Canoe Stability - If it's got great secondary stability, what good is it, really?

Sure, you can get used to anything but I have to ask why anyone would choose to buy something that requires the first 15 minutes of using it to get used to it? I keep hearing this regarding tippy canoes.

"It's a little tender feeling when you first get in, but after a while you just forget about it."

"The initial stabilty is a little shaky feeling, but the secondary stability is excellent!"

"It feels pretty stable after we load it with gear."

OK - here's a rhetorical question: If drinkng or eating something that tastes awful requires you to develop an "acquired" taste to enjoy it, are you a better person after you learn how to like it or just a little dumber, poorer, and have a bad taste in your mouth? You shouldn't have to put up with something that's disconcerting until such time as you "learn" to enjoy it, particularily a canoe. Cigarettes, martinis, fois gras, cigars, raw fish, and onions (I hate 'em) - now these are examples of acquired tastes for us all to strive to achieve, but not canoes. The first five minutes of sitting in a canoe, should be enough to determine if you like the way it feels. It should feel like a pair of old slippers, the Barco Lounger after a long hard day, the wind thru your hair while out riding the hog...

If learning how to get used to a tippy feeling canoe is an acquired trait necessary for handling that specific canoe every time you use it, you need to get a canoe that's better for you.

Heck, Souris River even makes a tippy feeling model. If you want a canoe that needs a load to feel stable, and when it's paddled empty it requires your continual, semi-constant attention, get the Souris River Wilderness 18 and most Brand X kevlar canoes on the market. You'll get to pay attention it all day long. Think of the fun.

When I hear the sales pitch drivel with Brand X about "secondary stability" and all the "blahbitty-blah" used to explain why that particular lake canoe feels jittery plus why that's a "good" thing, I just shake my head. Pass the fois gras, please.

Until the Souris River Quetico's came out I'd always heard that it's not possible to have good primary stability AND good secondary stability all in the same canoe. Oh, sure, you can't lay a Souris River Quetico over at a 45 degree angle, but you can lean it over pretty far without rolling it over completely. That's all that really matters because mishaps can and do happen. To me, the word "forgiving" is very important because, like everybody else, I do dumb things on occasion and having a canoe that will catch me when I fall is very important to me as well as to our retail/rental customers whether they realize it or not.

Every canoe can tip over in the right (and wrong) hands and decreasing the odds of tipping is what a good hull design is all about. On top of the safety aspect, I just like the feel of a comfortable, stabile canoe on the water. If you can spend the bulk of your day on the water not being too concerned with the canoe as it sits there, that makes for much better time paddling, fishing, shooting, etc.

Souris River Queticos derive their stabilty from their flat bottom in the center of the canoe and their secondary stability from the shallow arch that's more towards the ends of the canoe.


Here's how these two different shapes react with water or even a hard flat surface.

A shallow arched bottom, even when tipped, still has a sizeable portion of canoe being supported by water which is depicted between the red lines on the next image.

As long as there is a relatively flat section of canoe resting on the water regardless of being tipped, the canoe resists going over completely and gives you more time to realize that you need to make changes lest ye be dunked. This is an example of secondary stability and how it actually acts on the water. The larger the distance between the red bars - the greater secondary stability that the hull will have.

A flat bottom by itself is not a good thing. When tipped over to it's chine (the area where the canoe's side meets the canoe's bottom - like a rounded corner), it offers almost no wetted, flat surface for support as you can see in this image. The distance between the red bars is smaller and more like trying to balance on a tight rope. When you do begin to go over, you'll do so suddenly unless you are really quick, incredibly balanced and have great physical wherewithall that allows you to recover deftly. In other words, you'll need your spider powers.

The next drawing depicts what a Souris River Quetico's shape is like when looking at it from straight on. It offers the stability of the flat bottom in the center, the shallow arching in the ends and what we call a sharp "knife" entry in the stem which is the very end of the canoe's bow (or stern). All Quetico's are shaped like this but the Quetico 16 has a bit less flatness in the middle of the canoe because that's how the design lines played out. It has an ever-so-slightly tender feel attributed to having less flat area in the bottom center region. To put it in greater perspective, the Souris River Wilderness 18 only looks like the green knife entry with the red shallow arched part throughout the length of the canoe. The flat blue part in the drawing does not exist in that particular hull.

The next image defines where the flat and arched areas are in a Souris River Quetico.

So there you have it. A canoe without stability is a like a hotdog without ketchup. It tastes OK, and you could get used to it, but that ketchup makes it all complete. It may not be the greatest analogy but I do know that tippy canoes and tippy-feeling canoes are no fun. You really need a canoe that has good combination of primary (flat bottom) and secondary (shallow arched) of the two. Personally, I think the Souris River Queticos where designed by Keith Robinson using a little science, a touch of art and a smattering of luck. These are outstanding canoes and their stability will serve 99% of all paddlers very well.