It must be something about the fall, because a number of people have recently reached out to ask me about the Adirondack Guideboat. Unless you live in the Northeast, you’ve probably never seen one in person. I’ve been lucky enough to row several over the years, including a skin-on-frame model. I’m happy to report they all feel about the same, but it was weird to see the water passing beneath me on the SOF version.

How does it row? Is it fast?

It rows with very little effort and easily tracks in a straight line. Even a ten year old can row this boat. (see kid in background of picture). It doesn’t turn quickly, but that’s not what it was designed for.

I can comfortably row at about three knots. People will tell you it’s fast, but I don’t think that’s fast and that’s the wrong reason to get one. The versatility is the main draw (plus it looks beautiful and bold).

Pinned oars? Really?

(See picture at top of article). The oars are pinned which means your hands can be free to grab a snack, use the binoculars, or hold a fishing rod, all without fear of losing an oar. It does mean that the oar handles overlap. Awkward at first, perfectly normal later. You can’t feather the oars, which means you may whack the top of a wave periodically, but this isn’t a racing boat and feathering just seems like a lot of work.

Can I add a sliding seat?

Sorry for the sarcasm so early in the article, but why would you want to ruin a beautiful traditional boat with a sliding seat? OK, now for the real answer. I wouldn’t advise it because it takes up so much real estate and moves the center of gravity around. There are way better boats for sliding seats. Further, I understand it doesn’t actually increase your speed much, but let’s not argue.

Can I carry a lot of stuff in it?

You bet. A week’s worth of camping gear, food, and water. is easily carried. A passenger and a bunch of junk for a river clean up: easy. That’s why they call this boat the pick-up truck of the Adirondacks. As it gets more loaded, it gets more stable, but the freeboard goes down (yes, I know that sounds obvious, but it is an important consideration). The speed and seaworthiness also shifts depending on the weight.

I feel perfectly comfortable in small waves or boat wakes when alone. The more people in the boat, the more careful you need to be about shipping water and the passengers destabilizing things.

Can I take out friends?

One is fine. Two kids are ok, but three adults is really pushing it. Back when my kids were little, I would sit at the stern and each kid would get an oar, sort of like a sculling team in a crew boat. The passenger needs to be relaxed or the boat rocks a lot. Some passengers are amused by having a long-handled paddle in hand. This can be useful for steering in tight quarters or getting a little extra speed in a headwind.

Is it stable?

It has low primary stability (tippy when you get in), and high secondary stability once underway. The boat realy doesn’t want to tip over (see above), but once it goes, it will full up with water. I sometimes think of it as a big undecked kayak. I am a lifelong skateboarder and consider myself to have good balance, but I find it almost impossible and unadvised to stand up in the boat. Once I am seated, the boat feels like an extension of me. I am part of the boat and feel very confident. I’ve never capsized.

Can you self rescue?

My boat has two flotation tanks and when it is swamped, it floats, but it isn’t possible to self rescue without going to shore and bailing it out. I have found that if I jump out of the boat, I can climb back in with only minimal water coming in. I’m not sure why you’d want to do this unless you felt like swimming.

How does it do it open water?

I’ve been out in waves and done some multi-mile crossings and managed currents, but I always choose my timing carefully. The sheer at the oarlocks is pretty low and while the boat generally rises to a big wave, small cross chop can easily slop into the cockpit. Not fun. The boat goes into waves reasonably well, but feels a little squirelly in a following sea.

How does it compare to the Adirondack packboat?

The bigger boat rows much more smoothly and has more glide to it. It feels more enclosed and capable. If you don’t have to carry the boat much, I’d get this over the packboat. The light weight of the packboat on land is the chief advantage. On the water, I’m guessing you’d prefer this boat.

How do I transport the guideboat?

A good kayak cart makes it easy to move the boat around on the ground and to the water. It weighs about 70 pounds, but on a cart, it’s not a big deal. I have also transported the guideboat by skateboard and bike comfortably for several miles.

The guideboat is wide at the gunwales and may need a larger roof rack depending on your car. It also has hooked ends that droop down towards your windshields. With the right rack, this is not a problem. (See top right photo). Even with just some foam blocks under the rails, isn’t too bad.

For a six-foot tall, middle aged guy in fair health, getting the boat off the roof is feasible with some cautious lifting and a padded blanket on the ground. I can reverse the process to put it back on, but it is a lot harder. I usually recruit a helper for that, but it is awkward. I transport the boat upside down, but there may be a giant kayak rack with rollers to help transport it upright. Alternatively you could avoid the headache by getting a lightweight Trailex trailer for it.

Is this the right boat for me?

That depends on what you want to do. I’ve had a guideboat for at least 15 years and it has met my changing needs. Here’s an article I wrote about that. I will say that if I was on the older end of the spectrum or a little less agile, I’d be looking for something beamier and with a higher thwart/seat and maybe with a lighter weight if I was cartopping. The guideboat seat is nearly on the floorboards and there’s only one position for your body, which can be hard on the back or legs over time. When I’m older, I’m shooting for a nice peapod on a little trailer, like the one pictured below from CLC boats (I’ll pass on the sailing rig though).