Canoes (Canadian Canoes)
The canoe is the most versatile boat ever invented. If you could own only one boat, that boat should probably be a canoe. Canoes are wonderful because they are both light and seaworthy. They can cross large bodies of water, yet they can get into the smallest and shallowest bays and inlets. They can be paddled, rowed, sailed, poled and even carried.
A canoe can take you around the local lake or around the Canadian Shield. It can take you hunting, fishing or trapping, or, it can take you on a wild ride down a white water river.
Canoes, like all paddle craft, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to suit your needs. The shapes of boats have the biggest effect on their performance. Longer boats are faster and generally track (go in a straight line) better. The fastest boats, used for activities such as marathon racing, are more than eighteen feet long and very narrow with a front end (bow) that cuts the water like a knife. There are very specialized boats, such as the dragon boats, outriggers and big freight canoes that are longer still. The longer the boat, the faster it will be because all of these boats have what designers call a displacement hull. That is, they push the water out of the way as they go instead of planing over the top as do water skis and many power boats. The speed of a displacement hull depends on the waterline length of the boat. All other things being equal, a longer boat will be faster than a shorter boat.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have very short boats that are not fast but extremely maneuverable. These boats are used for activities such as whitewater river canoeing that require intricate and precise paddling through rapids and obstacles. The short whitewater play boats often have their ends curved upward like the rockers on a rocking chair to allow them to spin even faster. Needless to say, it is very difficult to paddle short boats in a straight line and special training is required to master them.
In between the very fast and very maneuverable boats are an almost limitless number of shapes and sizes that attempt to reach the right design compromise for their intended use. Wide boats will be slow and awkward to paddle but might make great fishing platforms. A wilderness tripping canoe will be longer for paddling speed and cargo carrying capacity, but it still might have a mild rocker shape for handling easy whitewater.
The other obvious design parameter after length and width is hull shape. Canoe bottoms come in a variety of shapes for different applications. The most common is a simple flat bottom. Flat bottom boats feel very stable and they perform well on calm water. But waves have more af an effect on a flat bottomed boat, rocking it severely as they pass underneath.
Boats with round or curved bottoms, on the other hand, feel very tippy on calm water compared to the flat bottomed boats. Sailors would say the boat is "tender." The design is said to have "low initial stability." Usually, however, these boats are shaped so that the more they tip, the more resistance there is to tipping further. They "firm up" or have what is called "high secondary stability." Of course, with any boat, there will come a point where the most stable position is with you in the water. The round bottomed boats are generally excellent in waves and whitewater. The round bottoms let waves pass underneath without tipping the boat so they actually feel very stable once you get used to them.
Other common shapes include the shallow V
hull. This shape is used when the designer wants the advantages
of a round hull but wants better tracking. Boats can include a
variety of design elements in one boat. For instance, you might
have an asymmetrical hull, wider on one end than the other, like a
teardrop, which includes a V hull on the front for tracking and a
broad round hull in back for maneuverability. The paddler can
switch from the V bottom to the round bottom by leaning forward or
back to shift his weight from the V end to the round end.