Maiden Voyage / Initial Feedback (27/8/01)
This evening I took my new 15-foot modified 'Huron Cruiser' up to Lake Wilcox, a small lake in what is now the suburbs north of Toronto. I just wanted to get it in the water - any water! Family and friends came up to see and everyone was taken for a paddle around the lake.
Everyone was amazed at how good it looked, myself included - even though I know all its flaws. It handled well tandem and solo. But I think it handled better solo when it was heeled over on its side: 'Canadian' style. It seemed to be very quick, especially tandem. When I go tripping I should get a better idea of how fast it is over long distances.
It does have quite a tippy feel to it. I knew it would have poor initial stability because of the rounded bottom, but I was still a bit surprised. It was very wobbly getting in for the first time. The tippy feel would be uncomfortable for new paddlers but it means it should be more seaworthy in rough water. It will just take a bit of getting used to. I didn't get the chance to test out the secondary stability, or what it takes to tip, but next time out I should have more time to play around with it and discover limitations.
It has an incredible 8+ inches of freeboard (the part above the water) with two paddlers and no gear. The 'Huron' is a fairly narrow design, and I have shortened it by 8 inches. But it is deep and that means it still has sufficient carrying capacity.
One thing I noticed about a cedarstrip canoe is there seems to be more room than fibreglass or kevlar canoes. Cedarstrips don't have the big flotation chambers in the ends which means there is that much more room for the bowperson to stretch their legs or to stuff a small day pack or loose gear.
The bow is actually extra roomy because I placed the bow seat closer to the centre thwart than would be usual in a tandem canoe. I did this because the bow seat is also the solo seat and I was more concerned about it being closer to centre for ease of solo paddling than being in the optimum tandem paddling position. Like I said, it is very quick with two paddlers so I don't think I have lost much performance because of this. It will just be a matter of shifting gear to adjust the trim.
My only disappointment is with the weight. Before taking it out, I checked the weight on bathroom scales and it weighed 45 pounds. Unfortunately, it is five pounds heavier than what I was aiming for. I still think 40 pounds could be achieved. The problem, I think, is that I did such a lousy fibreglassing job and I am sure there is about 5 pounds of excess epoxy on it. The design weight of a Bear Mountain 'Huron Cruiser' is 45-55 pounds (I am not sure why there is a 10 pound variation in their specs for this canoe and not others). The modifications I made were specifically to reduce the design weight: it was shortened; I used all Sitka Spruce trim instead of hardwood; and lighter fibreglass cloth than what was recommended. So it really should have turned out lighter than 45 pounds. It just goes to show how important the fibreglassing step can be and how inexperience can make a considerable difference. I must assume that if I was building it according to design specifications then, with my poor fibreglassing, I would have ended up with a canoe over 60 pounds.
I know the weight difference may not sound like much to most people, but having a light canoe was the 'raison d'etre' for building it. Even so, 45 pounds doesn't feel too bad and I am so far pleased with all its other handling characteristics. The real test will be when I take it tripping ...