I like to use a versatile all-purpose canoe like a 16-foot Prospector. I say versatile because these canoes can be used for tandem or solo, for an afternoon or a long trip, with only a little trimming (shifting ballast to level the ends of the canoe) involved. I like canoes to be deep enough to hold a lot of gear when I travel and to have some rocker for
manoeuvrability so that when heeled over while soloing the ends rise out of the water. If I'm given a choice of a cedar-canvas canoe over a synthetic one the traditional cedar-canvas wins hands down for its beauty and feeling. It's like paddling a piece of our history.
So who makes a nice Prospector in my opinion?
If you start looking around on various canoe sites you will see there are a
great many Prospectors on the market. Some are wood-canvas but most are made with synthetic
I favour the 16' Prospector model that the world famous
Chestnut Canoe Co. of Fredericton New Brunswick produced but Chestnut, alas, has been out of business
since the late 70's!
However many small companies are making wood-canvas canoes based on the Chestnut designs. One of the
original 16' Prospector
forms from Chestnut is being used by Hugh Stewart, a neighbour of mine, to build fine working canoes. He is a great guy and very helpful
and a fine canoeist too. His company is called Headwaters Canoes in Masham, Quebec,
www.headwaterscanoes.ca He also makes
other Chestnut models from the original molds. They are reasonably priced and built for wilderness travel. Headwaters
do have lovely classic lines and use good traditional beautiful wood. They are exquisite and steeped in historical Canadian
canoe lineage. He usually puts on a weighty canvas and thicker gunnels so the canoes can run whitewater and are more durable.
Another manufacturer, Cedarwood Canoes in New Brunswick, which is now called Great Spirit Canoes
www.greatspiritcanoes.com also makes wood-canvas canoes off original Chestnut molds. And
Fletcher Canoes in Atikokan, Ontario www.fletchercanoes.com makes an nice wood-canvas canoe that is similar to the 17’ Prospector.
However, modern materials like Royalex (sadly Royalex been discontinued) do have their merits too, especially on
the shallow rocky rivers my husband Reid and I sometimes bump our way down.
There are also some composite canoes that weigh next to nothing, which is a real
bonus when slogging over a long portage or loading one onto a car. But
wood-canvas builders can make them lighter if you request them too.
© Reid McLachlan
If you are interested in synthetic canoes the materials are seemingly endless: Kevlar, Fiberglass,
Royalex, Twintex, Carbon and Polyethelene that are molded into shapes similar to my original wood-canvas Prospector. Many companies make Prospector style canoes including
Esquif, Nova Craft,
Voyager, Evergreen, Scott, Western Canoeing and Wenonah.
Be forewarned that there are many many so called "prospectors" out there on the market, all of them different and many not even
that close to the original shape so be sure to have a close look and to paddle them if you are interested in purchasing one.
Of course there are many others styles and makes of canoes out there and I
encourage people to try them all, you will find eventually find one (or
many!) that is right for your needs.
Solo VS Tandem
I was a tandem whitewater and flatwater guide and instructor for 6 six years
before I started teaching my Classic Solo canoe course in 1987. I quickly
discovered that it was easier for my students to learn solid solo technique and then
apply the knowledge to tandem paddling. In my experience this is the
best way to learn because there is only one of you in
the canoe and you can see the cause and effect of your stroke right
In tandem canoeing the other paddler is either counteracting or
aiding your manoeuvre and it's hard for the student to distinguish
what their stroke is doing to the canoe. With solo canoeing, the canoe goes exactly
where you tell it to go and if you don't know what you are doing you
figure it out pretty quickly through logical thinking and my teaching
pointers. In my
Classic Canoeing courses,
you can learn solo or tandem canoeing. Of course we'll have fun and
you'll end up with lovely tandem and solo skills.
I have a how-to paddling
called Advanced Classic Solo
introductory movie called Classic Solo Canoeing is also included with the disc so it is an excellent teaching aid to help you
to learn and perfect your solo canoeing technique at any level. You can
download them individually
or buy the two of them included on a dvd or Blu-ray disc in my giftstore.