Clipper Solo boats

-- Last Updated: Aug-31-15 12:25 AM EST --

For a while, I’ve been looking at replacing my current canoe. I was thinking of getting a tandem for use with a passenger, but used alone most of the time. Since I am going to be using it alone, my current thinking is that maybe I should just focus on a solo boat.

I’m currently looking at the Clipper solo line. I like them since they are regarded as being well constructed, and are less expensive than comparable canoes by other manufacturers. I know I won't be able to take a passenger. . I'm 5'6", 150lbs. with an arm length (from armpit to finger tip) of about 26.5". All of these canoes would work, but I’m looking for something that would be good for my size frame, and also not extremely tender. I’d like to use it on “bigger” water. By that, I mean lakes of 10+ miles length by 1+ mile width, saltwater bays and estuaries. However, most use would be on small water
Their solo offerings:

Length: 14′
Beam: 24″ | 27.5″ (@ 4″Waterline)
Bow Height: 16″
Stern Height: 16″
Center Height: 13″
The disadvantage here seems to be the narrow beam. It's no narrower than the Hemlock Kestrel, and might be OK, considering the center height isn't outrageous. It probably wouldn't handle rough conditions, as in local saltwater bays. This boat might be the perfect boat, but I really don’t know how it would handle bigger water. Having to forego the bigger water isn't necessarily a deal-breaker though, if the boat is otherwise great.

14' Prospector
Length: 14′
Beam: 29″ | 29″ (@ 4″Waterline)
Bow Height: 21″
Stern Height: 21″
Center Height: 15″
This seems, in a lot of ways, like the Hemlock SRT with the only difference being an extra 0.5" of beam. I'd imagine that it would be just as tender sitting in this as the SRT is said to be. I don’t want to focus all of my attention on not falling in the drink.

Caribou S
Length: 15’3″
Beam: 27″ | 31.5″ (@ 4″Waterline)
Bow Height: 20″
Stern Height: 20″
Center Height: 14″
This canoe looks very intriguing. It's somewhat deep in the middle, which might make sitting unstable. However, it also has some width to it. I think in general, I'm looking for the narrowest boat that I can reasonably get away with, without it being too narrow. This is for paddling comfort, I wonder if this canoe would be too long to comfortably control, given my proportions.

Length: 15′ 6″
Beam: 28″ | 30″ (@ 4″Waterline)
Bow Height: 16″
Stern Height: 14″
Center Height: 13″
For a larger paddler, I'd think that this would be the perfect choice. I'm pretty much not considering it because of its long length and my dimensions.


Have you seen this review of 3 out of the 4 models you are interested in? The Caribou S is a very new model, but looks very interesting.

great resource

– Last Updated: Aug-31-15 2:26 AM EST –

thanks for the link. The Caribou S actually seems pretty similar (at first glance) to the Wenonah Wilderness.

In the comments section, the author says more about the Packer:

"Having been in some heavier waves with my mist, I have to say I also appreciate the hull design for shedding waves. The Packer is a little shy of free-board I think, so despite it's excellent qualities, I'm still partial to my slightly larger Mist."

Whatever "larger waves" means...

Completely unavailable in specs
is hull shape, which has a LOT to do with seakindliness and seaworthiness.

If you are worried about breaking waves, add a spray cover.

I don’t regard a lake of your hypothetical dimensions very large at all. Large however is relative.

I paddle a Hemlock Peregrine, a Colden DragonFly ( similar to the SRT but rounder bottomed and hence tippier) and a Curtis Nomad in the Gulf of Mexico and add spray cover as needed

My home lake is Sebago in Maine. Its ten miles long and four to six wide.

Stability can be influenced greatly by lowering the seat… A friend of mine paddles a DragonFly on Lake Erie and has lowered the seat quite a bit.

So pick the boat that fits you best and beware hull shape. Flask shaped boats like many Weonnahs allow the waves to ride up the sides where seemingly shallower canoes have shouldered tumblehome ( flare up high tucking in to a narrow paddling station) that allows the waves to deflect downward.

Can’t comment on Clipper models however. Never see them. See a lot of Swift, Hemlock, Colden, Placid, and Old Town and the occasional residual Bell.( which were fine boats)

of their boats is an attractive factor. The Packer in glass weighs 42lbs and goes for roughly $1200. I ordered a boat from Clipper years ago and it arrived here in Florida in great condition. Easy people to work with.

Can only speak to Solitude
as I owned the Wenonah version many years ago. Stable, large and at your weight would haul a lot of additional gear. Might be a bit big for your size when paddled empty. Not an inspiring hull but would be good if you are not looking to play, but just cover ground. Not a particularly fast hull…think pick up truck utility. Fine for fishing platform. Did not paddle large waves such as you might encounter, but don’t remember the bow having much flare.

Gunwale beam matters.
I’m 5’6" and 160 lbs and don’t like gunwales wider than 28" from the outside edges of the gunwales.

For what it’s worth
I have paddled Wenonas Jensen Packer about 30 years ago when both Wenona and Clipper catalogued them. The hull may have evolved since then. At the time however it seemed decidedly tender. The excellent review above uses the term “lively”. You may find it acceptable because your center of gravity is lower. I recommend paddling before you buy.

I test paddled the Wenona Jensen Solitude in that same era and it was very stable but felt big for a solo.

For reference, I was 5-10, 160 at the time with 30" arm length as you measure and did most of my paddling where wind awd swift water were factors, I ended up using a 12" deep, 13’ canoe with some rocker and flared ends with a spray cover for whitewater.

In more recent years I have done more lake paddling and found the wind to be the controlling factor before the waves get too big. Relative to the Prospector 14, I have owned a canoe of similar dimensions for white water use and found it to be an unpleasant hand full in the wind.

Get the Packer.

– Last Updated: Aug-31-15 2:25 PM EST –

27.5" beam isn't excessively narrow for a solo canoe, and it's appropriate for your size. Being shorter, it will paddle easier for you at moderate speeds - which is all most of us ever do for any distance.

A 10 x 1 mile lake may not be all that big, but it's big enough to experience some significant wind. Which is why the Prospector should be crossed off your list, unless you plan on doing more moving water than your OP suggests.

Both of the longer canoes present more to the wind. Unless you intend to carry a sizable tripping load, probably not worth the extra effort.

You already paddle your canoe solo. The little Packer may seem tender to you at first, but I bet you will grow into it quickly.

Just speaking from my experience being just a bit larger ( 5' 11" & 165#) and moving into a Dagger Sojourn as my first solo canoe.

Well, the packer sounds good then. As for it being tender, I’d like stability more than maneuverability. My understanding is that clipper will alter the layup to some degree. Getting the boat in ultralight with a few more layers on the bottom to bring the total weight up to about 45 lbs might be the way to go.

As long as you are limber and can keep your hips loose, the stability should come to you. But the longer boats will likely be more stable. Not having paddled the Packer, I’m just going on what I know from other boats in that size range (including also the Mad River Liberty, Freedom Solo, and Wenonah Argosy). I think you will like the Packer more than the longer two for light tripping. I’m relatively sure the little Prospector will also catch too much wind for your stated use.

I use my Sojourn on a lake that is roughly two miles by seven miles and aligned with the prevailing winds so that it has a lot of fetch. Swells can get pretty big on the downwind end when the wind ramps up, but they aren’t a problem in that little solo canoe. Breaking waves are another story.

Anyway - the point is that I thought the Sojourn was maybe “too tippy” for anything but flat water when I first got it. After some time in the saddle, that thought went away - and now after a couple of years I don’t give it any thought at all. I’m not a hugely experienced paddler, so I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t have a similar experience.

If you can get it set up for kneeling, that will make it easier to find your stability. I alternate between kneeling and sitting depending on where I am and what I’m doing, but I knelt a lot more in the Sojourn at first.