Need advice on acquiring wood and canvas canoe


New Member
I'm determined to replace my poly Old Town with a wood and canvas canoe. I'm on the western edge of the Great Basin against the eastern Sierra Nevada, which is not traditional canoe country. I will most likely be obliged to buy a canoe from the east and have it shipped here. I won't easily be able to sell it if it doesn't work out. Therefore, I need advice likely to result in me getting the right boat the first time.

Presently, I have an Old Town Guide 147 in polyethylene. I bought it from someone across town that had it on Craigslist for $300, and I've paddled it for 6 years now. It's scratched and it oil-cans but it's tough. At 80 pounds, it's also heavy. I find it very stable. In technical terms, it has good secondary stability. I typically load it with myself and my dog and sometimes my wife. Altogether we're just over 300 pounds. We rarely carry any substantial weight in gear. Our paddling is mostly day trips on small lakes (1 square mile or less). We've had it on Tahoe a few times but only near the shore due to its intractability in wind. We sometimes paddle rivers but they're often running too fast (up to class III rapids) or they're running too low and we scrape bottom rocks. Our lower rivers are plagued with diversion dams for irrigation, but we can portage around them. I mostly enjoy small alpine lakes in the Sierra which are the only place I'd take a wood canoe.

With our load, the Guide has a lot of freeboard and the wind blows it badly. It has rocker that results in poor tracking over a mile or two across a lake and makes it easy for the wind to spin it around. The rocker should make it easier to navigate on the river, but the last time I paddled the lower part of the river, the wind was blowing us up the river against the current.

It seems like I could use a smaller canoe, but at 14.5', the Guide 146 isn't very efficient. So I suppose I am looking for something longer and narrower than its 38" width (36" at the waterline). My 90 pound dog has been paddling longer than he can remember and I've no concerns about giving up a lot of stability as long as I stay with a shallow arch bottom, not rounded. I can take the Guide out with my dog and paddle it around standing up.

I figure I'm looking for a canoe about 16' and about 32" at the yoke with a shallow arch bottom and minimal rocker or no rocker. Straight sides or slight tumblehone would help when paddling solo from the center. I generally prefer to kneel but sometimes sit on the bow seat and paddle the boat backwards.

I don't know what else to do about the wind. Sand bags maybe, or take up sailing.

Besides the kind of boat that would suit me, I'd like advice on where to look for it, how to make sure its in the condition I need, and how to get it here.
I don't want to buy a new boat. In fact, the older the better, but unfortunately, I just don't have the space to make the mess involved in restoring anything. My little garage is so tight I'll have to sell the Old Town to make room for another canoe. I don't think I could even refinish the canvas on an otherwise good canoe because I just don't have the space to work on it.

I've been keeping my eye out on the Craigslist sites in two states. I'm starting to look at places like the classifieds here, ebay, and so on.

I figure I'd have to use a service like KAS to transport it here. I looked into that about a year ago when I was considering buying a new canoe before I decided I wanted an older one.
My experience is that canoes and other small boats feel very personal so you may not like the one that I do and vice versa. Bart Hauthaway used to say that you don't get in and out of these, you wear them. Buying a canoe without the chance to inspect it in person and paddle it first is particularly difficult. I would encourage you to find an opportunity to paddle a variety of wooden canoes to see how they feel to you. Then you can buy the one that you like. The chapters listed at and builders listed at may be able to help. The information at may also be useful. Good luck,