advices for a beginner from Italy

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Hi,
I’m Marco and I’m from north Italy; I live in Como Lake’s area. I’m interested by canadian canoe.
I’ve experience of sea kayak; considering that few months ago was born my first child I’ve started thinking about a new boat for future family excursions.

I have excluded sit-on-top or multi-seater kayak because I think that could impose too stringent limits on us compared to our sea kayaks. A Canadian canoe on the other hand could broaden our horizon.

But there is a problem: in Italy there is a great kayaker community but single blade paddler’s are very rare. I'm in a big club full of sea kayaker, white water kayaker, slalom kayaker, agonist kayaker but but none with much experience in open canoe.

I’ve found an open canoe school on a river near Milan, it looks good and I’ve intention to take lessons as soon as possible. But I will need a canoe for myself.

As you can imagine trying, seeing or even just asking for advice about a purchase is not easy in my country. There is only a dealer in Italy that can import a few boats a year from NovaCraft and Esquif. So you have to order a boat from a catalogue and wait an huge amount of time or try to find something that fits among the few boats in stock.

In the school I was talking to I've seen lots of “Prospector” from both brands but it looks like a canoe ideal for rivers but not for open waters (lakes in my area are subject to sudden winds) and this kind of boats could not be ideal.

I’m looking for a canoe that could be paddled both solo or tandem (especially tandem + little child), mostly for lakes but occasionally in rivers up to class II (no white water).
They suggested me to consider a length of 16’ especially Huron and Avalon from Esquif but reading some reviews seems also NovaCraft Pal could be a good idea (albeit much more expensive).
Making a little travel in France or Germany I could also consider other brands like Gatz, Armerlite or evenLinder's aluminum canoe.


Here is it my long, long question. I’m ready for read your opinions.


PS: sorry for my english, I was not good at school ... and it's been years since school!
 
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Welcome to the site and there's no need to apologize for your english, it's far better than my italian. Unfortunately, I can't be much help with advice but I'm sure there are many here who can and will (some will even encourage you to build your own) :D.
 
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Your English is more perfect than most who otherwise post online. If you can find a canoe, any canoe, to use as your first, then your task will be to learn proper technique how to control it efficiently and safely with a young passenger who will also learn along with you. If you end up wirth a less than perfect canoe, at least you will learn how to control it. Many of us as beginners started with a canoe that was less than the our first best choice. But eventually better quality boats became available, and we advanced to them, along with our skill level. Get what you can, learn and practice well, and you will enjoy what you have.
 
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I agree that your written English is very good. Definitely good enough to easily understand what you are saying.

One suggestion I would make is that if you have a work space and the desire to build a boat you might consider building a wood strip canoe. It's a pretty common thing over here in the US. It would save you a lot of money and give you a lot more options when it comes to the type of canoe. It doesn't have to be complicated, although some people enjoy making it complicated.

I have no experience with the Bob's Special but have heard good things about it.

Choosing a canoe is a very personal experience that generates a lot of debate. If you're not going to do any whitewater you could choose a hull with less rocker that might make it easier to paddle straight. But if you are taking classes about canoeing and want to learn you might find that a hull with more rocker gives you better response as you learn to be a better paddler.

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that someone will tell you that hull "XX" is perfect for your needs and that hull "YY" would be terrible and then someone else will tell you hull "YY" is perfect and hull "XX" will be terrible.

As long as you pick a hull that doesn't have an extreme shape I think you'll be fine. People always seem to adapt to what they have and get along fine.

Happy paddling and congratulations on the child!

Alan
 

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Marco, welcome to site membership! It is very interesting to have a potential canoeist from Italy.

Since your sources seem limited to Nova Craft and Esquif, I will give you some thoughts about them.

A symmetrical 16' canoe is a very good length for a tandem canoe that can also be used as a solo by sitting in the bow seat backwards. It can also be paddled frontwards as a solo if you install a kneeling thwart close to the center thwart or if you remove the center thwart and replace it with a wide middle seat placed about 6"-8" behind center.

The classic Prospector design is highly rockered, so it will not be as efficient a canoe on lakes as a less rockered canoe. It will be better on whitewater rivers.

The Pal is a classic design that can be paddled more efficiently on lakes than a Prospector design and can also handle easy whitewater rivers. Because it is a symmetrical canoe, it can be paddled tandem or solo sitting backwards on the bow seat. It was the canoe most used by the famous Canadian canoe teacher and videographer Bill Mason, who made many videos such as this introductory one:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/path_of_the_paddle_solo_basic/

The Nova Craft Pal should meet your needs nicely.

As to Esquif, I don't have personal experience, but I can tell some things from the specifications on the Esquif website. The Huron has exactly the same highly rockered hull shape (2.75") as the Esquif Prospector. All they have done is cut down the depth of the Prospector by two inches to make the Huron. So, the Huron would have similar paddling characteristics on lakes as the Prospector, but would be slighly less subject to wind. The Pal would be the better lake canoe, in my opinion.

The Esquif Avalon is only slightly less rockered than the Huron and is very deep at 15", even deeper than the Prospector. Thus, it seems designed to carry heavy tripping loads. I would still suspect the Pal to be be a more efficient lake canoe. Also possibly problematic with the Avalon is that it is made with a sliding bow seat.

Esquif-Avalon-Plan-View.jpg

The problem is that you could not sit backwards on such a sliding seat attached to a thwart for solo paddling. You would have to order the Avalon with a fixed bow seat and no front quarter thwart.

Of these three canoes, my opinion is that the Nova Craft Pal would best meet your stated needs for tandem canoe, which can also be paddled solo, to be used mostly on lakes but occasionally on rivers up to class 2. Other members here may have other opinions or actual experience with the Esquif canoes.
 
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Marco, what a great adventure you are starting!

Others have posted good advice. "Rocker," as we use it, might not be in your English-Italian dictionary. Rocker refers to how much the bottom of the canoe curves along the length of the canoe. With the canoe sitting on flat ground, the bow and stern of a rockered canoe don't touch the ground. Rocker is usually measured in inches at the bow and stern, and you can think of it as the air gap between the bottom of the stern or bow and the flat surface on which the canoe is sitting. Symetrical canoes have equal rocker bow and stern. Rocker is important because it affects how easily the canoe tracks and turns. Canoes with less rocker generally are easier to paddle in a straight line. The more rocker, the more the canoe wants to turn.

Now a story from when I started canoeing. I had an Old Town Camper, a 16' canoe with very little rocker. I took a whitewater canoe class, and in the class I used a 16' Old Town Appalachain, which has, I think, 2.5" of rocker on both ends. Back then, I couldn't tell any difference between how the canoes handled. But they are a lot different. Years later I was teaching some people basic canoe strokes in a couple of different canoes. I noticed when I put the kids in the Appalachian, they couldn't paddle in a straight line. In the other two boats I had, they could paddle straight. The point is, there was a lot of difference between the Camper and the Appalachian, but as a beginning paddler, to me they were both the same.

So, I recommend you take the class before you get the canoe. That way, you will have some experience and learn to notice differences in the canoes. Also, I expect your instructors will be able to give you good advice on the right boat for you.

I looked at the Gatz web site. They seem to offer a full range of canoes. Sometimes canoe makers will let you try out different models. I suggest you contact Gatz to see if they will let you try paddling their canoes. And at least Gatz is on the same continent. That has got to make things easier, and I know train service between Milan and Germany is very good. But it might be hard to bring a canoe home on the train!
 
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Welcome Marco! Your English is very good; I wish Americans were as multilingual.( sigh)
Linder Canoes makes the Inkas 495. Aluminum canoes are durable ; the chief downsides are they can get hot or cold and are noisy. They are not horribly light nor performance oriented but that can come later.
I had an aluminum canoe when we had tiny kids. We had that canoe for twenty years. We did some wilderness trips in it of a week too. I recommend 16 feet too. Ours was 15 and a wee bit short.

I recommend getting that for now and getting out on the water. Not many of us stopped at one canoe and hopefully you won't either. You will develop your own preferences in time.
 
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Marco,
I'm so happy that you found us!!
As others have said, spend some time in a canoe, any canoe, to understand some basic paddle strokes.
If you can find a used canoe, best to start with that.
I will also suggest that you build your own canoe, it's not very difficult, just a series of small steps, like any project. For the cost of a good used canoe, you can build two. For the cost of a good new canoe, you could build 4 or 5.

I would also suggest a slightly longer canoe, maybe 17 feet or so, to carry you and your passengers more efficiently. You'll also want enough above water volume to provide a dry and safe ride.

Should you wish to build your own canoe, there are many of us here that would gladly mentor you, through the magic of the internet.

You said you live near Lake Como, I've been on that lake and it is quite large. Would you paddle on Como?
If building is a possibility, you may want to look at an "Adirondack Guideboat"...that is a particularly capable small boat for larger water and bigger loads. Guideboats are surprisingly fast and extremely safe.

Finally, don't apologize for your English, as others have said, it's far better than our Italian.
 
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Benvenuto Marco,

Fellow European single blade paddler here. You found a bunch of friendly and very knowledgable people on this forum. Don't worry about your English skills.

Congratulations to the birth of your child!

Much good advice has already been given.
You intend to take classes. Good idea! Do it! And get a canoe, 16 feet long, with a symmetrical hull and seats that you can comfortably use forwards and backwards. Then get out on the water and practice.

It's a small market for open canoes over here, I agree. Perhaps the organizer of the course can help you in getting one.
I am not very helpful with the makes and models you mentioned. I own a Gatz Mohawk (5 Meters long) that is nice to paddle on flat water, although a bit tippy. Gatz discontinued to produce this model many years ago.
I test paddled the Nova Craft Pal several times, I liked it. It might suit your needs.
Others mentioned their thoughts on Prospectors already, there's not much to add from my side. Except that the Gatz Prospector I paddled reacted more like a Pal.....

Building your own canoe sounds like a good idea. I don't know the wood prices in Italy. In Switzerland, hemlock or western red cedar (as far as I know, the wood most commonly used to build a stripper canoe) is not easy to come by and expensive.

Vi auguro una buona giornata.
Saluti dalla Svizzera.
André
 
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Building your own canoe sounds like a good idea. I don't know the wood prices in Italy. In Switzerland, hemlock or western red cedar (as far as I know, the wood most commonly used to build a stripper canoe) is not easy to come by and expensive.

While western red cedar is the traditional wood that doesn't mean it's the only thing that will work. Cedar is popular because of it is light weight and relatively easy to get in most of the US but people also build strip canoes from pine, basswood (Linden), paulownia, and I am sure other species as well. One member here even made one from hardwoods but most people choose not to use hardwoods because of the weight and it is not as easy to sand or work with. Any wood that is relatively lightweight with very few knots should work fine.

Alan
 
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Thanks everyone for the replies, I’ve not considered building a wood canoe. I think it is beyond my capabilities.


@yknpdlr
I can easily find low cost old fiberglass canoes made during ‘80 by Italian’s factory. General opinion is that they aren't good (wasn't designed by canoe experts but came mostly from companies that build swimming pools, small engined boats, waste bin and any other composite article). Could be a great idea for the beginning without spending a huge amount of money!

@Alan Gage
I know that choosing the right canoe isn’t easy! My wife and me have 4 sea kayaks. You can read all the reviews you can find and listen to friends' advice but nothing can guarantee you that a kayak you think is good for your body and your needs really is.
Personal experience on the boat is necessary… and a quick “drive test” in flat water isn’t enough, it would be better a longer experience in waves and windy conditions but is rarely possible. This is why during kayak meetings I always propose
to change gear with friends to make an opinion about different boat or paddle.

@Glenn MacGrady
Thanks for your analysis about canoe design.
I’ve seen that “prospector” isn’t the same in all manufacturers. From what I've seen the Esquif seemed to have less rocker than the NovaCraft.
Another question is about hull design: mostly canoe that are designed for cruising in flat water (i.e. Avalon) has a V-shape. I don’t like this characteristic in kayaks but a canoe could be radically different. Pal seems to be a shallow arch, probably better for general purpose use.

@Chip
No problems for terms, “rocker” don’t have a translation in italian so is used also for kayaks.
Other parts have a correct word but generally for technical description english or italian are both used.
I’ve not considered Old Town because aren't imported in Italy.
Gatz could be a great option, I have a friend that is a Gatz’s owner. Website is quite confusionary but their boats are appreciated in northern Europe where they are more common than here.
Before buying a canoe I will probably go to “Paddle Expo” in Germany where some brands offer a demo test but first priority is to take lessons.

@stripperguy
I usually paddle Como lake but in a sea kayak. In my area there are lots of smaller lakes and a couple of big rivers (class 1-2) are in the range of 2 hours travel.
You paddled my lake?
 
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Paddle Lake Como! No, we were in a small motorboat, going to uhmmm, Bellagio as part of a tour. We had to stop at a marina, maybe Bellano? To pick up a windshield for someone’s boat repair.
Lake Como would be too large and busy for me, I prefer wilderness waters, but it sure is beautiful there.
 
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Andre, is attending Kringlefieber a possibility for you? The group is only on Facebook and the Freestyle Canoeing site

Bring something that floats and camping gear. The instruction you will get informally is priceless.

I have NO idea where the Asian characters came from! Its not spam
 
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@stripperguy
unfortunately Italy is very different from North America or northern europe. You can find wilderness only in mountain area. Lakes and big rivers are usually anthropized.

There are some parts of our lakes with cliffs that aren’t suitable for human building and you can paddle few kilometers away from town.
if you look at this gallery (only Como lake) you can find some pics whit cliffs and bush only in the background.

A quite wild place is Ticino river (where I found Canadian canoe school) and Po delta (south to Venice lagoon). I paddle both in a sea kayak and I love it. I guess to come back in an open canoe.

@yellowcanoe is this a kind of symposium? The only word I know in german is “beer”.




Are there German and French people on this site? I am interested to know if someone can refer me to sites or facebook groups selling used canoes.
 
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Kringlefieber is a canoe symposium for soloists. Some bring solo canoes , others bring tandem. Its an informal gathering to try out boats and get some instruction. I am sure there is bier. People seem to cook for themselves and camp in tents. Given you speak and write English well and they do too I think you would have a great time.. And at these events boats for sale do show up.
 
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Here I am again,
Good news! In my sea kayaking club I found other people interested in starting a "single blade" paddle experience and a friend lent us his canoe.
Is a very heavy 15' polyethylene boat with flat bottom and a keel line... enough to meke us enthusiat for our first experience!

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For next season we could probably buy more boats; In Italy Nova Craft seems impossible to buy (no longer imported, you can only find plastic Prospectors from old stock). Other brands available only offer heavy plastic canoes. We can order the boat from Esquif, T-formex boat are also much less expensive then composite... so it looks like I will have to decide between Huron 16 or Avalon. We can try Prospector (same water line as Huron) but not the Avalon.
So, does anyone have any feedback on Esquif Avalon used for family day-trip? Is there an Esquif user group?
 
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You get points for kneeling in that canoe! I have not paddled an Avalon but I have friends that paddle one and I am impressed with the performance. I found one review of the boat that you may enjoy. It looks like the "paddler's choice" of the two boats that you are considering and given that you are willing to kneel I'd say go for it. It comes with a kneeling thwart for solo paddling and it's a bit narrower than the Huron and that's also good for solo paddling. I have a friend in Milan (Andrea) that used to go canoeing with me in Michigan when he visited each month. Ciao Marco!

 
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