Blackhawk Zephyr, love at 1st stroke and

2nd stroke and…

I’m 5’6" and 155 lbs. My other solo canoes that I’m pretty comfortable paddling are a Sawyer Summersong and a Mad River Slipper. I still haven’t reached an agreement wtih the royalex Wildfire that I bought last spring.

I bought one today and it wasn’t even the main boat I went to check out (I also bought the other boat, a Sawyer Starlight).

I wasn’t expecting to like the Zephyr as much as I did. I looked at it on the seller’s car and thought that with that shallow V bottom, it would be pretty tippy - is wasn’t. It is surprisingly stable and efficient. It seemed to get up to speed easily and maintain speed easily. Seems easy to keep on track with a little flip of the Zaveral bent shaft at the end of the stroke and easy to turn with or without a lean - especially easy with a lean.

I test paddled it on a side channel of the Illinois River near the boat ramp at Starved Rock State Park and got to experience a few small boat wakes from the barges and it seems to handle waves quite well. I think it will be a good river boat - the original owner used it a lot for rivers and the bottom has the scratches to show for it. He also used it in the BWCA a few times. He replaced the Zephyr with a black gold Bell Wildfire because he is no longer able to kneel easily and he sits in the Wildfire. I also paddled it again on a small lake in our city park got to like the boat even more. It seems to be a very pleasant boat for me to paddle just for the fun of it.

I find the Zephyr very easy to kneel in, though I usually sit. It is relatively easy to move from sitting to kneeling and back to sitting as compared with my RX Wildfire. Very stable and responsive. It’s also stable for me while sitting if I brace my feet on the thwart. It actually feels less stable while sitting if I have my feet on the bottom of the boat.

The Zephyr is outfitted with a very innovative and easy to use sliding seat system that also has a choice of two height levels. It also has two seats to choose from: A deeply contoured bucket seat and a traditional cane seat. The two seats are very easy to switch by just sliding one seat out and sliding the other seat in. I’ve only used the bucket seat so far, and I like it. I ran out of daylight before I had a chance to try the cane seat. Maybe I’ll have time to try it before work tomorrow.

The removeable portage yoke also slides easily into the same slots as the seats, so it’s very easy to install and also very comfortable.

If it’s as much fun on rivers as I expect it be, and I like it better than the RX Wildfire on the rivers, it just may replace the Wildfire as my main river boat even though it’s fiberglass and the Wildfire is royalex.

Hopefully I’ll like it as much many years from now as I have on this first day of ownership.

Anyone else enjoy the pleasures of this boat?

Any tips for the care and feeding of the Zephyr and maintaining the wood trim? The previous owner said he just applied Watco Oil once or twice a year.

Anybody have the specs for this boat?

Any negative characteristics of this boat that I should keep my eye on or be aware of?

Happy paddling.

Anyone use Zephyrs on rivers? n/m

Similar handling modern hulls? n/m

I liked it, but too small for me.
My brother-in-law has one. We did a total replacement of all the wood, as well as replacing the moulded fiberglass decks with wood ones.

I thought it was a wonderful boat to paddle. At ~200lbs, and 6’1" it is a bit wild for me. I would love to get an Ariel (the size between the Zephyr and the Starship). I don’t think I have not liked any Blackhawks I have ever paddled. My wife has one, and I want one too.

Some picts of the rework:

Anyone have specs on the Zephyr?
I searched the archives, but didn’t find any specs or dimensions other than length.

Thanks for the link to the pics.
Looks like it was a labor of love. Very nice looking results. Good work.

BH Zephyr

– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 8:53 AM EST –

The Zephyr was maybe the best BlackHawk Canoe produced. It was mildly fishform with a veed stern, which self skegged.

Phil Sigglekow, both designer and manufacturer, was a very innovative guy and a master tooler. That 2 track sliding seat rig of his solved all problems for trim and variability. It was a design tour de force.

All that considered, it tracked pretty well, compensating for those solo paddlers who carry the blade too far aft and induce yaw.

At 14 + ft, it's minimal wetted surface made it a quick little hull.

It's sole flaw was reduced aft shear. When heeled to the rail, it tended to ship water onto one's calf.

All in all, a fine little boat that was ideal of mid sized, intermediate, paddlers.

Blackhawk specs
PJC has provided some Blackhawk specs at this archived link:

Thanks, I copied the specs here too.
The Zephyr:

length: 14’2"

bow height:17"

Depth at center:11.5"

Stern height: 11"

Waterline width: 25"

Molded rail width: 26.75"

Widest hull width: 27.25"

It seems wider than 27.25". It has a roomy feel to me.

That’s a great link.

Of the limited number(5) of solo canoes I have paddled, the Zephyr seems to be the most lively and responsive. I have found the primary stability to be a little dicey, but secondary is fine. My seat is the contoured tractor variety, but I kneel almost exclusively. It seems to me that the tractor seat is molded more for one’s upper thighs rather than one’s rear end. The Zephyr has beautiful lines and is my favorite for pond paddling, although I have used it on running water as well. If I ever toy with the idea of selling it, a quick paddle reminds me that this one is a keeper.

Thanks for that info Charlie.
Which modern hulls handle most similarly to the Zephyr, just in case I should damage this one beyond reasonable repair?

I highly respect your experienced input. Someday I’ll paddle one of your Rapifires.

Thanks, I agree that the tractor seat
seems to have been designed more for kneeling than for sitting, but it does well enough for sitting for a spell to take a break from kneeling. I won’t fall out of that deeply contoured seat when leaning the boat hard.

When I searched the archives, I found a lot of feedback on the Zephyr from you and I appreciate all of your sharing about it.

The only other Blackhawk canoe that I’d paddled was a little 12’, 26 lb model that I believe was a Nighthawk (from the specs in the above link) and man was that boat twitchy! The seller only wanted $200 for it and my wife (to be) refused ot let me buy it because she watched me test paddle it and said she’d be worried about me every time I went out in it. It scared me just a wee bit too. That may have been the first solo canoe that I’d ever paddled.


– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 8:52 AM EST –

are a precursor to the Shadow series. My wife has a Nighthawk that is 13' and change. I can paddle it at 200lbs. I would imageine that the smaller version would be a little small for me. The Shadow came in a 11'7" version that was a freestyle boat for people ~100lbs.

Do you know if that Nighthawk is still for sale? I could get it for my wife and I could paddle hers.

Zephyr replacements

– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 1:00 PM EST –

Best source is QCC kayaks - they may have a mold, but BlackHawk's equipment was sold to a group in St Charles MO.

Similar older hulls are Bell's Creek Runner 14.5 ft and the MRC Liberty, 15ft although neither are fish-form. The Liberty will be faster but seem slower due to the drag of 15 ft of wetted bottom.

Fish form hulls are out of favor, but the closest modern hulls are Hemlock's Kestral. Kestral is tumblehomed and not nearly so veed into the stern, a better hull all around, but pretty close in wetted surface. Bell's Merlin2 and Hemlocks Peregrine approximate Zephyr's niche, but like Liberty, are longer, faster and have more skin friction - They won't give you that "Pop" up to speed.

Our Rapid, at 15ft w/ a 7.5 Width/Length ratio is just a different animal. More wetted surface like the Bell and Hemlock hulls mentioned, better course keeping and much greater forward speed.

Another boat Zephyr was compared to back in the day was the Curtis LadyBug, which had Yost bubble sides and 2in of rocker at both ends of a symmetrical hull. It was faster due to less wetted area and turned almost magically when heeled but did not track as automatically as Zephyr. LadyBug was reserected as FlashFire, which with 2 1/2 in rocker and shouldered tumblehome, [bell curve?], pops to speed quickly and maneuver more tightly, [270 dg turns], but that rocker demands complete mastery of the forward stroke. Another completely different animal.

Blackhawk, Phil S., seats…
Interesting info Charlie. Years ago when I bought my QCC it was Phil with whom I spoke. I knew he had been associated with Blackhawk, but I knew nothing about the canoes or that he was such a “master”. One thing that did impress me: He really knew hulls. We spoke at length about design factors, and he made me feel very comfortable about buying the QCC.

Would it be possible to post some pics of the boat and seat? I would really like to see how it was executed.


Tripping with a Zephyr
My wife has had a Zephyr for about 15 years or so and has used it many times for week-long trips on the Current River. I too have used it on canoe-camping trips. The boat performs very well and is a joy to paddle. Very responive and fast. I have noticed that it’s primary stability is low and that I feel a little vulnerable to tipping when first getting in the boat. After that it seems fine. I think it is my size (about 160 lbs). My wife has no trouble with instability at all. I’ve had it on the Wisconsin River in heavy chop and have shipped a wave or two under those conditions. It is a great boat, especially for a smaller paddler.

I don’t have a place to post pictures,
but I can email some to you for you to post. All I have are the ones that the seller emailed to me. I can also include the PDF files of the boat specs and the ICS (Integrated Component System) if you’ll post them too.

Kneeling hurts!
I still find sitting to be my preferred paddling position, but I won’t give up on kneeling boats yet.

Both of my “river” boats - this Zephyr and a RX Bell Wildfire perform better when knelt in. I haven’t compared the two boats head to head yet. I havn’t had any boat on a river this year.

Any “river” boats out there for someone my size - 5’6" 155 lbs that are readily paddled while sitting, rather than kneeling. I probably wouldn’t be doing any whitewater.

Thanks for the river usage info.
I’m glad to hear that it handles well on rivers like the Current. From my brief test paddle on the Illinois River, where I encountered some smaller boat wakes, I suspected that it would handle waves and moving water pretty well.

How is the hull holding up to that many years the inevitable encounters with rocks and gravel bars on the Current River?

Do you and your wife paddle the Zephyr sitting or kneeling?

Which seat do you use?

Thanks again for that info.

Thanks Charlie.
Of those boats, the only one I’ve test paddled is the Bell Merlin II last summer and I liked it very much. That’s one of the boats I was considering when I came across this Zephyr for less than half price of most used Merlin IIs that I’ve seen advertised.

I test paddled the Merlin II from the sitting position and it seemed to handle quite well that way. I didn’t try kneeling in it.

I believe that the former owner of this Zephyr replaced it with a black gold Bell Wildfire, which he paddles from the sitting position. He can’t handle kneeling anymore.