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Canoe Design: Hull Design

Hull (Cross Section) 

To visualize this aspect of canoe design, think about bisecting the canoe from side to side. The hull can impact canoe performance in a number of ways, from stability to maneuverability to speed. Canoes usually feature one of three hull cross sections: Flat, Shallow Arch, and Shallow vee. Note that both Shallow Arch and vee can vary in terms of degree or angle. 


Shallow Vee


Pros 

  • Most versatile hull cross section
  • Highest final stability 
  • Superior rough water performance 
  • Better tracking 
  • Superior rigidity for increased hull efficiency 
  • Can be “tuned" (track: paddle straight up; maneuver: lean hull into turn) 

Cons 

  • Wear concentrated at point of Vee
  • Lower initial stability 
  • Slower than shallow arch in calm conditions 

Flat Bottom

Pros 

  • High initial stability
  • Maneuverable 

Cons 

  • Reduced final stability
  • Low structural integrity
  • Slow
  • Unpredictable if leaned or in waves
  • Stability reduced as load increases
  • Tends to invert (oilcan) unless reinforced or heavily built 

Shallow Arch 

Pros 

  • Paddling efficiency & speed in calm conditions
  • Higher final stability than flat bottom
  • Maneuverable when combined with moderate to extreme rocker 

Cons 

  • Performance degrades in rough waters
  • Lower final stability than shallow vee 

 

Hull (Side Profile) 

Refers to the form of the side of the canoe looking at it from one end. Canoe sides can be straight, flared, (wider from waterline to gunwale) or tumble-home (narrower at gunwale than at waterline). A canoe can actually feature all three profiles from end to end with flare at bow, tumble-home at center and straight at the stern. The primary factors in determining choice of side profile are stability, paddling efficiency, and ability to shed waves and water. The amount of flare or tumble-home can vary from model to model. 


Straight 

Pros 

  • Maintains final stability
  • Moderately dry vs. side waves 

Cons 

  • In deep hulls makes for long reach to water
  • Subject to windage 

Flared

Pros 

  • Driest side hull profile
  • Increases final stability
  • Allows for narrower waterline for increased efficiency and speed 

Cons 

  • Reduced paddling comfort and efficiency (farther reach to water)

Tucked

Pros 

  • Moderately dry
  • Maintains final stability 
  • Protects gunwales from side impact or abrasion 

Cons 

  • Reduced paddling comfort and  efficiency (farther reach to water)

Tumble Home

Pros 

  • Allows more efficient paddle stroke
  • Preferable for flat/calm water solos 

Cons 

  • Reduces final stability
  • Wet vs. side waves as water will follow curve of hull up side