Enjoying nature from the quiet and calm of a canoe. A canoe is a passport to the beauty found along New Hampshire's lakes, rivers, estuaries, streams and ponds. There is the energetic rush associated with flowing whitewater and the calm felt while exploring a pine forest shore in the early morning mist."Paddling is an awesome sport for the whole family," says Bob Tagliaferri, owner of Saco Bound Outdoors in Center Conway. "It's fun, affordable and can take you to some very cool places not easily reached by any other means. The great thing about paddling is just about anyone can do it and the learning curve is fun and easy."The designated activity dictates the length and width of the canoe. Day-trippers and novices can be content with a simple tandem canoe. That's a canoe that fits two people. But once it's time for an overnight or multi-day camping trip it's time for a canoe that is 15 feet long or more to accommodate more gear and little ones. "As a general rule a longer boat tracks better and a wider canoe is more stable," says Tagliaferri.Canoes, even light ones, are bulky out of water. It's much easier to put a canoe on a car with two people. But that's not always possible. So Tagliaferri has a tip: "You can try putting one end up on your car or rack and slide it up over a blanket from the opposite end. This may work okay with a Toyota Tercel but if you have a Suburban, I wish you good luck."Lastly, there's some sage advice: wear a PFD, be aware of changing water conditions and be especially careful of cold water temperatures."Always know before you go," he says.Marty Basch can be reached through www.onetankaway.com.Gear BoxNote: Pictured AboveEasy to maneuver, lithe and stable, the Old Town Discovery 158 is a sturdy recreational canoe at a decent price (www.oldtowncanoe.com, $889). Paddle it with the affordable, lightweight maple and basswood Loon wooden paddle by Bending Branches (www.bendingbranches.com, $49.95). A must-have for New Hampshire canoe enthusiasts is "Quiet Water New Hampshire and Vermont" (3rd edition) with its many excellent paddling suggestions (www.outdoors.org, $19.95). "The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Guidebook" (www.northernforestcanoetrail.org, $24.95) provides helpful hints.Expert AdviceConway's Bob Tagliaferri has logged hundreds of miles on New England's waterways and has been a canoe, kayak and rafting trip leader, guide and instructor. He's president of North Country Canoe and Outfitters, owner of Saco Bound Outdoors and executive director of the Saco River Recreational Council. Canoe camping with family and friends is one of his favorite aspects of paddling. How do I choose the right canoe for me? Decide what you plan to do most with your canoe and what kind of water you expect to paddle. No one canoe can do it all. Do a little homework. Research manufacturer specifications and designs relative to your intended purpose.How tippy is a canoe? Tippy is a relative term. The stability of a canoe depends on the width and hull configuration of the boat. A general purpose canoe is really not difficult to balance. Getting in and out of a canoe is when most people have an issue or in more difficult conditions like chop, wind and quick water. Are they heavy and how easy are they to get on top of my vehicle? Some tandem canoes can be over 80 pounds. Usually two people can manage to get a canoe car-topped. The trick is doing it with one person. In this case you have to learn the "flip" to get the canoe up on your shoulders from the center. There are some vehicle racks and accessories that may help, but overall a canoe is not very nimble out of the water. How do I learn the basic paddling strokes and how to turn? The best way to learn is get a lesson from a qualified instructor. The forward stroke is pretty, well, straightforward but the problem most people have in a canoe for the first time is making it go straight. This requires a correction stroke. To do this efficiently and gracefully is what paddling is all about. The basic function of steering requires more force or direction with a paddle stroke or otherwise on one side of the canoe. Moving a canoe efficiently requires feel. So you've got to put in the miles. I know the front of the canoe is the bow and the back is the stern. Who is in charge? Generally the person in the stern has greater control of direction. You need to work as a team, however. How do I know if I'm ready for my first canoe camping trip? If you like the outdoors even a little bit, I'd say you're ready for an overnight. Now you wouldn't, as a novice skier, go to the top of a mountain without knowing if there is an easy way down. The same goes for paddling. Choose an easy route and do your homework. You don't want your first time out to go bad. Impressive FactNew Hampshire contains 72 miles of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail that runs through New York, Quebec, Vermont, N.H. and Maine.
This article appears in the September 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine