Adventures With Lloyd

on CanoeCanadaEast.Com

Gear and Kit


Canoes for Wilderness Travel

There are so many kinds of canoes that a person could write volumes about them. I have no such aspirations. The main difference between canoes can be put simply. Lakes or Rivers? Lake boats tend to be sleek and fast with keels, no rocker (or bottom curve) and sharp front ends, whereas river boats are high volume deep and wide, with no keels, blunted ends, and rocker or bottom curve.

A person that paddles lakes will like the keels for tracking straight lines and the no rocker bottom. The lower profile of the lake canoe will reduce the affects of the wind which can push you around and off course. Lake canoes are faster in most situations but when used white water or waves the lack of rocker and the keels make it like maneuvering a freight train. Chances are it is going to take a lot of abuse on the rocks. The other nasty thing is that the front end as sharp as it is, has a tendency to slice through waves and haystacks instead of ride over them which the bow person isn't going to like very much if it's cold that day. The lake canoe is usually lighter as well and is designed to be carried on portages comfortably.

A person that paddles rivers will like the curved or rockered bottom and lack of keels which allows for fast responsive turns and sideways slipping in moving water. The high volume of river canoes generally means that the paddlers will stay dry in most conditions. River canoes will ride high on waves and haystacks and give the paddlers a rollercoaster feeling and while there may be splashing, no water should come crashing into the canoe. All this comes at the price of speed in the flat sections, and the affects of wind on the boat. If used in a windy lake the high ends of the river canoe act like a sail and want to move the canoe around, and the rocker only compounds the problem as less of the boat is in the water. Even on a calm lake the canoe will want to zigzag and will force the paddlers to use correction strokes more often. Lastly river canoes often are not the most comfortable to portage, often with just a basic carrying yoke and are in general significantly heavier.

Want the best of both worlds? That's what I wanted. The thing to do if you can afford it is to have more than one canoe, but for the rest of us that that get paid by the hour there are a few canoes that are half way between the two.

  • I use a Nova Craft Prospector because it's Canadian made and works reasonably well on lakes and rivers both, but there are other companies that offer similar products. However if you can only afford one canoe and you want it to last a lifetime nothing bad can be said about the Nova Craft Prospector. I have only good things to say about it. The yoke is a deep dish and comfortable when portaging, even though the canoe is 80 pounds. In spite of its high volume it can still be paddled comfortably on lakes even in the wind, and the moderate rocker allows for quick responsive whitewater turns while not compromising good tracking on lakes. The company is also devoted to its customers. I have e-mailed them several times with questions, and they have always answered my correspondences promptly. I lost my Thunderbird stickers from the bow of the canoe one cold windy November trip and they mailed me two new ones free of charge. Normally I wouldn't display a logo for a company, but I will for these guys. All of their parts and accessories are very reasonably priced and are of the highest quality. Although there are many brands of canoe out there and most of them are top notch quality, many canoeists develop brand loyalty. For me it is with Nova Craft.

Some popular canoes here in eastern Canada:

A Prospector is a proven design that dates from 1910 when the New Brunswick Based Chestnut Canoes tried to take on larger sellers like Old Town. The hull shape was ideally suited to the lakes and rivers of New Brunswick and Eastern Canada. The Prospector quickly became a favorite for its ability to go anywhere and do anything reasonably well and still haul large loads in the process. It has some specific limitations as it is not the fastest, or the lightest, or most maneuverable but where it scores high is its ability to be pretty good at all of these things. It could be said that it is like the Swiss Army Knife of canoes. To this day it remains the most beloved of all canoe designs and is about the best all rounder available. Prospector models are available from most major sellers but some use only the name and not the exact dimensions. In General Nova Craft and Wenonah probably come the closest but the real thing can be purchased in Cedar Canvas from Great Spirit Canoes in Oromocto, New Brunswick.

Solo in a heavy wind it is still possible to maintain a straight course in a large Prospector canoe with a good J stroke

What the Old Town Discovery lacks in sophistication it makes up for in toughness and versatility. Disco's as
they have come to be known by the people that love them are everywhere. There are so many of them they may just be the most common canoe in the world. The benchmark for wilderness travel for many years this canoe is able to bounce off of rocks on whitewater and then be thrown out in the back yard and neglected for a year with no ill effects. They are not outfitted to be pretty and do not have graceful lines but they have been plowing through the rivers of the world unchecked for decades now and despite minor flaws in some models with oil canning and hull flex they remain one of the most popular canoes on the market today.

Buying a canoe is a personal choice that is best made after paddling many different kinds makes and models. The models that work most efficiently here in Eastern Canada may not be suitable for other areas or the world. My Prospector was very heavy in comparison to the lighter Langford, Bell, and Sioux River Canoes I saw in Algonquin Park. That said I still portaged it faster and more efficiently than most. Just remember that skill and knowledge are more important than gear, and a flashy canoe does not make the man or the woman paddling it.

Back to Gear and Kit