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When you think of a canoe, you probably first think of the traditional Canadian Voyageur canoe. These are the canoes you see in all the summer camp movies, loaded up on docks at your local lake, and within the pages of almost any non-paddling related outdoor magazine spread.
Boat builders produce many different types of canoes, and each features a unique design and shape that caters to its use. The canoes you use to paddle across the calm waters of a pond won’t save you in a fast-moving river. Additionally, your river canoe won’t cater to your needs if you intend to use it for fishing.
The way you choose a canoe depends mainly on how you intend to use it—and keen paddlers usually often end up with more than one canoe. We wrote you a guide to the different types of canoes and how to choose the right one for your hobby.
Types Of Canoes And How To Choose One
Within the different types of canoes include several designs, features, and materials that accommodate the primary use of the boat. We listed the most common types of canoes and included a description of the features that make the canoe conducive to the kind of water you paddle in.
Our list includes:
- Recreational canoes
- River canoes
- Racing canoes
- Fishing canoes
- Whitewater canoes
First up, we have the recreational canoe.
Recreational canoes are the simplest boat on the market. They cater to novice paddlers while also serving experts because they are steady and easy to maneuver and control. Manufacturers design them to be shorter than other canoes with a greater width to prevent tipping over.
You can use a recreational canoe for most trips. They are perfect for a day out on the lake with family or friends, and you can buy versions that cater to fishing trips or extended overnight trips. These work best on flat water in a pond, lake or stream. You want to stick to calm water because these canoes provide stability over all else, which means you can’t turn them on a dime.
River canoes feature a design that caters to the fast-moving current found in rivers and streams. They typically range from 15 to 17 feet in length depending on whether it is a solo or tandem canoe.
River canoes are symmetrical from the hull to the bow, and the hull doesn’t include keels. It features a flat bottom and flared sides.
The depth of the canoe is unique, and you’ll sit very low in it.
Because rivers move fast, the paddler needs to be able to react quickly and maneuver themselves well. As a result, a river canoe has one of the most generous rockers of all canoes, which when combined with other features makes it far easier to make quick turns even when the speed picks up.
Racing canoes are fast and lightweight vessels with two pointed ends. They usually feature a rigid hull for straight tracking performance, which is critical for racing. These canoes are longer and narrower than a recreational or multi-purpose canoe as well as being asymmetrical because of the stern and the bow.
In most cases, racing canoes need to conform to a set of specifications designated by a governing body such as the North American Marathon Racing Canoe Specifications from the American Canoe Association.
There are two boats commonly used in the United States and Canada: Amateur Boat and the Pro Boat.
The Amateur Boat is a 4-inch by 32-inch racing canoe that meets North American Marathon Racing Canoe Specifications. Amateur boats are fast but still have plenty of stability for those who are getting into racing but still need a guiding hand.
The Pro Boat is a 3-inch by 27-inch racing canoe that meets North American Marathon Racing Canoe Specifications. Narrow canoes, as mentioned, have far less stability initially but generate more secondary stability as they lean.
Those numbers refer to the draft and waterline respectively—a 4-inch draft and 32-inch water line.
Canoes are an incredibly fishing vessel because they maximize both stability and stealth in one boat. You’ll get more mobility, and you find it much easier to hide from the fish.
Now, you don’t need a dedicated fishing canoe. A recreational or river canoe will both suit you well, and if you intend to do a fair amount of river fishing, then it’s the best option.
What will you want from a fishing canoe whether it’s a dedicated fishing vessel or another type? Ideally, you want something 16 to 17-feet long to hold all your gear without compromising speed.
You also want a broader beam—at least at first. More expansive beams make the canoes more stable, which you’ll appreciate when wrestling with a prize catch. However, narrow boats tend to be easier to paddle.
Finally, keep in mind that although deep canoes hold more gear, taller sides also mean they are more responsive to wind.
A whitewater canoe sounds like an oxymoron. Surely, you think, a kayak is far better for whitewater conditions.
Not so, whitewater canoeing is a popular sport, and the canoes are rather versatile.
Generally, a whitewater canoe is the most durable but also the most lightweight of all canoes. Expert paddlers tend to choose ultra-lightweight models featuring a Kevlar composite lay-up. However, they may also use canoes made from ABS plastic.
Because you’ll travel downstream for most of the trip, you’ll want a shorter boat (15-16 feet long) with a minimal rocker. Whitewater canoes tend to be shorter because it creates a movement that allows you to ride over the waves to keep you drier and add an extra thrill. Staying dry keeps yours from swamping your platform.
Boats designed to tackle big waves also benefit from a decent freeboard, which keeps the paddlers (somewhat) dry.
Do you intend to take your boat out on technical stretches? You’ll need one with a good rocker, which makes it extra maneuverable. Your ability to turn and re-position on a dime will be the difference between swimming and sinking in a technical whitewater scenario.
As you can see, the type of whitewater canoe that will work best for you will need to cater to the kind of rapids and course you spend most of your time on.
Important Canoe Features
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Did you find yourself confused when sifting between the features that differentiate canoes? You’re not alone. Use this short guide to refer to as you learn more about the different types of canoes.
These are the canoe vocabulary words that you’ll need for a basic understanding of canoe features.
Hull and Deck
The hull refers to the bottom of the canoe. It might be flat or rounded.
The deck is the top of the canoe that protects the material coating it.
Bow and Stern
The bow refers to the front of the canoe. If you ever feel unsure, look for the bow seat at the front of the canoe, which offers more space between the seat and the deck.
A canoe’s stern is at the back. A stern seat is located much closer to the end of the boat because it doesn’t need to offer as much leg room.
Length and Beam
The length of the canoe refers to the measurement from bow to stern. The length determines how the canoe rides in the water. Shorter canoes can perch on top of waves whereas longer boats plow straight through them.
Beam refers to the width of a canoe at its widest point. Wider boats provide more initial stability and narrow canoes forgo initial stability for speed.
Keel, Keel Line, and Rocker
A canoe’s keep is an external ridge that runs along the canoe’s centreline. The keel helps track the canoe and adds greater stability. The keel line is the centreline that runs along the belly from the canoe’s bow to the stern.
The rocker of a canoe is the feature indicative of the curvature of the keel line.
The eddy refers to the current that differs from the primary current. They are caused by river bends or by rocks or other obstructions. The eddy line refers to the boundary that lies between the downstream and the upstream currents.
All paddlers once avoided eddies (and first-time paddlers still should). However, innovations in boats mean you can now learn the eddy turn, which helps you enter or leave an eddy.
A canoe’s entry line relates to the way the bow enters or cuts through the water.
Choose Your Canoe According To Sport And Skill
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The different types of canoes provide unique experiences on the water. Shorter, longer, narrower, and wider all transform the way you paddle. Other features like the keel and rocker are also vital in this aspect, and slight variances can make all the difference for experienced paddlers.
As a result, buying your first canoe means you should buy according to the sport you intend to use it in and your skill. Start with boats with features that cater to new paddlers, and then work your way up to more advanced canoes with plenty of speed and less stability.