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Why are wood canvas canoes so nice to paddle

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It's often said that w/c boats are more pleasing to paddle and it seems so to me. Is it real, or imagined, I was never sure. My first w/c boat was an OT Yankee, it has a flat bottom and probably not a great paddler but I still really liked it. With its' stiff hull and fine entry it was surely better than my royalex boats, especially when heeled over.

After paddling it almost exclusively for a few weeks, then taking the winter off, I paddled my kevlar Malicite the next spring. Wow, this boat paddle real nice too, maybe it's in my head.

Fast forward a few seasons and I got a composite Seliga and really like it. I think it is the most high performance hull I have. My Seliga weighs about 40 lbs. and I wondered how it would compare to the w/c version. If both boats had identical hull shapes what would the difference be? Unfortunately I don't have a w/c Seliga to compare but I do have a theory.

My modern Seliga is just as stiff as any of my w/c boats and if all else is the same, the only difference is weight. I think it is this extra weight that makes the difference. Theoretically both boats should paddle the same, so what difference does the extra weight make. My conclusion was what I refer to as "steadiness." While both boats should have the same stability, the extra weight would make it more steady. For one thing, the extra 30 lbs will make it sit lower in the water making it less twitchy and it should be less affected by the wind. The extra weight may also help with glide.

So, while I don't feel there is much paddling difference between a w/c boat and its composite clone the extra weight gives a more secure (steady) feeling. The question that now remains is there a difference between the two when they are loaded?

To prove this you can take your fine lightweight composite boat and add 30 or 40 pounds and feel the difference.
 
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The difference is the wood. IMO wood boats have a more lively feel, whatever that means. And I think boats of modern materials that are railed with wood have a more lively feel than the same boat with aluminum or vinyl gunwales.

or, as Lowangle says, maybe it’s just my imagination.
 
I agree with chip. It isn’t the weight. I have paddled some very lightweight wooden canoes and they feel different than any other material with a similar weight. I can’t say what it is, but I am happy to have a few and choose them over the others when practical.

Bob
 
Two other factors that are often cited include the sound and flexibility. A canvas exterior is usually more quiet when moving through the water than a plastic one. A wooden structure has completely different set of flex characteristics compared to a plastic one. Bark canoes tend to be the most dramatic examples of this. Hull shape and weight are probably not the most significant elements in this equation. Your mileage may vary...

Benson
 
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My two rib/plank Old Towns were both covered with fiberglass. My reproduction Morris is traditional #10 canvas. The wood/canvas canoe is much quieter than plastic, composite or aluminum (bang, bam) canoes with less audible wave slap. The wood/fiberglass Old Town construction was not as quiet as wood/canvas, but more like a composite.
 
Well, you guys might be right, you've probably paddled a lot more different canoes than I have. But Bob, are any of those lightweight boats close to 40 lbs. and 17' long. Even my 52 pound Malicite doesn't feel like a lightweight boat in comparison.

I agree that they are more quiet, which is a good thing. They are also noticeably warmer on your knees than kevlar when the water is cold. You don't slide around on the bottom as much because of the ribs. I can also rest the grip of my spare paddle on a thwart and a rib keeps the blade from sliding forward, otherwise I need to bungi or tie it there. or the paddle will end up on the floor and maybe out of reach. All of these are good things and are part of it.

An extreme example when it was obvious to me that the light weight of my boat was a detriment was during a blustery wind. It was the kind where you can see the gusts coming at you by the disturbance they make on the water surface. I never had to get so low or brace so hard or been so scared of being flipped over by the wind. I would have felt a lot safer in my 20' EM White and I wondered if I would have been as nervous in the W/C version of the Seliga. I just think some extra weight makes for a steadier ride.
 
Makes sense Al. I am not saying weight doesn’t affect how the boat handles especially in rough conditions, just that materials play a role in how a canoe feels.

But Bob, are any of those lightweight boats close to 40 lbs.
Yes- I have paddled some large skin on frame canoes that weigh very close to that. A slightly different feel, but many of the same characteristics of wood and canvas.

Bob
 
I haven’t paddled a plastic canoe in many years so I really can’t compare them to wood canvas. I do know that the wood canvas canoes are quieter and easier on the eyes than other canoes, so that makes them nicer to paddle for me.
I have no interest in speed so the 70-100 year old designs I paddle are just fine. I enjoyed my 15’ Chum vs. my 18’Old Town Guide both loaded with wall tent/wood stove outfits equally. I do think my 16’ Chestnut Cruiser ( thanks Sweeper) is the nicest paddling canoe I have ever owned but everything else I own is a close second.
What also makes wood canvas canoes so nice for me to paddle is the off season. Working on them gives me great pleasure, making repairs, maybe minor adjustments, routine maintenance, fresh paint, all help the off season go by.
 
Both of my canoes are wood, both fairly light. The lapstrake plywood 15' weighs 40#, the 15' W/C re-skinned with glass about 50#. Both paddle nicely, but have different hull shapes and handle accordingly. An effect of weight in a boat is steadiness. In my previous rowing dinghy, I put a 25# shot bag as trim ballast and to lessen the quick movement of the boat when boarding. A small increase in weight in a light boat makes a big difference. Sailing the 40# boat I have used two gallons of water as ballast. Only 16#, but very noticeable. Another comfort factor in wood is heat transmissivity. A piece of wood, aluminum and stone the same temperature will feel different because they don't transmit the energy at the same rate. I do think there's an affinity for natural materials too: leather, cotton, wool and wood just feel better.
 
Hitting the gunwale of a wood/canvas canoe with your paddle is pleasing to me like a bass drum versus the blare of cymbal produced by the aluminum gunwale of a composite canoe.
You are right about that, but having wrapped my "go to" paddles with string the sound is more bearable and I can bang and rub without worrying about gunnel damage. Two of my boat have what I think are cherry gunnels and they can't take much rubbing.
I haven’t paddled a plastic canoe in many years so I really can’t compare them to wood canvas. I do know that the wood canvas canoes are quieter and easier on the eyes than other canoes, so that makes them nicer to paddle for me.
I have no interest in speed so the 70-100 year old designs I paddle are just fine. I enjoyed my 15’ Chum vs. my 18’Old Town Guide both loaded with wall tent/wood stove outfits equally. I do think my 16’ Chestnut Cruiser ( thanks Sweeper) is the nicest paddling canoe I have ever owned but everything else I own is a close second.
What also makes wood canvas canoes so nice for me to paddle is the off season. Working on them gives me great pleasure, making repairs, maybe minor adjustments, routine maintenance, fresh paint, all help the off season go by.
This is probably a topic for a different thread, but my question is: For general purpose boats, has there even been any improvements in design from those 100 year old models?

An effect of weight in a boat is steadiness.
Hey, I like you John:)
 
Wood canoes are warm and quiet. They flex in rough water and mine has always creaked and groaned like an old ship. They are alive. They are beautiful and always feel very substantial. I like looking at them from camp.

I like everything about them except portaging them. I use a trailer.
 
I have never paddled a W/C canoe but have admired and coveted their beauty. I dread the noise of my carbon canoe with aluminum gunnels. Kevlar canoes are much quieter then my carbon but I dream of wood canvas for its tendency to be quiet. I admit I am more sensitive to sound then most. I have considered looking for W/C canoes but they all look wide and slow. Are there any with waterline beams less then 30 inches and preferably less then 28 inches? From my limited experience with W/C canoes they appear to be either tandem, freestyle, or portly and poorly designed solo canoes. I don't mean to offend any of you who love paddling portly craft solo. Different strokes for different folks.
 
Are there any with waterline beams less then 30 inches and preferably less then 28 inches?

Yes, but you will probably need to find an older one. Morris offered a Tuscarora model with a 31.5 inch width and Old Town had an all wood canoe with a 30 inch width as shown below. These are the extreme dimensions so the waterline widths are significantly less. The prices have gone up a bit since they were new in 1919 and 1929 respectively.

Benson

Tuscarora.jpg



All-Wood.jpg
 
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This is probably a topic for a different thread, but my question is: For general purpose boats, has there even been any improvements in design from those 100 year old mod
Al your Seliga according to Northstar is an old design and is less efficient then most hulls with similar design specifications. Canoes designs have advanced significantly in design in the last 30 years let alone the last 100. This progression is especially true for solo canoes. There is an argument to be made about the difference that makes to most paddlers and what they value in a canoe. I have been on plenty of paddle trips with others who have slower poorly design boats for the paddling they were employed to perform but I doubt they had less of a good time then I did on the same trip. In fact they may have a better time becuase I always have to wait for the slow ones to catch up.
 
Yes, but you will probably need to find an older one. Morris offered a Tuscarora model with a 31.5 inch width and Old Town had an all wood canoe with a 30 inch width as shown below. These are the extreme dimensions so the waterline widths are significantly less.

Benson

View attachment 133551



View attachment 133552
Thanks for that info. Too bad I can't find any in good condition for those prices too.
 
Al your Seliga according to Northstar is an old design and is less efficient then most hulls with similar design specifications. Canoes designs have advanced significantly in design in the last 30 years let alone the last 100. This progression is especially true for solo canoes. There is an argument to be made about the difference that makes to most paddlers and what they value in a canoe. I have been on plenty of paddle trips with others who have slower poorly design boats for the paddling they were employed to perform but I doubt they had less of a good time then I did on the same trip. In fact they may have a better time becuase I always have to wait for the slow ones to catch up.
If my Seliga is in fact a duplicate of Joe Seliga's w/c design I think it is a very sophisticated hull, probably way ahead of its time. It does everything well. As far as speed, I averaged just under 4.5 mph on a twenty minute push, according to my gps, which I thought was pretty good. The hull, being somewhat seethrough,I was also surprised to see how narrow it was at the waterline. I intended to measure but didn't get around to it, but wouldn't be surprised if it was 30" or less.
 
Joe Seliga's canoe designs were inspired by B. N. Morris as described at https://bmwdean.com/seliga.htm in some detail. The Tuscorora shown above is a Morris design. Morris's canoes were inspired by several thousand years of design behind Penobscot bark canoes as detailed at https://wcha.org/catalogs/penobscot/ in an analysis of one from the 1700s. All of these people understood the relationship between speed and a round bottom with a narrow waterline (i.e. less wetted area). However, wide canoes with flat bottoms became the standard during the 1950s so most builders stopped offering canoes with other designs. The page at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/models.html indicates that the HW was Old Town's most popular wooden canoe. It was dropped from the catalog in 1954 because the market was no longer interested in a narrow canoe with a round bottom. Therefore, it may appear that canoes "have advanced significantly in design in the last 30 years" but this statement may not be giving enough credit to all of the various changes before then. There is a lot of documentation to support this contention at https://woodencanoemuseum.org/index.php/catalogs and other historical sources. [End rant]

Benson
 
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Are there any with waterline beams less then 30 inches and preferably less then 28 inches?

Yes.

The Tom Mackenzie Loon Works Mistral is a 15' tripping canoe with 29" beam at gunwales and 26" at the waterline. They were all made mostly with Dacron rather than canvas to cut down on weight. Members here, Brightraven currently owns one and stevet used to own one. It is, of course, no longer in production and would have to be found used.

The 15-6 Stewart River Traveler, in current production, is less than 30" in all beam dimensions and can be made with Dacron, canvas, or a poly/canvas hybrid fabric. Stewart River also makes shorter solo canoes with narrow beams.

Jerry Stelmok at Island Falls makes the narrow Willow and Willow Wisp. Patrick Corry has one of these.
 
I'm not a boat design expert by any means but the main reason that I say it is sophisticated is because when the boat is level (not leaned) it tracks way better than any other large volume trippers I have and is less affected by wind. When the boat is leaned over it becomes very maneuverable and not only carves well but actually bites in like no other boat I've paddled. Add to that the way it takes on waves and has a smooth ride.

There are some downsides to having those advantages. It has a deeper draft and probably isn't as dry as a Prospector for example.
 
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