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Submitted: 07-07-2014 by T Comer
I noticed that one of the reviewers thought the Grumman was not a whitewater boat. In the late 60s it may have been the best boat available for whitewater. There were folboats that couldn't make the turns. Kayaks and C1s that were great but no one wore helmets (maybe a WW11 german helmet) so "rolls" were only done in the quieter water at the end of rapids. Other canoes were cheap aluminum or fiberglass so the Grumman was the boat of choice of the early whitewater days.
Grumman made a whitewater model that had a shoe keel (shallow draft)for quick turns and 2 extra ribs for strength. My first was a used standard keel in 1967 and I learned my strokes on the small steams of NC and SC. A few of us formed the Carolina Canoe Club in 1969 and most of our 15 members used Grumman.
I lost that first canoe attempting to run the Savage River in Maryland. We had done the Yough in PA the day before and and the Savage had never been run in open boats. Four paddlers from the DC area ran at 600 cfs. Four more of us tried it at 800 cfs. It wasn't a smart choice...we lost all the boats. Mine was found later somewhere on the Potomac but by that time I had purchased a new Whitewater model.
We paddled pure. No flotation. And many of our trips were first descents. Over the 20 years I paddled we ran streams up to Class 5. No flotation meant we had to limit our big river runs to low to avg water levels because waves over 3 feet would always put water in the boat as we went thru the crest so a few crashing waves could swamp a paddler if he/she couldn't find an eddy.
The one problem that eventually wore out the Grumman was repeated rock hits on the stern. Vertical drops meant a dive into often foaming water with the bow. As the bow exploded back up into the air, the stern the drove into the water behind me. Rocks would often be below the surface and that pounding eventually would weaken the strong angle iron located just behind the kneeling paddler. Sharp waves also could cause the stern to find submerged rocks.
Drops over 5 vertical feet were difficult because the bow dove so deep that one would take on too much water. Still I ran many that were higher and one that was 11' without turning over or swamping.
We looked for streams with drops exceeding 25' per mile and paddled some with more than 100' of drop (Chatooga, Wilson Ck Gorge etc). Some other great streams...Obed, Nolichucky, Nantahalla, New R in NC and Va and the New in TN. But the most fun for me were the small technical streams that required quick turns, eddy turns and ferrying to work my way thru long rapids.
I had to sell the 2nd canoe after it wore down but it still made a good, not great, lake canoe. My 3rd survived the hundreds of streams and rivers and sits dented and abused but sadly unused in my backyard. It still has some whitewater left in it but I'm afraid that I don't have any desire left in me.
But, yes. The Grumman is a fantastic whitewater boat requiring strength and skill. Unfortunately, the new ABS canoes are filled with air bags and thigh straps so there are probably no true whitewater canoers out there any more. If you can "roll" a canoe in whitewater then it's just not right to call it canoeing.
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