Solo VS Tandem
I was a tandem whitewater and flatwater guide and instructor for 6 six years before I started teaching my Classic Canoeing course in 1987. I quickly discovered that it was easier for my students to learn solid solo technique and then apply the knowledge to tandem paddling. In my experience this is the best way to learn because there is only one of you in the canoe and you can see the cause and effect of your stroke right away.
In tandem canoeing the other paddler is either counteracting or aiding your manoeuvre and it's hard for the student to distinguish what their stroke is doing to the canoe. With solo canoeing, the canoe goes exactly where you tell it to go and if you don't know what you are doing you figure it out pretty quickly through logical thinking and my teaching pointers. In my Classic Canoeing courses, you can learn solo or tandem canoeing. Of course we'll have fun and you'll end up with lovely tandem and solo skills.
I also have how-to paddling movies that are excellent teaching aids to help you to learn and perfect your solo canoeing technique at any level. You can download them individually or buy the two of them included on one dvd disc Gift Store.
If you are interested in synthetic canoes the materials are seemingly endless: Kevlar, Fiberglass, Royalex, T-Formex, Inegra, Twintex, Carbon and Polyethelene can all be molded into shapes similar to my original wood-canvas Prospector.
Many companies make Prospector style canoes including Trailhead-paddleshack, Esquif, Nova Craft, Voyageur, Abitibi, Western Canoeing and Wenonah and so many more.
Be forewarned that there are many, many so called "prospectors" out there on the market, all of them different and many not even that close to the original shape so be sure to have a close look and to paddle them if you are interested in purchasing one. Of course there are many others styles and makes of canoes out there and I encourage people to try them all, you will find eventually find one (or many!) that is right for your needs.
There are so many canoe designs out there these days that it can be hard to choose one. That's why I have so many canoes! But if I had to choose one I would probably go for the versatile 16-foot Prospector type. I say versatile because these canoes can be used for tandem or solo, for an afternoon or a long trip, with only a little trimming (shifting ballast to level the ends of the canoe) involved.
I like canoes to be deep enough to hold a lot of gear when I travel and to have some rocker for maneuverability so that when heeled over while soloing the ends rise out of the water.
If I'm given a choice of a cedar-canvas canoe over a synthetic one the traditional cedar-canvas wins hands down for its beauty and feeling. It's like paddling a piece of our history.
So who makes a nice Prospector? If you start looking around on various canoe sites you will see there are a great many Prospectors on the market. Some are wood-canvas but most are made with synthetic fibers. I favour the original cedar canvas one from the Chestnut Canoe Co. of Fredericton New Brunswick but, alas, they have been out of business since the late 70's. However many small companies are making wood-canvas canoes based on the Chestnut designs.
One of the original 16' Prospector forms from Chestnut is still being used by Hugh Stewart, a neighbour of mine, to build fine working canoes. His company is called Headwaters Canoes in Masham, Quebec, They also makes other Chestnut models from the original molds. They are reasonably priced and built for wilderness travel and are steeped in historical Canadian canoe lineage.
And Fletcher Canoes in Atikokan, Ontario www.fletchercanoes.com makes an nice wood-canvas canoe that is similar to the 17’ Prospector.
However, modern materials have their merits too, especially on the shallow rocky rivers my husband Reid and I sometimes bump our way down. There are also some composite canoes that weigh next to nothing, which is a real bonus when slogging over a long portage or loading one onto a car.
Classic Canoeing solo and tandem courses are for all paddling levels ranging from beginner to the expert paddler.You'll quickly learn the importance of an efficient stroke. If you stick with it you will gain not just the skill but the confidence to paddle all kinds of boats in most conditions and enjoy the experience of learning to put your canoe exactly where you want.