I am considering taking my Bell Bucktail into the BWCA rather than teaming up in a tandem. I’m going with a small group and the arrangement of people/canoes affords me this opportunity (and still abide by the permit). Does anyone have experience with this type of boat in the BWCA? How did it go? I’m leaving in a week!
We Had a Bucktail
Also spent in excess of 30 trips in the BWCAW. IMHO, I think you COULD, if you stick to small waters and easy portage landings. BUT, many of the landings are rocky and unlevel and that sit-on-bottom boat will be a little difficult to get out of at many landings. Also, the boats volume is a bit small, especially if you get some large waves. So, I believe I would look for a larger solo and use the Bucktail only if you have no other options, and with caution. WW
Portage logistics thoughts
Give some thought to group dynamics when traveling in the BWCA. Time spent on portages is usually about half your travel day and there are definite efficiencies favoring tandem canoes. Each solo canoe in the group adds another item to carry and another trip to make on every portage, resulting in less mileage in a day and slowing the group. Two trips across a third of a mile portage is an hour or more gone. If you pack light in a tandem canoe situation, both paddlers will not have to walk each portage twice (more like 1.5 times), and that same third of a mile portage can be cleared in 40 minutes. If you put 3 paddlers in a canoe, they can get all gear in that canoe across every portage in just one trip, making 20 mile plus days attainable. That one third mile portage will be cleared in 20 minutes, giving you an additional 40 minutes of paddling time and you will be 2.5 miles further down the next lake. And this time savings is realized at every portage. If the rest of your group are seasoned BWCA travelers in tandem canoes and they have an epic journey they want to make, I'd advise going tandem with someone or you will slow the group. Of course if no epic journey is planned, by all means go for it, but expect that your boat is going to get all scratched up.
Thanks, let me add more detail…
Thanks for the info, that’s some good stuff to think about. Here’s a little more info to help everyone help me: There are 7 of us. It was either pack 3 guys in one boat or do three tandems and a solo. We all have a mix of paddling experience and expectations. There is one other guy who wants to go solo but he has a 14’ plastic kayak so it’s a coin flip between the two of us. Our trip is not ‘epic’,…two portages of modest length to base camp. Day trips for fishing, sight-seeing, etc. So the boat would be weighed down for the first and last days = 4 loaded portages. The rest of our portages would only include fishing gear and lunch. I am concerned about scratches, but I want to paddle my canoe, not enter it in a fashion show. I am not averse to getting wet and I’m pretty good at boarding and deboarding my Bell.
What Is Your Route?
Sounds like that would be doable since the portages are few. And if you have 3 tandems to share the load, you wouldn't have to carry a lot of weight. Definitely better choice than the kayak IMHO. Ours was in the 'glass layup and quite well made, so I wouldn't worry about a little scraping and scratching. It IS a nice little boat! Here's a pic of the pair we had. If you look at the one on the right, it will show you how the boat will "Sit" with a 270-280 lb load. It was definitely small for me, 6'2" and 260ish. WW
Good info again
I am 6’ 185lb and I should be in the +/-240lb load range when all is said and done. The tandem groups are OK with taking some extra gear,…as long as they get their turn in the Bucktail during the day trips. Fair trade I suppose. Mine is “Fiberlar” (and happens to be the same color as yours).
How do they paddle with a single blade? I’ve never tried it. I’ve only double bladed mine.
I Prefer the Single Blade
IMHO the single blade works better because you have to clear the gunnels with the kayak paddle. Of course, I prefer singles anyway. A short, 48-49" paddle worked very well for that boat. And that fiberlar is Bell's 'glass layup and is well made. Wish you lived nearby and I'd loan you 48" Bending Branches Viper to try. Good luck. BTW, what entry point you heading out of? WW
WW, We’re heading out of entry 25 Moose Lake. I’ll have to deal with some motorized traffic in Moose and Newfound, but that’s kinda my wheelhouse. I am from southeastern Wisconsin where the lakes are teeming with motorized traffic. Route: Moose Lake to Newfound to Splash to base camp in Ensign. TBD Day trips from there. Hope to get up to Knife and down to Disappointment among others.
I cant think of why not
you can reenter and exit your pack canoe a number of ways. I usually get out by spinning myself around and kneeling in the boat and exiting when kneeling. Sometimes you have to test the depth of the exit point as in any solo one boat exits are problematic for water depth occasionally.
I am using my Rapid Fire on a Superior trip to the Slates later in the summer and also Waabakimi which is sort of BWCA on steroids…farther north.
The only issue with a pack boat might or might not be size. Some do quite well on larger lakes. The Lost Pond is sometimes used on the shores of Maine in the Gulf. It rides like a cork. Of course sea sense takes precedence.
Practice run,…a success
I just got back from a fully loaded practice run. My load was nicely distributed with some room for adjustment, if needed…and my rod holders are clear of my paddle stroke