Puffin 12 as Canoe?? Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 May 2010 11:00


The following (abbreviated) trip report is an interesting illustration of how a Puffin can be adapted to a different use. In this case, the Puffin 12 became a solo canoe. Discussing that possibility with Paul, I was a bit skeptical, but it was nice to see how well it worked out. My concern was that the much higher center of gravity resulting from kneeling in the boat would hurt the stability too much. I guess the 12 can make a pretty good canoe in the hands of a skillful paddler.

Hi Alv,
Just wanted to give you an update on my attempt to convert a Puffin 12 to a canoe. I assembled the Puffin and simply placed a piece of Douglas fir flooring with the edge rounded for comfort over the gunwales and used the Velcro on the deck to hold it in place. Then placed a piece of ½” foam on the floor and hauled it to the river. My girlfriend wasn’t too impressed, but I saw some promise and decided to explore it further. I had four delrin plastic J-clips that fit very well over the rails and built a wooden frame and kneeling thwart. I had to modify the thwart as the most comfortable height for her was almost level with the gunwales. The next issue was that the floor of the Puffin doesn’t have the longitudinal stringers that the 140 has. But I didn’t have either the time or skills to take on that project as I had a trip quickly approaching that I needed the boat for. So I purchased a set of those closed cell anti fatigue/playroom mats that have puzzle edges, and cut them to fit beneath, between and over the keel and the middle cross sectional frame. Eventually, we managed to make it pretty comfortable. I took the boat out for a final test paddle the week before we left, and it paddled pretty well, except that the bottom of the kayak ballooned inward between the cross members and the keel both in front and behind the middle portion where the floor was smooth from the foam. So I simply added two more pieces of foam beneath the keel and the hull took a nice smooth shape. A test paddle out through 2.5 foot mixed waves on the channel to lake Michigan proved how nice the boat took waves.

So we packed the boat, the canoe outfitting and the foam padding in the Puffin’s bag and carried it, along with my PakCanoe 140, three canoe packs, and my custom paddle box with four canoe paddles and a kayak stick just in case. Off we flew to Salt Lake City, and then packed the whole thing into a 4-door Dodge neon and headed off to Bluff, Utah on the banks of the San Juan River. There we met the rest of our party, which included a 160 you sold to my buddy Garth, a 140T that John, Garth’s brother removed the center cross-section from to paddle solo, a Wenonah Vagabond paddled by John’s wife with a kayak paddle, and an Aire Tomcat.

Day 1 – On Easter Sunday in our paddling finest, we launched from Sand Island with a bunch of whitewater rafts. The Puffin’s cross-sectional frames intrude somewhat into the cargo area, but we managed to cajole Laura’s Granit Gear Quetico Canoe Pack into the bow with 5 gallons of drinking water in the stern with a day pack. The upper San Juan has a good current running 4 mph, but all is flatwater as it enters the upper canyon, where it provides some fantastic examples of pictograph panels and a wonderful Anasazi ruin. On the water we realized that the canoe needed to be packed differently as it did not trim well. The first night I had to do a little additional outfitting as we found that the lining ropes attached to the deck grab handles removed the deck ends which are somewhat difficult to reattach when the boat was loaded. So I manufactured D-rings which I attached to the ends of the skin at the stems. That worked flawlessly for the rest of the trip.

Day 2 – We started entering some riffles, and the occasional rapid, as we approached Four Foot Rapid – a nice Class II. We scouted the rapid, and as the trip leader I showed everyone the line through the standing waves which ended up being maybe 3 footers. We ran the tandem through, the IK, and the two canoes. Laura was nervous… with an untested canoe , and everyone else at the bottom. But she pushed off, pulled on her canoe paddle and hit the meat of the rapids straight on. That little Puffin fully loaded dropped into the trough and bounded out just like it was supposed to. The deck helped to make up for the shallow depth of the hull. It ran the drop safely, and after bailing about 2 gallons of water at the bottom of the rapid we were on our way. Rebecca had a swim in a small un-named rapid in her Wenonah. That slowed our progress along with some strong headwinds that Rebecca struggled against even with the double blade. So we did not make the mileage we had hoped and had to make camp at a poor campsite with horrible access.

Day 3 – Gotta make tracks. We’re behind schedule, so we launched without breakfast and dropped a mile and a half down to Eight Foot Rapids, a solid big Class II. We scouted it, and most of the crew decided that the shift from the right channel to the left above a big roller was too risky and opted to line the canoes and the Puffin. I ran a nice clean run with a single power stroke across the river, and Dave ran a clean run in the IK. We continued down through a couple small rapids to Ledge Rapids, a simple Class II drop where the river narrows and builds up along a cut bank. I had a clean run, but Garth and Michele had a perfect run catching a bit more of the meat and eddying out just below. Laura still hadn’t hit her stride, and after looking at it from above, she opted to line. With the sun up, the scenery spectacular, and the winds down we kept making miles, having 14 down by 11 am. We stopped with a beautiful view of the Mexican Hat formation, pulled the stove out and cooked up our missed breakfast. After a short nap we continued down to Mexican Hat and the public boat launch.
Paul Knoerr