Curtis Lady Bug observations / questions

I received my brand new, never paddled white kevlar Curtis Lady Bug solo canoe from MI today, delivered by the seller to central IL (thanks Bill) and took it for an hour long, approximately three mile long test paddle on our city park lake (three laps) this evening in somewhat breezy and gusty conditions and here’s my initial observations and a question or two.

I’d never paddled a Lady Bug before today. The most similar boat I’d paddled was gremmie’s black gold Bell Flashfire last summer and I was only in it for about 10 minutes on a river.


The boat is kevlar with with white gel coat outside, natural kevlar resin inside, gray scuff patch under the seat / kneeling area and has oiled wood trim that’s a rich oak or maple tone - very pretty. The inwales have four scupper slots on each side near the cane seat. The scupper slots appear to have a layer of cloth on the inner surface. I noticed this while paddling in waning light and forgot to look more closely before I put the boat away, so I could have been wrong about that. Nicely constructed with good attention to details.

It weighs about 30 lbs. I didn’t weigh it and the weight isn’t written on the original receipt, but that’s what the web site says and I’ve got no reason to doubt it. I’ll weigh it sometime in the next couple days.

It’s a little beamier than I need at 5’6" and 30" inseam, but I think it will be ok after I lower the front edge of the seat a little so that it doesn’t cut into the back of top of my thigh when kneeling and I can get more of my weight on the seat and be more comfortable.

Kneeling still hurts. I was wearing strap on knee pads, but will look into other kneeling pad options. My knees complained the least when I had my feet toward the center line of the boat, rather than more toward the outside. I sit most of the time in my other canoes.

There is about an 8" oval area on the inner hull surface near the front float tank where a bottle of dish soap had leaked onto the resin and softened it up and now that area is roughed up and needs resurfaced after the efforts of the seller (it was his late wife’s boat - she got sick before she was able to paddle it and he knows nothing about canoes) to remove the soap stain. I’ll get advice from Dave Curtis on how best to handle that.


I plan on using this as my main boat on shallow and twisty rivers, especially the river trips that have longer or more difficult carries to the put in and from the take out, though I will also mess around on lakes. My royalex Bell Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo weighs 49 lbs and my Blackhawk Zephyr weighs 44 lbs, so getting the 30 lb Lady Bug to and from the streams will be much more pleasant than the heavier boats. I’ll probably still use the royalex Wildfire when the water is really skinny and I don’t want to abuse the Lady Bug too much. Dave Curtis assures me that the Lady Bug, with it’s S-Glass outer cloth, can handle bumps and grinds on the shallow and rocky rivers that I plan to use it on. The Zephyr’s V bottom hull requires more water depth than the royalex Wildfire or the Lady Bug.

I’ll probably use my Wenonah Advantage or Whisper ultra light more for lake cruising because their just so comfortable for sitting while paddling.


It seems pretty easy to paddle it in a straight line using a 50" Wenonah Black Jack carbon bent shaft (same as ZRE Medium) canoe paddle. It seems to move along best with short fast strokes, which seemed odd to me, because my royalex Bell Wildfire and Blackhawk Zephyr seem to be quite satified with slower and longer strokes. I tend to paddle my boats slightly heeled when kneeling - it just seems more natural than paddling level when kneeling.

It seems to handle winds pretty well and seems pretty stable and manageable in the wind as long as I’m kneeling. It was rather unsettling when I was sitting and the wind gusted or changed directions. I do plan on sitting in the boat to take breaks from kneeling, so I may install a Wenonah sliding foot brace to aid with stability when I’m sitting and it’s windy. I’ll get more seat time in it before I decide whether or not to install the foot brace.

It seems easier to turn it with bow pries than with stern rudders, which is ok with me because reaching back for stern rudders hurts my right shoulder anyway. It responds nicely to heels and weight shifts.

It turns quite nicely.

It tracks better than expected and doesn’t spin as badly when I stop paddling as I had expected.


Initial stability seems somewhat light when getting in and out and when sitting - somewhat similar to the Blackhawk Zephyr (I’m going on memories from last fall regarding the Zephyr because I haven’t paddled it in about four months because of the ice) The royalex Wildfire and Wenonah Advantage (which I’ve paddled in the last few weeks) have higher initial stability and feel more comfortable (stability wise) to sit and paddle.

I havn’t really tested the secondary stability, but I don’t expect it to be quite as good as the royalex Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo or a Flashfire, because it doesn’t have shouldered tumblehome like the fire boats, Hemlock boats and Dave Yost’s other more modern designs.

Speed / Efficiency:

It seems pretty easy to keep moving along. I did my usual circuits on the local city park lake today in about the same time as I did it the last couple times in my Wenonah Advantage and it may have even been a little less work and easier on my shoulders and joints that the Advantage is. I may get around to timing it with a GPS some day. The Lady Bug doesn’t have the glide that the Advantage does, but it seems easy to keep moving with short, quick strokes. Yes, I know that they are quite different boats.


  1. Would you lower the front edge of the seat or use a thicker kneeling pad to deal with the front edge being too high and cutting into the back of the thigh when trying to rest more weight on the seat when kneeling?

  2. Those of you who have paddled a Lady Bug and Flashfire one after the other on the same day, how would you say they compare regarding paddler fit and boat handling.

    My understanding is that the slightly narrower Flashfire would be a better fit for shorter thighed paddlers like me and that both boats would have similar initial stability and general handling, but the Flashfire would be a bit firmer when heeled to the rail because of the shouldered tumblehome.

    That’s it for now. More later.

    Thanks in advance for your advice and comments.

I get knee pain when my knees are
splayed, UNLESS I have knee blocks to support the inner sides of my thighs. I think that the pain is due to sideways sheer forces on my partly damaged medial collateral ligaments.

You might experiment with knee blocks on one of your boats where there is a way to mount them. If they help, then you can try a Mohawk solo seat that splays the knees and also allows you to quickly throw your legs forward into a sitting posture.

Lady Bug is a FreeStyle boat

– Last Updated: Mar-17-09 10:44 PM EST –

and hence when heeled to the rail it will hold. Its up to you to develop that balance. Take it easy. Its a gradual process.

I would highly recommend ditching the kneecups and investing in a good Cooke canoe pad.

Stability comes from one knee in each chine.

FreeStyle boats have a touring heritage and LadyBug is no exception. If you want to install that footbrace, be aware that it may limit your resale market. Your next buyer may want to do maneuvers requiring high kneels and a footbrace is a possible impediment.

When you are kneeling your weight is farther forward than sitting and the Lady Bug does respond well to a hard J..if the J is effective..then comes the static bow draw.

The upshot is it seems you might want to consider bringing it to Midwest FreeStyle Symposium in September. Several other LadyBugs and their owners will be there and you can have fun exploring that little boats wonderful potential.

Glad to see somebody bought it
I had at one point seen about making arrangements to view the boat, but the price was a bit high for me anyway. Was on the market for a long time, but I am glad to see it’s got a good and appreciative owner now.

Now if it was an unused Bluegill, I mighta taken drastic measures to obtain it ;D

Was one of those paddles a wood GO Freestyle? IIRC one was bent and one was straight, the straight looked like a GO Freestyle.

Holy crap Yanoer. Paddle the boats you’re asking about and then make up your own mind. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.

Easier said than done, when it comes
to try before you buy. This boat was 360 miles away and the seller offered to deliver it free if I bought it.

The seller lowered the price, which
brought it down to the level that I thought I could resell it for in my neck of the woods if it didn’t work out for me. I got first dibs on the lowered price, since I was the first to inquire that seemed genuinely interested. I still have to sell two or three boats to recoup what I paid for it, since I really didn’t have the spare cash.

Yes it came with two Grey Owl paddles, one ~54" straight and one 48" bent. They are very beautiful paddles, but the blades are large and they are heavier than my Zaverals (straight & bent), so I don’t know if I’ll use them much. The blade edges are quite thin, I’m not sure why some people have posted recently that Grey Owl paddles are relatively thick compared to other paddles, unless the new models are thicker bladed than these two that were bought back in Dec of 1990. I’m not sure of the models and am not sure if it’s on the paddles. I’ll try to remember to check the next time I get the boat out.

Thanks for those suggestions.
I’ll investigate them further.

I’ll also check with Dave Curtis regarding different angle seat drops that would have a lower front edge, but keep the rear about where it is now.

Thanks for your feedback.
I’ll look into the Cook kneeling pads and others. My main concern with large pads is that they’ll reduce clearance under the seat and impede the process of getting my feet under the seat as well as getting my feet out from under the seat cleanly and quickly if needed.

I realize that adding a foot brace may reduce the potential resale value, especially to the freestyle crowd, but I didn’t realize that they could possibly be in the way, when the near side of the track would still be pretty far away from the seat - just a few inches before the front thwart.

I would like to attend either the Midwest Freestyle Symposium or the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous this year, though I doubt that I could afford or get the time off work for both events. Of course, if I’m still unemployed when those events come around, I’ll have the time, but not the money to attend them.

GO FreeStyle paddle
when it was made in wood was two veneer layers over a very thin solid wood layer.

The GO Voyager has almost the same shape (it is a bit narrower) and is a standard laminate paddle. Its almost twice as thick as the FreeStyle paddle.

I have both and use the Voyager for remote trips.

The Grey Owl Marathon (bent) has the same construction as the FreeStyle paddle.

When you are kneeling and using a bent, check your catch and recovery angles very carefully. For me I have to change my body mechanics very unnaturally to achieve a vertical catch and a vertical departure from the water… Straights give a better attack angle when kneeling, but bents are possible.

The thinness of the FS paddle is designed for minimizing paddle turbulence while doing slices and inwater recoveries. Weight is not so much an issue…the shape is wide to give some kick to lateral forces to make small solos turn. So you see its an entire different usage than your Zav, which I find great for sit and switch.

I must have the FreeStyle & Marathon.
They both are very thin and have the beautiful veneer on the faces.

They have 22" x 8 3/8" blades. I’m used to Zaverals, so I’m not conditioned for blades that big for cruising. The big blade paddles are more fun for messing around and experimenting with maneuvers.

Both are a few inches short for me because the straight is 52" and the bent is 48". I may keep them just because they’re pretty. Practicality would suggest that I should either sell them or trade them for proper sized paddles of the same type.

I only had my 50" Zav and the GO straight with me yesterday, so I haven’t tried my 56" straight Zav in the Lady Bug yet. It’s too long in some of my boats and OK in others. A 54" straight Zav would probably work better with most of my boats, but I’ve been unwilling to shorten my 56", because it has it’s uses.

Thanks for that info.

The straight
If you’re not going to use it I’ll buy it, but I don’t know how long the blade is. If it’s a 34" shaft I’m very interested.

22" blade and 30" shaft on the staight.

I see the first post said it was a 54" and the second corrected that it was a 52". For a minute there I was like ‘wait, 30 and 22 don’t make 54’ until I went back and read.

Shame really, too small for me. A lot of people really like those old GO Freestyles, especially one that has never been used! You got a bit of a commodity there!

I think either Yanoer will love it
(let’s say 90 percent chance) and the other ten percent says if he doesn’t its a better investment than the stock market.

The contoured web seat may solve
the discomfort problem with the front edge of the straight cane seat when kneeling.

That change improved the comfort in my royalex Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo.

It has the effect of lowering the front edge of the seat nearly and inch and that front edge of the frame is a little more rouded off also - at least this is the case with the Bell seats. I assume it’s the same way with the Hemlock / Curtis seats.

Now, I just need to acquire one of the contoured seats to try out my theory.

Did you just try dropping the front edge
of your web seat?

I have had the problem of that edge really being a killer and dropping it helped me. The challenge may be to find the correct length bolt. Two, not two dozen.

My Lady Bug seat is cane.
I haven’t tried dropping the front edge yet. I’m not quite sure how to approach that project in regards to what to use as a spacer in the front of the seat drop block and how that might effect the lateral stability of the seat mount.

I haven’t looked at the boat since it’s inaugural paddle two days ago. I’m going to go mess around it and in it in a little while and look a little closer at what my options might be.

reggie was fond of his ladybug
i test paddled it on a lake and was suprised it did as well as it did with my weight…i just bought a t.pad from bell yanoer and the price was better than cooke allthough it might not be as good of quality…not sure…it seems to be alot more comfortable than my homemade kneeling pad…they shipped it quickly like 2 or 3 days…jack

Though he did say that his was the only “serious” inquiry.