The crafts extraordinary buoyancy was achieved by connecting a flat bottomed keel to flared sides with sharp, double ended entry lines to provide for a load capacity exceeding ten times the weight of the boat. A set of eight foot oars used to propel the boat offer a 5:1 mechanical advantage over paddles. This arrangement allows one person to easily propel and steer the craft.
The boats buoyancy can also be drawback, especially to the uninitiated. Because it rides so high on the water, a guideboat has poor initial stability, which means that it feels tippy at first. However, unlike a canoe, a guideboat has tremendous final stability. It will not flip over but it can tip far enough to flood over the gunwales and scuttle. However, the heavier the load, the more stable the craft becomes and once seated youre safer than a babe in his mothers arms.
Crankiness is a term that has traditionally been used to describe the degree of a boats stability, as in That guideboat is so damn cranky, youll want to be sure youve got the same number of coins in each pocket; that your hairs parted perfectly down the center and that youve got an equal chaw of tobacco in each cheek.
Traditional, wooden guideboats are still utilized today, including some that were originally built in the 1870s. With proper handling, a patch here, a rib replaced there and an annual coat of paint or varnish, guideboats will retain their usefulness for years. In fact, century old guideboats still serve as the primary means of transportation at several of the Adirondacks historic sporting properties including the Adirondack League Club and the Ausable Club.
There have been attempts to duplicate the crafts design and function utilizing a variety of materials including fiberglass, kevlar or cedar strip construction. While the new materials offer advantages such as lighter weight, ease of maintenance, sturdier construction and a price tag that is a fraction of the cost of an original; there remains nothing that can duplicate the warmth, feel or gentle grace of traditional construction.