A canoe is a small narrow boat, usually found amongst the Americans and Canadians. It is pointed at the stern and the bow and normally remains open at the top although sometimes they are decked at the top. They are manually powered by human paddlers although sometimes they are attached with sails and small motors to aid in their movement. A kayak on the other hand can be described as a small boat that is usually human powered and traditionally has its deck covered. Additional features include a cockpit that is covered with a spray deck or any other water proof material. This keeps the inside part of the boat free from water sprays and waves. Moreover, the waterproof material allows sailors to capsize and overturn the kayak without getting water into it. This feature also acts as a protective feature that holds the passenger inside the boat so that incase the boat capsizes, the passenger will not be ejected.

Majority of the people cannot tell the difference between a kayak and a canoe and some may argue that the two are similar. However, there are various details that can help one to tell them apart. For instance, in Kayaks the paddler sits facing forward with his legs in front while in a canoe the paddler faces the direction the boat is travelling and he can either chose to sit or kneel upon the hull as he paddles. Moreover, in a Kayak, the paddler uses a double bladed paddle while in a canoe, the paddle is single bladed.


The kayak originated from the native Ainu, Eskimo and the Aleut hunters. This means that the kayak was first used in sub- Arctic regions of northeastern Asia, Greenland. The kayak was used by the natives of the Arctic for inland hunting. Archaeologists have proved that kayaks are at least 4,000 years old and the remains are displayed in the Museum of Ethnology in Munich, the North American department. The origin of the canoe however, is not so definite. This is because the oldest canoe to ever be discovered was in Pesse (Netherlands). A  C14 dating analysis determined that that particular canoe was constructed between 8200 and 7600BC. This canoe is currently on display in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

The design and construction

Canoes are usually made up of the bow, stern, Hull, seat, thwart, deck and the Gunwale. Modern versions of the canoe may include some of the following features: yoke, floatation bags, keel, spray deck, painter ring and a skid plate. Kayaks on the other hand are made up of the following features: amid ships, bow, stern, hull and the keel among other parts. Majority of the modern additional features in Kayaks are put in place to improve the speed and the stability since they are meant for long distances unlike canoes.

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Early canoes were made from wood. The natives would hollow out tree trunks until they were large enough to accommodate a person. The most commonly used trees in the Amazon were the Hymenaea trees however, in North America the white cedar was more popular. Paper birch was used for the exterior. The tree bark would then be sewn together with the tree roots and finally sealed with resin. The resin was used for the exterior together with charcoal and fats. Modern technology has however come up with new and better materials.

The first kayaks on the other hand were constructed from stitched animal skins like seals. The skin would be stretched over a frame made from driftwood. This is because the region was covered in ice and trees were not common. Kayaks were specially built by the person who was going to use it. It was thus referred to as a personal craft as it reflected an individuals taste and preference. On some occasions, the man would be assisted by his wife whose main task was sewing the skins. The special skin jacket, commonly known as a Tuilik, would then be laced to the kayak thus creating a waterproof seal. This seal acted as protection for the sailor as it allowed him to swim in ice cold waters for long hours without freezing. The Tuilik was later on replaced by the use of a spray deck.


Canoes are usually symmetrical about the centerline however many modern designs are asymmetrical with the widest part being behind the beam. Some canoes are also designed with squared sterns- "U", "V" or "Y" shaped. This is done in order to allow the mounting of outboard motors. In kayaks, a V- shaped hull is used to improve the stability of the kayak as well as allow the kayak to easily travel straight. Kayaks are sometimes built symmetrical; however, some designs are asymmetrical with the widest part being behind the mid point.

In conclusion, the canoe and the kayak are very similar. The two are usually combined to make watercraft a success in the world. The main differences can be categorized into three one being that, the kayak is decked while the canoe is not. The other main difference revolves around the fact that the kayak is always seated while in a canoe, the sailor can opt to kneel. Finally, the kayaks are always paddled using a double bladed paddle while a canoe is always paddled using a single bladed paddle that is shorter than the one used in a kayak. However, despite these differences, both boats are great for water sporting and they can be made using the latest technology to suit the persons taste.

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