To keel or not to keel


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I realize this is probably another question akin to which varnish, but here goes.

I am building a wood canvas per the Stewart River Pals plans. I did not put half ribs into this canoe. I could still add them if absolutely necessary, but I’d rather not. Will I want to put a keel on this boat or not? I’d rather not, but considering the lack of half ribs, will it be durable enough.

I don’t plan to do any river trips with this canoe, it’s intended purpose is 3-4 day trips to the BWCA. So one other person and some camping gear. Typically I’m a wet foot traveler, but there are always rocks you never see at portages, etc.

The planking is 5/32 and the ribs are 5/16 spaced 4” on center.

keel thoughts

I have recently decided that I wish I had put a keel on my new constructed Penn yan Guide 18' because I believe the keel would have held the bottom a bit truer. The ribs rounded a bit.

But that's a shape issue, not so much durability/strength.

A keel requires holes be drilled through a perfectly good canvas. If the keel gets sideways to a rock it could cause trouble by ripping free, or hanging up. If you hit the rock with the bottom of the canoe the keel would have to be lined up just right in order to prevent contact with the bottom of the hull. Unless you were going sideways.

Bark canoes had no keels. I studied the serial number search postings at one point and learned that keels were on, as I recall 98% of Old Town canoes reviewed.

If you decide to leave it off you can add it later. Not so much the other way around.

By far the most damage to canoes occurs during transport or in storage.

If you get to the Cities, look me up, I'd love chat.
And if you want to paddle with other w/c send Barry C your e-mail. Check the chapter listings. We are trying to get out more this year.

As for your Pal, I know a guy who had Alex build him a Pal, w/o a keel and w/o half ribs, and he loves it. And much of his paddling is up in the BW/Q.

I had a Cedarwood Pal. I had it recanvased, and left the keel off. It paddled very well without one, no regrets.
You are keeling me

We don't all love them but we sure do love to talk about them. Here are a small sample of the discussions about keels.

For the purpose you describe and for a new build, no keel. If you decide that a keel needs to be added later you can easily do it after your first trip. Then you will know for sure if you want to add it.
If you are restoring a classic that had a keel, put one back on it...
I have built three of Alex's Pals. Half ribs are definitely unnecessary and will only add weight. The hull has plenty of strength when built as designed. None of mine have a keel. By way of full disclosure, I happen to be in the anti keel crowd. If you are planing on using the canoe mainly on windy lakes, perhaps a keel might be of some help in tracking. However I can say that I have never experienced such a problem with any of mine in high winds ( at least from lack of a keel.) On the other hand, if you want to have fun with your canoe doing Canadian style paddling, or if you want to use it on moving water, I would personally not put a keel on it. This canoe has enough rocker to make it nicely maneuverable. The only other possible advantage to a keel is that it might help protect the bottom from rocks, but they often find a way to miss the keel and scrape your hull elsewhere. This is a vey nimble canoe which is a sheer delight to paddle. I wish you many happy hours paddling your new canoe!