canoe or sot- dreaming of Spring

Hi all-

With the addition of a foot of new snow I’m looking ahead to warmer days and thinking of making a boat change. What would you folks recommend if I change from a Sot to a canoe. I paddle solo on ponds, lakes, narrow streams- all flatwater- and just for the pure pleasure of enjoying the outdoors. My SOT, a Hurricane Phoenix 130 is getting heavier for some reason. I want something light for ease in cartopping and carrying to the water, yet durable in case of rocks and things hidden. I’m in my 50’s, 5’6", 137 lbs and female. I’d like to try something different (for me)- like a canoe! I’m not interested in a sit inside kayak.

I have no canoeing skills though, but I am intrigued by the concept of double blade paddling. I had one opportunity to try out a Rapidfire (thanks Kim)and liked that- but have no basis for comparison. Any additional thoughts?

Thanks much.

solo canoe thoughts

– Last Updated: Feb-23-09 4:39 PM EST –

Double-blade paddles work fine with most solo canoes. Single-blade has its own elegance. Both are fun and useful.

You can add a backband and footrest/footpegs to most solos -- several folks here who primarily use double-blade paddle have set up their solos that way.

At your weight, a used(now discontinued)Wenonah Sandpiper would be nice if you could find one. The Vagabond might also work. The Bell Bucktail and Hemlock Nessmuk are pack canoes designed for double-blade use.

Can't argue with the Placid boats if you like that style.
Any quality composite boat should handle an occasional rock whack with only cosmetic damage.

Sot Kayak
I think the boat you have seems almost ideal for what you want to do and for the skills you want to use.

The only problem I see is the weight. Is it the only heavy thing you must lift each week. If so, then I’d really recommend some weight training. Odds are you’ll live another 40 years. You can get weaker and weaker or stronger and stronger. The older we are the more important strength training becomes.

If you are already doing strength training and still have a hard time lifting the boat, then get a lighter boat but don’t be shy of light SOT’s while you are looking at canoes.

Everyone is different but you should easily be able to carry a boat that is 1/3rd of your weight with a little training. The easiest way to train is to play with carrying it in the grass. The most boring way is weight lifting and push ups.

The best solution is to join a group and share the load.

My first solo
I have been doing a lot of thinking and have decided on a Wenonah Wilderness RX and will pick it up next month. As mentioned, it looks like the Wenonah Vagabond would work well for what you want it to do. They come in weights from 30lbs to 45lbs.


Also thing about car-topping aids

– Last Updated: Feb-23-09 11:26 PM EST –

To get a canoe that's much lighter than your SOT, you'll need something in composite. Wenonah's Vagabond and Sandpiper were mentioned, and if you can get one of those boats in Tough Weave, you won't have to worry too much about hitting rocks. I once had a Wenonah Vagabond, and I started out using a double-blade paddle, and that boat moves nicely when propelled that way. A Vagabond is not too big for you, but a Sandpiper will be an even better fit if you only paddle quiet waters.

If you don't find a lightweight solo canoe that appeals to you, make sure you are doing all you can to make loading the boat on your car as easy as practical. Usually, it's possible to figure out a way to lift only one end of the boat at a time, which makes a huge difference. You can buy or build an extender bar the sticks out sideways from one of your crossbars, and lift one end of the boat onto that bar first, then lift the other end onto the rack, then shuffle the first end over onto the rack. Sliding the boat up from the rear end of the car is often possible, either by utilizing the rear bar as a slider (and you can get rollers for the rear bar), or by putting a piece of rubber-backed carpet on the car itself. A friend of mine is in your age range and smaller than you, and she uses the carpet method to load her 45-pound kayak with good results.

The Wilderness is a big-person boat,…

– Last Updated: Feb-23-09 11:17 PM EST –

... if what everyone has been saying is true.

Okay, I just looked at the specs on Wenonah's website. A person her size could get lost in that boat, and wind would be a problem. She needs something a lot smaller than the Wilderness.

OT Pack cuts price by half again
You didn’t mention your budget, but if money isn’t a particular problem then definitely you should go for one of the high-priced composites. This is one area where money truly can buy happiness – you get big weight savings and don’t have to give up anything but some of that dirty green paper.

If money is a limitation, you can still get what you want but you’re limited to a few models. The Wee Lassie class, mentioned above, is one option. Several quality manufacturers make these in weights as light as 15 pounds, and since they don’t require much in the way of materials, you can still find attractive prices even in the composite class, or reasonable weights if finances force you into plastic boats. The downside, IMO, is they are so small and tender that you’re pretty much forced to sit on the bottom and not move much, and so you lose one of the big advantages of most canoes, the ability to sit in different positions and move around while on the water.

This leads me to another option you have, an Old Town Pack canoe. It’s a 33-pound 12-foot royalex canoe that is big enough to carry lots of gear and stable enough to let you move around. These cost under $700 new and you can often find a used one in excellent shape for $400-500. You can sit in many positions or kneel and you can transition from sitting to kneeling or vice versa while underway. Also, given the type of paddling you like to do, you might find that you like the relatively high sides on the Pack, if you’ve ever been a position where you worry about snakes or other critters getting in the boat with you. Unlike a SOT or some of the smaller Wee Lassie boats (but like others in the WL class), the sides are high enough to deter this, so you can go ahead and get close to that snake or snapping turtle for a good look or travel through standing grass and other vegetation that might conceal wildlife.

I’m male, but just about your height and weight. I have a Vagabond, which I love. Also have a SOT (Tarpon 120), but the canoe is 20# lighter, so it gets a lot more use. I highly recommend getting a solo canoe. I agree with what has already been posted here–Vagabond would be a great boat, Sandpiper maybe a little better fit, Old Town Pack would also be a great choice. You wouldn’t go wrong with any of these.

SOT weight
If you like your SOT, there are lighter options – the Phoenix 120, the CD Kestrel 140 SOT, Futura Spear, and probably others.


I don’t mean to imply that the OP should get a Wilderness, just saying it is what I chose. You are right in that it would be way too much boat for her size. That’s why I suggested the Vagabond.


very helpful, thanks
Thanks for the suggestions. I have considered the Phoenix 120 and will continue to do so. The OT Pack and Vagabond sound good. I definitely want to be able to move around and I have to admit I never thought about the snake issue. Thanks for that image- the concept of having the higher sides of a canoe is now very appealing. Hahaaaaaa… One thing I don’t like about my SOT is that after an hour or so of paddling, I find that I am sitting in more of a reclining position versus when I started out. I have one of those Gel pads which doesn’t support my leaning against it for very long. I prefer to sit up nice and straight- feels better on my back. Would a canoe provide this for me? Also foot pegs would be good, but I don’t want to have to install them myself- I want everything good to go.

I’ve learned to car top in the way that Angstrom described- rug on back of car and then push one end of the boat up onto Thule racks. This works well, but still feels heavy. Then from car to water I have to use a cart- a PIA, I think.

Thanks for the help! I just want to minimize the effort so I can maximize the fun part of it all.

And have a boat that gets me home safe.

Keep an eye out for the sale
in Old Town…its close enough to you and me. The Pack might be just fine and those sale prices beat the retail quite nicely.

You were in a Mohawk Solo 13 at 35 lbs…not a bad boat.

No one mentioned the Hornbeck pack boats. Look for them in Craigs list or here. They are made in Olmstedville just off I 87…about six hours from here.

Truly lightweight. 17lbs for a Lost Pond… That would be a good day cruiser. IMO the Hornbecks are not as well made as the Placid boats but are fine for daytripping. Lots of people use them for extended trips. They are quite a bit cheaper.

There is no need to be hauling a double sheet of heavy plastic.

I must be getting old
I looked at your post again, and that when I read it the first time I must have skipped over a couple words without even knowing it. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure I read it twice that first time around too.

Maybe that’s sort of like those mysterious missing words I encounter now and then when I type, where the whole sentence goes through my mind and I’m sure my fingers “delivered” the whole thing, but somehow some of the words never make it onto the screen. Wierd.

No Biggie!
Stuff happens.


sit up straight
Trish2, in your SOT, do you mean that you inadvertently slide down into that position, or that you purposely do so because it feels more comfortable? If the first case, you should be able to use your foot pegs to prevent sliding down, if they are set right (I’m assuming your sot has adjustable foot pegs like the pictures I see on hurricane’s web site). You should be able to push against them to keep your hips as far back in your seat as they can go.

In a canoe like the Pack or Vagabond, with a cane seat, yes, you sit up straight – you don’t really have a choice because there is no seat back (unless you put one in, which is generally not recommended) and your bottom is several inches higher than your feet. And yes, this posture is much easier on the back. In fact, your bottom is the contact point with the boat, meaning you can do whatever you want with your legs – cross them for a while, put them straight out for a while, raise one knee and leave the other flat, hang a leg over the side to get your feet wet, whatever. If you encounter rough water, you can spread your feet out for extra bracing, or if you want to paddle hard like in a race you can even install foot pegs as suggested above and have a very solid 3-point contact with the boat. But just for casual paddling around a swamp or quiet stream, one-point contact works well enough and is much more comfortable.

Canoes are much more comfortable for extended paddling/ You have lots of room to move around and stretch and the sitting position is higher and easier on old bodies.

The down sides for a canoe are that it will be more affected by wind, and if you capsize in deep water it is more difficult to recover than your SOT.

Definitely condiser kevlar for your intended use. You can probably find a canoe around thirty pounds, and it will hold up fine to an occassional rock or two.