Builders of Wood & Canvas Canoes and Classic Rowing Boats

What makes a Stewart River Canoe Special?

Ami, a 15' canoeOne look at a Stewart River canoe will tell you it was built with great care. Not only are the designs graceful and well-proportioned, the woodworking is first-rate and gleams under many coats of spar varnish. The canvas-covered hull is smooth and durable under a high-gloss paint. Stewart River Boatworks offers many innovations in building the wood and canvas canoe.

You may notice the weights of our boats are often considerably less than some other builders'. We have rethought the traditional wood and canvas canoe and found several places where materials could be pared down without sacrificing strength. For instance, 5/16" thick ribs, necessary in the middle of a tandem canoe to keep it from "oil canning," are planned thinner near the ends, thus maintaining the proper stiffness in all areas of the hull. The outwales are shaped to a half-round, eliminating the corner wood and the decks, crowned on top are hollowed out underneath. These touches not only lessen the weight but give the canoe a "soft feel" when you pick it up.

We normally use #10 Midwest Duck, the standard in the industry, and fill the weave with a special oil-based filler that is lighter in weight than the traditional filler used over the years. The finish coat of paint is normally Epifanes Yacht Enamel, which, in my opinion is unequaled in a single part oil-based paint. We also offer our canoes covered with aircraft Dacron. This is filled with a flexible primer/filler and then painted with same oil-based yacht enamel.

Not only are our boats lighter to begin with, they stay lighter. The old timer who tells you a wood and canvas canoe could gain 20 pounds in a week was not exaggerating. Both the wood and the canvas can absorb plenty of water, and water weighs nearly 9 pounds per gallon! At Stewart River we pre-seal every piece of wood that goes into the canoe with a coat of linseed oil topped with a coat of varnish before it becomes part of your boat, so this will not happen. We also treat the canvas to prevent rot. Your Stewart River canoe should not gain more than three pounds when in use!

In our designs and their execution we keep flexibility in mind. As materials, wood and canvas are not stronger than fiberglass or Kevlar, but they are more flexible. When built right, in most cases a wood and canvas canoe will "give" rather than break when it strikes a rock. Though not indestructible, our canoes are built to be used and are not just for looks.

How to read our measurements

The measurements found on each canoe page are all made to the outside of the hull. The depth is from the top of the gunwale to the bottom of the boat and the widths are to the outside of the hull. The gunwale width is actually to the outside of the hull rather than the outside of the gunwale itself. The rocker is generally measured at 12" from the end of the canoe or approximately where the stem curve meets the curve of the rocker.

Deciding on a Design

In order to decide which canoe is best for you, it helps to understand the basics of canoe design. The shape of the bottom, or the part that is normally in the water, at the midships will define how the canoe feels when at rest. A flat-bottomed canoe will feel very steady and a rounded-bottomed canoe will feel very tippy. Under paddle, in rough water, the feeling may be the opposite. The rounded-bottomed hull will allow the waves to flow around the sides of the canoe with little force applied to the hull, whereas a flat-bottomed hull will be rocked around considerably.

Between these extremes is the "shallow-arched" hull, a catagory which describes most of our models. The exception is the Stillwater which has a somewhat "flattened bottom" and the Ami and Mon amie have shallow-arched hulls complimented with hardenend bilges. The hardness of the bilge will depict how the canoe feels when it is rocked, either by leaning or when rocked by waves. A so called "hard" bilge, with a small radius to the bilge curve will stiffen up quickly, add to the feeling of initial stability.

The shallow arch to these hull alow some movement when at rest though the hard bilges quickly limit the amount it will move. Even empty they end up with both a feeling of stability and a good final stability. The attributes that make a canoe move through the water faster include a longer length and a finer entry. Conversely, the boat with a flatened bottom will have a greater wetted surface than a round-bottom boat and the greater resistance will make the boat move slower through the water. Another point to keep in mind is a boat with a fine entry will cut though waves rather than rising up with them like a canoe with full ends. This will make the boat faster, though reduce seaworthyness. Generally, a flatwater canoe will have fine entry lines and a white water canoe will have bouyant ends. Many of our models have a fairly fine entry at the water line and then broaden at the sheer. This will make them a bit faster in quiet water and still seaworthy in a chop. The amount of rocker can also affect hull speed. Generally the greater the rocker, the slower the boat. A down river canoe needs rocker so that it can be easily turned. A little less efficiency is traded for maneauverability. In lake travel a minimum of rocker is usually prized because it not only makes the boat faster, it also helps keep the boat on track.

Understanding these priciples should help you decide what is best for you. I should warn you, however, that design can actually be a bit more mysterious than this. Mixing different design attributes can yield surprising outcomes. On the Stillwater page I mention it is faster than expected. A flatened bottom does pose a greater wetted surface than a shallow arch. The fine entry of this boat, gradually openning to a flattened bottom allow this hull to efficiently start to plane without a great effort, and a planing hull is very different from a displacement hull. While we generally think of a canoe as a displacement hull, canoe racers will regularily get the hull to plane. The Stillwater will start to semi-plane with surprisingly little effort when empty. The greater the load, though, the greater the force needed. The Mon amie is an attempt to put various different design attributes together to get the best of all worlds.

If you are looking for high initial stability the Stillwater, the Ami, Mon amie and Pal are clear choices of our models. If you are looking for initial stabily that is well suited for rivers, I would suggest the Pal, Mon amie or the Ami. They all have a modest amount of rocker that makes them well suited to moving water (up to class 1 or 2 rapids). The Prospector would be a good choice if you want a canoe that can handle something beyond class 2 rapids. The Gardner Guide is also a fine river canoe that works well in flat water. Its large size allows it to carry much more gear than the Pal and its extra length makes it noticeably faster. The Saganaga is unequalled as a cruising canoe in lake or river - it is fast, seaworthy and a very pleasant canoe to paddle, especially when carrying a load. Mon amie offers a great compromise in inital stability/final stability, turning and tracking with a good amount of speed. It is also possibly the best of our canoes to be paddled either tandem or solo. The Pal is often used in combination as well. Though it does not track as well as Mon amie and is a bit slower, though does have the great combination of a shallow-arched hull and relaxed bilge that give it a very friendly feel. The Emily, perhaps, more than any of our designs embodies this magical feel of the shallow arch. There is a fluid feel to its gentle sway back and forth, though it feels very stable within those parameters and it seems to glide through the water in a seamless way. Its curved, almost voluptuous, sheer line seems to speak of its paddling qualities.

The solos, of course, are in a catagory of their own. Both the Unity and the Traveler are indebted to the Emily design and have that same "feel", though they do feel surprisingly different to each other. The Unity is the epitome of a personal canoe, totally in the paddler's control. The Traveler is a bit more its own, able to carry more gear with greater tracking ability which makes it less responsive to the whims of the paddler. The Solitude is a mixture of things: a small boat with an ample volume; a short boat with good tracking ability; a boat that tracks, though easily turns when leaned.

Please feel free to call and talk with me to help you decide which canoe will best fit your needs.

Native Beauty

Emily - a wood and canvas canoe If you have not yet paddled a wood and canvas canoe, you cannot know the true value of one. I don't think it is possible to really appreciate these craft without taking one out for a paddle. Of course, you can ooh and ahh at one you see in a store and even a photo of a particularly beautiful wood and canvas canoe can describe some of the physical beauty of the boat.

The real pleasure is gained from how they paddle on some nice wooded stream, or how they sound when you set your paddle down and retrieve the camera. The boat is of wood and therefore a kindred spirit to the woodlands you want to visit. A wood and canvas canoe feels like it belongs. It's native. And paddling one helps you feel like you belong, with no other barrier between you and your surroundings.

For places and times to paddle our canoes click here or contact me.

"The morning, the light, and the canoes all came together for a special moment. We want to thank you for the aesthetic pleasure of your canoe. It added immeasurably to the beauty of the day. Now you can say one of your canoes made possible a most beautiful wedding. Thanks, Alex."
~Karen and Lynn Aase