Advice Welcome in Canoe Purchase

I have recently moved from Alaska where my husband and I canoed extensively on lakes large and small in Alaska, the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.

He has passed now, and before leaving Alaska, I sold our old Kevlar 17’ 6” canoe which had a shallow V hull and weighed only 52 lbs. It was a dream for us both to paddle in the quiet wilderness lakes, comfortably held enough gear for a week on the back side, tracked beautifully, was fast and posed no problems in rising head winds and rough water (always on the way back to camp – isn’t it always the way.) But, it was a bit too long and awkward for just me to paddle solo in comfort (I must brush up on my “J” stroke, as John used to guide from behind), and my car is now only 15’ long.

So, I am now wishing to return to some lakes alone, and am trying to make a decision as to which canoe and which combination of specifications will be best for me – and my 55lb. canine buddy, as well as occasionally bringing along a friend. I have been thinking that a 15’ would be best, in order to maintain the speed and tracking of a longer canoe, but perhaps I am wrong, and in my search I have been drawn to consider the 14’ 6” Merrimac Tennessean. It is a tandem and they mention a “flat hull with 1” keel”, and the weight isn’t too bad. They are beautiful canoes, and I am prepared to take good care of it.

Any thoughts, experiences, advice is welcome. Thanks, so much. Kris

Sorry for your loss
It is difficult to find a canoe that will solo easily and carry a tandem pair plus pet but it can be done (tell us your combined load weight so we can suggest specific models). You may want to investigate a solo AND a small tandem. Will you carry camping gear?

Look at Wenonah, Northstar and Swift for a start. Also Clipper if you are located NW.

Is not usually determined by waterline length. It’s a fun ion of horsepower (paddler) and skin friction

Few paddlers can get a long hull to hull speed and most fall far short especially with a dog the hard part is finding a balance between volume needed (dog) and skin friction. Ladies usually go for smaller volume canoe ms with less skin friction. But the dog ruled. Because there are often stability issues with dog and hard to handle tandems solo I notice more are comfortsble with low seats as in pack canoes like the Jeewaydin 14 from Swift or the RapidFire from Placid

Tell us what is usually available in your area. I think Clipper makes a nice shorter solo

On the right track.
You definitely get style points if you’re starting off by looking @ Merrimack boats. Despite that I would second the comment about looking at Northstar as well. If you’re ready to spend Merrimack dollars then you’re options are really open. I’d also recommend Lincoln and Wenonah. Good Luck!


– Last Updated: Aug-27-15 4:48 PM EST –

There are a lot of good solo options, but since you occasionally may want to bring a friend, that rules out pretty much all of them.

Perhaps something like the Wenonah Solo Plus would be a good option for you. Or perhaps a tandem that is known to be easy handle solo, such as a Nova Craft Bob Special, or perhaps a Prospector model from nearly any mfr. They paddle nicely solo. Nova Craft and Swift make nice Prospectors and Swift's Keewaydin 16 is also a tandem that will handle well solo.

Hemlock Eaglet?
A large solo/small tandem offered in multiple seating configurations. Dave Curtis has an excellent reputation for his build quality. Only issue I can think of is testing/purchase on west coast, as I think Dave sells directly from his shop in western NY.

You might consider
Renting or borrowing for those occasional tandem outings. That would enable you to have a lighter, quicker, much less windblown canoe for frequent outings with your dog and gear.

Buy something made in USA or Canada

Is there really any other choice?
I’ve never seen or heard of a canoe that was made anywhere BUT the USA or Canada. No doubt they exist, but who would go to the trouble of finding one that was made overseas when it’s so much easier to procure one that was made here?

WeNoNah Solo Plus
The Solo Plus would be ideal for what you want. Lightweight, plenty of room for you and your dog, and camping gear, should you desire to spend the night. And fine for two paddlers if you want to bring a friend.

Small tandem
I’ve had good luck with solo + 75-lb dog(or two) and tandem using a Bell Morningstar(15.5’). Like any tandem, it’s wide for a solo, but the tumblehome on the hull helps with the reach issue. Very predictable stability.

If the hull is not symmetric(some modern designs are not), paddling backwards from the bow seat is not an option. The Morningstar trims well with a large dog if I paddle from a kneeling thwart or improvised pedestal seat aft of center.

Setting a canoe up with seats and thwarts that can be rearranged for different uses is usually not hard. is one good source for parts.

Soloing a tandem does mean you have a lot of sail area exposed and not much boat in the water if a breeze picks up.

Wind -
There was a time when I felt safer paddling an empty canoe in white or rough water. Now I’m much more happy and secure with a loaded boat. Wind is worst element.

With respect, I must disagree
Asymmetrical canoes can be paddled backwards if they have level bench seats. The asymmetry in the hull is slight and minor trim adjustment is all that might be needed. And, yes, I have done it.

Fair enough
Paddling an asymmetric hull backwards is certainly possible, but the hull will not respond as designed. The difference may or may not be important depending on a host of variables.

My Morningstar prefers going forward. I can feel a difference in how it handles, but someone else might not mind.


– Last Updated: Sep-03-15 3:39 PM EST –

I used to solo a Bell Morningstar until I replaced it with a Colden Starfire. I mostly made the switch because I wanted a boat that weighed less than the Royalex Morningstar. I have been pleased with the Starfire it is quicker and more responsive. It is not cheap, about the same as a Merrimac, and rarely available in the used market.


I hope to get a starfire one day and would love to hear more about your experiences with it if you have time. I saw some photos from a freestyle get-together this summer and there were at least 3 of them there. Maybe when I retire, or win the lottery :o)

More on Starfire
I am fairly tall, over six feet before I got old and started to shrink. And, I came with a long torso and short legs. That makes it fairly easy for me to reach across a wider boat. So…I have tended toward using larger boats for solo work because I can and also because I like the versatility they provide when it comes to loading them. I don’t have a lot more to say about the Starfire because it is so damn pretty that that I hate to bring it out and ding it. It has mostly been paddled in slow moving twisty creeks and it is very well suited for that. Most of the ones that I have seen at freestyle events were paddled as tandems. Colden will set them up either way. When I ordered mine I asked for a solo but also asked to have it constructed with the heavier layup schedule used for the tandem. I figured my widow might get more for it if she could sell it as tandem also.


That is a word I’d use to describe the Starfire. Turns, ferries, everything was easy to do. But, if you put a paddle down to snap a dozen photos it becomes starved for your attention. Best boat I’ve ever paddled, bar none. Owned one for a couple years. Decided I wanted something less responsive to allow for my photography. Have regretted it ever since.