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Cedarwood Prospector

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Plainsman, Nov 3, 2004.

  1. Plainsman

    Plainsman Curious about Wooden Canoes


    I'm new here (although I've checked in in the past and also am glad to see the forums up and running). I'm contemplating purchasing my first wood/canvas canoe. Its a Cedarwood Prospector. Tomorrow I hope to have the opportunity to actually paddle it. The boat is new--never used. Does anyone know anything about the company (I think its distributed by American Traders). The price is good, approximately $1500. That said, I'm trying to decide if I do really want to get into wood/canvas boats, should I invest a little more and get something that may better fit my type of paddling (some still water style paddling, shallow rocky streams--up to perhaps class II, limited trips--due to time constraints...sadly). Any thoughts. I'm all ears. Thanks in advance...
  2. bob goeckel

    bob goeckel Wooden Canoe Maniac

    i think i'd try to arrange a few trips in different canoes first. i've only been in wood canoes a year but have already found a few i like better than others.
  3. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

    Good advice. I'd go slow. If you really want a Propector, join WCHA and watch the classifieds in the back. True Chestnut Prospectors show up there at about the price you're quoting. You might want to visit the Stewart River Boatworks website and see what Alex Comb has to say about Prospectors first. He steered me to a Pal. I own a 17 foott Prospector and a 16 foot Pal. I love them both, but I much prefer the Pal. Those of us who have been canoeing for any length of time have a love affair with wood canvas canoes. There's nothing that compares with their beauty, handling and the lovely soft sound they make as they ply the waters.Happy hunting!
  4. OP

    Plainsman Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the input

    Thanks for the comments, fellas. Actually, I talked to Alex just the other day about Pals. Now that I'm looking, I'm checking out a variety of builders and the Stewart River Boats look pretty good. So, if I go down this wood/canvas path, will there be any turning back for me? I currently own two Bell canoes, and love them both, but I don't stop and touch them in stores the way I do a wooden boat.

    So, Andy, is your Pal a Stewart River Pal? And if so, any comments on it? How do you use it? Any pointers for a new guy thinking of wood boats from a paddling perspective, as opposed to a restoration perspective (I'm just not that handy.) Thanks...
  5. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

    Yes, mine is a Stewart River which I built from Alex's plans (Alex made small modifications of the orginal Pal). I can't say enough nice things about this canoe. It works great as a solo or tandem and it is one of the sweetest handling canoes I've ever paddled. I plan on building a few more for some of my family. Keep us posted on your quest.
  6. bob goeckel

    bob goeckel Wooden Canoe Maniac

    if you want to travel to flint,mi. you're welcome to come try a couple of mine. if you don't mind cold weather paddling.
  7. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

  8. Giiwedin

    Giiwedin Gouvernail

    Beware, not all "Prospectors" are created equal. The original was made by Chestnut for backcountry use. Over the years, however, the name has entered the public domain and a number of companies now sell canoes called "Prospectors" which may or may not be true to the original. Andy's advice is good advice: see whether a used Chestnut comes up on the WCHA classifieds. Short of getting an original Chestnut Prospector (or a new one from Ken Solway), be sure to ask tough questions whether the "Prospector" you're considering is true to the original design or something else.

    Why should you care? Because the Chestnut Prospector was a truly outstanding wilderness and tripping canoe. I've owned 16' and 17' Prospectors and paddled them all over Canada. I don't think there's a better overall tripping canoe around. That said, if you don't plan to use the boat on trips, then you might find it a bit deep (i.e., vulnerable to cross-winds) and unwieldy for recreational empty-canoe paddling. If that's what you have in mind, consider instead the 16' Pal which is a much better recreational boat, but also serves well on modest trips and swift-water paddling. The Pal is a great canoe, but be sure you get the 34" beam boat (in the 1960s it was widened to 36", which is a bit stout for my taste and decidedly less nimble on the water).
  9. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Hi Plainsman,

    The others here have already given good advice. The decision to buy a wood canoe is usually based on aesthetics - clearly that aspect already bit you. However, if you plan to use your wood canoe as well, it pays to try to choose wisely. Beyond its basic appearance, your enjoyment of your new canoe will be based on how often you use your canoe and how you use your canoe.

    The heavier your canoe is, the less likely you will be to use it. The Prospector is(usually) a heavy canoe.

    You briefly mentioned some conditions you might use it in, but you left a lot unsaid... Solo or Tandem? Downstream paddling only, or might you be poling upstream? Cartopping or do you own waterfront? Etc....

    That said, I think Bob G. hit the nail on the head. You need to get out and paddle a bunch of wood canoes. I own an original Chestnut Prospector, and as Rob said, it is a great canoe. I haven't used mine like Rob has, in fact, I haven't actually gotten it wet in four or five years. It is perhaps the best all-around design - it is a fantastic tripping boat, it is great fun freestyling or "Omering", it is said to sail very well, and so on. But, it is less fun riding light on a windy lake, and does not pole upstream very well.

    So, after getting one, and finding that Bill Mason really was right in all his hype about the Prospector, what do I use? Well, my wife is much more comfortable in our 16' White Sport canoe. Soloing I use my Peterborough Minetta or the reproduction of the Chestnut Fox I build (both of these, by the way, are the 14' and 15' members of the family that also includes the 16' Pal that has been mentioned). For my money, the 15' Minetta, paddling solo or with one or both of my kids, wins over anything else hands-down.

    But what works for me and my family may not work for you. So, here is what I think you should do. Come to the Annual WCHA Assembly (BTW you don't indicate where you are) - paddle any number of vintage canoes (I'll bring my Prospector if you want). Also, paddle a bunch of new canoes built by one of our member builders. You may find that that the perfect match is an Old Town 50-pound, or a Penn Yan Owasco, or an Atkinson Traveler or Otter or My Bug, or... Really, its no different then shopping for composite canoes.

    Oh, and as for Bell Canoes, they are great canoes, and Ted Bell is a great guy. I have a Wildfire. It's stored out in the weather and hasn't had its bottom wet in six years... Maybe that says something, maybe not.

  10. OP

    Plainsman Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Paddled the Prospector


    Again, thanks for all the input. I'll give you the update and add a bit more about my proposed uses for the boat, etc. (I found myself having the same conversation with my wife tonight, who said something like, "Now, how will this one be used differently...).

    First, a bit more of background. I live in southwest Wisconsin where we have a lot of nice windy streams, many with rock bottoms. I'm about a half hour from the Wisconsin River, which is wide and flat and has great island camping. I'm also quite close to the backwaters of the Mississippi, which mimics lake paddling on most days. This being the local neighborhood, most of my regular paddling will involve day outings on these waters. That said, I hope to get to the northern part of the state at least once a year for a short river trip. (I just moved to Wisconsin from Nebraska last year, so I've got a lot of exploring to do.) The waters up there can be placid to white and frothy. I don't see tripping on anything more than II+. Almost all of my local paddling will be solo. Last summer I did a tiny bit of experimenting with poling, and I'd like to do more of that in the future as it will open up more possibilities for me on short, solo outings on the local rocky, rivers.

    So last summer I took a one-day course on Canadian style paddling. I'd experimented with this on my own, using Mason's books and pictures as a guide. (I still have yet to see any of the movies, though I'm thinking that I'll pick up Waterwalker one of these days.) Anyway, as much as I love my Northstar, I really began to see the advantages of a symmetrical hull after a day of the formal instruction. So, that started me looking at the modern prospectors, e.g. Novacraft, the new Wenonah. Then I saw this Cedarwood Prospector on sale, for not much more than a new Wenonah with the wood trim option. Again, this Cedarwood is brand-new. The canvas on the bottom has no scratches--as I verified this evening; which brings me to the test paddle.

    I spent about 45 minutes in the boat. I paddled from down a gentle current to a lake and then back upstream--with a fairly stiff wind in my face for added effect. First impressions, it being a bit cool, I wasn't sure how much I wanted to push it, in terms of healing it on edge. But when I got in and gave it a go, I couldn't believe how soft it felt. It is a heavy boat, but that counter balances my 160 lbs nicely. I felt very comfortable with it healed over to within a couple of inches of the water. Going down stream with the wind at my back was quite pleasurable. Once I got out to the lake and turned around, I really had to dig in, and slide forward quite a bit. While it was a fair bit of work going back, it was doable. With some more weight to help trim, and reduce the draft, it would of course have been even better. That said, I would not have wanted to paddle across the lake in the breeze that I was experiencing; it would have been challenging.

    So, the long and short of it is that I just don't know. I'm not normally an impulse kind of guy, and something like a Pal would almost certainly be a more pragmatic choice. But, it is a Prospector; with all the benefits and detriments of that model. And, it does, in fact, have the original Chestnut emblem on it. I am told that the lines are taken from one of the original Chestnut forms.

    So, does it sound like I'm talking myself into this boat? Should I be patient, spend more money and get a Stewart River Pal or something comparable? If I went the restoration route, at least at this stage in my life, it'd be years before the boat touched water; so if I go the wood/canvas route I'll be looking at something I can paddle at the time of purchase. Any more thoughts? Thanks...
  11. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Sounds like maybe you test-paddled at Carl's Paddlin'... if so, say hi to Carl for me. Don't forget about the big March events in Madison. Rutabaga's Canoecopia is a good one for wood canoes - not only do their vendors show up (like American Traders), but the WCHA is well represented and other wood canoe builders (there were at least 5 the last time I exhibited there) are on hand.

    Don't totally rule out a vintage canoe, even if you don't want to restore it yourself, you can have it restored (Josh is in Madison). The total cost, depending on the condition of the canoe, may not be any more than buying new.

    I think the main point to remember is that the Chestnut Prospector is a fantastic boat, and does live up to the hype. But there are a lot of designs out there, and the search for the perfect boat is never ending. (Until you paddle a Minetta... :D )
  12. MLSlyker

    MLSlyker Curious about Wooden Canoes

    The only real solution is to have one of each!
  13. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I have a 17 foot Chestnut prospector and have used it in all sorts of conditions. I concur with all that’s been said about it and your test paddle sounds like you’ve assessed it accurately. Here’s my take. Get the Prospector for, some day, if you get a Pal, you’ll find yourself saying, jeez, maybe a should of got a Prospector. If you get a prospector you’ll never find yourself thinking some day in the future you should have got a pal.
  14. Giiwedin

    Giiwedin Gouvernail

    Get both!

    Larry's point is well taken. I got my first Prospector in 1965. Twenty-five years later, I got my Pal. I use the Pal much more than my Prospectors these days, but the order of purchase was right.
  15. OP

    Plainsman Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks again

    The input has been great. Dan, you were right on. The boat is being sold by Carl and John's. (John Haugen-Wente bought into the business a few years ago. He's a good guy and has been very forthright with me. Although they sell many Bell's and Bluewater's, John, himself apparently only owns wooden boats. Go figure.) In addition to seeking all your valuable feedback, I'll be honest--at some level I was looking for some affirmation from a sympathetic crowd. Who better to ask if I should buy a wood/canvas canoe than a bunch of wood/canvas canoe fanatics. I haven't made the offer yet, but it's looking that way. The final points made have echoed my recent thoughts on the matter. If I let this pass now and do get something like a Pal instead, I know that I will still look for a Prospector in the future. (Yea, pretty sure this won't be the last canoe I go for.) I'll keep you posted. And, on a final note, regardless of whether I pick up this boat now, I think I'll being joining this great organization of yours. Cheers, Jeff

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