Need help choosing canoe

You don't know which boat you should build to suit your personal needs? Please post your questions here and our many contributors will surely have some good advice.
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Dan Both
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Need help choosing canoe

Post by Dan Both » Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:54 pm

We are going to build a canoe this winter, I purchased the Canoecraft book and read it through, it all seems within our ability.

We need some advice on what to build.
Some back ground:
family of four: Mom, Dad, Boy (12), Girl (10)
our kids are able to paddle so we think we will need two canoes, most likely build a second one the same to keep costs down.
our canoeing will consist of short trips (2-4 days) to Algonquin, and Kilarny, with many local day trips on the Grand and Welland rivers.
each canoe will have around 400 lbs of people, plus required gear and maybe a dog (well trained).
My wife has her Orca level 3 as a Girl Guide leader, I have not canoed for several years, but did many 1 to 2 week trips back when. Our kids have no real canoe experience, but are active and are comfortable with hiking and 3-4 day hiking/camping trips.

thanks in advance


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Its Me
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Post by Its Me » Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:18 pm

I am in a similar position as you. Five in the family with a canoe to be used for day and overnight tripping. I am building Redbird. That said. Here is my adivice

I would look at building a bigger canoe such as the 17' Nomad with its 14-1/2" sides as the lead canoe and then build a samller 16' or 15' canoe for the kids or when the whole family is not going.

Jeff in Pembroke
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Post by Jeff in Pembroke » Wed Nov 10, 2004 2:43 pm

You won't go wrong building a Redbird. It will handle the capacity you mentioned and paddles beautifully. However, it won't comfortably handle 2 adults, 2 kids of that age, and enough gear for 4 days. My children are about the same age as yours and we did have one day of paddling this summer when my wife and I, kids, and 4 days of gear were all in the canoe together and it was just too cramped (we met another family who had brought one extra canoe paddled solo so the next day of the trip we only had one day of cramped paddling). A friend of mine has a Freedom 17/9 (built by Bluewater Canoes under the name Explorer 17/9) and it is a large capacity canoe. His children are the same age as mine and the large Freedom won't comfortably carry that load either.
I would suggest building a pair of Redbirds, or maybe a Redbird and a Freedom 17 or 17/9. They are all fast boats, easy to paddle, and great for tripping. I've never paddled a Nomad so I can't comment on its characteristics.
There are undoubtably other good choices out there that other members of the bulletin board will suggest.

Hope this helps,


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Bryan Hansel
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Post by Bryan Hansel » Wed Nov 10, 2004 6:16 pm

I don't think you can go wrong with a Freedom, but it would be tight if everyone was going to go in one canoe for extended trips. If you do two, have you thought about doing one tandem and one solo?

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Post by Bud » Wed Nov 10, 2004 9:18 pm

You might want to order a Bear Mountain Boat Shop study plans catalogue to help you make a decision. Lots of good info on all the boats, including capacities.
My suggestion would be 2 Freedom 17/9s (cap. 400-680 lb ea.), 2 Nomad 17s (cap. 350-680 lb. ea.), or a Freedom 17/9 and a Freedom 17 (cap. 150-510 lb.). Good Luck!

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Post by Juneaudave » Thu Nov 11, 2004 12:07 pm

If you build two, I like the thought of a pair of Bob's Specials for stability, load capacity and overall capability. After you glass the outside of the first and pop it off the molds, you can start stripping the second while you finish the inside of the first. I think you and your family are really going to enjoy both the building and paddling experience with whatever design you choose :D ....Juneaudave


choosing a canoe

Post by tk » Fri Nov 12, 2004 8:25 am


I built the Freedom 17 and took it in the BWCA and found it a great canoe. I have other canoes to compare it to like the WENONA, Gumman, SOURCE RIVER, and found the Freedom my choice by a long shot. The freedom is fast, stable, manuverable, and a joy to paddle. I put a slider seat in the front and found that works well too. The freedom is somewhat sensitive to weight distribution, so the slider allows you to have a heavier person in the front and also to help track when you get the wind that you get on Lakes. I have been in search of a good laking canoe and feel that I found it in the freedom.

I buit the redbird too and like it very much also but it is only 12" deep, that is somewhat shallow when on a windy lake with a load. I does handle very well and tracks good too.


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Post by Rick » Fri Nov 12, 2004 9:43 am


Building two identical cedarstrips is kind of unusual - more often, the second boat built is a different design. With two designs, there'll be more flexibility in choice so that the more suitable canoe can be picked for the uses needed. It will be a little more money and work, but the second time around things will go more easily, and IMO, over the long haul the extra effort will be worth it.

For instance, building a larger 17' Nomad along with a smaller 15' Ranger will give you the option of using a large boat that you can really load up with a lot of gear on long trips, as well as having enough room for a third paddler when needed. The Ranger will be small and light enough to make a decent solo boat with enough capacity for gear when solo tripping, and can also be used as a light tandem, especially for two smaller paddlers (kids).

My preference is to go with symmetricals, because they are simpler, more comfortable, and look better in cedarstrip with the traditional look. Asymmetricals will be a little faster and easier to paddle on a long day or against the wind.

Some of the designs are tippier than others - if this is a problem for safety reasons and some members of your family will feel more comfortable in canoes with higher initial stabilty, the Ranger and Nomad will be good choices. The canoe specs page with stability numbers will give an indication of how stable the designs are.

If two identical canoes must be built, you'll be investing your time and money more heavily with a single design - all the eggs in one basket, more or less. It's probably best to go with a design recognized for versatility that can be adapted to a wide range of conditions, and the 16' Prospector is seen by many as one of the most versatile, having been proven over time for reliability and other good characteristics.

Dan Both
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Post by Dan Both » Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:07 am

Thanks for all the great ideas.
When I think about it the only extra expense in building a different second ship is the material cost for the molds.
Right now I'm leaning towards a 17' Freedom and a 17' Nomad. Where the Freedom can be used solo and light tandem, and the Nomad for longer trips and heavier loads.
But which to build first?

thanks again


Dave B.

Post by Dave B. » Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:23 am

I am going to be building the Nomad with out Royal Rangers and Mens Ministry.
I looked them all and thought the Nomad would work perfectly for 12-17 yr olds on a weekend trip, plus it looks fairly easy to build.
We are going to make 3 of em, and so far I've got the strongback built.
I told the wife to guess what my new project was and told her it began with a "C".
She said a "Curio cabinet"? I had to tell her No, it's a canoe! :oops:
Sounds like a Christmas present.


Jeff in Pembroke
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Post by Jeff in Pembroke » Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:54 am

TK is right , the Redbird as designed does seem a bit shallow. I've paddled one on a windy lake with cresting whitecaps. Although it seemed shallow - we didn't ship any water and the boat handled the rough waves beautifully. Many Redbird builders (myself included) added an extra strip at the sheer to make the boat a bit deeper. In all honesty, though, that was really more for the visual comfort of other paddling partners on canoe trips than any real benefit. The recurved ends of the Redbird also, IMHO, really look great :!: . That is ultimately a personal preference though.


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Canoe Choice

Post by Doug » Mon Nov 15, 2004 4:12 pm

Take a look at . They have a number of larger canoes. They are out of Waterloo and Martin Step is great with on-line help.
"Some people hear the song in the quiet mist of a cold morning..... But for other people the song is loudest in the evening when they are sitting in front of a tent, basking in the camp fire's warmth. This is when I hear it loudest ...." BM

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Post by Tommy » Tue Nov 16, 2004 6:12 pm

Don't give up on the two identical canoes idea. You may find a significant performance difference between whichever two different canoe designs. This may cause some problems. One canoe may be faster and always having to wait. The other canoe slower and always having to work harder to keep up. The kids (adults too) might fight over which canoe they want to be in.

On the other hand, if the kids will be paddling their own canoe, and Mom and Dad in a seperate canoe, then building a smaller canoe for the kids may be a good idea. And it could double as your solo boat if you or the wife ever want to paddle solo. So maybe a 17' and a 15' canoe would give you the most versatility. But if you will be paddling one adult and one child in each canoe then identical 16' canoes might be a better balance.

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