Canoes and kayaks with large amounts of lift at the ends are
sometimes known as "banana boats." They pivot quickly, and they're
wonderfully easy to turn. That's welcome in whitewater, and it can also
be helpful on narrow, obstructed streams, even if there's not a rapid
anywhere in sight. But it's not so good on windswept lakes. Keeping a
highly-rockered canoe or a whitewater kayak pointed the right way on a
windy lake requires both strength and skill.
On the other hand, boats with straight keelsboats having
little or no rocker, in other wordsare happiest when they're
going point to point in a line as straight as their keels. They're most
at home on large, open bodies of water.
Understandably, flatwater paddlers and sea kayakers gravitate toward
straight-keeled boats, while whitewater boaters (and surfers) choose
highly-rockered craft. But what about folks who want one boat for all
conditions? Wilderness trippers, for example. A golfer can have a club
in his bag for every lie, but a canoeist or kayaker on a long
backcountry trip has to get by with only one boat. What's he (or she)
The answer, not surprisingly, involves compromise. The best tripping
boats do everything competently, even if they do nothing superlatively
well. So, if a lot of rocker is too much on the flats, and a straight
keel is too clumsy in the rapids, why not choose a boat with just a
Why not, indeed? Many tripping boats fit that description, and for
good reason. When you can only have one tool to do every job that comes
up, it's far better to have a big Swiss Army knife than the finest
Sandvik handsaw. You'll curse the knife's tiny saw-blade if you have to
cut a board to length, of course, but suppose you have to tighten a
screw? Even the world's best handsaw won't help you there. Sometimes
"good enough" is best.
It's also important to realize that every boat is an organic whole,
a package of interrelated design elements. You can't pick a single
featurea straight keel, sayand assume that this one element
will determine every aspect of the boat's performance. All the parts of
a boat affect one another. Flat-bottomed boats, for example, are
usually easier to turn than vee-bottomed boats. So a flat-bottom may go
a long way toward offsetting the effect of a straight keel.
The paddler, too, is part of the boatthe most important part,
by far, in fact. That being the case, the best way to find out if a
boat is the one for you is to take it out and see for yourself. The
only definitive test of any boat's performance is its behavior on the
water, with you (and your partner, if it's a tandem boat) in command.
No catalog can tell you how a boat will perform in your hands,
on the water that you paddle. Nor can any reviewer, however
expert he or she may be. It's something you just have to find out for
yourself. 'Nuff said.
Copyright © 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All