Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The New Baby

Nova Craft Pal - she's a beauty!

Most of you have now seen the inconspicuous yellow Nova Craft canoe in a few pictures and are probably wondering, "What's he paddling?" Isn't she pretty? Yes, its the canoe I helped build over the winter at Nova Craft's facility in London. (some of the perks of being an Ambassador which I'm truly grateful for!) I took stock of it a little late in the season because they were in the mist of redesigning their thunderbird logo, but it was worth the wait. The timing couldn't have been better as we picked it up at the beginning of July when our trip near Lake Superior didn't work out and our back-up trip didn't require the Royalex Prospector anymore. (that story is still coming) Anyhow, she is a 16 foot Kevlar/Spectra Nova Craft Pal with ash trim and a custom yellow gel coat. (Note: The Pal, originally built by the Chestnut Canoe Company was also one of Bill Mason's favourite canoe and used frequently in his filming.)

Against the green foliage, the canoe really stands out!

In comparison to our 16 ft Nova Craft Prospector, the Pal has very little rocker, is 2" narrower and has 2" less depth. The bottoms on both have shallow arches but the Pal is considerably lighter than our Royalex Prospector - 49lbs compared to 74lbs due to the difference in material. So now to the question everyone is asking, "How does she paddle?" Well, so far she paddles great! That being said, I've commented below on how she paddles under some circumstances.

Spending quality time with the Pal

Paddling tandem on flatwater she moves quick and tracks pretty straight. Marylou and I can easily paddle 6-7 km's per hour, even with moderate wind and waves. The speed comes handy on big lake crossings. (or beating another canoe to a campsite! - not that I would do that!) We haven't paddled tandem on rapids other than some swifts and C1's, mainly because its not a whitewater canoe, nor is the material really appropriate for big rapids. On the other hand, when we paddled a very twisty section of the Amable du Fond river this year, the lack of rocker meant it didn't turn as quick as the Prospector. That would obviously apply to rapids as well when you need to turn on a dime. Paddling solo on flatwater Canadian style was a pleasure as it is very responsive and easy to move. I think the Prospector spins a little easier due to the wider center beam and more rocker (less water contact) but it wasn't too noticeable. I'll have more to say on this when I go solo tripping later on. For the most part, we've been really happy with how she moves through the water.

The portage may be long and steep, but she's even a
pleasure to carry!

The one thing that was very noticeable to us was how much less space/volume we had in the canoe. When we put Marylou's big Wabakimi pack in the canoe, it barely fit in! (for a 10 day trip) Due to less depth, our packs rode higher above the gunwale, which included our knees when we were sitting on the seats. (and we are both short!). It took a little while getting use to, but really, it hasn't been detrimental in any way. Well, except maybe when we paddled in really choppy water and the waves came over the gunwales more frequently, but other than that, she is a real joy to paddle. The more I paddle her, the more its becoming a 'pal' of mine. (I know, corny!)

Tracking up a shallow creek to protect her gelcoat

Lastly, hands down the Pal is asthetically much nicer to look at with its ash trim, shiny gelcoat and its beautiful lines. It certainly makes me want to keep it looking new, but we've already got 'character scars' due to some of our routes, paddling conditions and portages. The only canoes I know that are flawless are the ones on a rack not being paddled, but I can guarantee that this will not be one of them! Oh, one last thing. The difference in weight compared to the Royalex Prospector was like night and day, especially for portaging. This came in real handy on a trip in Algonquin when I carried over 48 portages spanning 30kms this summer. Now that was a major improvement!

Posing with my Pal

All in all, I am quite pleased with this canoe and really enjoy paddling it. I would definitely recommend this canoe as a great flatwater tripper on moderate length trips for tandem and solo paddlers. If you get a chance, I would definitely recommend paddling one, and if you are in the market for a flatwater canoe, keep this one in mind! They didn't call it a 'Pal' for nothing!
Cheers! D
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