We purchased 2 Ally 16.5 foot canoes for a trip down the Thlewiaza River in southern Nunavut in 2010. The canoes performed well in fast water and on big lakes. Each canoe developed a couple of pin hole leaks but suffered no other damage despite some dragging and lining in shallows.
They are a treat to portage compared to hardshell canoes. If the seats are placed so that your knees do not rest on the framework when you kneel, they are very comfortable to paddle in. We topped out at about 600 lbs in each canoe. With its weight the canoe was easily handled in all water conditions. Using the Ally, we saved over $3000.00 in air charter costs as fixing canoes on float planes is now very expensive.I have used the Ally 811 on several long river trips--10-15 days in length. I love the way the boat handles in flat and whitewater. It's really the only choice if you want a boat that handles like a hardshell canoe, but even better, because it flexes and moves with the rhythm of the water.
My main criticism is that if you hit a rock, you're probably going to get some damage to the poles. I haven't yet done any damage, but I do worry about hitting 'the big rock' sometime. Still, it doesn't keep me from taking to the water. I capsized the boat on a northern river by loading it up too heavy and taking a wave over the side, but even upside down, the boat was easy to hold onto, and nothing fell out of the boat--all stayed tied in.
Yes, the boat takes a little time to put together, but it's not an inflatable, so of course, you use the rubber mallet and carefully review the instructions and take your time, and soon you have a beautiful boat. The hull is rugged--no damage after 60 days on the water.
With all boats, you want to wash and dry thoroughly before packing it away for the season.
My main frustration with the boat is that the Ally waterproof boat bag purchased separately for the boat is almost impossible to fit the boat parts inside. Takes a lot of planning and mostly, I just can't get it all inside so I put part of it into another bag. I feel that the aluminum parts are fairly fragile for traveling, so when going on an airline, I usually pack the boat into 2 bags, with lots of padding around the bundles of rods.
I love the Trapper seats, and I think the design is functional. Wonder if the boat is still made in Norway. If not, I will be disappointed to learn that it's made somewhere else.Additional comments concerning Ally canoes:
The skin over frame design of Ally canoes has inherent problems; the 16.5' fabric skin shrinks when stored -- when assembling after storage there will be much tension between skin and tubing -- note Bergans provides a hammer with boat purchase. When assembling after storage the aluminum tubing has to stretch out the skin; 1/2" aluminum tubing is not strong enough to do this without becoming fatigued. The fabric skin has memory so once the canoe has been assembled it will be easy to reassemble for several days.
Note: Ally canoes are the only folding boat that uses the boats frame to create initial unassisted tension with boats skin. Other folding boats use air sponsors or mechanical/hydraulic tensioner to create skin frame tension.I've owned a Ally canoe several years; I've put it together over 100 times and have canoed in all conditions in saltwater for many miles. The Ally is not fit for these conditions -- #1 problem with Ally canoes in saltwater is all those cable sets that hold the pole sections together are made out of low grade 304 grade stainless steel [you can pick up the steel that Ally used with a cheap refrigerator magnet] versus marine grade 316L stainless steel --- they rust and break within 1 season of use and are difficult to replace properly for the price paid Bergans should have used marine grade steel like all other boat builders do. Other than the steel, the tubes fatigue quickly; after 2 seasons they will look distorted; the fabric will wear through from assembly after 3 seasons.
Bottom line is that an Ally canoe will last no longer than 4 seasons of serious use versus a traditional canoe for the same money that will last a lifetime. Ally would be great for packing in on a wilderness trip; they are very stable but should not be considered if you are space constrained and expect to canoe a lot -- find storage.