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Considerations When Buying a Canoe

Considerations When Buying a Canoe

Choosing the “perfect canoe for you” shouldn’t be complicated and technical but rather fun, exciting, and educational!

We encourage you to visit our On-Water Canoe & Kayak Centre and enjoy paddling canoes on our pristine lake. We offer a large and most diverse fleet of quality canoes… come paddle with us!

Basic Considerations

Canoe Length

Given two canoes of equal width, a longer canoe will have greater speed, increased capacity, and will track better (go straight). Accordingly,  short canoes in the 15 foot range although slower, are more maneuverable, lighter, less expensive, easier to transport, and are wonderful for day use and short overnight trips.

Large canoes 17 to 18 foot range are used for extended excursions, or for large families due to their increased capacity. The most popular Canadian canoe length is 16′ to 16.5′. This midsize length offers both recreational paddlers and trippers a good compromise of speed, maneuverability, capacity, weight and price.

Canoe Width

The primary function of width is stability. The wider the canoe the more stable it is. Narrow canoes tend to be less stable but more efficient as there hulls push less water. Most tandem Canadian canoes are 33″ to 36″ wide with 36″ being the norm, while most solo canoes will average 28″ to 33″ in width.

Canoe Depth

Is measured at the centre line from the gunnel to the bottom of the boat. It is important to have a canoe with sufficient depth for carrying capacity and safety reasons. A deeper canoe will deflect spray and waves better, but may be more susceptible to cross winds. A depth of 14″ is common in quality recreational & good tripping canoes. White water canoes may be as deep as 16″. Shorter day tripping canoes and solo canoes may be as shallow as 12″.

Canoe Symmetry

Is the overall shape of the canoe from front to back. The hull of a symmetrical/ traditional canoe has identically shaped halves with the widest point at the centre. Symmetrical canoes maneuver quicker and provides a more predictable behavior in white water conditions, or paddling narrow rivers and streams.

An Asymmetrical/ modern canoe has a longer streamlined bow with the widest point a foot or so behind centre. Asymmetrical canoes tend to be faster more efficient and track better. Flat-water paddlers looking for efficiency often choose asymmetrical canoes.

Canoe Entry Lines

Entry lines of a canoes bow and stern are usually described as narrow or full. Canoes with narrow lines are usually fast, efficient and tend to cut through the waves rather than ride over them. Canoes with a blunt or wider bow and stern will be slower but will handle waves and rapids more effectively.

Canoe Rocker

Is the degree of curve to the keel line when viewed from end to end. Canoes with a flatter keel line will track better but will turn with more difficulty. Conversely, canoes with a lot of rocker turn easily because their ends sit higher in the water but do not track as well. White water canoes tend to have lots of rocker and flatwater canoes tend to have almost zero rocker. Most canoes are a compromise of the two.

Canoe Hull Shapes

Flat bottom canoes have the greatest wet surface and most initial stability when paddling in calm water. However, when leaned, or in rough water, a flat bottom canoe quickly becomes less stable, and can flip with little warning. Flat bottom hulls generally best suit beginners, fisherman and day paddlers with young children and/or pets.

Round and Vee bottom canoes have the least wet surface, therefore feel less stable initially in calm water. However, they provide the most secondary stability to resist tipping when leaned, or in rough water conditions. Round or Vee bottom hulls are generally fast, efficient and best suit experienced paddlers or those aspiring to be.

Shallow Arch bottom canoes are a good compromise of the two hull shapes mentioned above providing a good blend of both initial and secondary stability. Shallow arch hulls generally suit a wide range of skill levels for paddlers who want one canoe with good all-round performance.

Canoe Shape above the Water Line

The sides of a canoe above the waterline also impact performance. Flared sides shed water away from the canoe, while tumblehome provides a narrow beam at the gunnels allowing the paddler easier access to the water. Straight-sided canoes are a compromise of the two. Some canoes may combine a number of these shapes.

Canoes – to Keel or Not to Keel

Canoes with Keels tend to enable the canoe to track better and will help the canoes resistance to side slipping in crosswinds, as well as provide added hull protection.

Keeless canoes turn more quickly but don’t track as well. Beginners, fisherman, families with children like the user-friendly feel of keels. Experienced and whitewater paddlers tend to prefer the maneuverability a keeless canoe provides.

Generally speaking, as the user skills increase the need for a keel decrease. For example, Vee hull canoes are keeless, but a good paddler can make a vee-hull bite the water much like a keeled boat.

Canoe Stem Shape

The profile of the bow or stern as seen from the side is called the stem. There are 3 – basic stem shapes: Plumb (vertical), Raked (slanted), or Re-curved. Each shape has its own advantages. A plumbs design maximizes hull speed. A Raked stem provides more volume in the ends for drier handling in waves. A Re-curved stem provides a traditional look and enables the canoe to turn quicker.

A Canoe’s Carrying Capacity

Is the amount of weight (people and gear) a canoe can hold while still providing “optimum performance” and retaining at least six inches of freeboard for safety reasons.

Note: Unfortunately, most manufacturers vastly overstate capacity by listing weights 100s of pounds to high. Accordingly we suggest you use our Frontenac Outfitters listed weights, or better yet, you paddle the canoes and YOU determine which boats meet YOUR capacity needs.

Canoe Weights

Weights vary dramatically with the materials used in the manufacturing process. To determine the best choice for your paddling needs, please refer to our Canoe Materials & Modern Manufacturing Processes article.

Is There a Perfect Canoe?

Of course not. By now you have already guessed that a canoe designed to excel in one area must compromise its performance in another.

As for finding the right canoe for you we can promise one thing: at Frontenac Outfitters On-Water Canoe & Kayak Centre YOU will have fun trying!

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email frontenacoutfitters@gmail.com

Come Paddle With Us!