Kayak or solo / pack boat for work?

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Yes you read that right. For work. Some days I love my job!!!

We have a device called an M9 that looks like an overgrown boogie board. It includes the electronic magic necessary to record flow volume (CFM) of a stream, be it river, spring run, etc. We use it for documenting periodic spring discharge measurements. On a narrow run, we can rig a couple pulleys and slowly pull the device across the run with a glorified clothesline. On wider streams this is not feasible, especially if there is recreation traffic to contend with. The other part of the equation is for us to minimize disruption to the water beneath and near the device.

With that in mind, we are looking at pedal-drive SOT kayaks. A tandem would allow the stern “paddler” to manage the boat and the bow position would operate the M9. In this way we can ferry the device across the steam.

Some coworkers were advocating for 2 kayaks, but I suggested a canoe as the support half would be better because it facilitates easier and more secure cargo management. We have an Old Town Discovery 164. I had also looked at the OT Next as a nice support platform. A word on procurement- for us to buy a used boat, it would have to be in stock at a registered vendor, forget Craigslist etc. So we’re only looking at new. And no way would they let us buy an ultralight either 😂

What I have found so far is that the price of a tandem SOT pedal drive kayak is rather high. A Next is considerably less expensive, though narrow (which I like) and perhaps the shorter/wider OT 119 Sportsman might be more friendly for staff. We’re not looking at overnight tripping and while I expect we’d use these boats for general field mapping, either the kayak, Next or the 119 would be useful.

Something that would help me provide info for this decision would be if I have any idea how well a pack style canoe would paddle with a single blade paddle. The kayak style seems like it might risk disrupting the water around the M9, but maybe not. I’d also love to hear your thoughts about the relative maneuverability between a pack style canoe vs a tandem SOT pedal drive. How much will mobility be cut if the forward position isn’t paddling? And finally a word about stability. Primary stability for the person operating the M9 is very important. That person will need to be able to lean over a bit while fiddling with the machine. I’m comfortable with a canoe that has good secondary stability, but most of the staff at work have it have used kayaks, fewer have or talk about using canoes. Though I have a couple converts 👍

Do any of you have experience collecting water samples or fiddling with data collection devices from a small self powered boat? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
 
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I've never paddled those boats so I don't have any info to offer, but this is interesting! Sometimes you see a "measured discharge" star on a USGS stream flow graph, and I've always wondered how they do that (and it doesn't involve trained beavers!?!).

A tandem canoe is a great platform for photography, the stern paddler can hold the boat where it needs to be, even against wind and current. Composing a photograph solo you have to extrapolate where the boat will be after you put down your paddle and fumble with the camera. I would think the same would be true of any careful use of instruments. I don't see how a second solo boat helps.

What about something like the Disco 133? Too slow for tripping, but usable solo or tandem and stand-up stable. And apparently still in production.
 
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With 2 people in the boat and moving water, you should be absolutely fine as long as flow isn't really excessive.

The stern paddler should be able to move across the river by paddling on the downstream side and letting the current help to correct for pitch. I would think the bow "paddler" should pull samples from the upstream side to make it easier for the stern person to compensate for the lean while maintaining good position for providing power.

I can see it becoming problematic if the samples have to be drawn downstream of the canoe but I would think you'd be similarly challenged with a yak (regardless of method of propulsion) also.

Please let us know how it actually works in practical application.
 
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Water samplers will be drawn from being anchored or tied off. If we’re running a longer term project, we’ll have a skin diver place the sampling tube in the spring vent and tie the end off at the bank or to a rock below water level to keep it from being messed with.

I can foresee flow too strong for a paddler to neatly ferry across the stream; in such case we have jon boat or a ganoe with a little kicker.

My concern with using the tandem canoe is operator height above and leaning over the device. Apparently one of the water management districts has a similar device and they determined kayaks were best; we have only been working on a couple small springs thus far but are gearing up for wider streams. I intend to try it with the tandem canoe we already own first. I think everyone involved, me included, has injected their personal bias into this question. But I do acknowledge the access to the device and primary stability of a SOT kayak are pros. I don’t like how heavy they are, but our OT Disco is a heavy beast too.
 
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I've never paddled those boats so I don't have any info to offer, but this is interesting! Sometimes you see a "measured discharge" star on a USGS stream flow graph, and I've always wondered how they do that (and it doesn't involve trained beavers!?!).

A tandem canoe is a great platform for photography, the stern paddler can hold the boat where it needs to be, even against wind and current. Composing a photograph solo you have to extrapolate where the boat will be after you put down your paddle and fumble with the camera. I would think the same would be true of any careful use of instruments. I don't see how a second solo boat helps.

What about something like the Disco 133? Too slow for tripping, but usable solo or tandem and stand-up stable. And apparently still in production.
I would think the measured discharge star you mention would have to indicate a similar process. You can’t record flow at a single point in the river, boaters in general but especially self-powered boaters know about the variable flow in a stream. That variation exists throughout the water column as well, so the only way to get a true measurement is with a device such as this that can “read” it all. That said, a single pass across the stream is just that- a snapshot in time. A better number would be an average model of several passes.

I have looked at specs for the 119 and 133. I cringe at the short fat form factor, but you are correct the application is out across and back, not any kind of distance. Although we could start at a head spring and measure all the runs we find as we go downstream.

Is the Next discontinued? I’ve not found it in stock anywhere.
 
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I hate to say it but if I was your manager I’d want to see your risk assessment for at this activity, lone canoe/kayak, potentially cold, fast moving water. What officially recognized paddlesports training do folk have? Swift water rescue training?
That said, you may want to look at an inflatable or folding boat to make transport easier. The inflatables in particular are hugely stable due to the side tubes and are great for leaning out over the side to get a sample.
I worked for twenty years as a fisheries scientist so lots of time spent futzing about in small boats collecting samples and electric fishing.
 
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To me it sounds like a dory or drift boat would be more appropriate. Those flared hulls are so stable but not conductive to paddling. Yes to rowing.. Or an Adirondack Guideboat.

However none are cheap! so Inflatable rower might be a very good idea
 
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@Bothwell Voyageur, this is Florida, we’re not talking fast rivers here. Safety training is administered per the agency’s directives. We’ll be following their recommendations. Paddlers must demonstrate proficiency, including recovery.

We are NOT going the inflatable route again. As stated, we have jon boats (and larger) for when conditions warrant.
 
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I used a Guideboat for work on a regular basis. I towed Beetle car sailboats across a pond to deliver/pickup or service the boats. I would sail them if I had time or could coordinate a ride back around to the other side. The pond was a no motors pond. I did a lot from my little 12’ Hornbeck Guideboat including setting and hauling 50# moorings.
Jim
 
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I used a Guideboat for work on a regular basis. I towed Beetle car sailboats across a pond to deliver/pickup or service the boats. I would sail them if I had time or could coordinate a ride back around to the other side. The pond was a no motors pond. I did a lot from my little 12’ Hornbeck Guideboat including setting and hauling 50# moorings.
Jim
Would love to see pics!
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Something that would help me provide info for this decision would be if I have any idea how well a pack style canoe would paddle with a single blade paddle.

Pack canoes are short and narrow and designed to be sat on the bottom. To paddle single blade, you have to mount a seat up close to the rails. That high a center of gravity would make for a very initially unstable canoe, especially for use as a working platform. I suspect you'd want a lot of initial stability for a working platform boat, which means a wide canoe, not a narrow and shallow one like an Old Town NEXT.

Plus, most pack canoes, other than some exceptions like the NEXT or former Old Town Pack, are expensive ultralights, which you say would not be affordable.

I know nothing about pedal-drive SOTs.

For an open canoe with wide beam stability for use as a working platform, and which should be reasonably available, I'd recommend the Old Town Discovery 133. It's 13'-3" long, 40.5" wide, and 14" deep. It has three seats, so it could be controlled by a single paddler in the central seat, or by a paddler in the stern or bow-seat-backwards with a worker in the bow or central seat. If the worker is concerned with stability while sitting on the seat, he or she can easily sit or kneel on the bottom while working or reaching.

The 133 can also be fitted with oarlocks, and there's no reason it couldn't be paddled with a double blade like a wide SOT.

Old Town Discovery 133.jpg
 
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I’ve never used a canoe that wide! But it might indeed be a good choice for this application.
 
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