To buy or not to buy?


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I've come across an Old Town 1965 18ft OTCA with sponsons and small planking leaving the factory in Dark green canvas. The wood looks nice with some replacements but now covered with a blue gel coat fiberglass. At $1500 it seems reasonable but should I be concerned with the glass. Thanks I'm new to these and looking for wisdom whether to pull the trigger or keep looking.
I've dealt with 'glass that has been on for years and had to come off. The 'glass factory canoes I've seen look good to me. If you search for 'glass you will find much input on the problems with 'glass on w/c canoes. I put outwales on one canoe that had been 'glassed nicely and was light weight and sound, a fifty pounder circa 1920 that I liked alot. BUT, My preference would be to pass up a 'glassed w/c canoe. I've not seen yours and so can't really say. $1500. for a wood canoe in good condition is not a bad price. ON the other hand you could likely find a canvassed canoe in the same range. But you'll probably get the bug like the rest of us and will end up with other canoes so I'm not going to advise against or for. I will advise that you: Consider how you will use the canoe. Consider how you feel about sponsons. And consider how much weight you can handle.
Understand the "bug" thing ...

more than you know. That's why I have 7 antique cars and 3 boats!!! I plan to use this one as a "yacht tender" atop a 1946 Cabin Cruiser. I'll paddle up some shallows and creeks off the lake and might even rig with a sail or small outboard so the stability of the sponsons seemed like a good thing.
The weight pulling on and off the boat might be tough but could be helped mechanically but I won't have to carry it far so maybe not too big an issue.
Again thanks for any input.
yacht tender

Have you considered buying a yacht tender for your intended purpose?

Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062


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Considering all options

Thanks. This is my thinking thus far.
It needs to be wood first or doesn't belong on the boat. The 40ft Matthews has a long roofline that will handle a long boat but I don't want too much weight and would rather not clutter the transom with hanging a launch or tender from there on davits.
The utility of a canoe at under 100lbs and at $1500 or so seems to win out on a cost/value basis but as I started I am considering everything.
One possibility that you could consider would be to find out from the guys here on the forum what a similar boat in wood/canvas construction should weigh (an 18' Otca is usually listed at 80 lbs. but I don't know how much more the sponsons add). A catalog might be another source for that information, though catalog weights sometimes seem to be somewhat inaccurate and seldom err on the heavy side.

Then weigh the canoe in question. A high-quality fiberglassing job shouldn't weigh much more than the canvas would at all, and a really well done fiberglass covering will often weigh slightly less. High-strength fiberglass is a fairly delicate balance of fiber content vs. resin content and unlike building a stripper, covering a rib and plank hull also involves plugging a lot of potential leaks where there are small gaps between the planks, or figuring a way to bridge them when applying the fiberglass skin. This is by no means easy and makes glassing a rib and plank boat and doing it well, much more difficult than glassing a stripper.

There are certainly some composite-covered R&P hulls out there with well done fiberglass skins, but high-quality, non-professional (or non-factory) glassing jobs are pretty rare. The cure-all approach that is frequently seen to address this tends to be slathering on a whole bunch of fiberglass and ending up with a seriously overweight canoe. Most of us have seen plenty of these over the years. If you weigh the Otca and it turns out substantially heavier than what wood/canvas should weigh. It well may be one of them.

In that case, the best course of action is probably glass removal and re-canvasing. Removing fiberglass is a tedious, nasty job that can't be rushed or it rips the wood apart. Unless the canoe is either in really good shape (wood-wise) or something rare and valuable (which a 65 Otca is not particularly, but I'm not sure about a '65 with sponsons) then $1,500 to buy yourself all that extra work doesn't strike me as much of a bargain. In a case like that, I'd save my money and look for something that's still wearing its original skin.
catalog info

Attached is the catalog page from the 1965 Old Town catalog (courtesy "The Complete Old Town Canoe Company Catalog Collection 1901-1993" edited by Benson Gray and Dan Miller), showing the sponson canoe. Note the weight per the catalog is 120 pounds.

It seems unusual to me that OT was still offering the sponson canoe as late as '65, as my impression of sponsons has been that (for some reason) humans used to fear getting wet a whole lot more in The Olden Days than they do now. I do recall the sixties, and know that ladies weren't concerned about having a ruined hair-do when out paddling the lake...



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You know Kathy, I recall that as a youngster swimming at the cottage from an early age it struck me as odd that our older relatives who were visiting could not swim. However, growing up on a farm far from water i suppose it was'nt odd that they never learned how. The sponson adverts all seemed to hilite the fact that a swamped canoe would support the weight of the occupants. Maybe not being able to swim was more prevalent back in the day.

I've thought that too, Andre... remember the sort of bathing-attire people wore... they even called it a "bathing costume"! Who could swim in that? Those who could swim maybe had access to one of those private swimmin' holes where nobody knew if you were wearing anything at all.

But sponsons may serve a greater need on a sailor... would a sponson canoe tip all the way over, or would it have greater boyancy?

I must agree. Do you have photos of this canoe? We may be able to settle this debate with one good shot. As a practice we try not to buy canoes that have been fiber glassed as this ruins the beauty and characteristics that might have drawn us to a wooden boat in the first place. There are many suitable canoes out there in this price range. For $1500 I would hope you would be happy with this canoe as/is. With sponsons it also adds an additional 30% -50% to the cost of restoration with no real return on your money. A sponson canoe also adds a considerable amount of weight, and there is no accounting for the additional weight of the fiberglass. An 18’ sponson canoe should weight 120 (that’s a grunt) without sponsons 80 lb. A nice Aero dinghy just sold on eBay for $2000.

Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062



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I did miss out on the Ebay Aero dingy(350225177343). Don't know about shipment back east and will be hard to find locally maybe. Don't have good pictures will try to get some tomorrow.
Only shots so far

Will try for more tomorrow


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There is presently a 12' wood/canvas Penn Yan dinghy for sale on eBay at $500, located in Pennsylvania. See item # 120451612420.

As for sponson canoes, I own an 18' Old Town HW sailing canoe w. sponsons. It is HEAVY. At least 130 pounds, perhaps a few more. Takes two to move it, and carefully at that. Not something I'd want to try lifting on and off the roof of a cabin cruiser (and years ago my family owned one). I think your first and last experience of launching and retrieving might be one and the same. I'd go with a small dinghy, like a 9' Old Town. Popular, and enough of them made to make a search reasonably successful.
News from the front

Got to put an eyeball on the boat today. Sorry no pictures camera battery was dead. It is definitely a P-I-G pig heavy.
Wood is quite nice. Fiberglass is god awful. I will read more on the restoration required to see if I have it in me. Price is negotiable and I would definitely have to review my use of it. I can't help liking it.
Question out there on shipping methods if I go in another direction. A 9 footer is still a possible UPS item with a 12 footer and up not. Aside from motor freight or a road trip how would you do it?
Don't really need a tender...

... in the strictest interpretation. Not like I'll be in anchorages requiring transport of passengers and provisions to my vessel. I just want a fun boat along for the ride that the kids can get out and play on. I could manage the weight with a roller on my transom and cabin top and winch(ATV 12V would be cool) and affix a D ring to the bow of the canoe and not even breath hard.
Still probably better off smaller and lighter than the mighty craft I saw today.
I have an Aero Dinghy

If you would you like it? I'll give you a nice price on it.

Robert P. Ross
Ross Bros.
PO Box 60277
Florence, MA 01062


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