By Montana Grant

Posted: July 19, 2018

How many canoes do you see in your neighbor’s yards that rarely get used? Everyone likes the simplicity and peace of canoeing but find power boating more enticing. The canoe ends up parked along a fence where it becomes a home for bees and spiders. What a waste.

Last year I wrote an article about how to add outriggers to your canoe! By improving stability, you improve stability and safety. This rig and canoes require little to no maintenance.

Canoes are the perfect choice for crabbing, fishing, hunting, or just exploring along the Chesapeake’s tributaries. Their light weight and portability allow them to travel to places where other crafts can’t go. You can put them onto a roof rack, pick up truck, or small trailer and away you go. No boat ramps, marinas, or facilities are needed. Canoes last forever. My aluminum canoe, from my youth as a Boy Scout in the sixties, is still going strong.

Most people fear the tippyness of a canoe. They do not want to get their cellphones wet. Even if the canoe flips it will not sink. You can get back into the water filled boat and paddle to shallow water where you can then dump out the water and go back to cruising. When wearing safety vests and tying down your gear bags and coolers, little gear needs to be lost and you learn from your mistakes. Anticipate problems and prevent them.

Last year I shared my outrigger design with readers. Many of you created some wonderful outriggers on your canoes with some great modifications. I have seen unique anchor systems, rod holders, and other custom features.

My outrigger system was constructed using electric conduit pipe, water weenies and liter bottles. I found that the bigger water weenies worked the best. There was enough stability for me to stand in the canoe to fish or stretch. When I placed a piece of plywood over the middle, I used a camp stool to sit on while fishing. A simple mushroom anchor would hold me in place. Even in heavy waves, my outrigger canoe was stable and seaworthy.

To add speed, I placed an electric motor mount to the rear deck of my 17-foot Grumman Canoe. My small electric motor battery fit into a small swinger cooler that was placed in the front of the canoe to distribute weight. This craft works amazingly well for using crab traps, perch fishing, and simply cruising shallow shorelines. I always carry my paddles when I need to go slow, but the electric motor really pushes the rig well.  The small, light, and narrow craft was efficient when using the battery. I never ran out of juice in a day of crabbing or fishing. Paddling was always another form of power as needed.

One of the best variations used ice chests as the outrigger floats. Even when loaded with fish, lunch, and drinks, the coolers serve as floating supports. They used PVC pipe to configure the outrigger frame. The glued frame could then be attached to the canoes thwarts for support.  The boaters were diving off the coolers when I first saw them swimming. They were able to pull themselves back into the canoe easily without flipping it. Their drinks and lunch were dry in the locked cooler outrigger floats.

These detachable outriggers allow new life for your older crafts. I know that the new Bay Boaters love kayaking but the canoe has many advantages over these newer expensive boats. You can carry more gear and passengers. When you add an electric motor, the canoe is way faster. Canoes add more flexibility. You can carry crab traps, baskets, extra gear and tackle, and friends. You can also connect two or more canoe together to create a floating catamaran style craft. Boaters paddling along the outer edges supply the power while a rudder man sits in the middle. Additional craft add additional stability.

A motorized powered canoe will require a boat ID number and permit. These are available at the Maryland DMV offices. You can go on line to see what is required. If you use paddles, no additional tags or fees are needed. You will need a fishing or hunting license as age requires.

Once you construct your new outrigger system, take it for a spin. Test the stability and limitations. Leave the motor off the canoe and try to flip it. If successful, paddle to the shore and figure out how to dump out the water. Once this worst fear is experienced, the fear is reduced. Take a canoe safety course offered by local clubs. You Tube videos also show canoe skills and other variations to canoe modifications. Look at the other outrigger ideas and create your own version.

This kind of boating fun is especially geared for younger kids. They love the creativity, challenge, and adventure that comes with problem solving their own version of canoe outrigging. Neighbors will often give the old canoes away for next to nothing. They are just happy to see someone enjoy them.

An outrigger canoe is not as comfortable as a huge powerboat but at the end of the day, these simple rigs can out crab, out fish, and have more fun at a cheaper price than those gas guzzling party barges.

Stay safe, stable, and able!

Montana Grant

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