Another Comparison: SRT and Shearwater

hi again everyone. In the category of large volume solos… could someone describe the difference between the Hemlock SRT and the Swift Shearwater in terms of handling, etc. ?

Let me know if these comparisons are getting old. It’s helping me a lot. I’m seriously narrowing down this too-long list to a manageable demo list.

Thanks again!


Check out the Raystown PA gathering
… in October. Good chance both boats will be there.

as one of the poor suckers that lives “out west” and where canoes, especially solos, are very difficult to come by i appreciate the comparisons! please post the information you know or find out. that’s what this board is for. no way could i make it to raystown n’or have a clue as to where it is other than it’s at least 2000mi away. the canoes your investigating all have my interest. i’ve looked here in oregon and washington and can find no canoe demo days that offer any variety of canoes. and if some paddle shop does offer anything it’s 99%kayaks and a tandem canoe. thanks!

I hear ya Boo
Swift has nothing in the west and if that weren’t bad enough I can’t even get them to return an email. They must not need west coast business

You will love the SRT, if you can aford it. (worth every penny.) Dave is a great guy, and the SRT is a great boat. It is a boat that you might not love at first, but you will if you paddle it enough.


– Last Updated: Aug-17-05 9:35 PM EST –

The SRT, in my opinion, is hands down the best boat for it's intended use, Solo River Tripping. But then again it did pretty well on my recent Boundary Waters trip too, but it is a bit heavy compared to the Peregrine/Kestrel for portaging.

I have logged many miles in an SRT but only a quick paddle in the Shearwater. So I won't comment on the Shearwater, as I don't feel I had enough time to base an honest comparison.

As far as the SRT, the first thing you will notice when you get in is how deep it is. But once you get used to it's depth other boats only feel half there, lol. It is deep and fairly narrow, which allows for easy cross strokes and is a very dry boat even in large waves. The second thing you will notice is it's livelyness, (she may feel a bit tippy). What it lacks in initial stability is more than made up for with it's secondary, which is very depndable and reliable. You will learn to trust the secondary and it will bring you back from situations that look questionable. She is quick to respond to very subtle paddle strokes and weight shifts. She can carry a mountain of gear and still run dry. The initial stability also increases somewhat when loaded. Has good hull speed and tracks better than you would expect from a boat the manuevers so well. Hemlock quality is top notch.

Dave Curtis (at Hemlock) I'm sure would be more than happy to give his opinion of the two boats. He won't stear you wrong.


Don’t tell me you went and got an SRT?


Ok here is what I can tell you
Both are fine canoes but different as night and day in feel and usage.

The SRT is a stout rounded bottom river canoe with high sides (dryer ride in rough water) a good amount of rocker for turning and making snap decisions. It is designed mainly as a kneeling canoe and has better secondary stability than primary. It’s a very capable tripper. I wouldn’t consider it a beginners boat but more of a paddlers love affair, see specifications at Hemlock Canoe Works. Windwalker has spent many hours in one so I hope he can tell you more.

The Shearwater is also a fine tripper but is aimed at calmer conditions. 16’ asymmetrical and plenty of volume. It sports some rocker but is a better go straight boat for lakes or big rivers. The mildly shallow arch bottom has both good inital and secondary stability. A good wokhorse canoe. WesD has spent many hours in one and maybe he can speak better of it than I can.

I will say this…Hemlock boats are still built one at a time by hand by the same hands that have been making canoes for years. the Craftsmanship is impeccable and predictable. I can not say the same for Swift from stories I’ve heard from some owners.

Many times a good look at a used older boat of the same model will show that they just don’t build them like that anymore.

Damn Mike you must have been typing
at the same time I was.

better comparison
A better comparison would be the Shearwater, the Prism, and the Magic.

two good boats
I had one of each at one point. I agree with everyone else’s comments. Can’t beat Hemlock quality and the SRT is a versatile boat…performs all around similar to a Bell Wildfire in many ways (I paddled alongside a Wildfire quite a bit). But I liked my Shearwater better than my SRT…it’s a better lake boat and feels more effortless to paddle than an SRT and it’s more stable (nice bonus) and it works just fine on the rivers around here and is better for paddling against the current than the Shearwater. I also prefer the handling of the Shearwater to the SRT and for me it’s more fun for casual freestyle. I’d go for expedition kevlar and personally I’d avoid the kevlar skid plates.

If you’re going downstream in fast rivers with a load, you can’t beat the SRT. The high sides really give a feeling of comfort in standing waves and such.

very true

Thanks. Great info
thanks, guys. I’ll get in touch with Dave Curtis next week when he gets back from a vacation. In the meantime, I’ll demo a Shearwater, a Prism, maybe a Magic, and madmike’s Mohawk Odyssey 14. Other than Souris River, I think I’m set with some great possibilities. Once I have a sense of whether they can handle my weight, I’ll be able to pay attention to the nuances of handling.

Thanks for the info. This has been a great help.


solo canoe
At your height of 5’2" & 240lbs., I think you’re gonna be feel somewhat cramped in a Magic. It’s only 23" at the gunwales, so it’s very narrow canoe. I have my doubts you’re gonna like it for that very reason, but that’s just my opinion. These opinions shared by others are good reference points, but test paddles are going to be the only way you’re going to know for sure what you like. And don’t make it a 15 min. test paddle either. It’s not enough time to accurately evaluate a boat. I think you need at least an hour in each boat to get a good feel for whether it’s the boat for you. You’ll find in some instances that your opinion on a boat can change dramatically over an hours time. For the first 20 mins. when I test paddled a Magic, I thought it was a bit tippy & didn’t think I’d like it. But after an hour I was very comfortable with it & realized it was actually a very stable boat. It was a joy to paddle & I really fell in love it. Had I only given it 15 mins., I probably would have left with a different impression & passed on it. Good luck.

good points, both
i’ve been wondering the same thing about the magic so we’ll see if i feel cramped. i’ve got a chance to take a two hour intro to solo canoeing class in a shearwater and can deduct the price of the class from the final cost. that’ll give me a good feel for the boat and the class cost isn’t that high to begin with. from there i should be much better set to demo others, too.


size, shearwater, etc.
All four of the boats (Magic, Prism, Shearwater, and Odyssey 14) you are looking at will handle your weight very easily. I hadn’t thought about the width at the gunwales of the Magic, so I’m glad someone mentioned that. I really like the Shearwater, and wouldn’t be surprised if you do as well. Having read your most recent posts, that is the one I would be inclined to recommend. Good luck!

2 hr. intro solo class
That’s an excellent starting point with the Shearwater. As already mentioned, it’s also a great boat that I’ve paddled alot. I don’t know if it’ll be your 1st choice, but my guess is you’ll prefer it over the Magic.