Submitted: 12-05-2007 by canoedancing
One good thing about the off season is the chance to review notes from the past season and develop plans for next season. When it comes to canoes it's a good time to decide whether to buy or sell or stick with what you've got.
Back in May 2006, I wrote my first impressions of the Nova Craft Pal, and I don't have any reasons to change my review, only add to it a bit. First, I must point out that Nova Craft donated this Pal to the James River 400, so my review may be a tad biased...
It's a darn good canoe for lake and river tripping where big whitewater isn't an issue. It weighs a good bit less than comparable 16 footers making it easier to handle on and off the truck and on portages. Putting the saddle in the canoe as mentioned in my first review was mostly so I could race it. Adding a few pounds of gear amidship gives the boat better balance. As pointed out by the builder, the seats are where they are so the paddler has a better position for a vertical stroke. Moving the seats closer to amidship would mean the paddler has to reach farther to paddle, thus losing the efficiency of a stacked stroke.
The last day I used the Pal this season was about Mile 220 on the James, where the water is lean and the rocks and ledges are everywhere, making it a 'thread the needle' kind of day. My bow partner was an experienced kayaker who wanted to try canoeing and she learned quickly. With hearty bow draws and stern prys we could turn the Pal and place it pretty much where we wanted it each time. On the flats we could out run the recreational kayaks with no problem.
I really like the Pal and recommend it highly for its intended use. If big whitewater is in the trip plan then move up to the Prospector. You'll lose some speed but gain a good bit of maneuverability and riding over wave trains instead of punching through them. If you're traveling on all lakes then I'd recommend the Cronje which is faster.
On the whole however, you won't go wrong if you buy the Pal as your 'go to' boat for most recreational canoeing and wilderness tripping. If you want to test paddle this Pal just give me a shout, I'm always glad to show it off.