I was in the same boat as you last year and did quite a bit of research. Also have been out and about a fair bit in the canoe we bought.
The biggest factor we have found is weight, particularly if you are car topping and going solo. Our 16 ft Novacraft Pal weighs in at under 30 kg (about 28 I think) which is considerably lighter than some and it is not easy to handle on your own or with a child. With another strong adult it is OK. Portages with camping gear can be tough even with Arnie as a partner.
The Apache Canoes are composite and the more expensive lay ups are considerably lighter but more fragile - If I had the money I would have gone for one of these. The Hou Canoes are some sort of plastic and will be considerably heavier for an equivalent canoe.
Go to Song of the Paddle forum if you haven't already, there is loads of info on there.
Ok. Thankyou. I was figuring that the 14 foot would be lighter but not sure whether it would allow for two paddlers. I would use a trolley to take the canoe the short distance to canal as I only have the Spyder trike not a car!
I consider my 15' Apache suitable for two for a day's paddling but really only solo for multiday treks. It's a lovely boat but you compromise a little bit of stability in exchange for how responsive it is. You definitely need to be on your knees for anything grade 2 and above especially if loaded (something I have difficulty doing these days).
It's still quite heavy for one; I can just get it on the Defender on my own.
14 foot is a little too small for being 2 up, depending on the size of the two. Once I get my lunch etc in there it'd definitely be too small!! My lad and I are 6 footers and our 15 foot works well. The old canoe adage is you can have lightweight, carrying capacity and toughness, pick any 2!! If you pay plenty money you can have all three!
A 14 footer plastic canoe hits lightweight and toughness, sacrificing carrying capacity
A 15 foot plastic hits carrying capacity and toughness
A 16 footer plastic hits carrying capacity ++ and toughness
For composites you get
A 14 footer hits lightweight sacrificing carrying capacity
A 15 foot hits lightweight and carrying capacity
A 16 footer hits carrying capacity ++ and is still reasonably lightweight
This is obviously a gross simplification, composites are pretty tough especially if you are only using them on flat water. Also, I think going solo in a 16 foot boat is too much like hard work to maneuver and to handle off the water, it can be done but it's just more work.
I have paddled a lot of boats and have settled on;
A15 foot composite boat for solo flat water work, can do two up day trips but would be tight for overnighters. Lightweight, easy to handle on and off the water
A 15 foot plastic boat for comfortable day trips, can do overnighters and is great for rattling down rivers. Pretty tough, not as good to handle off the water due to weight but a lot of displacement so a decent load carrier.
From what you are saying a 15 foot apache sounds about the best as long as you are predominantly solo and flat water. You will find them a little harder to get used to than a heavy plastic hou or venture etc but the payback is better handling on water. It won't be to hard to get used to it
It takes 3 weeks to make as the fibre glass has to cure for at least a week. Not sure about when it can be delivered. All of the equipment I ordered such as trolley,air bags, and paddle were delivered from a number of outlets in 2 days!
There's nothing in the rules that says you can't go to do your essential shopping via the canal or that canoeing isn't an acceptable sport (I suppose it depends how far the canal is away from you though).