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Choosing a Design

Good boats begin with good plans.

As professional boat builders, we understand that starting with a reliable plan solves problems before they happen. If this is your first boat, knowing you are beginning with an accurate mold will give you the confidence to start building. Without having to worry about your mold, you can enjoy all the other learning opportunities that will keep your project going.

Steve Killing, a highly respected Canadian yacht designer, has been involved in all of Bear Mountain plans. Steve has contributed new designs as well as fairing and analyzing our traditional designs. Steve is known for designing boats that perform better than intended and look better than they need to. Combined with his skill as a rower and paddler, we are confident that Bear Mountain plans will produce beautiful, safe boats.


Plans package includes:

  • Full-size drawings showing the profile, plan and section shape of the hull.
  • Specifications and technical details.
  • Full size plans for the mold stations
 (and carbon paper for tracing onto the mold material).
  • Plus extra useful booklets: Building a Bear Mountain Style Canoe, Epoxyworks newsletter
, WEST SYSTEM® Technical Manual and Canoeroots Magazine.
  • Customer support: Our friendly staff is available by phone or email to answer your building questions.

Choosing a design.

You have no doubt been thinking about building the perfect boat. You know that she will be beautiful as well as serve you well. Use your experience as a paddler/rower to chose a design that will fit your style of getting on the water. The design specifications will give you the necessary information to make a wise choice.

Esthetics will have a big influence on the boat you decide to build. Resist the urge to choose a design just because it stirs up familiar images but is unsuitable for its intended use. On the other hand, you may be a builder first and a paddler second; and there is nothing wrong with building to suit you eye.

Consider the hull shape.

Traditional canoe hull shapes are generally symmetrical; the bow is the same shape as the stern. While this does permits the canoe to be paddled in either direction, the stern does sink as the speed increases.

Asymmetrical hull shapes are most often found on modern craft. The bow will show a fine entry line, a full stern and the widest point of the hull will be aft of the centerline. The long, fine entry will ease the water aside and the full stern will keep the stern from sinking as speeds increase. To achieve the longest possible waterline length, the bow/stern profile is generally plumb.

Our book, KayakCraft has an excellence design chapter that will demystify the complexities of small boat hull design.

Terms to look for when studying boat plans:

Capacity: Safe working load

Displacement: Weight necessary to sink the boat to the design waterline

Weight to immerse: Number of pounds necessary to sink the hull each additional inch past the design waterline.

Prismatic coefficient: Is a measure of how much volume is contained in the ends of the boat in relation to the size of the maximum section. A low number, for example 0.5, indicates the ends of the boat are very fine, while a number hovering around 0.7 would indicate very full ends. A comfortable prismatic target for canoes and kayaks would be from 0.53 to 0.60.

Stability/ Capacity: In the past, manufacturers listed capacity as the amount of weight that can be loaded into the boat with an unspecified amount of freeboard remaining. Loading a boat with cement blocks then counting the blocks after the boat sank did not give us useful information that related to the safe use of the boat.
Steve Killing developed this unique formula to express stability in measurable terms, and capacity as the optimum load a boat can efficiently carry.
Our stability figures are measured at 15 degrees of heel and are related to the height at which the vertical line through the center of buoyancy intersects the hull centerline. For comparison purposes, we have chosen a value of 100 to be midrange; higher values indicate greater stability, lower values indicate less.

Use our chart along with the description accompanying each design to assist you in choosing the plan that is right for you

Canoes Stability Factor Optimum Capacity (lbs)
Marathon 18'6" 49 150 - 250
Rob Roy Solo 13' 71* 110-250
J.G. Brown 16' 74 280 - 390
Canadien 16' 86 280 - 390
Hiawatha 15' 88 150 - 390
Huron Cruiser 15'9" 92 180 - 450
Champlain 16' 92 280 - 450
Solo Day Tripper 17' 92 150 - 250
Red Bird 17'6" 92 280 - 510
Cottage Cruiser 15'6" 97 150 - 450
Freedom 17' 98 150 - 510
Bob's Special 15' 100 150 - 450
Nomad 17' 102 350 - 680
Prospector 16' 103 350 - 540
Freedom 15' 104 150 - 450
Ranger 15' 104 150 - 450
Chaa Creek Expedition 19'9" 105 430 - 820
Freedom 17'9" 111 400 - 680
Kayaks Stability Factor Optimum Capacity
Venture 14 72* 90 - 200
Endeavour 17 100 150 - 260
Resolute 16/6 121 130 - 250
Reliance 20/8 121 250 - 500
True North 19/3 124 300 - 460
Small Boats Stability Factor Optimum Capacity
Stoney Lake Skiff 141 180 - 600
Ontario Whitehall 168 160 - 780
Rice Lake Skiff 169 180 - 600
  Requires skill and experience (except the Rob Roy & Venture - see below)
  Requires skill but the experience will be comfortable
  Comfortable for most paddlers
  Very stable and comfortable for all paddlers

* The stability factor for the Rob Roy and the Venture are deceptive. Both boats are designed for single paddlers seated low in the boat so, even though the stability numbers are low both craft are comfortable and stable.

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