Fast Kevlar Down River Tripping Canoe???

Wanted to get some opinions on a fast down river kevlar tripping canoe. It would need to be maneuverable enough for rocky rivers requiring quick maneuvers (up to about class II maybe II+) yet would need to be fast on the long flat sections and be capable of paddling well from the seated position / sit and switch.

This is a bill that somewhat asks for competing qualities in a boat in that most that maneuver well enough to pick your way through rock gardens dont track well enough for sit and switch on the flats without being all over the place.

I ask this question based on my last two trips I have made. On the first trip I went on a slow and lazy river but one that had a lot of technical twists and turns in some stretches. I used my Magic and it was not fun going through the turns, but was great on the straight aways. It was fast and comfortable there and I like paddling straight aways if I can go fast and sit and switch…or maybe sit and J sometimes with the bent shaft.

On my last trip it was rocky and technical class I and II with some II+ but with loooong flat sections taht killed me in my Mad River Guide.

So…I am looking for something that can do both fairly well, understanding there are trade-offs.

The three that come to mind are: the Bell Merlin II, the Swift Osprey, and the Wenonah Rendezvous.

I currently have a Merlin II which I am selling but now am thinking about keeping. I think it would do well on the fast part, but not sure if it has the maneuverability for the rock gardens. I may try to get it out and try it in some but once you do and you get the gel coat all banged up (which I don’t care about) it will be much harder to sell so I am holding off a bit.

I personally think that the Rendezvous and Osprey may do better as they should be considerably more maneuverable.

I had an Osprey and found it quite maneuverable and fairly fast. It was not as fast as the Merlin but close. However, its tracking was poor as I recall for sit and switch.

I paddled a Rendezvous once and found it to offer good speed and maneuverability but again tracking was not great.

However…since I am talking about a tripping boat then the game changes as the boats will all handle differently with a load.

I am thinking that the Rendezvous and Osprey may stiffen up their tracking enough for sit and switch…and that the Merlin may stiffen up to the point where it is no longer maneuverable enough.

Last consideration is the boats ability to handle waves adn drops. Again, I am not sure the Merlin would do it well without being a really wet ride.

Last of all is durability. My Merlin is white gold…the Rendezvous woudl have to be TuffWeave adn the Osprey woudl have to be Expedition Kevlar. All would need to be able to take hits on rocks, scraping, and the occasional “high centering” that can take place.

thanks for your help


A fast tripper that maneuvers well in
… “technical” class II and class II+ and “tracks well” for sit and switch?

That’s going to be the paddler, not the boat.

You could try a royalex Solo Plus and hit stuff as required.

Osprey Manuverability
I was thinking Osprey but I have to wonder how much manuverability you might lose with a tripping load on board.

I might have an answer for that in a little more than a week… maybe.

Over all I have the idea that folks who sucsesfully do that sort of stuff get very skilled in reading rapids and planning routes so as to not need the high manuverability.

Find some wildwater (whitewater down river) races to watch. Better yet find some to participate in.

The Curtis Dragonfly
and its cousin the Hemlock SRT come to mind.

With a tripping load you have to avoid sticky stems. Not surprising that your Magic was a handful. You do need more rocker to avoid the ends resisting you.

I have tripped on moving water in the Merlin II and its somewhat increased rocker is an asset.

I am perhaps taking Curtis Nomad to the Buffalo River. With a spray cover it ought to be deep enough and maneuverable enough but the most I can run it is Class 2…not a 2 plus.

Merlin II(not mine) was paddled by someone else on a Buffalo River trip and did just fine at just below flood stage water. Had camping gear. It did 29 miles in about four hours.

Millbrook Swamp Hen?

you can most likely order a Rendezvous in kevlar from your dealer, not being limited to flexcore

for what you are talking about, you would be better off with royalex or some model which is offered in expedition kevlar layup - are you stuck on kevlar? going with a Rx boat would be better for your stated purpose, particularly since you did not mention portaging?, and even with portaging in mind, rx would be a better choice, and you can find more used boats in Rx

I wouldn’t take my Merlin II Kev-light boat thru what you are looking to use one in - most likely, I’d be portaging that stuff rather than risk the boat.

In any case, the Rendezvous will do what you were asking for - more or less, that’s what I use my boat for - it seems quite fast on the river and I never have any problem keeping up with the Joneses in tandems or kayaks. I pack light, and it has ample room for packs, and gear under the airbags. Downside to any of the 3 boats you mention is length - that 15’ class is a bit too long for technical CII rock garden (any boat) - just a bit too hard to crank really sharp fast turns, and eventually that will work against you - in more open water, I can catch some prety small eddies with no problem though. Did 14 miles last Sunday in 2 hours and 10 at a fast cruise pace with fast current in my Rx boat. You will need to back paddle in really big waves to give that sharp bow time to rise a bit. I’ve cranked out 50 or 60 lake miles, with a heavy tripping load, in 3 days with it - not fast, but probably better than a Guide, and much slower than the Kevlar Merlin would be - part of that diff is Rx vs Kevlar though - the Kevlar version is somewhat faster with sharper entry and lighter weight.

downriver boats used to all
be in fiberglass.

I wouldnt take a UL boat down what the OP wants to do but the Merlin II is a good design in another layup.

Millbrook Boats is a good place to look…thats their specialty.

basic issue(s)…(insert rolleyes)
One issue to still decide on, first off, is how do you want/like to canoe down a stream/small-river that posseses obstacles…(rocks…etc). Canoe races aren’t held on streams/rivers with very technical water…


Of the ones you mentioned…
none I’d pick for Class 2 and up camping touring. IMO the one you want you already sold. The Novacraft Supernova is the one I would pick in a hearbeat for overnighters on up to CIII.

Hellman Solitude?
Another option is the solitude by Hellman. Maybe not fast enough.

I think a properly reinforced seadoo might be the best blend of speed and maneuverability in whitewater, though they are noisy and difficult to portage. I’m not a speed demon myself, so prefer canoes that comprimise in favour if turning and rough water performance.

I’m not sure you are being realistic
If a was on a river trip in which I wanted to run “technical” Class IIs in a loaded boat, I would probably take a Royalex boat and resign myself to being slow on the flat stretches.

If you are talking about Class I and Class II rapids that are primarily wave trains that can be negotiated with some lateral sideslips, I would take a downriver racer design. I would specifically use either a glass Wenonah C1W or a Kevlar Mad River Traveler, simply because I happen to own those boats. If I didn’t, of the boats mentioned above I suspect the Swift Osprey or the Hemlock SRT would best fit the bill.

I have a Merlin II. I haven’t tried it, but I think it would be pretty wet running wavetrains of any size with a load.

great points…
I do realize that I am asking for something that may appear unrealistic. I guess I should caveat and say that I realize there will be trade-offs but something that offers a bit of a better balance might fit the bill for what I am looking for.

I realized on this trip that with a loaded boat you are not going to be doing a lot of playing and really just going straight down river….and on many river trips you are going to have to paddle long sections of flat water. But on the technical sections I am referring to something that can do more than just side slip.

I don’t have to be blazin’ like in my Magic, but I don’t like plodding along either as it really just bores me.

I am thinking that the Merlin fits the bill well for the sit and switch on the flats, but is probably pushing it for maneuverability and any kind of drops or wave trains.

I did love my Osprey but I need to take a look at its dimensions. As the one poster stated above a lot of what I am looking for probably involves the right dimensions and in order to get a good vertical stroke for sit and switch I will need a fairly narrow paddling station. The Osprey is not really very narrow….the Rendezvous may be though as I recall it having a lot of tumblehome.

Excellent point made on that one. Thanks.

Clipper Prospector
Not sure how fast it is as a downriver boat, but I found it to be quite nimble at making quick turns - the turn you would need to make to catch a small eddy in whitewater.

Did you get a chance to paddle Steve’s kevlar Clipper on the Lumber?