Moore Canoeing

Pat Moore's Proem-85

by Tom Sebring

Reprinted from
Canoe Magazine
April, 1983

Tom Sebring photo of ProemLIKE MOST EVOLUTIONARY processes, canoe design generally inches along. Racing designers fine-tune as permitted by rules and recreational/sport designers amplify and improvise on their usually well-established themes.

Once in a while, however, a mutation appears. Different in concept, radical in execution, startling in its difference. Pat Moore, legendary canoeman, has designed the Proem-85, an 11-foot, 10-inch mutant solo canoe. In appearance, construction and performance, this boat represents a radical departure from current design trends. No, it doesn't have three ends, but the traits it does have seem to ensure its survival and even its proliferation! In the first place, this boat is short. Where boats this length have been seen in the past, they were inevitably built to be propelled with a double-bladed paddle while seated on the bottom of the boat. Shades of Nessmuk! However, the Proem is a kneeling boat.

Next, the canoe is asymmetrical, but not with the widest section aft of center as in many modern canoes. The Proem is widest about a foot forward of center. The intention here is improved replacement of water displaced by the boat's passage. (Most designers opt to make displacement more gradual rather than doing the same with replacement.) Moore has compensated for the resulting abrupt forward quarters by making the entry extremely hollow. The waterline is actually concave over the first few feet rather than convex as with most canoes. The bow quarters are also extremely flared. In effect, the bow looks as if it's been pinched by a giant finger and thumb. The stern (if you can call the last 7 feet of an 11-foot boat the stern) tapers gently over its length to a tall, fine and straight-sided stern. The sheerline is very strong, with tall stems making the center look shallow. The Proem's departure from conventional design parameters represents the depth of Pat Moore's rethinking of canoe hydrodynamics.

Pat also has extensive experience in fiberglass fabrication, having started years ago, and has produced an impeccable product. While layup and resin remain proprietary secrets, all indications are that the boat is structurally sound with good resin-to-cloth ratio, nice gelcoat, and no mat or woven roving apparent.

The Honduras mahogany gunwales are constructed in what is touted as a "trilaminate." This again is a proprietary technique, though the rails are apparently bonded on in three longitudinal sections. As the boat and trim technique are new, no data is available on its durability. Two mahogany thwarts and a new pedestal seat complete the package. This seat represents a hi-tech adaptation of the whitewater slalom paddlers' favorite arrangement; similar pedestals of ethafoam have been used for years. This one is a sculpture of fiberglass, filled with the required flotation and designed to slide for trim adjustment. Very few fiberglass canoes can touch the Proem when it comes to visual appeal. This boat could show at a museum of modern art!

In use, though, some get-acquainted time helps.

The first few strokes tell you that the Proem is fast. As you cruise along in company, you find yourself easily creeping up on the most popular l3 1/2-foot freestyle boats, even when toting a load. This boat is aptly promoted as a "vest pocket cruiser."

The trade-off is in stability. The Proem is somewhat erratic in resistance as the boat is rolled up, due to the complex hull shapes employed. But its on-center and final resistance are adequate for experienced paddlers. The diminutive size allows good paddlers to turn the boat radically; you can either carve nice smooth turns or, with practice, whip the Proem right around. The boat was surprisingly affected by wind -- no doubt a product of the tall stems and short overall length. Affected, not unmanageable. The new pedestal afforded excellent control, though the height may not suit all paddlers, and supplementary knee padding was required. It's too bad no provisions were made for attaching bow and stern painters for cartopping or mooring.

Pat Moore has broken new ground with the Proem 85. The radical departure from current design parameters is justified by the canoe's performance. The Proem's size and beauty may well inspire a whole new breed of urban paddlers, as the boat can be stored in an apartment or other small space, and can turn a park pond into a wilderness. The Proem is a "first statement"; it represents a venture into uncharted regions of canoe design and paddling contexts. Its success will be a measure of the evolutionary state of canoesport itself.

2011, Pat Moore note: This was a nice review. However, it represents at least one major item of misinformation which persists to this day and negatively affects appreciation of the Proem. I'll also make a couple of other points while I'm at it.

  • Regarding asymmetry, the reviewer grossly misunderstood the technical design of the Proem. Its center of buoyancy is radically AFT, not forward. Indeed, it is a full six-inches aft. If that does not seem like much, if you wished to move a symmetrical canoe's center of buoyancy so far aft, simply by moving it's largest section aft, you would have to move it back about EIGHTEEN inches. I can only guess that the reviewer must have taken a superficial look at the Proem's greatly flared freeboard in the bow and assumed his mistaken conclusions.
  • The reviewer's claim that, "The boat was surprisingly affected by wind—no doubt a product of the tall stems and short overall length," suggests that he never paddled it in the wind. No doubt his mistaken appraisal was, again, a product of a superficial look at the boat. The Proem's stems are not particularly tall. They are even lower than most canoes. The shortness of the boat, however, creates an optical illusion that the stems are unusually tall. So, my guess is that the reviewer looked at the illusion of tall stems and assumed that the canoe would be affected by wind.
  • This is not a correction, only an observation, while I'm at it. The reviewer said, "The trade-off is in stability. The Proem is somewhat erratic in resistance as the boat is rolled up." The reviewer was probably correct in giving this warning to the reader. However, for someone who has never been in a canoe but has heard that they are "tippy," the stability of the Proem is probably about what they would expect of a canoe. In my experience of introducing thousands of people to their first experience in a Proem or Reverie, it is only "experienced" canoeists, accustomed to plopping their butts in tubs of canoes that require practically no skill or balance, who are surprised by the Proem's tenderness. For those who invest the time and effort to develop more advanced skills, however, that tippiness turns to a responsiveness which is a loved reward of the Proem, a feeling on the water that no mere tub can deliver.
Perhaps I've discredited the reviewer to the point where the whole review is now a wash, but those are the facts.

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