Purchasing a Canoe

So it has come time to consummate your Canadian Heritage and purchase a canoe.

Every Canadian should have a canoe or two in their backyard.

In this day and age, canoes come in a very wide range of sizes, materials and features. I have canoes ranging from eight to 25 feet long that serve very different purposes.

Canoes have become highly specialized water craft that have specific design features matched to how you want to use them.

In this instalment of The Eddy Line, I will help to demystify some of the options when purchasing a canoe and help you acquire the canoe that fits for you.

The first step is to interview yourself and, the more honestly you can do this, the better chance of a lifetime match — just like on Lava Life. You need to ask yourself:

1) Where do I want to paddle – lakes, flat rivers, some whitewater, advanced whitewater, racing in the Yukon River Quest or a mix of all of the above?

2) What do I want to do with the canoe? Family day trips, long extended wilderness expeditions, fishing at a local stocked lake, whitewater playing or, again, a combination?

3) Do you want to paddle solo, with a partner (tandem), or with your family or trusty husky?

4) Do you have physical limitations in any capacity? Are you comfortable kneeling or would you rather be sitting? Are you a smaller or a larger person?

5) Appearance: How important is appearance to you? How much time do you want to spend a year on maintenance? Are you fussy about scratches?

6) Budget: How much do you want to spend vs. how much can you spend? Purchasing a canoe can be a lifetime purchase.

7) How often will you realistically use the canoe?

8) Where will you store your canoe?

9) A very important question: How will you transport your canoe?

And the list may go on as some areas may expand based on some of your answers.

Write out your answers; give them some good honest thought, otherwise you may end up like me, with a canoe for every different environment I may be paddling in.

Now we need to discuss some of the canoe characteristics, materials and options available.

Some characteristics to think about are length, width, rocker, shape of stems and the bottom. Understanding these characteristics will help you match with your interview answers:

1) Length: Longer = faster, more carrying capacity potential, more paddler capacity potential. Length will affect how the canoe will track through the water as well as affecting where you can store your canoe. It will affect how well your canoe will turn.

2) Width: This will affect the stability and speed of your canoe. A wider canoe may be more stable and be able to carry more weight, but may be slower in the water.

3) Rocker: This is the shape of the bottom from tip to tip. Does it look like a rocking chair or a straight lodge pole pine? Rocker will affect how well a canoe will turn. For whitewater paddling, you want more rocker to allow you to turn into eddies, around rocks and so on. If you are racing the River Quest, you want little if any rocker so you can focus on going straight quickly and not worry too much about steering strokes.

4) Shape of stems or ends of canoe: Are they knife-like, allowing the canoe to cut the water? or bulbous whale-like that punches through water? One is faster and one is much drier. Again, matching your paddling to your canoe is important. A fat nose on a canoe will push water away, punch through waves and holes and keep more water out of your canoe. It also has more volume in the ends so it can float higher into an oncoming wave.

5) Shape of the bottom and sides will affect stability: We have two areas of stability: initial stability, how the canoe feels when you first get in and sit down; and secondary stability, where the canoe actually tips over. Flat-bottomed canoes have very high initial stability while rounder bottoms have less. However, when it comes to secondary, a bit rounder bottom can be more stable. Then it also has a lot to do with the shape of the sides.

Oops, ran out of room this week. In the next issue, we’ll discuss materials your canoe can be made from and how each performs.

Catch every Eddy, Surf every Wave …

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