Within limits of
materials and technology, both Indian and early white canoes
were traditionally shaped to conform to the kind of waters
they plied and to the job they had to do. Mass production
of the last 30 years has been more about conforming to the
demands of the materials and the machines that mass produce
them, than function. Efficiency in the water has taken a
backseat to efficiency in the factory. Building your own
canoe allows you to shift the emphasis back to performance
and rediscover the perfect harmony among canoe, paddler and
define the Anatomy of a Canoe
The center half of a well designed hull provides 75% of its
stability and carrying capacity. Longer hulls will carry
more weight but affect speed. A typical canoe varies from
10’ – 21’
The greater the water
line length and the height ratio of length to width the
faster the canoe is to paddle. The longer hull length will
track better (hold it’s course) than a short hull. Long
narrow hulls with les wetted surface generate less friction
Beam is the maximum width of a canoe. A narrow beam
requires less effort to push water aside and less friction
is arched at the hulls surface. Wider more stable sides
offer good “final stability” once its set in the water.
Flare sides also deflect water. When gunwales are narrower
than the maximum beam, the sides curved effect is called
tumblehome. Tumblehome allows paddlers to easily reach over
the sides to paddle without sacrificing carrying capacity.
Tumblehome stiffens the hull also. To its expense more
tumblehome means less final stability.
Depth is measured from the gunwales to the bottom of the
hull. 10 inches are common on a solo canoe to 20 inches on
a tandem canoe. Depth is also measured at the bow and stern
from the top of the stern to the lowest point on the keel
line. Freeboard is the distance from the waterline to the
gunwale. Capacity is usually determined when loading to 6
inches of freeboard. Freeboard also determines
seaworthiness of a canoe as high sides draw wind, reduce
speed & controllability. Low sides which are less
susceptible to wind will heighten the chances of swamping a
canoe in whitewater or high waves.
How the canoe shape moves through the water by dividing it
is hull contour. The efficiency of the canoe is determined
by the amount of friction created by the hull surface.
Keel-line: is the curvy
upward slope from the middle towards the end of the canoe.
Essentially the rocker lets a canoe pivot on its midpoint.
The greater the rocker the shorter the water-line and the
easier it is to turn. This is typically a trait of white
water rapids canoes which can be so extreme they look like a
banana. Too much rocker or curve in the canoe forces the
center to support most of the weight, driving it deeper in
the water with increased displacement and friction. These
are performance canoes, not necessarily designed for
recreational paddling, carrying gear or the faint at heart.
While there is no ideal
canoe form, each time a design is manipulated for a specific
result, inevitability it entails the loss of another
feature. An example: If you opt for tracking (straight
lines and make the canoe longer for lakes) you sacrifice
movability and turning (river and rock steering). If you go
for an extreme rocker (optimal move ability) you lose
tracking. Final stability is also a prime concern if you
have kids, dogs or inexperienced paddlers in tandem. Final
stability is a lower priority if you are typical solo
paddlers. Finally functional canoes verses visually
pleasing canoes are also a balancing of practicality with
the beauty of lines.