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Thread: Boat length, UK and Canada

  1. #1
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    Default Boat length, UK and Canada

    I was about to hijack another thread but thought it might be more polite to start another.

    Pauly was asking about a 15ft prospector and Lloyd suggested going for a longer boat as they are faster and give a drier ride (all very true), but I was wondering if there was a fundamental difference between paddling in Canada compared to the UK, which may also explain why kayaking is more popular over here while canoeing seems more popular in Canada.

    From the pics and bloggs I see of Canada (and a little knowledge of geography) there is a lot of space between the mountains and the ocean (or darn big lake) so the rivers have a larger catchment area, giving plenty of choice of wider, higher volume rivers to paddle. So, with lots of space to play in, higher volume WW and big lakes, a faster, drier riding boat seems very appropriate, but in the UK where if you want to paddle more than maybe a dozen rivers we find ourselves seeking out smaller tributaries, squeezing through narrow gaps, worrying less about swamping than about bashing rocks and not having so far to go across lakes, are shorter, slower but more manoeverable boats more practical. Taking this to it's extreme, is this why kayak day paddles are far more popular than longer canoe/camping trips in the UK.

    It's just idle Sunday afternoon thinking, but are there areas of Canada where there are fewer high volume rivers where traditional boat designs were shorter? I'm guessing average boat length in the UK is shorter than in Canada, could this be because coaches, experienced paddlers and active paddling retailers spend a lot of time on UK style WW, and our recommendations are based on what we paddle when longer boats may be more appropriate for newcomers wanting to paddle lakes and canals? (having said that, I've seen canals so narrow where you couldn't turn 17 foot canoe without taking it out of the water) Is there a difference in average wind speed which makes a shorter boat more appropriate?

    Am I just talking out of the top of my floppy hat, or is there a case for shorter boats for WW canoeists (or just general paddling) in the UK?

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    We have millions of small rivers and streams just like the UK especially here in the east, but we also have a culture of canoeing and a lot of history. In the UK a lot of people paddle solo from day one as opposed to being introduced to canoes from the bow seat. When you are forced to paddle the bow seat for a few years you learn a lot of stuff. When you are forced to paddle solo from day one you learn different stuff. One of the reasons coaching, airbags, and short canoes are so popular.
    The Maine guides would say an 18' canoe is small, but then they were hauling pianos into rich guys fishing camps.
    A good canoeist can run a straight line through just about any navigable rapid with a long canoe but a short canoe can zig zag through it if the guy is solo.
    15' and shorter canoes are more like play toys like kayaks as opposed to touring canoes or really long touring kayaks. They are the sort of canoe you spend 8 hours in and stay in the same half mile of river at "play spots" as opposed to a traditional canoe. They make OK solo boats for shorter trips and there is nothing wrong with that.
    A lot of older folks get them because they shave 10 lbs off in weight and there is nothing wrong with that.
    It is just that new people that want to get more serious about paddling outgrow them in about 4 months. For that reason I recommend going longer, especially for tandem use.
    Lloyd

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    I think it’s because we on this side off the ocean paddle solo a lot.

    I went for a paddle with a friend off mine, a very good paddler (in fact, I learnt it from him) in his 18.4’ Mad River Lamoille and we where both solo. In fact, I could keep up with him easily in my 15’ Vomo and he was working a lot harder than I was. If we both had been doing tandem, my little canoe wouldn’t have stood even a small chance against this big and very fast canoe.

    So, when you Canadians go solo, you’ll bank the boat so far over, you’ll make your 17’ canoe effectively a 14’ long boat so you’ll be paddling lighter and therefore faster. A longer waterline may be faster in theory but you’ll first have to overcome the resistance off the greater wetted surface so unless you’re very strong, most people paddling solo will be faster in a 15’ or 16’ canoe, or even smaller, than in a longer canoe.

  4. #4

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    From the information I have gathered over the years whether it be canoe or kayak, we in the UK tend to go shorter on boat lengths, I guess this is due to the short stretches of water we tend to paddle in a day due to lifestyle not necessarily the grade of river.

    Lately kayaks in the UK have gained in length for WW river running, so I guess that canoes may follow, but not in the immediate future!

    Cheers Graeme
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    Quote Originally Posted by saarlak View Post
    I'm guessing average boat length in the UK is shorter than in Canada, could this be because coaches, experienced paddlers and active paddling retailers spend a lot of time on UK style WW, and our recommendations are based on what we paddle when longer boats may be more appropriate for newcomers wanting to paddle lakes and canals?
    You hit the nail on the head there. Short boat usually means whitewater. Not always, but mostly. One only has to look at the SOTP blog section to see there is a whitewater outfitting bias in 90% of the canoes shown. Many of which are outfitted like short class IV playboats and who's paddlers are often decked out in £1000 speciality gear and helmets for water temps of 3 degrees Celsius in the middle of summer. OK great, if you are paddling the Ottawa river in May but for a canal trip even in November a nice sweater should do nicely. Unless you plan on going for a swim in the canal just because you can?
    Other North American forum members and myself often talk in PM's how canoeing looks like the sort of thing you need a whole new wardrobe for in the UK?

    There is nothing wrong with the difference; it is just very different looking to us who are used to seeing a canoe on every fifth car that is all. Sort of like how rugby players view American football players.

    I just get concerned that if all you have in the UK are whitewater coaches then everyone is going to want to look and act just like them. That leaves a lot of people who may just want to go canoeing feeling like outcasts if they cannot afford all the fancy whitewater stuff and still others feeling like some how they missed the point, that canoeing was supposed to be simple and fun not 'gear complicated' and technical.
    If the overwhelming peer pressure is to get a small canoe drill it full of holes and add air bags, where does that advice leave the folks that never want to do more than a little class II riffle and just want to go canal canoeing? Well most of them end up with canoes that are too short and paddles that are too long, a bunch of gear they will never use, and a canoe they will out grow really fast. The retailers are happy at least.

    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with small canoes. There are lots of them over here and everywhere else for that matter, but they are a lot more specialised so I typically recommend the middle of the road (15'6 15'8 16'0) stuff because it is a bit more versatile and people can enjoy it more. Bill Mason was a big fan of the 16' Chestnut prospector. Reason? 16 foot canoe is more middle of the road and more versatile than 14, 15, 17, & 18 footers. The Prospector hull is middle of the road too and more versatile then lakers and freighters.

    For someone looking at getting a canoe for the family, and a variety or water a short canoe just doesn't make a lot of sense unless their garage is only 15' corner to corner top to bottom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Koen View Post
    I think it’s because we on this side off the ocean paddle solo a lot.

    I went for a paddle with a friend off mine, a very good paddler (in fact, I learnt it from him) in his 18.4’ Mad River Lamoille and we where both solo. In fact, I could keep up with him easily in my 15’ Vomo and he was working a lot harder than I was. If we both had been doing tandem, my little canoe wouldn’t have stood even a small chance against this big and very fast canoe.

    So, when you Canadians go solo, you’ll bank the boat so far over, you’ll make your 17’ canoe effectively a 14’ long boat so you’ll be paddling lighter and therefore faster. A longer waterline may be faster in theory but you’ll first have to overcome the resistance off the greater wetted surface so unless you’re very strong, most people paddling solo will be faster in a 15’ or 16’ canoe, or even smaller, than in a longer canoe.
    You are right about the solo thing.

    I don't know; when I am in solo cruising mode in the Cronje, I don't lean the canoe at all and I would say there is not a lot of 15' canoes that could stay in my shadow half the day even when paddled tandem. In the SP3 Prospector I lean it over solo because it is so wide and I fall behind the 16'9" canoes at a rate of about 4 inches per paddle stroke. My old 16 footer was pretty fast too even when leaned because it had no rocker. Leaning is not for speed but for comfort (more or less).

    I would agree that you have to over come resistance initially but if you use your momentum once you get up to speed it is far easier to keep a longer boat at cruising speed than a short one. Also you are less likely to get blown off course.

    Just what I have noticed when guiding groups of mixed canoes. You get the long lakers, out front, then the Disco 169's and somewhere in the back the prospectors and short boats.

    But you guys shouldn't listen to me anyway; our water freezes half the year and that probably really screws it up and makes things totally different. It affects our world view too as the human body is 80 something percent water so winter screws with us too.
    Lloyd

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    I agree with what has been said above, I think the history of use has a lot to do with why we paddle shorter boats. I may be worng here, but it has been said before, that here canoeing is traditionlly a recreational pasttime, where as is Canada/ North America it is a tool but more like rowing boats over here.

    From reading some of the nice coffee table books it looks like canoes used to shift heavier loads as work horses, we don't do that. Also that the longer trips carrying more supplies are more usual for LLoyd and his friends.
    From what I understand the longer canoes had roughly the same bow/stern profiles as the shorter (thinking 15/16' against 18/20') so the extra length is in the middle so it also increases the load capabilities.

    I like the bit about clothing as it has been commented on at work that my getting changed for a canoe group means adding a PFD whilst some are rumaging around for water proofs, cags etc...

    Just some thoughts from a sleep deprived me
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    Well, that’s a second discussion; I have all the special kit and stuff, most off it double or even triple, but hardly ever wear it in the canoe. The special kit I’ll wear at sea and on WW and both I’ll still do in kayaks.

    I love the canoe for getting out for a short spell, often after work on my way home and than I’ll just hop in it with just the plain clothes I was wearing. It may be clear that I’ll just couldn’t care less about speed and so on these moments, if I’ll need speed I’ll hop in my 17.7’ seakayak but in practical situations my 15’ Vomo is keeping up amazingly well, as well solo as tandem .

    Talking about short boats, it has been the big hit among the WW-kayakers the last years and I always hated them, never had a really short kayak myself and hate to paddle with them because I'm always waiting on them or paddling backwards to stay with them. I’m very glad that the short-boat craze seems to be over and the new designs seem to get longer again .

    Back to canoe-length; in the Netherlands, the situation is different from the UK, we don’t have any WW and we paddle big and slow rivers, lakes and canals. Over here you’ll hardly see an airbag and at meetings you’ll see a lot off long and very fast boats, most in Kevlar or other lay-ups. Very popular are the Jensen’s, Minnesota’s and the Lamoille I mentioned earlier, boats with no rocker, all designs often used for marathon races and 18’ or over long, but they are always paddled tandem or more and loaded with kids and stuff.

    Prospectors are very rare over here and they don’t do well in our conditions, far too much rocker and too much height in the sides to be practical in the windy conditions over here.

    There’s much more about speed than just length, thou; rocker will slow a boat down just as greater width will while a flatter bottom will increase the wetted surface area and so adds resistance you’ll need to overcome with just or average 0,04 hp .
    Last edited by Koen; 27th-October-2008 at 11:29 AM. Reason: added some words for better reading

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    Apart from the type of water you paddle, you need to consider what has to fit in the boat. We once rented a 16 foot boot for a 3 week wilderness trip in Canada and it was definitely overloaded. We also found it a slog on all the long slow stretches of water having expected more WW stretches. A few years later on the Nahanni we choose to rent an 18 foot boat for a 3 week trip and everything fitted in easily under the spraycover and it was easy paddling. I would never need an 18 foot boat back here in Europe because there are very few places where you can make long extended trips for which you need to take everything with you.
    Back at home, we have the luxury of a longer (polyester) boat for day trips in the lowlands and a slightly shorter Royalex boat with rocker for paddling WW in the narrow streams in the Ardennes and Eiffel.
    Valerie

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    Horses for courses. I have boats from 7 feetish upto 17.5 feet. All work.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    I keep seeing pics on the blogs here and thinking "Wow, that's a wide paddle blade!"

    I think Lloyd really articulated it well. I personally quail to look at your kit: my canoe + a couple paddles, a hat, and a sweater just aren't in the same league as some of the para-military preparations people over there appear to make.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mpeever View Post
    I keep seeing pics on the blogs here and thinking "Wow, that's a wide paddle blade!"
    We import them all from Canada.

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    So that why we can't find them?
    Lloyd

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    My thoughts on the gear thing in the UK are based on the observation that over the last forty to fifty years the outdoors has become an alien environment to the majority people and attitudes towards it have been coloured by the media's misrepresentation of the dangers and the safety first culture.

    The new "get back to the countryside" green tendency has meant that more people want to do something in this "alien" environment and feel they need to be "properly equipped".
    Cue the gear suppliers who now have a captive market of people who will buy whatever they want to sell them needed or not. A surprising number of todays coaches and intructors have now come through this new culture and so it is perpetuated.

    Designers now compete for market share and produce things that are overly complicated and fancy making them expensive to produce but no more practical than simpler things.
    Unfortunately these things are the only ones available and more basic clothing etc is nowadays totally inadequate.

    I have looked for good basic everyday clothing etc in the UK and been unsuccessful and end up having to buy the over priced "technical" stuff.
    Very frustrating.

    Or maybe its a British thing and we just like shiny new objects, you know the sort of thing we thought we could use with the natives when colonising north America and other parts of the globe

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    Interesting thread......

    Clothing
    Having come from gentle in the sunset kayak paddling to scary white water kayaking I've discovered that a helmet protects the head, and a cag and dry trousers keep me dry. So why would I want to get rid of those things when I'm paddling my canoe on scary white water??

    I spend my time on canals or slow moving rivers coaching and so I'm called upon by the H&S guys to show good practice - so I've got the same kit with me - and if I'm teaching rescue skills I'll be swimming (nobody panics like I panic when in water and unable to swim ) so I want that dry suit!

    But when I'm on my own - or with a group of peers - paddling on a less scary white water river or more gentle environment and the sun comes out (once this summer) there is no helmet, the BA is cast aside, there is no need for the cag, nor the dry trousers - it is T-shirt and shorts!

    Size of boats
    I just thought everything was bigger in Canada?? I don't think the majority of paddlers over this side of the Atlantic take the time to do extended trips - we don't have the wide open spaces - so we don't need long canoes..... And those H&S guys are worried about our backs lifting anything heavier than 10 kg over our shoulders (that's 22 pounds for the rest of us). We also seem to lack Canoe Clubs - the majority of clubs seem to be focussed on kayaks - and kids want to paddle on their own - we're not into social or family paddling in a big way..... (Sweeping generalisation I know, but go with at least 51% vs 49%).

    And maybe we have problems in the family.... What do you do in Canada? Spend time together as a family at weekends? The kids see so little of the family in the week that they want interaction at weekends? What about over here? many of the parents of the kids in our clubs don't paddle and don't really want to - and if they can get rid of the kids for a hour or two on a weekend they will...... Ooops - has started a third part to the thread? Don't flame me - discuss - I was only asking if there is a difference.
    You don't stop playing because you get old - you get old because you stop playing.

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    all these complex answers, but no one has yet suggested the Freudian implications
    Simon

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    Size is a matter of perception.

    I remember a story, how true I don't know, of when Sherpa Tenzing of Everest fame visited the Pen y Gwryd hotel in Snowdonia, the place where much Everest preparation was done.

    On a short walk up the track to Snowdon Tenzing looked up at the peak and pointed out various places for the camps required to scale the summit. It was pointed out to him that reaching the top and returning only took a few hours.

    He was used to seeing big mountains at a distance - small ones close to seem very similar if one is not used to the scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twopigs View Post
    I just thought everything was bigger in Canada??
    Well Canada is really big...
    YouTube - Canada's Really Big

    Quote Originally Posted by twopigs View Post
    What do you do in Canada? Spend time together as a family at weekends?
    Not always but I enjoy paddling with my mom whenever we can arrange it. I wish we could spend time together on the weekends like we did when we were kids. If I had kids at least one day of the week would be family paddling day.

    I have noticed on my trips over and in blogs that a lot of folks are the 'whatever I am wearing at the time' type of canoeists so I am not painting the whole of the UK with the same brush, and these same SotP'ers have normal sized canoes, paddles, and don't use 10 tons of air bags. In fact most of the people I have met and spent time with are like this.
    Lloyd

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
    Size is a matter of perception.
    As are so many things.

    When I first moved from British Columbia to the USA, I found Americans had trouble with the concept of empty space. My wife went to visit my sister up in Terrace, and called me to say "now I get it".

    In the end, differences are differences: they're not good or bad, but they are interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lloyd View Post
    Well Canada is really big...
    ...and the canoe was invented to travel across it. Now, you cannot do that in a weekend so you need a big canoe to carry all your gear and grub (and beaver pelts).

    Even today there are people who canoe the entire length of Canada. I imagine taking a trip like that really makes one realize exactly how big this country really is.

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    The main types of canoe around here are the Disco 16'9" and the 17'4" so I guess my old 16 footers and 15'6" would be considered small by New Brunswick standards. But then the fishing guides with the 22 foot canoes on the Restigouche and Miramachi cruising around with American "sports" up front would say that an 18 footer was a bit short for a serious canoe.
    Lloyd

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    I own an OT Tripper which is 17'2" long. I find it to be a large boat and probably the upper limit of what I would want to paddle.

    Last spring on the Miramichi I saw a couple of OT Trippers XL which are 20 feet long. Those things seemed huge to me. In one of these canoes the paddlers were using handheld wireless to talk to each other! Apparently they couldn't hear each other over the noise of the river.

    On a river where there are little or no portages a large canoe is great as you can bring all the gear your heart desires. I have even used mine to carry hardwood for the fire.

    I think the smallest boat I ever paddled solo was 16ft. I found it handled quite well. I would like to try paddling a purpose-built solo canoe someday to see how it "feels".

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    One of the more interesting points made is that we in Canada generally learn to paddle in the bow seat. I think that's a much bigger influence than we might realize.

    It seems most of the UK pics on this site are of solo paddlers: is that typical over there?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mpeever View Post
    As are so many things.

    When I first moved from British Columbia to the USA, I found Americans had trouble with the concept of empty space. My wife went to visit my sister up in Terrace, and called me to say "now I get it".

    In the end, differences are differences: they're not good or bad, but they are interesting.
    I've never run into any "empty space." I do have a problem with cities, roads, no tresspass signs and things of that nature. I do like Canada where there are lot of rivers, lakes, trees, etc, but I don't remember seeing any "empty space" while I was there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre girard View Post
    I've never run into any "empty space." I do have a problem with cities, roads, no tresspass signs and things of that nature. I do like Canada where there are lot of rivers, lakes, trees, etc, but I don't remember seeing any "empty space" while I was there.
    ...
    Lloyd

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre girard View Post
    I've never run into any "empty space." I do have a problem with cities, roads, no tresspass signs and things of that nature. I do like Canada where there are lot of rivers, lakes, trees, etc, but I don't remember seeing any "empty space" while I was there.

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