Buying the perfect canoe
Americans buy over a 100,000 canoes a year. New designs, materials, and construction methods have resulted in a thousand different models of canoes that are lighter, faster, and more durable. With such a variety, it should be easy to buy the perfect canoe for you. However, the opposite is true. “What kind of canoe should I buy,” is probably the most asked question. It is also one of the most difficult to answer.
There are five categories of canoes:
· General recreation: Suitable for ponds, lakes and quiet rivers, their stability and versatility make them the best choice for families and beginners
· Wilderness tripping: Designed to carry heavy loads, they are long and durable and a great for family outings
· Sporting: With square sterns for mounting motors, they are stable and versatile enough to be paddled, rowed or motored
· Touring: Long, narrow and built for speed and efficiency, they are versatile enough for calm lakes to moderate whitewater
· River-running: Designed specifically for whitewater, they are rockered for maneuverability, deep and flared at the ends for dryness and durable for bouncing off rocks
The type of canoe you buy depends on the kind of canoeing you want to do. If you like to combine camping and canoeing perhaps a ‘touring’ canoe, like an Old Town Discovery 174, will be your best bet. It is 17 feet, four inches long with a carrying capacity of 1000 pounds.
When shopping for your canoe keep in mind that the length, width, depth and especially weight are important. Canoes can range in length from 13 to 20 feet. Longer canoes are faster and can be easy to handle.
As far as width, a canoe too narrow in relation to its lengths can easily capsize. One that is too wide can be difficult to maneuver.
The Old Town mentioned above has a width of 36 inches, 34 inches at the waterline. The depth is 14 inches, which is about standard. Depths usually range from 11 to 16 inches. River-running canoes need more depth because of the turbulent water they encounter.
The weight of your canoe is a definite consideration. Portaging, loading and unloading, launching and taking your canoe out the water after a day of paddling are part of the routine. A lighter canoe that you can carry for long distances is ideal. Fifty-five to eighty pounds are standard weights for the average canoe.
Hull shape is another design element that gives each canoe its unique handling characteristic. On dry land, examine a canoe from the side and front. From the side you will notice the keel line or the profile of the bottom of the canoe.
Keel lines vary from straight to extremely rockered. In the extremely rockered canoe, only the middle portion touches the ground and the ends curve up like a banana.
The more ‘rocker’ a canoe has the faster it turns. Canoes with straight lines will be easier to paddle for forward but resist turns because of its length in the water.
Lastly, consider what your canoe’s material. Most manufacturer use plastics, composite fabrics and resins such as fiberglass and Kevlar. Aluminum, wood and fabric-on frame are also used.
Royalex is a durable plastic used in both general recreation and whitewater canoes. Royalex is lightweight, low maintenance and moderately priced.
Crosslink, a molded polyethylene, is another durable plastic that slips over rocks easily and is inexpensive. Crosslink is used in sporting canoes
Composite fabrics, fiberglass and Kevlar are used in touring canoes because of their lightweight, strength and durability. However, these canoes tend to be expensive.
Aluminum canoes are lightweight, inexpensive, low maintenance and durable. However, they snag when scraping over rocks, radiate heat and cold, and are noisy.
Wood canoes are meticulously handcrafted from wood and canvas. They are usually the most expensive on the market and are high maintenance.
Canoe paddles can be as specialized as but fall into four basic categories: general recreation, canoe tripping, marathon canoeing and whitewater.
Your paddle should be between 54 and 58 inches long, depending on the length of your arm and torso. For a person with short arms and torso, a 54-inch paddle is recommended. A person with longer arms should use a paddle between 56 and 58 inches
Long narrow blades are best in deep lakes while short, wide blades are better for shallow rivers.
Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) or lifejackets are the most important equipment. It does not matter if you are a champion swimmer “ALWAYS” wear your lifejacket when canoeing
The dealer where you buy your canoe will help you select the best paddle, PDF, and carrier but these suggestions should help point you in the right direction.