Blackhawk Starship advice

I just became the proud owner of my first-ever boat, a 1989 maroon Blackhawk Starship in the Silver fiberglass layup.

I recognize this isn’t actually the most ideal canoe for me, just the first solo I could actually get my hands on in my price range. I live in MN, so with COVID the canoe market has been nuts and I didn’t want to wait forever for my own solo.
I do plan on using it as a solo tripper and gear hauler for work, but at “fighting weight,” I am only 130-135lbs, considerably less than the recommended weight for this canoe. Of course I’ll be paddling it for day trips to get a better feel for it and explore the BWCAW entry points I may want to use as well.
Do others with this boat or similar expedition solo weight it down just for day trips to make it perform better, or do you find it does well enough with just day trip gear? When I’ve taken it out lightly weighted on calm waters, and it feels fine to me, but have yet to really weight it down to see the difference, and am far from an aficionado when it comes to boats. I get whatever boat the FS gives me and I take it where it needs to go.

Well, you just got yourself a heck of a first-ever boat. Congrats!

I got mine in '95 (my first solo) and its still my favorite canoe as long as I’m not venturing into much whitewater. The glide just won’t quit and it holds a heading well without being very difficult to turn. A sweep stroke turns it until you ease off on the paddle, and it just “clicks” into that heading and holds it. In a glide it tends to turn to the opposite side that its heeled on. I know of no canoe that is easier to paddle for long distances on flatwater without tiring the paddler.

But I’m considerably heavier than you… heck, I’m considerably heavier than I was in '95 (~180 back then). I don’t think it’ll be a big problem for you, though. In a perfect world an Ariel or even a Zephyr probably would fit you a bit better, but the Starship will let you carry lots more gear and the extra buoyancy of a bigger boat isn’t a bad thing at all in most situations.

It’s a boat that feels quite a bit tippier when lightly loaded (which some think hurt initial sales of Blackhawks in general back in the day) and might feel a bit uncomfortable in strong cross winds when empty, but it has plenty of secondary stability. The initial unease left me after the first half hour or so and, as the years went by, I find it amazing that I ever felt uncertain even in that first half hour. That really isn’t an issue once you get used to it and know what to expect.

Probably the easiest thing if you want to add a bit of ballast to help stabilize it a little is just get a couple 3 or 5 gal. water jugs to carry in the bottom. Day trip gear might be enough (and everybody has a different idea about how much gear to take on a day trip) but especially at your weight you’re not likely to come even close to overloading it with or without water jugs in the bottom, so why not toss 'em in and fill them if you feel the need to? I carry an “unhappy bag” (vic’s term) with a good first aide kit, a couple rain ponchos, fire staring stuff, TP, rope, knife, duct tape - all that sort of thing. It weighs about 30 lbs. and goes with me on every canoe outing. Carrying something like that might help your ballast situation as well.

I think Blackhawks are perhaps a bit more “trim sensitive” (quirky?) than many other solos canoes and since we’re considering ballast why not consider its placement? Trim so a properly placed draw or sculling draw moves you sideways without changing heading. If one end moves toward the side that you’re drawing on, move a bit of weight to that end. Properly trimmed a Starship can carry as big a load as anyone should want to carry, even in waves. If a wave is going to “get you” in that boat, it will probably be a breaking following wave, though the stern will shed quite a bit of water before the boat actually starts taking it on. Its a boat that is sensitive enough to really reward good paddling technique. A Grumman made me a strong enough paddler, but it took a Starship to make me a better paddler. I’ve heard of similar experiences from others.

I think it paddles best from a kneeling position with a longish straight shaft paddle, though some do sit and use a bent shaft with a hit&switch paddling style. Though a near-perfect fast cruiser (IMHO), the Starship is not a true racer (stern will hunker down and throw a huge wake if paddled too hard), so I personally don’t see the point in paddling with a short stroke and bent shaft as if one were racing it. But different strokes for different folks…

Enjoy! You got yourself a nice boat there. Maroon (with gold trim I presume?) is a great color for a Blackhawk too.

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Yep! You got a nice boat!
Hard to find boat these days.
Hang onto it, adapt to it, and enjoy it.

Starship by Blackhawk
Top to bottom  Blackhawk Starship, Ariel, and Zephyr

Over the years I have owned about 15 Blackhawks, and I still have some of them…an SS Special, Covenant, Proem, Zephyr, and several small Shadows.


P.S. Here is a photo of PJC in his beautiful Blackhawk Ariel, which he bought from guess who??? I sold it to you “cheap” Pat!!!

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Yes, that Ariel is indeed a beautiful boat - and I was delighted when I stopped by last month to see that you’d found another in the same color - just not an ICS (Blackhawk’s name for the sliding seat model for those who don’t follow Blackhawk). Got the Ariel from you but I got my Starship from Phil Sigglecow himself.
And that Starship you pictured, the one I picked up from Darren and drove down to Missouri for you, is a beauty , too. I always liked that sand color and it was rigged with spray covers… And is that one of the Blackhawk logo stickers I made for you on your garage door?! That’s misplaced, Bob…

Odonata - You might as well get used to it, Blackhawk paddlers are like Chicago Cub or Ducati fans or something. Welcome to the club. I bet if you end up ballasting your Starship at first, you’ll be comfortable enough in it after a week or so that the ballast will come out. (Though if its really windy some ballast helps, in any canoe.) It’ll preform well either way, but feel a little less tippy when weighted. I don’t know what FS (Forest Service, I presume?) canoes you’re used to, but I bet once you’ve adapted to the Starship, they’ll feel like paddling a jon boat or something.

Are you a kneeler?

I have a starship with a hung seat and find it to be a wonderful touring and tripping boat. I am a dedicated kneeler, and I would call this a dedicated kneeling boat, like the other blackhawks I have owned. As some folks have written elsewhere it rewards good paddlestrokes. It has a very different character than the David Yost designed hulls, or those in the wenonah line. I have enjoyed that.

In my experience the starship is more lively when unloaded and settles down considerably when the total load is over 200lbs. Adjusting the seat height an inch in either direction makes a big difference in terms of the feelings of primary/initial stability. The secondary stability is incredible.

Wow, PJC, thanks for all the advice! It is validating to hear that the boat really clicked for you in the first hour, as that was exactly what I experienced this last weekend when we took her out for the first time. I went to kneel forward to grab something from my pack, and just felt secure and balanced in a way that I hadn’t in the previous half hour.

And yes, she does have gold trim :).

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Unfortunately, I don’t think kneeling will be for me. I plan get comfortable with it once I get a single-bladed paddle–I got a double-bladed paddle first to help keep up with my partner’s kayak and give me a break from the J-stroke (I know, boohiss). Anyway, I already have a knee issue that makes having my bad knee too bent for too long uncomfortable/painful, so I doubt I will be much into kneeling.

Beautiful boat you got there… Take good care of it - there won’t be any more made. Enjoy.