Most ordinary canoes will make excellent rowboats. If you already own a canoe, there's a good chance you can convert it for rowing.
Rowing a canoe is quite different from paddling one. You will have more stability because you are sitting lower and (if rowing solo) you will be in the middle of the boat. You will be applying power on both side evenly, so you won't need to correct your direction every stroke. You won't need to reach over the side, and you won't need to "change sides".
And the oar blades will be much farther out from the side of the canoe, so you can turn much more easily. If you have ever been caught paddling a canoe in a strong wind and unable to turn it into the wind, you will know what a problem it can be. With a pair of oars you will have much more turning power and much better control.
With the FrontRower™ rowing system you have the best of both worlds - the forward facing position of paddling and the power and exercise quality of full body rowing. Plus you have the ability to row hands free.
It's not difficult to set a canoe up for rowing and we have drawings showing you what needs to be done.
Tandem canoes designed for causal recreation, touring or cruising make the best rowing canoes. These will be between 16 and 17 feet long with a beam (the maximum width) of between 32 and 36 inches. This type of canoe will have room for one rower with or without a passenger.
Some solo canoes work well for rowing, as long as they have at least 26 inches between the gunwales at the center. Solo canoes will not have room for a passenger.
Canoes designed for whitewater and sportsman's canoes will not make the best rowing canoes because they are too short. They will not handle well at the higher speeds generated by rowing. And they will not travel in a straight line during the long glides between strokes. We suggest you avoid them.
The biggest difference in construction materials is in the weight of the canoe. Materials from lightest to heaviest are: carbon fiber, kevlar, aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and roto-molded plastics. The same size canoe can weigh anywhere from 30 to 90 pounds. This doesn't make too much difference in the water, but it makes a big difference when you are moving it around on land or trying to car-top it. Our preference is for kevlar, which will give you a tandem touring canoe weighing around 45 pounds - light enough to be easily car topped.
Recommended canoe models:
For general touring and exercise rowing, one of the best boats we know of is our Adventurer rowing canoe. We have these boats built to our specifications set up for rowing by a top quality canoe manufacturer. This is our first recommendation.
There are many other canoe models from various manufacturers that can be set up to work with the FrontRower. Some models that are known to work well are listed below.
For solo rowing with room for a passenger: