22 March 2008

My first Canoe

It was during my final trip to Algonquin Park in the fall of 2007 that I finally decided I would purchase my own Canoe. For the past ten years I had been spending regular amounts of time at my families cottage, where we share both a Langford, and Swift canoe. While both are great canoes, I always preferred the Langford, even though it had been several years since I got to paddle it. You see about 5 years ago, the Langford suffered a fatal blow to its hull (not me…I swear) and has since been left at its final resting place on the shore of the cottage. While I had initially thought I would restore it the hull damage was severe, and the wooden gunnels had greatly deteriorated after several years of being left down turned and unprotected from the heavy winters of the Muskokas; in short the costs were just too high to justify restoring it, as a new and much lighter boat would end up costing but a few dollars more.

As a result, I had decided very early on that my canoe would be a Langford, as I had always found them to be the best handling and most classic canoe around.

Since we had arrived very late on Friday September 14th, 2007 I was out of luck in acquiring one on the drive in, but on the Sunday afternoon drive home, I know I had to stop in, as it would be a while before I would return to the area. As such, we left the park just after 1:00pm that afternoon, so that I would have some time to test out the canoes at the Langford store, located in Dwight, about 15 minutes out of west gates of Algonquin Park.

Even though the store was busy with their fall clearance sales, the sales staff was really nice and took lots of time to educate me on the pros and cons of the different canoes they made, and to listen to my wants from a canoe, so as to recommend the best product to me.

After much discussion and looking around I narrowed my choice to four, the Prospector 15’, Prospector 16’6”, the Muskoka 15’9” and the Nahanni 16’5”. While I knew I was leaning towards a symmetric canoe, of which the Muskoka and Nahanni were not, I wanted to be 100% sure of my choice, making a test paddle a must. The Langford staff had no problem with me testing out the four boats, and suggested I try different materials as well to get a feel for the weight and handling differences that the different materials created. In the end, I ended up testing out the Prospector 15’ in Kevlar with aluminum trim, the Prospector 16’6” ultra lite with aluminum trim, the Muskoka 15’9” in Expedition Kevlar and Ash/Cherry trim and the Nahanni 16’5” ultra light with aluminum trim.

While all handled well both solo and with Josh and Liam aboard, I felt more comfortable in the symmetrical Prospector canoes from the start, although I must admit the Nahanni really performed well with all three of us on board.

I also tried lifting them all onto my shoulder to “feel the weight of them on me” and new the moment I lifted the Muskoka that the Expedition Kevlar was just too much for me, as it’s 58 lbs weigh in was almost 20 lbs heavier then the lightest boat I was testing out that day.

That day, the weather was overcast, but nice, as the sun would shine through the clouds for periods of time to brighten up the day. There was a steady wind however, making the lake a bit choppy, although still very manageable to paddle in; besides this was my last chance for a test paddle, and a bit of wind was not going to get in my way.

While each boat got a solo and paired test paddle, I ended up spending most of my paddling time on the two prospectors, as my initial thoughts on a symmetric canoe proved correct, narrowing down my selection to but two boats. At the Langford store, the sales man had suggested I try paddling into a feeder river of the lake just west of our launch point (on the public beach of Dwight located a few blocks south of the Langford store, where Cooper Lake Road and Dwight Beach Road meet.) I took their advice and went there in both sized Prospectors. Liam came with me in the yellow 16’6” Ultra Lite model, Josh in the green 15’ Kevlar. Both handled nice in the calm waters of the river that we accessed after going through a culvert that runs under Dwight Beach Road but I just fell in love with the 15’ model as it was easy to paddle in both the quiet calm of the river and the choppier waters of the main lake, and was a dream to solo in. In fact I felt so comfortable in the Prospector 15’ that I was able to easily “Omer” the canoe, something that was a bit ominous an option in either of the non symmetric models I tested that day.

Surprisingly enough, the test paddle of the Prospector 15’ also gave us a great look at a Blue Herring. You see, as Josh and I drifted through the culvert leading into the river we came within 10 feet of a beautiful blue herring, fishing in the shallow waters of the sandy shores adjacent to the culvert leading out of the lake and into the river. We stopped and watched for a time, but having been test paddling for over two hours felt it was time to return the canoes.

Upon coming ashore from my last paddle my mind was made up, and off to the store I went. I was a little reluctant to leave the canoes behind, but was told not to worry, and besides the drive back the Langford Canoes was but a few minutes up the road. When I got there the staff didn’t seem concerned about leaving the canoes there a bit longer, and in fact advised a few other customers to go and test them out themselves. I asked a few more questions, and then decided that the Prospector 15’, Ultra lite with Aluminum trim and outer gel colour coat was for me. Unfortunately they were out of stock and only had the Kevlar model that I had tested out that day available. While I was really tempted and was offered a really good price for the demo model, I decided to stick it out and wait for an Ultra Lite to be built for me over the winter. I received no pressure from the staff bout my decision, and in fact they suggested I think on it, offering to hold the demo for me till an offer was made on it, so that I could think over my decision for a few days. I accepted the offer and to my surprise could not believe that a deposit was not needed to hold the boat for me.
In the end, I did not get the green demo, as it was sold two weeks later to another couple. They did call me though to “warn me of its sale” and to give me one last chance to purchase it; to which I declined. I was very impressed by this there thoughtful offer of the boat to me, prior to selling it, and reaffirmed my decision that Langford was the company for me.

A few weeks later my family made a last minute decision to spend the Thanksgiving weekend at our cottage in Huntsville. I new this gave me another “excuse” to visit Dwight, and acquire my canoe. I knew one would not be in stock, and had no trouble with that, but thought I might get a good deal on a fall order for the following season. As it turned out I got an excellent price, as I was offered my new Prospector 15’ Ultra Lite with aluminum trim for only $100.00 more then the price of the demo I had tested out a few weeks earlier. In fact, when I jokingly asked if they would throw in a paddle, they said sure, and I got a fantastic Solid Cherry Paddle included in the price. As a trade off of paying for the canoe in full, that day, they also included extra knee padding for the kids, four roof pads and the tie down straps for no extra cost. As well, if I later decided to have a skid plate put on, they would also be happy to do so for free.

As it turned out the hardest decision was no the company to go with, the materials or model to choose, but the colour to choose. Even with so much time to think it over I couldn’t decide on my own and ended up relying on my partner, David’s, advice in which colour to go with. “The red one.”

Now all I can do is wait, for the snow to melt, the weather to warm a bit more, and for April to arrive. I have been promised that my canoe will be available between mid April and early May; of which now seems but a hop, skip and a jump away.

The above image is from the Langford Canoe Site: http://www.langfordcanoe.com/
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1 comment:

penny said...

Long ago at a YMCA camp in northern Wisconsin, I learned to love canoeing. (we used aluminum Grummans) But life took me to Phoenix Arizona, where the meagre available waters are very unkind to canoes. Really enjoyed your story, and what you are doing with this site for your children, and all of us who love the natural world!