Canoe recommendations?

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by Duckworth, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Duckworth

    Duckworth Taking the high road

    Apr 15, 2009
    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?
  2. KLboxeR

    KLboxeR Back in the game again

    Jan 18, 2006
    Chester County, PA
    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.
  3. Smithy

    Smithy Avoiding the Skid-Demon

    Jan 5, 2005
    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.
  4. IHWillys

    IHWillys Been here awhile

    Nov 18, 2009
    FC CO
    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.

  5. Benesesso

    Benesesso Long timer

    Jul 29, 2008
    West of Phoenix, Arizona
    Always take a test ride soon after purchase, even if there's no lake, river or stream nearby.

    Heard a commotion in the backyard one day years ago--WTF?


    Good thing he was a good friend and coworker. :1drink
  6. Rogue_Ryder


    Dec 8, 2005
    Pinewood Springs, Colorado
    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!
  7. MrBob

    MrBob Knee-jerk liberal

    Oct 27, 2005
    Boulder county, CO
    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.
  8. aquadog

    aquadog Dude Buddha

    Feb 25, 2007
    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.
  9. Guano11

    Guano11 Stop me if you've heard this one....

    Mar 26, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Wow. Learned a lot from aquadog's post. Excellent tutorial for this landlubber!
  10. Duckworth

    Duckworth Taking the high road

    Apr 15, 2009
    Wow, thanks for the comprehensive advice!
  11. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

    Dec 1, 2005
    McMinnville, Oregon
    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. :lol3
  12. Duckworth

    Duckworth Taking the high road

    Apr 15, 2009
    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.
  13. bobcat

    bobcat recalculating

    Jun 17, 2005
    Austin City Limits
    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.
  14. plains ranger

    plains ranger Been here awhile

    Sep 29, 2008
    Austin, TX
    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! :deal 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!
  15. 2twisted

    2twisted NRTHJSTNRTH

    May 13, 2002
    Sebago Lake Me
    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.:deal

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

    koncha .

    Feb 8, 2005
    Aquadog should get post of the week.

    Wow. I've been canoeing for years and that was the most information I have seen packed into a 2 minute read.
  17. Jonex

    Jonex Long timer

    Mar 20, 2006
    Redmond, Washington
    Please don't take this the wrong way. I grew up canoeing down rivers in Missouri and I loved it, but....

    Now that I have kayaks, I'll never get in a canoe again. Better paddling ergonomics, more comfy, faster with less effort, less tippy, I can throw it on my Jeep's roof by myself, no coordinating two people paddling, etc....

    We have three cheapy ten foot kayaks in the garage and I've hauled them all over Wisconsin on top of my wife's Highlander using foam blocks on the stock roof rack rails. No need for a $700 roof rack.

    I've surfed mine in Lake Michigan in three foot waves. No spray skirt - I can see my feet my kayak is so open - just lots of fun. Never came close to tipping it.

    Lots of cheap fun. The only thing I don't like is my dog has to stay home.
  18. kitesurfer

    kitesurfer Long timer

    Mar 25, 2009
    north florida
    J stroke is your friend :)

    IF i could only have one, i would pick the kayak for reasons already stated. i've had 7 whitewater kayaks, 1 sit on top kayak, 1 tandem whitewater kayak, 1 tandem decked kayak, 5 decked kayaks, 2 whitewater canoes and 4 various purpose canoes. for a beginner get the best boat you can find on craigs list for $100. SERIOUSLY. If it's a kayak, put your money in a good graphite paddle/bentshaft. if it's a canoe, learn the J stroke, brace and draw strokes. whatever you choise you make, take the time to learn to "drive" it. get a comfoortable pfd and wear it. take your boat to different places to paddle. it will become a lifestyle.
  19. ricochetrider

    ricochetrider MotoMojo

    Sep 5, 2011
    Out There Somewhere
    you got some really good info out of this thread. an aluminum Grumman is the perfect starter canoe (for your pond)- super stable and predictable as well as a pretty straight tracking canoe. but aluminum canoes can be a tough go in rivers or creeks, especially if they are shallow at all, as aluminum tends to stick quite well to rocks. tho heavy, as the man said, no UV degradation. if you wind up with a plastic canoe, store it and transport it upside down to avoid flattening out the bottom (or ruining its manufactured *shape*).
    eventually you may want to reassess your needs and step up. IMO the modern *plastic* (ABS or whatever it is now) is the best build material going, if only for its sheer resilience. if you are going to paddle over rocks AT ALL, a fiberglass, carbon fibre or aluminum canoe prolly isn't gonna be your best bet.
    canoeing is the type of thing that a guy can get into with ease and have fun right off the bat without a lot of prep, effort or thought- AND it's fun for the whole family.
    cheers and happy paddling!
  20. FAW3

    FAW3 Old wanderer

    Mar 13, 2009
    A lot of good info already posted...Craigslist led me to my current two canoes and I love both of them. I have a kayak also...keep an eye out for CL postings.

    One thing that steers me toward my canoe now more than the kayak are two factors: when hauling one boat...i can use it to carry one, two or three people or gear....and two: I can sit on top of a seat, or kneel, feet under me, knees bent or straight...having position options helps my back over the hours.

    This year your in your might be carrying it atop a car/truck and such: Note that the material the kayak is made from makes hugh diffrences in weight. I have a 1980 Old Town Penobscot 16 in Royalex...about 50#...still kicking it and not to hard to lift. Practially the same canoe in other materials is over 75#...and much harder to lift/carry. Few people ever regret spending a bit of $ for a lighter canoe (or kayak).