Selecting a Row Boat

Custom Made Adirondack Guideboats

Selecting a Row Boat


Size matters in selecting any boat, and it is particularly important in selecting a small row boat. A boat that is too small or too large is of limited use to its owner. As familiar as we are with our own boats, if you are unsure as to size, feel free to give us a call. Over the years, we have become very good at helping people select what is best for them.

row boat


There are no exact rules when considering what size row boat to buy, but over the years, we have found that the following questions are good to consider before making a final decision.

  • What are you going to be doing with your boat?
  • How many people will typically be in your boat?
  • Do you live on the water?
  • Are you going to be car-topping your boat?
  • Will you be having help?
  • How old are you?
  • How big are you?
  • How strong are you?
  • What kind of water are you going to be rowing on?

The answers to these questions describe what size boat is appropriate. If you’re a large man going out rowing or fishing with a friend, our larger boats like the Kevlar Guideboat, Cedar Guideboat or the Vermont Fishing Dory would be on the top of the list as far as comfort. Although, the same man going out by himself, might consider a smaller boat like our 12-ft Vermont Packboat.

On one occasion, a small woman in her early 70s and weighing perhaps 100 lbs was torn between our 12-ft Vermont Packboat and the 15-ft Kevlar Guideboat. She rowed both boats, switching from one to the other. She preferred how the larger boat moved on the water, but she liked how much easier it was to handle the smaller boat on land. When she asked for our advice, we suggested that she get the boat she preferred rowing, and that is exactly what she chose: the 15-ft Guideboat.

We don’t always suggest going larger, sometimes a smaller row boat is more correct. A man in his 80s recently called to order a 15-ft Kevlar boat. After some discussion, we discovered his age and that he is 5′ 6″.  We suggested that a 12-ft boat might suit him better. (If he lived on the water, we wouldn’t have been so concerned but car-topping the 15-ft boat solo would be a bit of a chore for a man his age and size.)

On another occasion, a man wanted to get one of our 15-ft Kevlar Guideboats for his wife, himself, and their two children, ages five and eight. He asked if the 15-ft boat would be large enough for the four of them. We thought for a bit and then said, “It would probably be fine for now. But in a year or two, it will be too small.” Then we suggested… why not get two of the smaller boats? It could be two parents in one boat, two kids in the other; or parent and child rowing in each boat. Or each of the kids could go out, each rowing in his own boat. We also suggested they come down to the shop and try rowing all of our boats in every configuration. Which they did. After a good bit of testing and conferring, they decided on two of the Packboats, bright red. Which we found surprising. He later explained…”My wife was not at all interested in being responsible for a boat and a child… until she tried the small boat. That was all it took. Rather than cramming everyone into a station wagon, we decided to get two sports cars.”


By dollar value, 87% of our sales are Kevlar composite boats, 7% are our cedar Guideboats, 6% are our cedar Guideboat kits. Since our wooden boats cost approximately four times what our Kevlar boats cost, for most, the only issue is which size Kevlar boat, then color and accessories become the next considerations.

For others, it’s a wooden row boat or nothing. The differences are primarily aesthetic. The handling characteristics are nearly identical. The wooden boat is a bit stiffer, the Kevlar boat is a bit more durable. If the boat is going to be slammed around, the Kevlar is the better selection. Some families own several of our boats. Dad and grandpa use the wooden boat, the rest of the family use the Kevlar.

If you are unsure which row boat to get, give us a call and we will be happy to help. While we are interested in making a sale, what is most important to us is that we help you find a boat that you are going to want to row forever.