DSCF4282  Here’s a link to some better pix.

My old kayak is all of 10 feet long and has given way more fun than the $250 I gave Costco for it should allow. But at 50+ pounds it’s too heavy to portage so it gets trailered and dragged to and fro the lake a lot. And while it turns fast, being short it’s slow no matter how fast you paddle. Boarding, always important to a gimpy near 70 and overweight paddler, ranges from “ain’t easy” to “downright scary”!

The new boat, which cost $1950 even though it’s end of season and a blem, is about half the weight despite being over half again as long at 16 feet. I’ve wanted one of these lightweight high performance kevlar canoes for going on three decades, and with everything I’ll ever need already paid for and Social Security threatening to shower me with more money next year, I gave in to my dreams. Had it out on the lake, or at least the little bay round the boat launch, for a bit this morning but the 15 MPH winds gusting to 25 cut short my paddling. Getting in and out proved even easier than the same gymnastics in the kayak, affirming why I decided to go for a canoe rather than a kayak- canoes are much more versatile and useful for old folks and gimps like me! This long lightweight proved to be just as seaworthy as the short fat kayak, as the only water taken in despite the big waves was due to my splashy paddling. And efficient… About two paddle strokes and I was across that little 50 yard or so wide bay!

The downside to this relentless pursuit of efficiency, speed, and light weight is a boat that in or out of the water is a fragile boat that can’t just be run up on shore or literally dragged in and out of the water. That said, at 28 pounds weight, it’s not much of a challenge to carry and lift atop the car racks. In fact, the major challenge was fighting all the wind the boat caught to maneuver it on and off the car. This problem continued in the water, get broadside to the wind and it takes serious maneuvers to get this long boat headed in the intended direction- After a couple nearly out of control episodes I decided to head for shore while that was I still had a choice of where on shore.

Which neatly sag ways into this little editorial… Why must we choose between extreme designs instead of a versatile “all rounder”? I will confess to seriously considering pre-ordering one of the upcoming mid engine Corvettes, even though I still haven’t forgiven GM for killing the Corvair a half century ago. But while a brilliant car at a bargain price, the next ‘Vette would be even better with a turbo’d 4 or V6 instead of the fugitive from a truck pushrod V8 it’s going to get to satisfy GM’s perception of their customer’s need for big block V8 bragging rights. The Mustang at least provides the choice between a big V8 and turbo’d 4, although said brilliant EcoBeast 4 is held back by the Mustang’s girth needed to fit around the wide V8.

So it seems like the popular boats for paddlesports are the cheap and cheerful molded plastic kayaks and the much pricier competition oriented rapids running kayaks and long fast canoes whose natural habitant seems to be the placid waters of south Minneapolis’ chain of lakes. In researching boats prior to purchase after eliminating kayaks (can’t haul a folding bike and lotsa other useful stuff in one) I figured out that the “sweet spot” for my use was a canoe about 13 to 15 feet long. Speed potential of a boat being the square of length that should give me a considerable improvement in miles covered per hour, but beyond 15 feet I doubt this senior citizen can reliably produce the fraction of a horsepower to take advantage of a longer boat. Make a boat longer and it gets heavier, which means a shorter boat can be made with enough strength to tolerate the occasional “oops”. A 13-15 foot boat is also simply easier to live with, just throw it on the flatbed trailer and tie it down for travel and it might even fit into a place of honor in the living room for winter storage. So I went shopping for a 13 to 15 foot canoe…

Now Northstar does make this 14 and a half foot Trillium model and the other kevlar canoe maker of any size, Wenonah, makes this 13 foot Fusion that even offers a rudder which makes a lot of sense and riles up the purists to boot. But good luck finding one to buy- at probably the bigger dealer around here, the legendary Hoigaard’s, the shortest solo canoe was 15 foot and inches and $300 more than my new 16 footer. Another Wenonah dealer had a blem 16 and a half footer for $250 more and half again the weight, and the dealer I bought from had one a whole 6 inches shorter, but it had sold before I got there.

So it seems like the V8 ‘Vette, the makers are building a product targeted at the speedy twenty something guys who can’t afford it anyways. But the real customers are more like the lady next county over, at least a decade my senior, who has a whole collection of ‘Vettes and will probably be adding the latest, but hasn’t the slightest need of big block V8 power. Actually build and make the dealers stock that 14 foot or so “all rounder” canoe with a bit of kayak DNA that works on all kinds of water and is easy to live with off water  too and they’d satisfy their real customers desires and sell flotillas of them.

And while I’m not going to return my new “hot rod” canoe because I can’t get anything better, I’m not going to be a “social media persuader” for it either… Canoe makers, you can do better!