Submitted: 08-04-2010 by steve_in_idaho
Been paddling and poling my NC 16' Prospector for about a year and a half now. This canoe was preceded (in my fleet) by an Old Town Camper, Wenonah Fisherman, and Old Town Penobscot. I've spent a lot of time on the water with the Prospector in that time - mostly on rivers and mostly poling. After having the Prospector a while, I sold the OT Camper. While the Camper was a better boat for extremely shallow water (better than anything, probably), the Prospector is much more versatile and shames the Camper with it's secondary stability. After a while longer, I sold the Fisherman - which I had thought I would never do. While the 14' Fisherman is more maneuverable, the Prospecter also had it beat everywhere else except extreme shallow water.
Other than the fact that I get a few more scratches on the bottom with the Prospector, it is faster and more stable than the OT Camper, as well as easier to solo. It is much faster and a more stable than the Fisherman, although more effected by the wind - and pretty much makes up for the lack of comparable maneuverability when leaned aggressively for tight turns (which is easy, due to the wonderful secondary stability of the Prospector).
Compared to the Old Town Penobscot, the NC Prospector gives up some speed and some tracking ease. The Prospector is a little better in secondary stability - but not much. It is more effected by wind than the Penobscot, since the Penobscot has a lower profile and very little rocker. But the Prospector is much drier in the rough, due to it's rocker, it's fuller stems, and higher profile - and easier to turn, also due to it's moderate rocker.
If I had to limit myself to one tandem canoe in the ~$1400 and under price range, it would be a tough decision between the Prospector and the Penobscot. The Penobscot is the better flat-water boat, but the Prospector is better for the rougher stuff. I consider them both to be among the better, if not the best, all-around Royalex canoes - with each leaning slightly to opposite ends of the spectrum but considerable overlapping in their range of suitability. Both boats can be poled easily (the Prospector, more easily climbs drops because of itís rocker), and both can be paddled solo with relative ease. Both are well-constructed and show little or no "oil-canning." Fortunately, I don't have to choose. I do believe that you can cover most general tandem canoe needs with these two boats - as long as you can stand the weight.
Weight is more of an issue here, since my Prospector is the "standard" (heavier) Royalex lay-up. Wouldn't have been my first choice if I was buying new at list price, but mine was left-over stock and I got a great deal on it. This heavier (74lbs) lay-up has shown to be really tough though. Although the bottom is now pretty much covered with surface scratches and a few small dings, it seems to be holding up to my rough treatment with no sign of any damage that might need attention. It as taken some practice - but I find that I can lift and carry the boat by myself pretty well, so long as I don't have to carry it far. The contoured Nova-Craft yoke really helps in that.
My wife and I are still "novice" paddlers, in my estimation. We haven't done anything bigger than higher class 1 tandem, so I can't speak to tandem whitewater performance. But we find the Prospector to be confidence-inspiring and easy to handle in tricky river current. We are learning tandem eddy-turns, peel-outs, back-ferries, and such with no real difficulty in this boat. I have done some cl2 water solo with paddle and with pole, and find it well-suited for that. This is now my primary poling canoe and will likely remain so until I replace it with a lighter composite. I'm not sure if we will go with a composite Prospector at this point, but that is highly likely.
I really like the Nova-Craft seats. They are comfortable and easy to maintain/repair - and they are quiet (no squeaking, as we've seen with the seats on several other caned or laced canoe seats). I also like the fact that Nova-Craft puts grab loops through "tug-eyes" on their boats. And the yoke gets not one, but two bolts on each end into the gunnels. Great construction. Built to last. Although I know it saves some weight - I would prefer not to have the simple individual seat drops, but would rather have "truss style" drops for added rigidity. The Nova-Craft seat drops are more substantial than those that came on my Old Town canoes though, being heavier rectangular stock rather than simple round dowels. Recently, I added a kneeling thwart in the place of the standard thwart ahead of the rear seat - and eventually, I will replace the stock seat drops with truss drops. So my Prospector might be a couple pounds heavier than stock, but I think it will be worth it.
So - if you plan to spend most of your time on moving rivers cl1+ to at least cl2 (and probably a bit higher) the NC Prospector is easily up to the task. Probably one of the best all-around tandem designs for moving and twisting water. Not so much for lakes and other big flat water, although competent there as well (especially with a load). I give this canoe a 9 - only because of the seat drops and because the Nova-Craft Blue Steel composite version should be every bit as good or better in every respect (except the higher price) - with less than 2/3 the weight.