Old Town Allagash 174 Canoe  - Our original Family Canoe

(I believe also known as the Penobscot 174 and Discovery 174)
Length 17' 4" / 5.3 m   Beam 36" / 91.4 cm  Weight 83 lbs / 37.6 kg   Capacity 1,500lbs/ 680kg
Solo Avg continuous comfortable cruise 2.5/2.7mph - sprint 4.0mph (no wind)
Tandem/family Speed - GPS test yet to be carried out but est. circa 3.5mph comfortable family cruise
Big, tough triple layer polyethylene hull, stable, capacious, and quite fast family cruiser or expedition canoe with good straight line tracking - but quite heavy.  Getting one off the car roof on your own needs a bit of technique (using a bar tied across the roof rack bars as a fulcrum point helps considerably). The additional weight over it's more expensive sister the Royalex Penobscot 17RX is only really noticeable when lifting it.  Once on the water the extra weight isn't really noticed as it only adds a small percentage to the overall weight when compared to the overall canoe/crew/gear weight.  Very good value for money and an excellent choice as a family canoe.  Can be fitted with either webbing or plastic  (bottom shaped) seats.  My wife preferred the practicality (wipe clean/dry) and the support of the plastic seats so we went for those.  We also fitted two of the additional clip in seats (4 seats total) so it comfortably takes 4 of us - when the children were younger a single clip in seat sufficed as they sat side by side on it.  As with any 17 footer can be a bit of a handful solo if the wind gets up - tends to blow about without any load in it - but probably no more so than a Prospector type hull which has more rocker and higher bows.  However as my paddling skills have improved I can now manage it solo pretty well and it is surprisingly manoeuverable (although obviously nowhere near as agile as the Bob Special) and I have managed some quite convincing canoe ballet in it!  Due to it's longer length it is, faster in a straight line than the Bob Special (as long as there is no wind) so I have new found respect for this canoe.  Can be prone to oil canning (which actually seems to make the canoe more stable) as the PolyLink3 is quite flexible over the large unsupported area in the middle of the bottom of the boat.  If you are using it for tripping, loaded with packs in the centre, then the oil canning would probably not occur as the weight of the gear/packs would hold the hull down into shape in any case (and the same applies if you are paddling solo kneeling in the centre of the canoe).  The Penobscot 17 RX is basically the same hull but built in Royalex which reduces the weight and increases stiffness but is considerably more expensive to buy.

Intermediate Paddler Review Update:  Similar comments as for the Penobscot 17RX below as it has a very similar hull shape but, because of the 3 layer polyethylene construction instead of Royalex, it is slightly less sleek (slower), possibly a little more stable, noticeably heavier (not so noticeable once afloat but definitely noticed ashore) and more prone to the hull oil canning (the bottom of the boat bending or deforming upwards because the 3 layer polyethylene is insufficiently stiff to keep the boat rigid over such a wide unsupported area in the centre of the boat which has quite a flat profile.  Stick your luggage on the bulge to hold it down or just ignore it and carry on regardless.  If it really bothers you you can try adding a few internal stiffening ribs like the traditonal birch bark canoes have). Tough as old boots though and will go on for decades. A great family boat with lots of capacity. Unfortunately it appears that the prices of Old Town 3 layer plastic boats in the UK have substantially increased  these days making it not quite the bargain/budget option it once used to be and there are similar 3 layer models of this size from other manufacturers which may now make far more economic sense at this end of the market.

Old Town Allagash 174
penobscot 174

Old Town Penobscot 17 RX Touring/expedition Canoe  - Our new Family/tandem/solo Canoe

(Essentially the Royalex version of the Allagash/Penobscot 174)
Length 17' 1" / 5.2 m   Beam 35" / 88.9 cm  Weight (Royalex) 69 lbs / 29.4 kg   Capacity 1,200lbs/ 554kg
Solo Avg continuous comfortable cruise 2.6/2.8mph - sprint 4.3mph (no wind)
Fast solo cruise using Otter Tail paddle 3.0mph
Tandem/family Speed - GPS test yet to be carried out but est. circa 3.5mph comfortable family cruise
Thanks to the Royalex construction, aluminium gunnels and additional bracing thwarts this is essentially a lighter, slightly sleeker, stiffer version of the Allagash/Penobscot 174 but with a little less load capacity/family space and it is unfortunately considerably more expensive.  The additional bracing thwarts restrict additional seating space positions more than the Allagash but contribute to the overall hull stiffness.  The additional clip in plastic seats available for the Allagash will only drop in loosely over the narrower aluminium gunnels so do not clip in securely like they do in the Allagash - I've added a combined central webbed seat/kneeling thwart for solo use (plus a clip in plastic seat allowing separate seating for when we paddle as a family of 4). While the aluminium gunnels are stiffer, lighter and narrower than the plastic gunnels on the Allagash I don't find them quite so user friendly being colder and harder (easier to mark/dent  a paddle if levering against the gunnel).  The Royalex material allows a slighty finer bow and stern than the Allagash (more streamlined) which may contribute to the fact that I was able to achieve a higher solo top speed and cruising speed is also fractionally faster than the Allagash.  Canoeing isn't all about speed though and is often more about a nice relaxed paddle.  Interestingly I have noted that when just lazily dawdling down the river the Allagash, the Penobscot and even the Bob Special (despite being much shorter than the other two)  all returned a very similar speed somewhere around the 2.2/2.3 mph range.  When solo, paddling kneeling in the centre, my otter tail paddle seemed to  suit this canoe particularly well allowing a slightly higher stroke rate (at less effort) than my Beaver tail paddle and an easy low strain, low drag, correction at the end of the stroke.  Pushing on a little I found it quite easy to maintain a higher cruise speed of 3.0/3.2 mph.  Overall the Penobscot RX 17 is  very nice and since I have had to reduce my fleet to just one canoe is now my do everything solo/tandem/full family canoe.  Load wise two of my friends and I have been cruising the Norfolk Broads extensively in this canoe with no problems - That's 3 adults with an all up combined weight of around 274kg (c.43 stone) plus enough gear (obligatory stove, bacon, etc) and a trolley for full day tripping on flat water.   Some consider this the best plastic canoe that Old Town have ever produced and if you can afford the price premium (typically £2000 against £1,120 in Dec 2015 now that the remaining Royalex canoes are fetching a premium) over the Allagash/Penobscot 174 and want the best then go for it.  If you paddle solo a lot and need to carry the canoe on your own then you will appreciate the lighter weight compared to the Allagash 174.  If you are on a tighter budget and want value for money then the Allagash/Penobscot 174 makes great sense (although see comments re increased pricing)  and once on the water most families will not notice much performance difference between the two but may appreciate the slightly greater capacity, flexibility in seating positions and possibly a little more stability.

Intermediate Paddler Review Update:  A great tripping/expedition tandem or family canoe (up to 3 large adults or 2 adults and two children) suitable for still and moving waters, faster than average and able to carry a large load. With a nice stiff Royalex hull there is no sign of the oil canning which can afflict the heavier 3 layer polyethylene version and it is much lighter to handle ashore.  I can easily paddle it solo and even manage a little canoe ballet in it (although I avoid high winds solo). I am hankering after rigging it for sailing next!

If you are primarily going to paddle solo then you might want to consider a shorter canoe than this as it can definitely be a handful in windy conditions if not loaded.  Old Town also made a Penobscot 16 which may be more suitable although if you were primarily going to be using it on fairly flat water I'd probably favour a Nova Craft Pal instead which has lower freeboard and windage or for rougher water perhaps a 15ft Prospector style hull with more rocker or for a happy medium a Bob Special.  The only reason I can see myself selling this is that with the kids now grown and independent (and when they do paddle with me they favour solo kayaks) I tend to mostly paddle solo with very little load so a shorter solo/tandem canoe may be more appropriate for me now (and I can hear a Nova Craft Pal calling - So if you have a Royalex or Tuff Stuff Nova Craft Pal you would like to swop  then please contact me!).

Penobscot 17 RX Canoe


Penobscot 17 RX Top
 Spot the difference  -Penobscot 17 Rx on the Left - Allagash 174 on the right
 Allagash vs Penobscot