The anatomy of a canoe

Whether you are a pro on the water or have just picked up one of our open canoes for sale, knowing the correct names and parts of your canoe will give you that extra knowledge as a paddler.

This can be a valuable insight when you go to upgrade your gear as well as providing the basic foundation on which your knowledge and skills will be built upon.

Below you will find an annotated guide to help you remember the parts that make up your canoe which, will help with your aquatic adventures in the future:


This is the back end of the canoe. When tandem canoeing, the stern paddler will use their strokes to control the direction of the canoe.


This is the front of the canoe. You can tell the stern from the bow because the bow will have lots of space in front and behind the seat, while the stern seat has very little space behind.


Gunwales are the widened edges at the top of the side of the boat, and are often made from wood or plastic. They run from bow to stern along the sides of the canoe before meeting at the decks.


A triangular covering made of wood, metal or plastic that is at at the bow and stern of the canoe where the gunwales are attached.


Thwarts are used to strengthen the canoe against any potential damage and are cross braces that stretch from one side of the canoe to the other.


Some canoes will have handles next to the decks that allow for easier transportation and carry the canoe safely into and out of the water.


This one is pretty self-explanatory; the seat allows the paddler to sit comfortably and at the optimum distance from the water while paddling. Most canoes have two, three and four seats.


A keel is the centre line that joins the two halves of the hull and runs bow to stern on the canoe.


The beam of a canoe refers to the width of the canoe, with the measurement taken at the widest point.

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