Bluewater Freedom/Explorer 17'9"

Has anyone paddled one of these? Is it a decent canoe for tandem quietwater paddling & tripping/portaging? What is the hull shape? The company’s website says it’s asymmetrical but only gives the bow height – anyone know the stern height? Any feedback on this canoe, particularly in kevlar, would be appreciated.

Thanks and happy Mothers Day paddling to all the moms out there!

I’ve seen one but have not paddled
one. I recall it getting a better-than-average rating in a comparison test in Canoe & Kayak, against stiff competition.

I have a Bluewater Chippewa in the glass/Nylon/Kevlar layup, and the glass work is excellent. Both layup and woodwork were excellent on the 17’9" I saw when I bought the Chippewa.

Although the boat is certainly prettier with wood gunwales, Bluewater makes their wood gunwales a bit heavier than they need to. You can save at least 5 pounds weight by taking aluminum gunwales, which we have found quite satisfactory.

I think the 17’9" has the clever little step on the sides of the bow to knock down spray and chop.

the 17’0" tandem is a nice boat

– Last Updated: May-08-09 4:49 PM EST –

Have forgotten the name,..."Freedom 17" or "Tripper 17"?, anywho...the 17'0" boat is a nice boat. Have not paddled the 17'9" boat, but I can't imagine it being a dog....;-)

Freedom 17-9
seiies is a design by Steve Killing. I have the Freedom 17 and it is really a sweet boat. The 17-9 is just a slightly upscaled version, but proportionately. Bear Mountain Boatworks also offers plans for a wood strip version and their site has a few more specs listed. Why not call Bluewater and ask them for the info you desire? It appears that the stern height is about 16.5 inches on the 17-9. There is a spray rail built into the bow flare and it does seem to do the job on my Freedom 17. My 17 is a narrow beamed rocket with an asymmetrical hull and differential rocker; a very slight shallow V hull shape. Mine was produced prior to the buyout by MCF. My impressions of the build quality is that the new MCF owned company versions are actually built better. The wood trim options are designed better and I believe they are producing vacuumed bag epoxy hulls. The epoxy hull on my older Freedom 17 is flawless. My main complaint is that the adjustable sliding bow seat produces too much racking motion with anyone in the bow over 175 lbs. Although the adjustable trim feature is nice, that feature on my boat requires some stiffer sidewall reinforcing. I think I would pass on a sliding seat option with a new one unless I tried it out first.

All in all, I love the Freedom 17 and would get another in a heartbeat; one of the best tandem canoes I have have ever owned. The larger 17-9 has to be comparable.

Good luck.

Bluewater tends to put the stern seat
farther back than most builders. I can’t say if this is the case for the 17-9, but it is on the Chippewa. I ordered a sliding seat assembly and was all set to replace the bow seat, when I decided to move the stern seat forward about a foot. This resulted in the Chippewa being in trim with my wife paddling bow. It also helped the river handling by allowing the stern to rise and fall more comfortably on waves.

Point is, a 17-9 ordered without a sliding seat might also have a stern seat farther back than it needs to be. Instead of messing with a sliding seat to trim the boat, moving the stern seat forward may be an easier and lighter solution.

ask Carl
Carl at Carl and John’s paddling in Madison WI could tell you about the 17’9" boat.

I had a 17 Tripper and it’s a hot rod for sure. Carl told me the 17’9" is more of a family boat and I’ll bet it’s a fine family boat.

superb tripping boat
I’ve had a Freedom Explorer 17/9 since the summer of ‘01, bought it just prior to the mcf buyout; it must have been one of the last boats sold by Rockwood Outfitters.

It’s vac bagged epoxy, ash trim with with sand colored gel coat/nylon-kevlar hull and weighs about 63 lbs. The construction is solid, the inside surface could have been a little neater around the buoyancy tanks, but overall the finish was good and the gel coat was flawless.

The boat has been on over 20 extended trips since I bought it and the more I use it, the more I like it, still. I often go with a friend who has a Mad River Destiny (17’ 6", give or take), the Freedom/Explorer has 2-3" more freeboard in the middle and is also deeper in the bow; this extra comes in handy in rough water.

His boat has higher initial stability, but mine turns much quicker and is faster, too. It excels on the tight creeks in NW Ontario, tracks well enough on open water; maybe not quite as straight as a Wenona, but I’ll take the maneuverability (empty or loaded) over that any day of the week. Did I say it is an excellent boat on rough water? Especially when fully loaded.

The flared hull makes it easy to load. I’ve got the front slider; yes, it could be a little stiffer. The MR Destiny has a 1st class slider & hanger, but that is now unavailable–I tried to get the parts and swap mine out.

The stern seat is the farthest back of any boat I’ve paddled (that probably helps with turning & gives a little wander on the straight & narrow), but I love it. My tripping buddy weighs about the same as I do and we have no problems. We like the extra leg room when it’s fully loaded. The rear thwart can then also be placed further back allowing full size packs aft of the portage yoke. We are not the lightest travelers–we like out comfort–and this boat is a FAST freighter.

I agree with all of what canoe 11 wrote. If I had it to do it all over over again I would get the aluminum gunwales–the boat is not getting any lighter as I get older and the maintenance is much less… I’ve given their Golden Brawn layup some thought, but it’s priced with a hefty premium, and I may be too hard on a boat for a skincoat hull.

I would buy another one with aluminum gunwales in a New York minute :slight_smile:

Thanks for all your responses!
Mountainman Outdoor in the Adirondacks was/is selling one of these for $1379. It’s probably still there, since I was interested in it for my dad. He wanted a symmetrical boat and bought a 19-ft. Wenonah Seneca instead. Now he just needs 2 more paddlers…

$1379 for a Freedom Explorer
No better tripping boat and a steal at that price.