By Dan Kidder
Whether you are working your way out to your favorite honey hole off shore or just want the means to get away from it all on your favorite trout stream, having a small and lightweight canoe is a great way to leave the crowded banks behind.
For those who want to get out on the water but don’t necessarily want to load and haul a trailer, the Discovery 119 from Old Town Canoe is the perfect companion.
A single seater, the Discovery 119 combines the small size, agility, and ease of use of a kayak with the full functionality of a canoe.
At only 43 pounds, the Discovery offers a solo user the means to easily lift and carry the canoe. It is also the perfect size for roof transport on a variety of vehicles. It rode perfectly on the roof rack of my small crossover SUV.
The Discovery 119 is under 12 feet long, and only 32.5 inches wide. It rides higher in the water giving it a 4-inch draft, but has more stability than many watercraft that ride deeper.
The Discovery 119 has a contoured seat with an adjustable backrest and is suited for a single or double bladed paddle. A straight-sided canoe with a moderate rocker and shallow arch bottom is the perfect combination for even heavy swells. We took the canoe out to a local lake where speedboats were zooming across the water kicking up swells. Top that off with a heavy wind, and this little craft rode the waves and never once felt like it would tip over.
The shallow arch bottom means that the canoe has less initial stability than flat bottom canoes, but good secondary stability. In other words it feels like it will start to tip up until a point then it ceases its roll. This makes it a great canoe for reaching over the side to place or retrieve decoys. It also allows you to hop out for a quick dip after sitting in the hot sun for too long without worrying about tipping the canoe over when you get back in.
Typically, a canoe this light would be prone to puncture, but the Discovery 119 is made of triple layer polyethylene that makes it very strong without increasing the weight.
While the canoe is diminutive in size, it still provides ample room, both fore and aft, for gear or even a second person, who can kneel in the bow in a pinch.
The canoe drives like a dream, skimming swiftly along the water and quickly responding to changes in direction. Even in high winds, the craft straightens out and changes direction with only one or two paddle strokes.
Even though the canoe has great secondary stability, defined as how far it will roll over beyond its primary tipping point, I would not use it as a standing fishing platform without adding sponsons.
A canoe of this size can open up great new opportunities for the solo adventurer. It can allow you to camp on an island in the middle of a lake when all of the shoreline spots are taken.
One of my favorite tricks is to drift downstream and fish along the banks of otherwise off limits private property. In many states, if you can navigate a boat down the stream, you may do so without infringing upon the landowner’s property rights. Some states even recognize the high water mark on the bank as fair game, but I would suggest checking the laws of your state before you try this.
Even better is the ability to explore areas on larger lakes that you may not normally be able to reach from the land. Deserted canyons and inlets can offer wonderful views and great fishing that may not normally be as pressured as those areas that can only be reached from land.
Whether you are bird watching, fishing, or just want to explore the less travelled path, a small solo canoe like the Discovery 119 can be just the ticket to get you where you can best appreciate the great outdoors away from the pressing crowds.
Also the best naps I have ever taken have been with the sun shining down while anchored safely on the gently rising and falling waters of a pond or lake.
The Discovery series of canoes also includes two seaters, the Discovery 158 and 169, that can allow you to share your enjoyment of the great outdoors with others. The Discovery series is available with both red and green hulls.
The Discovery 119 retails for $599. The Discovery 158 retails for $899 and the 169 sells for $999. Check them out at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse. The question isn’t whether a canoe would make the outdoors more enjoyable for you, but only what size canoe you need for your adventures.