Former paddler wanting to get back....

Hello. I used to solo paddle class 2/3 whitewater as much as I could from '77-82 in the SW Ohio-Kentucky-Tenn area. Then I got into power boating and left the canoe behind. I used to read Canoe Magazine regularly and always thought one of those small solo flat water playboats looked like a great way to spend some quality outdoor time. 25 years later the power boat’s gone and I think it’s time to get back into paddling. I spend way too much time indoors. I’ve lost my desire for the excitement of white water. A nice little float around a forest preserve lake will suit me just fine.

I’d like to get a solo boat that’s lightweight and fit’s my 5’6" 185 lb frame. I’d like to get something used in good shape and spend under $1000. I’m interested in something fun to paddle and that’s quick and nimble and efficient. I won’t try paddle super fast but I’d like a nice glide between strokes. I kneel when I paddle.

I’d love to hear your ideas as far as sizes that might fit me, and models of canoes to look into. Ideas on where to paddle in the NW Chicago burbs would be cool too.

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to any replies.


what boat
I would say a boat in the 16’ range, light weigh. Have you thought about a kayak vs. canoe.

More comfortable kneeling…
I had a kayak long enough to realize I prefer canoes. My body doesn’t bend in the middle comfortably. Also, I got so used to the higher vantage point I was never as comfortable sitting low as you do in a kayak. Also, I could pull off a planned eskimo roll in a pool but was terrified of doing one in a moving river. I’d rather go swimming with my canoe. :slight_smile: One blade on a paddle feels so right to me.

So I need some length to haul around the big belly eh?


You’re welcome to try my Blackhawk
Zephyr. If you like it, you can buy it. It’s in Urbana, IL. It’s best paddled from a kneeling position.

I also have a Mad River Slipper, Sawyer Summersong and Sawyer Loon that you could try if you visit - they’re not for sale.

I’m 5’6" and 155 and the above boats fit me. The Slipper is fine kneeling or sitting. I’ve only paddled the Summersong and Loon from a sitting position.

There’s a royalex Wenonah Vagabond in the classified ads that would probably work for you. It’s in WI and it’s a good price.

Look at a Novacraft Supernova.

Great boat(OK, I’m prejudice). It’s a high volume tripping boat. 2.5" rocker, will turn nicely. Handles class II & III even with a load. I ran Comptons on the Shenandoah loaded and didn’t even blink…

When a bunch of us from here(the Ozark group) paddled the Buffalo. My boat was one of the few that had no trouble with the standing waves and taking on water. I also took her up with the long boats on the Wisconsin and had no trouble keeping up. Here is a picture of my boat setting on a sandbar.

Novacraft Supernova looks nice!
Looks like a really nice WW playboat. I used to love that stuff. I’d stuff a 16 ft mowhawk with floatbags and put on a wetsuit and go at it.

I think I’d like to get something lighter and more tuned to messing around on flat water on a saturday morning or after work without having to fool around with setting up a shuttle. Maybe I’ll wet a line now and then. Thanks for sharing that beautiful picture. That’s what it’s all about.

Zephyr etc.

– Last Updated: Mar-05-08 10:24 PM EST –

Maybe I'll take you up on that if spring ever gets here. My son goes to school down your way so I could visit him too. First I gotta talk my wife into the idea that I should do this BEFORE I get my credit card paid off. :-) Thanks for the offer!

Spring weather and liquid water should
arrive soon and I’m ready.

I have a Vagabond
and a Bell Magic. The Vagabond is more stable. It glides fairly well, has minimal rocker and a low profile so it is less affected by wind. The Vagabond is royalex like the one for sale on and weighs 42 pounds. The Magic is much faster, better glide, handles wind and waves well but has less initial stability. The Magic is Kev-lite and weighs 33 pounds. Neither are for sale but just wanted to throw out support for the Vagabond and introduce another option.

comparison options
This weekend in Madison WI a retailer named Rutabaga[.com] hosts an event called canoecopia, where you will be able to look at most of the array of available solo boats.

Across town, another retailer, Paddlin [.com] hosts countercopia, where the rest of the array can be seen.

Like you,

– Last Updated: Mar-06-08 8:15 AM EST –

I wanted a single-handed canoe that I could grab and go out on the local water for an hour, or so, after work. Like you, I couldn't justify spending what it would take to get a new RapidFire or Merlin II. I got lucky, after months of cruising classifieds, and found a nice lady offering her Mad River Independence for $700. I jumped on it and, after only one season together, I have to say I'm in love. 36 lbs. of Kevlar, red gelcoat, and dark-stained ash never looked so good! Charlie W. doesn't think she turns so well, and he's right, but for me (50 yrs. old, 220 lbs., 6 ft. tall) she's perfect enough. Tom, there's a nice boat out there with your name on it. You two just have to find each other. Perseverence and Peace, brother.-Tom

Exactly !
I paddle a canoe for the same reasons.

I would add the personal sense of accomplishment one derives from mastering such a challenging technique, not to mention it looks cool. There is no zone in paddlesports like that of solo canoe.

Sortt of the same “boat” I’m in
Wantfire - I paddled quite a bit back in the 70’s but not much thereafter, until last year. Last year, I decided I wanted a canoe for all the same reasons you stated. First good used canoe I found (I’m too cheap to buy new) was a Navarro Legend (13’ fiberglas/wood, 58lbs) that was like new. Payed $500 for it IIRC. It’s a great little flat-water boat, but kinda slow with limited glide. Very stable on flat water and yet nimble enough for me to paddle solo - but it handles two of us pretty well. I can stand in it to cast if I want to, with no trouble whatsoever. Having a low profile and a keel, the legend does track pretty well in a breeze - but it’s lack of glide makes paddling directly into the wind a bit of a chore.

I figured I wanted something with a little more room, a little more freeboard and a little more glide - so I started looking for another canoe. Found a good deal ($700) on a nearly new Wenonah Fisherman (14’ royalex, 57lbs). I haven’t paddled it much yet, but enough to know that it is faster and glides much better than the Navarro Legend. It’s a bit more “tender” than the Legend, but I suspect that is related to the fact that it feels more nimble. The Fisherman does have a higher profile and catches the wind more - but it paddles into the wind easier than my Legend due, I suppose, do it’s better glide.

Both of these canoes are great to fish out of. Both of them work well in small lakes and large ponds. Both of them are not difficult for this old man to cartop. I have taken the Legend down some class 1 rivers with no real trouble but haven’t had the chance to try the Fisherman on moving water. I suspect the fisherman will handle that better, but I do not know. The reason I mention that, is because even though you are looking to do only flat water - so was I, but I couldn’t keep myself off the rivers. Just something to think about.

Anyway - just a little info about my take on what you have in mind. I don’t know how these canoes stack up with other contemporary canoes (other than those abominable Colemans), since I don’t live in a “canoe culture” region and have had little to compare for about 30 years. But I enjoy myself with either of these canoes on flat water and I don’t feel like I have wasted any money, even though I may be looking for another different hull. Point being that I think you won’t have trouble finding something you will like for under $1000. Don’t wait too long to get started!

Various Comments

– Last Updated: Mar-06-08 4:13 PM EST –

You don't "need" a 16-foot boat for the reason you joked or for any other, but I'm sure the first poster has a reason for liking that length. I would suggest that if you want a boat that's "nimble", 14 feet would work well, and you are well within the weight range that most 14-foot boats can handle.

One of the most popular 14-footers in the "nimble" category is the Bell Yellowstone Solo (which was once said to be the most popular of all solo canoes, but that was back when it was still called a "Wildfire", and the total count included "real" (composite) Wildfires). I've test paddled a Royalex Wildfire (same thing as a Yellowstone Solo), and it was pretty responsive and fun, but I prefer the looser stern of my Mohawk Odyssey 14, and think the Odyssey 14 is a more-versatile design partly because of that. The Odyssey 14 is not a flashy boat, and it's not quite as fast as even the lowly Wenonah Vagabond, but it's surprisingly capable boat which is fun to paddle (I love it most on twisty rivers), and you can "grow into" it for a long time. You can get a new one for about your target price. I think a new Bell Yellowstone Solo might cost just a little more. If you can get your hands on a "real" composite Wildfire, I think you'll be pretty happy, as that boat is said to be prefered by a lot of freestyle paddlers.

I mentioned the Vagabond above (as being faster than the Odyssey 14), and it's not a bad boat either. I had plenty of fun with the one I had before I sold it. If you can find a used Vagabond in a composite layup, you'll find that it's more maneuverable and playfull than the Royalex version. The Royalex version will probably not have any rocker, but the composite version will have 1.25 inches of rocker. Either the Yellowstone Solo or Odyssey 14 will be a lot more playful than the Vagabond, though.

If you want to get into a boat that really excels at being playful on flatwater, and you can't find a used "real" (composite) Wildfire, I think you'll need to step up to a composite boat from one of the high-end builders, and I'm not too familiar with that territory. Of course, that will necessitate getting a used boat to stay near your target price.

Okay, one more thing. You say you no longer seek the thrill of whitewater, but I REALLY question whether Class I and II whitewater will seem like such a remote possibility once you are on the water again. You used to do Class III, and Class II is such a big step down from that in terms of difficulty and danger that I just bet you'll find Class II to be "enough fun" without getting too serious about the whole whitewater thing. Think about that. You might want a Royalex boat instead of a composite. Whatever "playfull" boat you choose, it'll probably be good for doing light whitewater. There are some very pretty rivers a few hours north of you in Wisconsin, and I swear I can hear them calling your name.

Someone else already mentioned this, but come up to Canoecopia in Madison, WI this weekend. But be warned: if you think you have a strong urge to buy a boat now, just wait until you've been there a few hours!

I just love my Vagabond!
But, it turns slower than my MR Guide and a lot quicker than the Bell Merlin I just bought. Never tried one in a composite layup. It’s a Rec boat. Durable, versatile and light. Great for fishing and day trips on a lazy river. I have paddled a Bell Wildfire several times (the old royelex version that was mentioned above) and would prefer it over the Vagabond in almost all situations except fishing. The Wildfire is manueverable and fun to play in. And you can carry enough gear for a long river trip in it. It has good lines. My 2 cents.

The Rx Wildfire/Yellowstone solo
is a pig on flatwater - at least that’s how I perceive mine. It’s much more effected by wind than the Vagabond. I paddled the two one after the other on a windy & choppy day on a small lake. The Vagabond was much easier to keep on track and turn either into or away from the wind than the Rx Wildfire.

There’s a nice Osprey in Fla.
and the price is right. Check the classifieds right at the top.

I’m a big fan of the Swift Osprey.

It’s highly manuverable 15’ solo that will easily carry you and a weekends gear. It’s also very efficient. Takes just a little effort to move it along in the 3 to 4 mph range. I find it quite stable when I’m kneeling. I’ve even done a little bit of poling, standing up, in mine. It’s also quite dry in waves. The combination of stable, dry, manuverable and efficient make this one of the most verastle canoes I know of. I use mine on rivers, lakes and the ocean.

Good luck with your search.

Thanks for all the replys…
One new development is that my wife is interested now too, which is a good thing. I found myself drooling over the Wenonah Solo Plus. I could paddle it solo or tandem. It looks like plenty of canoe for the smaller, sheltered water we’ll be on and it’s pretty light weight in Kevlar. Sure it’s double my price range, but she’ll go in half. What a gal!

I’d be interested in comparable craft of anybody knows of any.

I’m fighting a cold and had other commitments so I didn’t make Canoecopia.

Thanks you guys. It looks like you have a real nice community of paddlers here.


is my boat and I would be glad to talk to you about it. I took the ad off again due to scam e mails being the main responses. e mail or call 561 306 1623. I want someone to have the boat who appreciates it.



– Last Updated: Mar-09-08 3:44 PM EST –

Tell us; the total amount of seat time you have in a Wildfire/Yellowstone Solo, and a Wenonah Vagabond is what?

A pig eh? Really?