How often in life can you say you get something for nothing? There aren’t many places you can go or many things that you can do that won’t cost you something. In fact, I used to think that the only way I could move my canoe from A to B, without any cost except the sweat off my brow, was with a paddle. Turns out I was wrong, thanks to free power from the sun and a trusty electric outboard!
Whilst electric drives on canoes and kayaks have been around for quite a long time, they have traditionally suffered from short battery life, requiring large capacity and very heavy batteries to cover any reasonable distance. Typically, a 100Ah battery (weighing 30+ kg) when paired with a 40lb thrust motor, may have pushed your canoe along for 10-15km if you were careful. Whilst this was ok, it did somewhat limit your day on the water.
Similarly, solar power is no new thing. However, recent innovations in the engineering of solar cell performance and control of the power they generate has meant that modern panels are lighter, more efficient and more robust than ever before. The power output from a moderately sized (1m2) panel is enough to recharge an average sized (50-80Ah) battery in a day. Meaning that in theory the same canoe and motor configuration we discussed above, if fitted with a solar panel and allowed to charge for a short period in the middle of the day, could do almost twice the distance with a lot smaller battery. That’s a lot less sweat off your brow and certainly worth some investigation!
Just how much sweat will my brow be losing though? Being the dedicated man of science that I am, I decided we needed more facts around the performance of electric and solar powered canoes and so, set about rigorous testing over the recent Christmas break. We came up with some very interesting results.
Before I go into results, I’ll start with a brief overview of what we hoped to achieve how we set about doing it. We felt that to make electric outboards a viable proposition on a canoe it needed to achieve two criteria. It needed to have a run time that would provide a reasonable day on the water and it needed to be light enough and compact enough to not interfere with the day’s activities. It also had to be cost effective, otherwise why not just get a tinnie! The setup that we envisioned to make this work was a canoe and outrigger fitted with a 40lb thrust electric motor, 1m2 flexi solar panel and a 55Ah Gel Battery. Our thinking was this combination would be light weight, easy to attach to a variety of different craft and provide a good compromise between run time and overall system cost.
As the power output for solar cells was already known and well documented, we focussed our attention on determining what battery power would be drawn for different canoe sizes and configurations. We tested a range of canoes from 11 foot to 16 foot, with and without outriggers and at a range of motoring speeds.
To ensure we achieved maximum possible speed from the canoes being tested we used a 60lb thrust motor and a 100Ah battery. Our theory being once we worked out power draw for a canoe configuration, we could then work backwards to determine what size motor would best suit. Testing was then a simple matter of motoring a canoe over a set route through the range of speed settings on the motor. At the end of each run a reading would be recorded for average speed, battery voltage and current drawn. From this we were able to plot power vs speed, determine battery life and the theoretical distance that configuration could travel. The testing was done at Logan day use area on Wivenhoe on a very still, and very hot, Boxing Day (after all the Aussies were getting annihilated in the Cricket) in and area unaffected by wind or current.
Here’s some of the interesting things we discovered along the way. Size of canoe had very little effect on speed achieved and power drawn. The longer canoes went a little faster and drew a little more power, but not that much. Having an outrigger on made very little change to speed or power. Extra weight in the boat made little change to speed or power. Again, as expected, more weight meant more power, but not by that much. The thing that did have the greatest effect on speed was depth and trim of the outboard. We found that setting the motor height as close to the surface practical gave the best speed results. The outboard shaft is the biggest drag on the system and spending a bit of time optimising the height will have a dramatic effect on travel distance for your canoe. I also suspect modifying the shaft to be more streamlined would have a significant effect as well.
So, our results in a nutshell. Average top speed for a canoe between 11 and 16 foot is around 7.5km/h. At this speed you could expect to travel around 13km on a 100Ah battery (using 60% battery power). If you want maximum distance, reduce the speed to 4km/h and you’ll get closer to 20km. Slow and steady definitely wins the race. The slower you go, the further you are able to travel, great news for trolling fisherman and people without small children. The max power drawn in most cases was less than 430W (36A) which means a 40lb motor would be a suitable choice for all but a very heavily laden canoe.
Please note; we based all our distance calculations on only using 60% of battery power (60% depth of discharge (DOD)). It is possible to go to 80% however a corresponding reduction in battery cycles (number of recharges) could be expected. If you’re not concerned about battery life (you don’t use the battery that often for instance), then dropping to 80% DOD sometimes would be ok. More expensive Lithium Ion batteries are able to drop to 90% DOD and would be worth considering for regular long-distance motoring.
So back to our original idea of solar powered canoeing, what could a day on the water look like with a solar / battery combination? Here’s an example case study using a 14-foot canoe fitted with an outrigger, 40lb thrust motor and 55Ah Gel battery with 250W solar panel.
Our party leaves at 9.30am in the morning and motors out on the lake to their favourite swimming spot. If we have a 100Ah battery on board, that can only be 6.5km away, otherwise we are paddling home. With a 55Ah and 250W solar panel it can be 11km away. Our battery will be down to 60% DOD, but we have the sun to recharge it. We are assuming its Easter time in SEQ and the solar efficiency is about 77%. We are also allowing for the panel to be mounted flat in between the outrigger poles with no tilting towards the sun. After 2 hours of swimming and eating lunch we have a recharged battery and are ready to head off home.
With a fully recharged battery and the afternoons sunshine we have enough battery power to motor 11km back again to our launch site without ever having to put a paddle in the water. Paddle manufacturers of the world are right now calling for my immediate whipping! The outcome is 22km travelled over the course of a 6-hour day and not one drop of sweat on your brow, not even from having to lift the battery out of the canoe!
The added bonus to this system is cost. Our proposed combination of 40lb thrust motor, 55Ah Gel Battery and 250W flexi solar cell could all be purchased for less than $750. When you consider you never have to buy fuel, that’s pretty good economics. It turns out some things in life can come for free!
To find out more about testing of canoes with electric drives feel free to give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646 or www.onetreecanoe.com. Happy Paddling / Motoring 😊
If you’re like many thousands of people in Australia this year, you may be considering getting into canoe or kayak paddling for the first time. And why not? It’s a great way to experience our beautiful water ways, is fantastic exercise and is suitable for people from 6 to 96 years old (well usually somewhere in the middle there). Whether you’re a loner, a family or a group of friends, paddling can offer something special that few other recreational activities can, and like most other activities is greatly enhanced if you choose the right gear.
To help you make a good investment and allow you to have a great experience out on the water, here are a few tips for buying your first canoe. I’m aiming this article at choosing a canoe, as that is where most of my experience lies, but most of the points will apply equally well to choosing your first kayak.
First off, you really need to think about where you’re going to be doing most of your time paddling. Anyone who has bought a one size fits all shirt, knows that one size DOES NOT fit all! By that I mean decide what 80% of your journeys will look like. Will it just be you or with your family? Will you be fishing, sightseeing or camping? Will you be paddling down rivers or across lakes? Having a clear vision in your mind of the typical makeup of your paddling trip will go a long way to helping you decide what canoe is going to fit your needs best. Some of the most important things to consider are number of passengers, type of waterway, distance to be paddled, carrying capacity required and other activities undertaken whilst paddling.
Sure, there will be exceptions to the norm, and they can be factored into your selection criteria, but defining the most common use is what you need to do first. If you have absolutely no idea where your paddling journey will take you, its probably a good idea to hire or borrow a canoe for your first few outings and see what takes your fancy.
Once you’ve got a handle on what you want to use your canoe for, its then important to understand how the different design characteristics of a canoe affect its performance and ultimately deliver a boat that is fit for your purpose. Afterall, there’s no point buying a 4wd if you’re never going to go off road… A little bit of basic understanding of hull shape and fit out will go a long way to helping you buy the right canoe.
Sure, canoes do tend to look all alike. There are however a few basic features of a canoe hull that you need to be aware of and consider in your new purchase. I’m going to exclude length and width of the canoe from this list as boats of similar physical size can have widely different performance. We will discuss those in the next section. The things I tend to look at are the shape of the hull bottom and sides, the shape and style of the ends at bow and stern and the amount of rocker (curve) along the keel of the canoe. Let me explain in a little more detail.
Hull Shape of a canoe affects its stability on the water. The flatter the bottom of the hull is, the more stable it will feel whilst sitting still on flat water. The more round the hull the more it will feel unstable whilst sitting still. This is known as primary stability. The flip side of that is when the canoe is exposed to choppy water from waves or boat wash. In this case a rounder hull will tend to be less affected by the waves and will feel more stable than a canoe with a flat bottom. As a consequence, most designers opt for a shallow curve in their hull bottom to allow for a range of water conditions. In addition, some canoe designs will have a generous curve in the hull where it passes from the bottom to the side and the side will have a small amount of flare outwards to increase the resistance to overturning in choppy conditions. This is known as secondary stability. The decision for you to make is, do you want a boat that will feel very stable in flat undemanding water or do you want a boat that will feel initially unstable but will have a tendency to resist overturning in chop or boat wash?
The shape of the canoe ends has an effect on a number of factors including manoeuvrability, stability and drag of the hull (how well it cuts through the water). A fuller more rounded end of a canoe will tend to offer more stability, a bit more carrying capacity and better turning ability, but will suffer from increased drag and create more wash. A more slender end will offer slightly reduced carrying capacity and will sit in the water a little deeper, but will track better and offer less drag to the paddlers. Beginner paddlers will appreciate the stability of a fuller end but may be frustrated by its tendency to wander about and not hold a straight line.
Rocker, or curve along the keel of your canoe, affects its manoeuvrability. Canoes with a pronounced curve have less of their ends in the water and therefore resist turning, whilst canoes with flat straight keels, very little rocker, tend to track very straight but are harder to turn. The intended use of your canoe will determine your choice. A canoe for running down rivers and making tight turns will need a good deal more rocker than a canoe used for long straight runs on a lake.
So, with a basic understanding of the effects of hull shape on your canoe, you can now consider the physical size of your craft. As a general rule with any paddle or rowing craft, longer is usually better. Longer boats tend to track (stay on course) better, have better stability, increased carrying capacity, and have a higher top cruising speed than a shorter boat of a similar style. Wherever possible I encourage people to buy as long a canoe as is practical for their use. The down side of choosing a long canoe is reduced manoeuvrability and increased overall boat weight. Some people may also have limitations placed upon them by their car and storage space at home to what length of craft they can accommodate. Common sense ultimately will be your best guide, a fisherman dragging his canoe down steep banks into twisty back waters will always err towards a shorter lighter canoe, whilst a family of 4 doing overnight trips on open water will lean towards a long lake cruiser.
Width of the canoe doesn’t play as much a factor in the decision process as you would think. Most designers of recreational craft will select a waterline width that gives good stability without overly increasing drag and ultimately performance. Generally speaking if you want increased carrying capacity, get a longer canoe. A quick read of the intended purpose of a craft will give some clue to its stability i.e. a canoe described as a fast lake cruiser, is probably not going to be ideal for a family with small children or a fisherman wanting to stand and cast.
In summary choose longer canoes for increased speed, carrying capacity and tracking and choose a shorter boat for increased manoeuvrability and ease of handling off the water.
The final consideration is fit-out and construction of your new canoe. What is your boat made of and what accessories are fitted to it? The old argument that arises here is fibreglass verses plastic, a topic I have covered previously. My advice to people is unless you are intending to run down some serious white-water, fibreglass is better. Fibreglass is lighter, more abrasion resistant and easier to repair than plastic. Plastic is generally cheaper and has very good impact resistance but you suffer every time you have to lift the canoe onto your car! If you can afford it, get a fibreglass canoe. Your kids will still be using it in 30 years time!
The other main consideration with your new canoe is seating. How many seats, what style of seating and what configuration? Unless someone tells me they are a confirmed hermit, and will never paddle with a friend or loved one, I advise them to buy a 2 seater. The reason being is that most 2-seater canoes can still be paddled very comfortably as a solo. The usual way this is done is to sit yourself in the bow (front) seat and paddle the canoe facing towards the stern. This seating position is closer to the centre of the canoe and gives better trim and control of the canoe when paddled alone. To do this a bench or flat style of seat must be installed to allow for a sitting position in either direction. If additional seats are required in a canoe for extra passengers or paddlers, I usually recommend that people buy a removeable centre seat (or seats). Removeable seats allow a 2-seater to be loaded with gear on camping trips or when put in place give a dry perch for family members or friends. Starting with a standard 2 seat configuration is the best way to ensure you have a versatile boat suitable for a wide range of uses.
So now you’re ready, or at least a little more informed, I hope. There is a lot to consider if to want to make a purchase that is going to last you or your family a long time (paddling does have that effect on people). To be on the safe side, it is best to speak to someone who is an experienced paddler, or to try a few different boats out before you buy. Most retailers have a demo or hire fleet available for customers to get a feel for their new craft prior to making a purchase. I highly recommend you take that opportunity.
If you need any more information about selecting a new canoe or other paddle craft, or want to arrange to hire a canoe, please give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646 or visit our website www.onetreecanoe.com. Happy Paddling
Anyone who is an enthusiast, no matter what the pursuit, has a bucket list. A list of absolute ‘must-do’ activities that have to be experienced before you die. High on my personal bucket list was the mighty Clarence River. I have now in part ticked that one off my list!
The Clarence is according to size and volume of water flow the second largest river system South of the Tropic of Capricorn. It flows from the Border ranges near Tooloom and empties some 395km later into the Pacific Ocean near Yamba. Along its journey South and East it collects water from 24 major tributaries including notably the Nymboida, Mann, Orara and Timbarra Rivers. It flows through country as diverse as rocky gorges and mountain ranges near its source to wide open flood plains dotted with farmlands at its mouth. It was the section below the rugged mountains of its junction with the Mann River that interested us and is the topic of this article.
When setting out on any journey through territory not previously experienced, it’s important to do good research in advance and make an achievable and manageable travel plan. Fortunately for our group there is a very detailed canoe trail map series published by the Clarence Valley Council and NSW Department of Lands (www.myclarencevalley.com) which provides maps, launch sites, camping and river conditions for 195km of the Clarence, Mann and Nymboida rivers. Our plan was to do a 2 day, 50 km downriver trip on the Clarence river from The Gorge campsite to Copmanhurst (sections 7 and 8 of the Canoe Trail Map Kit). This section involved traversing river conditions varying from wide slow-moving pools, class 1 shallow gravel riffles and some class 2 rapids. What more could you ask for?
We planned to break our journey with an overnight stay ay Lilydale Bridge campsite which means we had to carry enough gear to camp overnight and be completely self sufficient for 2 days on the water. Selection of paddle craft for this trip was very important. We needed a boat that was capable of carrying (in our case) gear for 2 people, manoeuvrable enough to handle class 1 and 2 rapids but also efficient enough to move at a reasonable pace along the long wide pools between rapids. We choose a 15-foot canoe for the trip, with the other guys paddling 13 foot sit inside plastic kayaks. We found both choices to have pros and cons, but on the whole good solid performers. So, with plan, gear and boats chosen, we set off on our adventure.
Our launch site was the popular camp site, The Gorge, located on the river just below the Clarence Gorge. To say the country side in this area was spectacular was very much selling it short. The drive into the campsite showed rocky tree lined ridges strewn with granite boulders that would make a diesel locomotive blush. It turned out to be a very an accurate preview of what we would experience on the water later that day.
Our leg for the day was a 30km run through some of the most spectacular country Australia has to offer. From putting in at The Gorge homestead we wove our way through crystal clear water dotted with huge outcrops of granite. The banks were lined with gums and bottlebrush trees and varied from gently rolling green hills to rugged cliffs. It truly was living up to our expectations.
The river was at first relatively easy to negotiate with a clear path between the large outcrops of grey rock and as we progressed further down stream and the frequency of these outcroppings increased it became more challenging. This was exacerbated by the low water levels on the river from the recent drought. This was particularly noticeable as we entered into the sections above Gordon Brook which contained a series of class 1 and class 2 rapids. The lower water levels meant that often a path through the boulders was not clear or contained insufficient water to clear the rocks on the river bed. We found ourselves having to line the boats through sections that would normally have been navigable. Whilst this did add some delay to the journey it certainly didn’t take anything away from the shear beauty of the river or the excitement of running a remote body of moving water. There were plenty of opportunities to have a laugh as one of the other boats in the group would suddenly lurch up after running up on a submerged rock the size of a council bus! The clear water made it hard to judge whether they were 2 inches or 2 feet below the surface.
The latter part of the day found us entering into flatter terrain typified by large slow-moving pools separated by shallow gravel riffles. Again, here the low water meant we were unable to travel over the rocky bottom without exiting the boat and dragging it for a few metres before re-entering and carrying on. The last section before Lilydale Bridge frustratingly saw an increase in these shallow gravel runs and meant we didn’t reach the campsite until just on dark.
Lilydale Bridge is a free campsite located right beside the bridge and along the bank of the river. It has flushing toilets and, in the section where we pitched put camp, plenty of shade from trees along the bank. It was quite busy being school holidays, however we had no trouble finding a quiet spot right on the river bank to hang our hammocks for the night.
The second leg of our journey was an easy 20 km run from Lilydale to Copmanhurst. The river here was similar to the last stage of the previous days paddle, and we found ourselves more regularly stretching out and getting the boats up to a good pace on the wide deep sections. As with the previous day the scenery did not disappoint and we saw an abundance of birds, turtles and fish. The clarity of the water made turtle spotting one of our favourite pursuits on this trip, and there were certainly plenty to spot!
This section is an easy class 1 paddle and would suit novice paddlers wanting to experience a longer down river paddle on moving water. The only thing to really watch out for are the series of railway iron posts in the river bend immediately before arriving at Copmanhurst. These are fairly easily avoided if you are aware they are there.
We arrived into Copmanhurst at 1.30 that afternoon after a relaxing day on the water and set off to retrieve our drop off car from The Gorge. By 5pm that afternoon we were back in the caravan park unpacking gear, enjoying a refreshing beverage and discussing which section of the river we would tackle next.
Based on our experience of these sections we most certainly will be tackling the other 6 sections of the Clarence Valley Canoe Trail. It is at this point that I need to stress that our party consisted of 4 experienced paddlers who had previously paddled on moving water. Some sections of the Canoe Trail are deemed suitable for experienced paddlers only and should be treated with respect. The river can be very unforgiving and is often in very remote areas where help could be many hours away. The preparation required is definitely worth the effort as the reward is paddling on some of the most pristine waterways in our country. For inexperienced paddlers there are a number of guide services running on the river which offer the opportunity to experience various sections in a controlled environment. I recommend you add this amazing river to your own personal bucket list! For more information about this trip and other similar locations feel free to contact One Tree Canoe Company at www.onetreecanoe.com.
Without a doubt kayak fishing has become one of Australia’s rapid growth activities. More and more amateur anglers are hitting the water in an array of craft from cheap plastic sit-on kayaks to top end composite offshore fishing kayaks, fishing in waters from narrow freshwater creeks to open lakes and oceans. It’s not surprise really; paddle craft offer anglers a low-cost and hassle-free method to get off the river bank or ocean shore and onto the water. They are generally speaking lighter and easier to manage by yourself than a tinnie and can in some instances get into places they can’t.
The one style of paddle craft that is seemingly overlooked in the fishing world is the humble canoe, despite its long history as a traditional fishing craft. This to me seems a shame as it truly is a versatile and very capable fishing platform with a lot of very positive attributes. So, in the interests of defending the canoes honour, I shall outline what I think are the 5 best things about fishing from a canoe.
A word of warning however, canoes like most paddle craft, have their limitations. Unless very experienced, I do not recommend taking a canoe out on open water when there’s a strong wind warning or chance of a large swell. Canoes being an open topped boat can become swamped in heavy conditions providing you with an unwelcome dunking. Most modern canoes will have buoyancy fitted to prevent them sinking completely but you could still be up from an uncomfortable swim back to shore.
On rivers, lakes and sheltered bays, it is hard to beat a canoe as a comfortable and versatile fishing platform. So, when you’re next in the market for a new fishing platform, give the humble canoe a thought. It might be the right craft to chase those elusive big ones in your secret spot! If you want to know more about fishing from canoes and fitout options give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company at www.onetreecanoe.com. Happy Paddling 😊
It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for more than 30 seconds that I’m a huge fan of canoes. The primary reason for this is their incredible versatility; their ability for one simple craft to be able to fulfil so many perform tasks. One of my personal favourites, aside from paddling of course, is canoe sailing.
Canoes having a relatively stable and efficient hull lend themselves very nicely to sailing. Whilst not as capable as a dinghy of withstanding an overturning force, with the correct rig they make a fun and effective sailing boat. You’re never going to win an America’s Cup, but you can sure have a great day out on the water when you fit a sailing rig to your canoe! Having said that, canoe sail racing is quite a big sport in the UK, particularly around the Lakes District.
The rig that I choose for my canoes is called a Lug Sail rig. It’s an older design that was developed for fishing and coastal sailors around the 17th century. It’s ease of use and good performance to windward have made it a design that has seen continued use even racing dinghies today. The main reason I use it on my canoes is that it has less overturning force than a lot of modern rigs, so you’re less likely to take a swim 😊.
When fitted to my 14-foot canoe, I’m able to get up to speeds of around 5 knots (9km/h) which is certainly faster than I can paddle at for any length of time. I have taken it out in breezes approaching 15 knots, anything more is a little too exciting for comfort!
So, the question begs to be asked, where do you take your canoe if you want to go for a sail?
Whilst there are a number of great options in SEQ, my favourites have to be the dams in the Somerset region on the Brisbane Valley Rivers. Both Lake Wivenhoe and its smaller brother Somerset make excellent locations for sailing any sort of craft, as evidenced by the location of Brisbane Valley Sailing Club at Logan Inlet on Wivenhoe. With good access to the water, plenty of interesting scenery and a consistent breeze during the summer months it makes for a great day out on the water. Average windspeeds for the area tend to be around 10-12km/h in the mornings with a slight increase in the afternoons. Certainly enough to push a small sailing canoe along at a nice pace and not so much that you could spill your drink…
As any sailor will tell you, sailing involves picking a direction to travel in and then going in another direction entirely. Canoe sailing is no different, Mother Nature has a nasty habit of sending a breeze from exactly the direction you’re intending to travel in! With that in mind, sailing locations that have plenty of open space to manoeuvre in are always the best. If all else fails, you always have a paddle…
On Wivenhoe the launch sites at Billies Bay and Logan Inlet offer plenty of open water and a favourable prevailing breeze, whilst on Somerset the Kirkleigh area is best, especially if you head North and away from skiers. For my money, I think it’s had to beat sailing out from Logan Inlet, across and around Pelican Island and then back again. The scenery on this route offers the full range of what Wivenhoe has to offer with glimpses of the D’Aguilar ranges and the many wooded inlets of the southern end of the dam.
As with any water-based activity, make sure you check the weather forecast before heading out. The old saying ‘You can have too much of a good thing’ definitely applies when sailing. Wind speeds between 7 and 15 knots are perfect, especially if they’re coming from behind you on the homeward leg of your trip. Anything more will be a handful for most paddlers and anything less is really just a paddling trip with an annoying sail flopping about in your face! Also make sure you check direction to determine the best route for your trip. Catching a free ride on the end of an extended paddling journey can turn a long slog on open water into a pleasurable run home.
The best part about canoe sailing is how easy it is to do, it doesn’t have to be a professionally made sail kit, any flat surface will catch a tail wind on a paddling trip and provide an easy ride. In fact, anyone with a hiking fly in their shed can jerry rig up a sailing rig for their canoe. For the handier paddlers, building a homemade sail kit is relatively straight forward and there are plenty of photos on the internet for inspiration. Retrofitting to an old or existing canoe is straight forward and can be as simple as lashing a couple of paddles together. It really can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it, you’re only limited by your creativity
So, if you’re looking for something new to try with your old favourite canoe or for a new way to traverse our inland waterways, I highly recommend you give canoe sailing a go. To find out more about how to fit a sail to your canoe or having one made professionally, give One Tree Canoe Company a call and we’d be delighted to help get you under sail! www.onetreecanoe.com