I've been paddling a Wenonah Odyssey 18 1/2' canoe since the early 80's, and have taken a number of trips to Quetico over the years. Since the canoe is over twenty years old, and rather beat up, I want to buy a brand new one this next spring of 2007. I'd like another canoe that will last just as long as that old Wenonah. At this point in my life, I'm really getting the itch to take the occasional solo trip to Quetico, so I'm kind of interested in a canoe that could not only handle two paddlers and all their gear for a ten day trip through Quetico, but could be handled by a solo paddler tripping in Quetico as well. I'm a big guy at 6'3", 235 lbs, and could probably handle a tandem canoe solo, but I don't know which one is best suited for me. I'm kind of thinking the 18 1/2 footers can be ruled out for dual use, since that's a bit much for one paddler, and anything shorter than 17' is not enough for two large paddlers and a week of gear. I am also use to speed and efficiency, so I don't want to go less than 17', or anything with an inefficent flat bottom, which rules out the Souris brand. I'm kind of leaning to a Wenonah 17 1/2 foot Escape, or the Bell Northwinds. My question to you guys that might have one of these canoes, is can either of these canoes handle the kind of dual use I'm describing? Obviously there are no perfect canoes, and there are always trade-offs, but can one of these models handle one or two paddlers and all their gear, or are they going to leave me feeling they're too much for one guy, and not enough for two, for extended canoe trips? Thanks in advance for your replies.
Depends on your pace
If you are soloing a tandem canoe, it can be very challenging going into a stiff wind. You will have plenty of “seaworthiness”, but it is just a lot of work, and sometimes it is impossible to make headway without the extra horsepower.
If you plan a few extra days for wind, and are not in a great hurry, you ought to have no trouble with any of the canoes you mentioned.
Depending on what your local dealers carry, you might also consider the clipper tripper, swift winisk, or a bluewater freedom.
Solo in large tandem
If you’re used to speed, then go with an Escape or Bluewater Tripper (the 17’ version, not the 17’9").
The best way to control a sizable tandem solo is to row it from amidships when it’s windy. Mount oar sockets outside the gunwale and use 6.5 foot spoon blades when you need power. Your rowing seat can be as simple and comfortable as a mid-sized bean bag (you may have to install a removable yoke to free up the middle of the boat for your stroke … or you can sit underneath the yoke and work the oar handles on the other side of it. I personally like to remove it and so get it out of the way. Windage can be significantly lessened with a custom spray cover that either snaps or lashes on. If you insist on paddling only, you may want to get a symmetrical hull like the 17’ Swift Algonquin. You’ll give up speed but will gain bi-directionality and less windcocking hull behavior when it’s really windy. Use leeboards as skegs if you need better tracking.
Good luck !!!