of fun when your practicing, but will also save your life some day.

Life jackets (PFD's). Get good one's that you're going to wear! Type III are the most comfortable and what you are more likely to actually wear. Astral and Extrasport make some good ones that don't cost a fortune. Just remember a type III will not usually turn an unconcious person face up. But this isn't likely with a canoe. The old school type II's will turn most people face up but are as uncomfortable as all get out. These are the orange jobs that go around your neck that no one ever wears.

Check your state boating laws, but most vessels over 16 feet long are required to have a type IV throwable cushion on board.

Sound device. A whistle or air horn incase shit goes bad in a hurry and you need help or need to tell the idiot 16 year old on a jet ski that you're here. I usually suggest a whistle (Fox 40 is a great choice) since they always work and take no space. Get one that doesn't have the pea inside. They can rot and fall out after years of getting wet. Attach a whistle to all your pfd's that way there is no doubt you have one.

I carry a bilge pump, sponge, and paddle float for self rescue on my kayak. Maybe a few extra items to remember, but also adds a lot when you're on a remote lake with no one around. Something to bail water is always a nice addition.

Most of all have fun! Canoes and kayaks are tremendous ways to explore lakes, streams and rivers. Post up some pics of your adventures!
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Old 01-04-2012, 05:48 PM   #15
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Old Town has a sale every spring and you can pick up blems/ wholesale units for a bargain price.

You can also go to the Old Town factory outlet and they have some pretty good deals, make a nice road trip from Conn.

Look for a good deal on a Tripper or Penobscot 16'/17'
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