Souris River's Newest Hull Design - the Skeena

 

 

Skeena - a Famous River in Canada
In northwestern British Columbia there lies the second largest river in that particular canadian province name the Skeena River. The Skeena River serves as the drainage for 33,700 square miles of area high in the coastal mountains providing an outlet to the Pacific ocean. It is the one of the longest, undammed rivers in the world and serves as a habitat and spawning grounds to 5 million salmon per year. The water it fast and not navigable in the highest areas near the river's origin, and the lower reaches are also nothing to sneeze at with cold swift waters.

And with the respect commanded by the waters of the Canadian giant Skeena, so goes the chosen namesake for Souris River's newest canoe model. Souris River's exciting new hull design puts a new spin on willderness tripping canoes! This is a Pool & Drop canoe design with the features of a white water canoe and a flatwater canoe merged. The Skeena allows a an experienced team of paddlers to paddle pools of water like the slow moving part of the river, then descend down the screamer part of the river and back into the pool.

5 Sheet Layup and Construction Details
The Skeena, with it's special 5 sheet layup, is a lighter canoe than Royalex canoes with the same rock-bashing durability. It has a blend of kevlar sheets, polyester and special fiberglass making up the hull along with Souris River's usual and unique flexible rib system and, of course, SR's special blend of epoxy resin. Skid plates are built right into the bow and stern as per usual for every Souris River canoe. Gunwales are vinyl instead of the usual aluminum incase this canoe gets wrapped around a rock in whitewater. Vinyl trim allows you to kick out the dents and continue on your way. Aluminum gunwales can break, tear away from the canoe and literally become a skewer. I actually know a human shish-kabob who had with an aluminum gunwale driven through her thigh - ewww! The Skeena has under-gunwale flotation with open bow and stern (no airtanks) to allow customization by the end-user with optional aftermarket airbags (airbags displace water to prevent wrapping the canoe around a rock in an "ooops!"). Another benefit to a lack of air tanks is the extra storage/leg room in the bow and storage space in the stern for those non-whitewater adventures. The flotation under the gunwales is wonderfully comfortable against the knees. You won't touch the gunwales with your knees, BUT, the foam is also unobtrusive. I really liked it.

At 16'8" long, this canoe has ample tripping/gear capacity with plenty of room for several packs. Portage weight is about 52 lbs.

Handling Characteristics
From a paddling perspective on flat water, the Skeena is easily controlled from the stern with a J Stroke but while I was in the front (and Keith Robinson was in the stern), I tested it's maneuverability with a draw stroke and found that I could literally spin the Skeena around in a circle very quickly and easily from the front seat and by myself. It responded very rapidly all while feeling very stable - as stable as a Quetico 17 - during maneuvers. When the stern paddler assisted in an about-face type spin by drawing on the other side, it rotated like it was on ball bearings. Then, we'd accelerate off into a straight line again. It accelerated quite well.

 

Souris River Skeena

From the photo, you'll note that this is an unusual looking canoe. It sports a long narrower nose and kind of a short, fat tail. Don't let the topside photo fool you. The Skeena has a fatter bow on the bottom side so when you drop off a wave in a river or into an oncoming wave, the bow is highly bouyant and doesn't cut into the water. Lake canoes, on the other hand, generally have a sharper knife entry bow and stern because they cut through the oncoming waves better. A canoe that is heading down a river on an angled path is better served by not plunging into the water and then submarining. In river conditions, plunging under the water is generally less good than not doing so. Also, when the back of the canoe drops off a wave or higher water it is more bouyant and resists bottoming out on the river bottom. This saves the canoe. A canoe such as the Quetico 17 on a dropoff would bottom out (slam into the bottom of the river bed - the rocks below) because the Q-17's bow and stern serve more for steering/guidane control on flat water, ie, lakes and slow moving rivers.

The Skeena has more rocker. It asymmetrical rocker and is different than the symetrical rocker of the Quetico 17. the Q-17 has about 2 inches of rocker starting at the center of the canoe. The Skeena has a about 4" rocker ahead of center as you can see in the photo below.

Souris River Skeena

Souris River Skeena
End shot from the front
Souris River Skeena
End shot from the stern

Due to digital camera distortion the front and back look very similar but this is not the case in the non-digital world. The bow is skinnier. The stern looks a bit blocky and for some reason reminds me of a VolksWagen - I know it sounds odd but like a Rorschach test, I see a VW Rabbit in the stern of this canoe.

Speed vs. Maneuverability - Skeena vs. Quetico 17
We tested both canoes to get a feel for the differences on flat water. Since we don't have any navigable white water in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, flat water was the only option. There is still a ton that we could learn from comparing the two canoes on flatwater however.

In forward speed, the Quetico 17 is definitely faster. I would say that it accelerated a bit more slowly than the Skeena but it's cruising speed is definitely faster. Not ridiculously faster, but I could tell a decrease in resistance to forward motion in the Quetico 17. This is what one would expect to find in a lake canoe vs. a pool & drop canoe. And, in turning, the Skeena has the ability to literally draw circles around the Quetico 17. In trying to draw the bow over in the Quetico 17 (after having been in the Skeena), it was possible, but definitely sluggish and quite difficult to turn when compared to the effortless Skeena.


Stability
Both are very stable and feel similar.

Souris River Skeena
Souris River Skeena
Skeen picture from stern, both sides. Note that we have a prototype at Red Rock. It's a fully functioning Skeena and the very canoe that we paddled on Jasper Lake. the closed-cell flotation is bolted on via plastic bolts which is effective but labor-intensive. Finalized model Skeenas now have foam glued into place with no bolts like you see in these photos.

So, this is it. The Skeena is the type of canoe that you would use for long distance river travel where there would be large expanses of slow moving water (pool) and drops where you would have up to Class 4 whitewater and the occasions where portaging the canoe will be the only way to go. This would be probably one of the best "wild" wilderness tripping canoes avaiable and more portage-able de to the lighter weight than Royalex and better hull design than a lot of river Royalex canoes out there as well. If this canoe will fit your needs, email us or call 1-800-280-1078.

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