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.I bought my Nova Craft Prospector in May of 2005 and to this point, according to my log book have about 338 kilometers on her. I have paddled lots of other canoes but fell in love with this one. Simply put it is like the Jeep of the canoe world, agile, maneuverable, and able to go anywhere it is pointed. Like the 4X4 Jeep itís not a speed demon, but since when was canoeing about speed? Tandem it is a dream to paddle with a load of gear and it still has room for the dog to relax. Even fully loaded it remains responsive and sideslips with ease. Solo it becomes like ballet dancer turning on a dime with change to spare. You wouldnít expect that from a large canoe but with one good box stroke I can spin the nose around well past 180 degrees from where I started and with the second stroke can be powering in the opposite direction to what I was traveling two seconds ago. Leaned over hard and paddling Canadian style will bring much of the volume out of the water increasing ease of paddling and handling even more. The weight is not so much of an issue to me. At 85lbs it is about half my body weight but learning how to pick a canoe up solo properly and building that muscle memory is the important part. Without learning how to roll a canoe up onto your shoulders properly even lighter canoes are a pain to handle. Once you learn the proper technique the 85lbs seems to melt away, at least until at end of the first kilometer of portaging! Also the Nova Craft stock yoke is a deep dish made of ash and is quite comfortable unpadded in comparison to anything else I have seen. Some people do not like the rope carry handles on the ends, and I have to agree, but after the first week I stopped noticing them. I always carry my canoe solo on my shoulders, it is just so much easier to be self reliant, so I only use the end ropes to tie the nose and tail down when on the car. This canoe is tough too, and will take a beating and still work like a million bucks. I have seen older Nova Craft Prospectors that looked like they had been through a war or something, but they were still graceful and dignified on the lake, even after taking on the arduous white water. This may be the best all around canoe in the world today coming in three different lay ups to suit individual needs, and the company is very easy to deal with as well. They have returned my questions the same day they I e-mailed them and even sent me replacement decals free of charge when they came off on a trip. This combined with a lifetime guarantee on their product has won my loyalty.
I would rate this canoe a 9.5/10 as is and if I could afford a custom build, to add a few minor changes I would give it a full 10/10. If you can only afford one canoe and you want it to do everything and last a life time, buy the Nova Craft Prospector.I have test-paddled this boat twice in looking for a new canoe to replace my Mad River Explorer 17 with something lighter, shorter and more maneuverable, and believe it is the one I will buy, due to its versatility and relative ease of use.
This boat strikes me as handling and tracking pretty well, but I was testing it solo, with no load on a windy day and a shallow lake, so I had to work to control it. I imagine it would be much easier to steer with a bow paddler and even a light load.
Nova Craft is probably the best Canadian canoe maker and is upping its profile in the US canoe market, and runs with Mad River and Wenonah. Nova Craft is already miles ahead of Old Town in its boats. Nova Craft has designed some good hulls, including the hi-tech Retro Chestnuts, Bob Special and Prospector, and makes a good fit and finish boat. The Royalex Lite is a nice compromise for those who want Royalex's durability but not its heavy weight.
I am a little confused whether the NC Prospector 16 in Royalex Lite weighs 59 lbs. or 64 lbs.? I have seen it advertised at both weights, and the seller whose boat I tested told me 64 lbs. I was able to handle the boat better than my 75-80 lb. Explorer 17, and to get it up over my head and onto a car, so even if it is 64 lbs., it is quite a bit lighter than the Explorer, which is made of full thickness, bomb-proof, Royalex.
Plus, my seller's boat had vinyl gunnels and skid plates, which he puts on all his boats, standard and which add a pound or two to the weight. I do not know if you need skid plates initially on a Royalex Lite boat, especially if you do not plan to drag over or run into a lot of rocks.
At any rate, I am going to buy one of these boats and highly recommend it for all uses on lakes and rivers, based on my two test-paddles. OK, I own an Old Town Tripper XL, I also own a Bell Morning Star, real nice with wood trim and dark green inside and out. I now have had more than a few trips in my Nova Prospector and giving that they are all Royalex, and yes I have time in other boats, i.e. Spirit 2, Mohawk 17, Northwoods etc, if I could have only one boat, it would be this Nova Prospector.
No, it is not as quick and nimble as the Bell, nor will it haul 1500 lbs like the XL, but it will hold its own quite respectfully in all conditions. I have been solo and light playing at different angles to the wind and actually got it to sail up wind with it heeled over to the lee side. This boat does not let me down in any aspect.
The most surprising thing about it was how comfortable it was to portage. I have fun with the other boats, and enjoy each ones special purpose, but when I don't know what to expect, I take the prospector. I can't recommend it enough. Only downer is the stupid rope pulls in the bow and stern. The dealer in Cabin John, MD gave me the best deal.Have fun, be safe, go far, u can do with this boat.