Canoe help for a friend-perfect boat, maybe not wood


Lake Winola PA
I have a friend that is looking to buy a canoe to use on our small Pennsylvania lake. A boat that is stable to take 3 people down to the swamp, fast enough for the teenagers to compete in the annual race, durable, and most important very low maintenance. The boat will probably sit outside all summer.

We both agree the worst choice is Aluminum, it passes all the rules above but the noise it makes is hidous and he is enough of a boat lover to know he doesn't want metal. Besides-you leave it outside for 50 years and it is still like new-durable to the extreem.

Fiberglass canoes are a little heavy and not that fast. I think they are stable but most old ones I've seen are faded and don't come clean. They get ugly when they get old.

Kevlar-I don't know much about these except they are expensive and I'm not sure they come in a model that is both stable and fast. The ones I've seen appear to be racing hulls where you paddle in the middle but maybe there is a traditional design model that would fill his need. He wants a canoe that looks like a canoe if you know what I mean.

Wood-I have a 1907 Charles River, 1921 Octa and a 1936 Thompson but none of these would be a good pick for my friend. They are old and require a certain level of care. He needs a boat that for at least 10 years won't require paint, canvass, or woodwork. A new construction wood canvas might be too expensive. I'm leaning toward finding a 5 year old new construction wood canvas but don't know if I could get a durable model for around 2K.

Anyway, this question has been bugging me and I thought I'd share my thoughts. I look forward to your comments.
Fiberglass canoes are a little heavy and not that fast????

Hull design determines the speed of a canoe or boat much more than the material from which it is built.

You have described the characteristics of the Ralph Frese designed Canadianne (17' best length), built of fiberglass. You can sometimes find them used. Old Town made them for years and then Bell Canoes made them for a while. You won't find one real cheap though.

Good luck,

Joe, your information database is several decades out of date in a lot of places when it comes to modern canoe materials and their characteristics. It would be a really good idea to go visit a couple of good canoe dealers and get the skinny on modern materials and constructions. Sitting outside exposed 24/7 is hard on just about any canoe, but there are some that will take it a lot better than others (a simple shed roof to protect it from UV would probably triple the life span of any of them).

It's not difficult these days to find a fiberglass or plastic canoe that's tough, reasonable in the weight category and built to a shape that can hold its own in the speed category without getting too far into exotic materials, fancy constructions or terribly high prices. They certainly don't look as nice on the inside as a wooden canoe, but they aren't too bad and they'll survive outside storage better.
I have owned and paddled most materials and many styles including a Wenonna kevlar that is as you described, narrow and a bit unstable. I took out my Bell Alaskan over the weekend for the first time in a year, or so and remembered all the good things about this boat, stable, fast, durable and very maneuverable. At 17 feet it would be very good with 2, 3 or 4 people in it with proper cusions or seats in the gear stations. Mine is royalex but I'm not sure if they make in in kevlar. The Alaskan is a bit similar to the Old Town Penobscot which comes in 16' or 17'. All these boats would be good for lake or river. I have done near and far north trips with both the Penobscot and the Alaskan. The 17' in either canoe costs about 1100 - 1400, roughly with the Royalex layup.
As far as the boat being outside all summer, ultra violet rays are your worst enemy and a decent tarp draped over the canoe will help it resist fading.
But, if you don't mind the money and weight is a large issue, do test paddle kevlar canoes. Wenonna has many flat bottom boats that are made more for lake travel and fishing. Bell canoes was sold recently to a group in Wisconsin. As far as I know the quality is still there. I was told, though, not to expect many new designs.
The Canadianne mentioned is a very fine boat. It does come in kevlar (Bell? i think) and royalex (Old Town?). The Penobscot and the Alaskan are similar in many ways to the Canadianne and between the three styles, your decision may come down to actual cost of the model.
I did recommend the Bell Morningstar to a friend for his family cabin on a lake. I recommended this boat for two reasons, I wanted to send him to Ralph Freese in Chicago and I felt the Morningstar was the perfect lake cabin boat as it is a bit on the heavy side and has a very broad bottom to make it a good lake/fishing boat. My friend still thanks me for the suggestion and his whole family loves the boat.
And if it sits on the beach all summer, you don't have to think about the weight.
Paddle as many boats as you can. If you have more then one dealer in your area, go to all of them as they all will carry different lines.

Good luck!