Is a Guideboat the boat for me? : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I am casually in the market for a boat. "Casually" in that I won't be purchasing for at least a couple of months, perhaps more. I read the recent thread posted by Sharad Mathur, and that was a great help -- but I still wanted to get additional info by posting my own questions.

I am a novice rower. I'm taking a 6-week sweep rowing class right now, and I'll be taking a similar sculling class in the fall. I am very interested in single sculling, for recreation and working out. I want a single scull boat that will be adaptable to a variety of uses. It needs to be reasonably fast (but doesn't need competition speed) and maneuverable, but also reasonably stable. It does need to be rugged and relatively easy/cheap to repair, as I tend to be rough on things. It may have to handle a variety of water conditions. I am located on the Tennessee River, but I will probably also be rowing on area lakes. It also needs to be able to carry a fair amount of weight. I am six feet tall and currently 250 pounds myself (I've already lost 55 pounds, and I'm heading for 199 eventually), and I want to be able to carry cargo such as picnic supplies and possibly a passenger. However, it is also ESSENTIAL that I MUST be able to carry the shell by myself -- so, shells over about 50 pounds in weight will absolutely not work. Oh, also -- I'll need a sliding seat.

I've been surfing the rowing sites, and so far the Adirondack Guideboat -- especially the Adirondack Rowing company's 15 foot model -- seems to pretty much fit the bill. But I would love to get more input. Can someone tell me the BAD points of this boat? Any ideas about other boats that might work? Any advice/input/ideas/warnings would be welcomed!

-- Ione Smith (, May 23, 2004


You should go to the Puget Sound Traditional Small Craft Assoc. web page, and email John Weiss. He's the treasurer and owns one and can tell you more about it. I don't think he has the sliding seat rig though.

And Jim at has one, in the Potomic river, and can give you some information.

Also traditionally Guide boats use pined oars, you might after the sculling classes prefer an unpinned oarlock. But that's should be a user option. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 23, 2004.

Thanks Gary! I'll check them out.

-- Ione Smith (, May 24, 2004.

Ione - your requirements tend to reflect the ad copy for one of my drop -in rigs that converts a canoe into a sculling boat. I'd invite you to check out my site: It may not be a bad way for you to start. Once you have a rig you will always have the option to upgrade the hull. Let me know if you have any questions.

Take care,


-- Gary Piantedosi (, May 24, 2004.

Thanks Gary!

What sort of canoe? Something like the Wenonah Voyager? Can I put a passenger seat in a solo canoe? There's so many things to think about I think my brain is going to explode. ;-)

And how about blowing in the wind? I remember seeing a web page comparing canoe performance with guideboat performance, but now I've lost it so I can't go back to refresh my memory.

-- Ione Smith (, May 24, 2004.

Dear Ione,

Rigging a canoe for rowing is an attractive and cost effective way to sample the delights of rowing. It really makes sense if you already own a suitable canoe. If you think wading through all the rowing craft choices is hard, the number of canoe designs available is absolutely mind boggling. Many of those designs will work well enough for rowing, but even the best of them will never equal a good, purpose designed rowing craft. Many canoe designs are completely unsuited to rowing and some are downright dangerous. Solo canoes are the most specialized canoes on the market. They are very task specific and very sensitive with respect to loads. True solo canoes are meant to carry one person with the gear appropriate for their intended use. Attempting to carry a passenger will destroy whatever good qualities were designed into these craft and will likely result in a dangerously overloaded situation. Applying the force of a sliding seat and 9-10' foot sculls to one of these narrow, open, low- sided, usually short craft will not only be inefficient, it might sven prove deadly. I should add that I began my career designing solo canoes when very few were available commercially, and they remain very close to my heart. The idea of turning a canoe into a rowing craft is anattractive idea but, if you are not limited by economics, you really should seek a purpose built rowing craft.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, May 24, 2004.


The simplest maxim for a suitable rowing canoe is the longer the better. Also a 'lake' or 'touring' canoe over a 'downriver' canoe. The Wenonah Voyager would not row as well as the Wenonah Jensen 18. As Andre pointed out, though, canoes like these retail for around $2000 and up. On my site I am rowing a 17' Grumman aluminum downriver canoe that weighs 60 lbs. The downside is that I can easily overpower the boat. That means that once I reach maximum hull speed anything else I put in I do not pick up in additional speed. Not a good situation for racing but fine for a workout. Way faster than paddling, too. Because it is a downriver canoe it also does not track as well as a lake canoe. This does not become a real issue in this boat until you are in the ocean with a following sea and wind. This canoe will actually row better with a passenger than without. The upside to all of this is that a canoe like the Grumman can be found used for around $300. You mention that you are rough on things - I can pole this boat off a beach and keep my feet (and passengers) dry. I can also run it five feet aground back up the same beach and walk out of it dry. I suppose you could do the same thing with an ABS hull. Not the most elegant approach but there is some value to it. Hope this helps. Good luck.

Take care,


-- Gary G. Piantedosi (, May 25, 2004.

In my limited experience --guideboats are light and lovely and very fast. Seem "tippy" compare to other row boats, but are more stable than canoes. I did not like the pinned oars however. I think they would do well with a drop in row rig. I think a guideboat would fit your needs perfectly.

Gary, don't you think a guideboat would work better with one of your row rigs, than a canoe would? After all the Adirondack Guideboat was designed to be rowed not paddled, unlike a canoe. I have one of your row rigs in the 18 ft. Firefly single I built and it is GREAT. Launched this spring and I am just getting the hang of it, but I'm very impressed with the design. Anyone considering a sliding seat should check out this option.


-- DougCulhan (, May 26, 2004.

Thanks Doug!

There are two big problems with the guideboat: 1. weight -- all except *perhaps* the version put out by the Adirondack Rowing Company are a bit too heavy for me to carry alone; and 2. expense -- I can't seem to find one under roughly $3400 (including the sculling apparatus and oars).

I am intrigued by the canoe concept. I'm not going out on the ocean, I don't need competition speed, and -- heck -- I'm learning to row in racing shells, so I'm used to a bit of instability! While I do think that the instability/loss of tracking/windage would be disadvantages compared to the guideboat, I very much like the idea that I could convert a canoe back to paddling whenever I wanted to. I'd basically have two boats for the price of one -- and that one price would be substantially lower than the Guideboat price.

So, at the moment, I'm cogitating on all the different options out there. Gary has been incredibly helpful already in giving me advice about different touring canoes, and I've been looking for good deals on used canoes of high quality. So far, if you include the costs of the canoe plus Ro-Wing and sculling oars, it looks like it would cost me roughly $2500 give or take a couple hundred. Quite a bit cheaper than the guideboat, and a good bit more versatile given the lake/river environs in which I live!

I really appreciate everyone's help. Please, keep it coming!

-- Ione Smith (, May 26, 2004.

All you need to do is lift the canoe/guide boat onto your car. Moving it from the car to the water is easy with a set of wheels/dolly. REI, llbean and I think Sietech sell them. (Once in a while I've seen them at Costco as well.) I've got a "Seattle Sports Boat cart" for my alumimumn canoe and it works great. The trick is to be able to lift the end of the canoe and get the cart under it. That's where a "kick stand" for the small cart works. Then tie the dolly to the canoe. My brother and I walked his canoe for about a 1/2 mile this way. (Get the large wheel style.) The Sietech version would be easier to use, but bulkier to take with you.

Alternatively get a canoe trailer from TrailerX. Then the boat is already on an effective dolly. Easier on your back as well. This would help you with any of the boats you might pick. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 26, 2004.

Gary -- I wish it were that simple!

Unfortunately, I really pretty much do need to be able to carry the thing. There is no boat ramp at the Knoxville Rowing Association docks, and the dock is at the bottom of a steep incline. Not really conducive to dollying. And if I restricted myself to only using sites with ramps, I would be seriously restricted.

If anyone is still interested, here are my current top choices (all used, all in ultralight Kevlar):

Mad River Lamoille (2001) -- 18'4", 48 lbs, $900+tax Wenonah Jensen 18 (1990) -- 18'0", 43 lbs, $1100 Wenonah Minnesota II (2003) -- 18'6", 42 lbs, $1350

I'd love more input, so if you can stand it keep speaking up!

-- Ione Smith (, May 26, 2004.

Build a Merry Wherry. It's hull is only 35lbs (from the web site.)

I did find a photo of the Knoxville dock and the ramp just in front of the dock looks ok, but behind it is a set of stairs, If you have a similar set, forget the dolly.


-- Gary Powell (, May 26, 2004.


I don't know what pictures you're looking at. There are no stairs, and no ramp into the water (there is a steep ramp/drive down to the docks, but not into the water).

Ohhhh. This picture?

Those stairs in the background are a non-issue. I never even noticed them before -- they may not even exist any more. But there's a very steep driveway behind the fence line, leading up to the boathouse, which must be negotiated.

-- Ione Smith (, May 26, 2004.

Dear Ione,

Until now this has all been good fun. I had assumed your choice of boats was predicated on some critical aspect involving its use, such as portaging around dams or between waterways. Over the years I've helped people negotiate around problems like finding space on the decks of larger vessels or finding ways to launch their craft from property that they own. This is different. It seems to me the problem here is with the facilities of the club that you have joined. I find it troubling that you are trying to tailor your rowing experience to fit a bad situation when this outfit should be working to make its facility rower friendly. Ultimately, trying to adjust your rowing experience to fit an unsuitable, but fixable, situation will only lead to frustration. Rowing happens on the water. Get the boat that suits the waters that you will be rowing on and the way you want to use it. Then you can either improve the club or join or form another, elswhere. 20 years ago, when I lived in Pittsburgh, the 3 Rivers Rowing Association used to have very rudimentary storage rooms (trailers)and some rickety plywood docks. Now they have a beautiful multi-million dollar facility where they can host host any size or type of event, involving any kind of human-powered craft. This approach has fostered a large and vibrant rowing community, involving colleges, high schools and corporations, where not long ago there was none. Rowing has too much to offer for you to try to shoehorn the experience into a place where it clearly doesn't fit.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, May 26, 2004.

Well....ya gotta remember that Knoxville is not Pennsylvania, or Minnesota, or California, or Wisconsin, or...... ;-) ..... this is TENNESSEE, after all.

But, I guess that I am simplifying a bit. I need/want to be able to carry my boat with or without the limitations of the club's facilities. I live alone, I will be transporting the boat alone, and if I can't carry it alone I will simply not be using it. The whole point is to make the vessel as user-friendly for me as possible, so that I use it as much as possible. And that means being able to portage it solo.

Sure, I have to make compromises. But that's reality for ya. I'm not an expert competitive sculler or paddler, so I won't mind if the vessel limits my speed below competition levels either sculled or paddled. I'm not going to be braving Class IV rapids, so I don't mind if the vessel will negotiate the twists and turns when paddled -- and I'm not going to be on the ocean, so I don't particularly mind if it can't handle breakers. I understand that you prefer the Skua for many reasons, but if I can't carry it I'm not going to buy it. That's set in stone.

Thanks again for your input!

-- Ione Smith (, May 26, 2004.

Another slightly different, but related, thought:

Would it be at all possible to paddle a guideboat? One of the things that appeals to me about the canoe option is the ability to both scull and paddle.

IF the Adirondack Rowing company's 40 pound boat turns out to be really 40 pounds or thereabouts, and IF it turned out to be reasonably strong, and IF I could find a used one, I might still go that direction rather than the canoes. It's all up in the air!

-- Ione Smith (, May 27, 2004.

If you are willing to put up with pinned oars, a Vermont PackBoat from Adirondack Guide Boats might be a good answer. It is in the 40+ pound range, it is designed for rowing. It could hold another light weight person or some gear. I've got one of their kevlar guideboats, which is shoulder portagable, but you have to be used to it. They are at: 20Packboats.htm

-- Sheldon Miller (, May 27, 2004.

Dear Ione,

My last response to your inquiry was not intended to be a sales pitch. I wasn't trying to steer you toward any specific product. My only concern is that you seem to be limiting yourself unnecessarily. I know many people, young, old, married and single, who manage to enjoy rowing and paddling, alone. Sometimes they need to employ trailers, carts and the many other devices available for small boat users. I assume that a rowing club is probably launching pairs, doubles, fours and possibly eights. In your case, we're talking about a 15'-20', sub-100 lbs. boat - the kind that can be stored or hung in a typical one or two car garage. Those kinds of craft can be transported behind, or on top of,just about any kind of vehicle. I don't see your situation as being any worse than those of many other people. Unlike others, you at least have a rowing club to join, where presumably other like-minded individuals can help you solve your boat related problems. Whatever you decide to do, I only want you to be happy.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, May 27, 2004.

My 18 ft canoe is a bear to paddle alone in any kind of wind. If I sit in the back, the bow is always tossed by the wind. If I sit in the middle its a long reach to the water. I often put a couple of cinder blocks up front to keep the bow down, and sit in the back then its ok, not great, but ok.

On the other hand "A romantic paddle on a river" has a certain cache about it. So if you were thinking of it as a dating vessel a canoe has its qualities. Although a guide boat might let you sit closer, and would enable you to take for a ride persons who do not know boats.

And paddling across a glassy lake at dawn with the mist rising from the water, fish rising for bugs has a very mystic quality about it. I suspect rowing at that time would too.

Anyway the dual purpose of a canoe when going alone isn't all that great and shouldn't influence your decision. I can also understand that getting down to the river banks in the days when the Army corp. of Engineers is building dikes with rip/rap is a headache. With a dolly, almost any public park with a beach is a launching site. Usually the restriction is on motor boats. But with those dikes you often find yourself so close and yet so far. Good luck! -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 27, 2004.

Thanks everyone, you've given me tons of great things to think about!

-- Ione Smith (, May 27, 2004.

P.S. --

And good news! I went to a local canoe store today, and they let me practice lifting one of their 70 pound canoes. It was tricky to actually get it picked up, but I'm sure that would get much easier with practice -- and once I had it up and had the yoke on my shoulders, I could actually carry it around fairly easily. So that means I can look at much heavier vessels, both canoe and otherwise. :-)

Also good news, I found some local paddling classes this afternoon -- so maybe in a few weeks I'll actually have a better idea of what I'm talking about and what I need to be looking for. A good day all around!


-- Ione Smith (, May 27, 2004.

My brother built a dolly wheels that he bolted onto the end of his canoe (square back) and he walks while dragging the taill of the canoe. It takes some of the weight off your shoulders. You could probably manage your steep driveway with such a beast. Yet something else to think about. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 28, 2004.

Hey Ione,

West Marine sells wheels that bolt to the transom of an inflatable. If you got a boat with a transom (like Little River Heritage 18 that wheighs in at about 140lbs you could handle it alone. Just carry one end. As far as getting it there, don't car top it. Use a trailer.

-- guy magnuson (, July 14, 2004.

I like rowing my canoe but it is a very heavy 80 pound model of 16 feet by 40 inches (Old Town Discovery 160). I use 7 foot oars and find that the pinned oars are nice for white water,begineers, and fishing. The regular oars are much better for open water rowing long distances in the wind.

The boat is faster than most fast paddling canoes, about the same speed as many toruing sea kayaks, and much slower than any rowing shell.

The guide boat was traditionally designed for hunting and camping with one guide, one dude, and all the needed gear. It was made to be rowed for quicker speed, and could be paddled slowly and quitely from the stern seat with a long paddle and a passenger in the front seat. Nothing does what a guide boat does like a guide boat.

When you put a sliding seat on a guide boat you change everything. It no longer works like a traditional guide boat are far as quiteness efficiency and ease of use. I expect that you'll be able to over power the boat easily, but if you are willing to ease off a little you could row very long distances.

-- Frank Ladd (fladd@nc(dot), August 28, 2004.

Thanks Frank! That's very interesting information.

I have ended up with an 18' Wenonah Sundowner canoe, and so far I'm quite happy with it. I have only taken it out a few times so far, but I'm hoping to buy the rowing oars this month, and then begin stationary-seat rowing with it. I won't be sculling with it for at least a few months, until I can afford the RoWing drop-in sculling rig.

Also -- I just started to learn sculling (as opposed to sweep rowing) this past week with a club boat, and I'm having a blast. Haven't dumped it yet!

-- Ione Smith (, August 28, 2004.

Hi, I got some great photos of a 12 Adirondac Guideboat from the Port Townsend Boat Festival. I didn't take these photos, but here are the details as I know them. It was blowing 40 to 45 mph. The rower is new to the boat, and was able to get out, get her bearings, row a bit and return safely. The boat appears to handle very well. I have seen a couple of photos of boats that dragged their anchors, one of which ended up on the beach but was later safely removed. No harm to the boat.

Hey Andrie, maybe you should bring one of your boats out to this show!

-Gary- (PS You can't count on this kind of wind around here.)

-- Gary Powell (, November 05, 2004.

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