Coastal Canoe Comparison

I am considering buying a lightweight canoe for paddling on shallow (8-12 ft) bays, coastal rivers, and the ICW all along the Texas coast. It would also be used on some of the larger lakes in Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico. The majority of the paddling would be locally around Corpus Christi where rising afternoon winds (into the 15-20mp range) can produce significant steep chop. Although I would normally try to paddle the canoe in calmer conditions one of my main concerns in boat selection is getting the best canoe to handle the conditions if the winds come up sooner than expected. The majority of paddles would be day trips with perhaps an occasional 2-3 day camping trip.

I would also like to be able to both double blade and single blade the canoe. With my current canoe (Wenonah Argosy) I enjoy single blading until I encounter those higher winds and then find that double-blading is much more powerful and controllable. I am 5’7" and 155 lbs.

With the above in mind could any of you comment on the various pluses/minuses of the following canoes.

Placid Boatworks Rapidfire

Hemlock Canoes Kestrel

Swift Canoes Osprey

If there is another canoe you think fits my requirements better feel free to comment on that as well.


Or, maybe Wenonah Canak
or Mini Canak.

I haven’t paddled any of the boats you mentioned, but my Curtis Vagabond is a precursor to both the Rapidfire and Kestrel, but I haven’t had it in any steep chop conditions and don’t know if I’d want to. It does handle winds pretty well and is a good size for you. I’m 5’6" and 160 lbs and the Vagabond / Kestrel fits me well and zips along pretty nicely for me and is nicely maneuverable and easy to keep straight with a single blade paddle. I haven’t had any reason to try a double blade paddle with it, since I generally find them too wet in an open boat.

Kayamedic will chime in regarding the Rapifire’s suitability in bays and steep chop.

Though not light weight, any of the following decked canoes would also work for you: Kruger Sea Wind, Clipper Sea 1, or the out of production Sawyer Loon or Mad River Monarch. I have a Sawyer Loon and it is quite at home in wind, boat wakes and chop, though I’m not sure just what the definition of steep chop is.

At least one poster has extensively used a skirted Bell Rob Roy in the Gulf of Mexico.

I look forward to seeing what ends up working well for you.

there probably is a better canoe
for short choppy steep Gulf waves. Its undoubtedly no accident that the Florida Watertribe likes craft like the Sea Wind. But that vessel is no lightweight and more tuned into expedition tripping.

I would like a Sea Wind to come to me cheap. As he double hockey sticks will freeze first, I make do with my RapidFire. That hull is quite related to the old Curtis Vagabond which the Kestrel also came out of.

I will be on the outside of the Glades in two weeks with RF and spray cover. Its been there before as well as Lake Superior. The spray cover really does help.

Beachcamper trips in the Everglades and on the outside as well as inside routes with maddeningly shallow water and always a chop and she uses a Kestrel. Maybe she is home and can comment.

The Swift Osprey is a sweet boat with a very flared bow. I have not used that in higher winds and chop as I have only had the chance to borrow it a few times.

I know Tommy C1 has been out on Lake Champlain and some big Maine lakes with his Osprey.

Here is a fairly recent thread that touches on RapidFire and Vagabond (Kestrel)

I asked Charlie Wilson about
paddling the RF in those conditions.His response was not that encouraging.

Maybe something like the Seaclipse from Clipper/Western?

I find that big breaking waves close to shore are exactly when kayaks have an advantage.

have you considered

– Last Updated: Dec-30-11 2:50 AM EST –

just fitting a spray cover to your Argosy? The problem with paddling open boats in those conditions is that when the wind picks up the more boat sticking up out of the water the more difficult paddling becomes. Until, of course, the waves start lapping over the gunwales, and then you want all the freeboard you can get.

Wind and waves are a setting in which a decked boat, or partially decked canoe really shines. Lacking that, I would invest in a good spray cover.

I never asked Charlie
but just did that sort of paddling. I had some seventeen years experience with open boats on Long Island Sound though.

Currently Charlie and I are in cooking discussions.


Vermont Canoe Indy…
Vee in the ends softens up amidships. Handles a following sea and chop well and says pretty dry. Pretty immune to windage compared to the greater freeboard of the others.

I’m bias, but the Indy suits your needs well and you are the ideal size.


I think Tommy
mentioned some severe weathercocking while out on big water with his osprey.

osprey and weathercocking
If you have the adjustable seat in the Osprey weathercocking shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve put a fair number of miles on mine in adverse conditions and it has done well for me. A spray cover helps reduce the wind effect.

Thanks to all
Thanks for the quick responses. Seems like it is pretty much a toss up just like I thought. One might be better but it would be hard to tell without paddling each in the various conditions to see which one I really felt best in.

I have a 55-57 lb sea kayak (Impex Force Cat 3) that I use for playing in the rough stuff. As I am getting older it is just getting harder to handle those carries from the car to the launch sites and the lifting on and off the car. I kind of wanted something really light to throw on and off the car quickly for short early morning paddles.

I guess I need to take the Argosy out in some mild conditions and see how it and I react together. I will report back after a few trials with it.

Thanks again.


kayak portage yoke is also an option
for carrying the boat to and from the water.

I use one for my 50 lb Eclipse 17 Sea Lion. My main challenge when using the portage yoke is getting the boat up to my shoulders and then getting it down off my shoulders.

Another challenge with the yoke presents itself when you’re traveling with a cockpit cover installed, because mounting the yoke to the cockpit rim while the boat is on the roof rack can be a bit awkward.

Be safe and have fun with your experimenting with the canoes in the rougher conditions. If you want to be even safer in the open canoes, bag them, as well as use the spray cover.

another consideration
If you really prefer to go the open boat route and anticipate the potential to getting caught in sizable waves a good way off shore, or having to negotiate significant beach break to get back in you might want to consider installing an electric bilge pump. A good many whitewater open boaters use them and it allows you to paddle/brace and bail simultaneously, not just a convenience but a safety feature.

Mark all the boats are going to
behave far differently than your Argosy.

Sure take it out but be safe. The reason I post this is the Argosy has a very different hull shape than any of the other boats you are considering. It has a deltaish hull shape with width down low. Any waves hitting the side of your boat have a tendency to ride up the side and push on the gunwale. This is a real concern especially if waves come from multiple directions(confused seas or boat wakes). Ergo Argosy gets skittish quick when faced with seas from the side.

The rest of the boats have shouldered tumblehome. Meaning the wide point of the boat is high and the boat is more shaped like a saucer. Waves hitting the side tend to get deflected down and the boat feel more stable.

Keeping that in mind go test the Argosy in a safe place where you might be able to test seas from all sides.

The Argosy is not a good wave shedder bow on. It spears waves. Your other candidates part waves.

clipper sea1
Lighter than sea wind. No experience in either but it looks capable.

Ryan L.

I paddle the Wenonah Wilderness

– Last Updated: Jan-01-12 9:48 AM EST –

which is basically the Argosy with an extra foot or so of length and less rocker.
In the waters you're speaking of, I find the boat does much, much better with 50-60#'s of additional weight and a spray skirt.
Food for thought.

BTW Some of my paddling has been of CC, and Matagorda bays, as well as Cochiti reservoir in New Mexico.

Osprey in the wind

– Last Updated: Jan-03-12 4:57 PM EST –

In my opinion the Osprey is a wonderful river tripping solo.
But in strong tailwinds and steep following seas she wants to broach something awful.
Mind you I'm not talking about a little breeze and some swells.
Up on Chesuncook, (a big shallow lake in ME.) with 20 to 30 mph winds and 3' (peak to trough) close set (maybe 12' peak to peak) waves, I could not keep her pointed down wind. I'd work hard to horse her around and the next wave would snap me beam to. She was quite steady and dry, bobbing up and down, blowing down wind. But there was no way I was going to point her down wind.
On Champlain (big deep lake in NY, VT and Canada), with 15 to 20 mph wind and 3' waves maybe 20' peak to peak, the Magic would easily point anywhere I asked. That girl wanted to surf.
So I WOULD NOT recommend the Osprey for what the OP has described.
I WOULD recommend the Magic.

One Question

– Last Updated: Jan-01-12 5:12 PM EST –

Are you using the comparison between just those two examples to recommend against the Osprey and in favor of the Magic? If so, 3-foot waves spaced only 12 feet apart would tend to broach any canoe except a really short one, and if they didn't, both stems would sink whenever the center section was in the trough between peaks (when going upwind, I've often had the rear stem stem sink beneath the trailing face of the wave that just passed while the bow starts climbing the steep face of an approaching wave, but I can't imagine how bad it would be in waves close enough to submerge both stem at the same time!!). With all the paddling you do, I am guessing you might have many other observations supporting your conclusion, but I don't think comparing such high, steep waves which are so incredibly closely spaced to waves of the same height spaced at a more normal distance is fair.

Just My Opinion
In tailwinds and following seas the Osprey tends to broach MUCH sooner and more aggressively than the Magic.