Getting older and paddling risks

I love my PBW SpitFire ultra lite (18 lbs), and my Hornbeck New Trick 11 (15 lbs). A friend is thrilled with her new Slipstream Wee Lassie in carbon that weighs less than either of them. Beautiful canoes and good customer service.

Thanks to all for your helpful responses. Shopping about for that Last Boat takes a bit of time especially when one is unwilling to drive a few hundred miles to take a particular boat for a test paddle in the pond back of the shop. At least one of them charges fifty bucks for the privilege of a fifteen minute paddle in one of their pack canoes. And that is one reason why a forum like this one can be invaluable.

It seems that most of the solo canoes have high thwart seats that would facilitate my preferred short paddle/high angle style of paddling but these are usually longer, wider and weigh more than I’d like. The PBW Spitfire gets good marks overall and a $1000 deposit will hold my place in the queue. Expected delivery time is about a year, just in time for my 82nd birthday. That adds another variable to the equation. Browsing the Internet, I came across the Curtis Mayfly. Very similar to the Spitfire.
As always, looking for the next boat can provide hours of amusement even if the Next is to be the Last. Jake…….

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Wow, Jmyers. Firty bucks! 12 years ago, the rental places around here wer $15-18 @ hour. Kayaks ranged from Necky, Perception, Wilderness, Old Town and Hobbie. Now they feature mostly sit-on-tops and paddle boards. Times have changed.

You’re problem is compounded because you’re looking for a specific boat. It might help.if you mentioned your area and places ypu plan to visit away from your home. Perhaps some members can recommend specific shops. I can recommend a shope in Annapolis, MD; they use to charge $10 to test boats they have in stock, and the price would be rolled into a purchase. I also recommend a shop near Harrisburg and one near York, PA. Both offer on site testing (fee unknown), but tbe best time to check is in the spring when they het allocations.

Sissy knows lightweight canoes.

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Might be worth finding a solo canoe rendezvous if there are any that are near you. i am fortunately near the Western PA one that happens every June less than an hour north of me here in Pittsburgh.

There are dozens of canoes at these events on the water, those belonging to private owners and many brought by makers like Bell, Swift, Placid and others, so there is ample opportunity to test paddle a wide range of craft.

And there are always some used boats for sale by attendees – I helped connect another p-commer to one that was offered at the 2021 get together. Even got to meet legendary canoe maker Dave Curtis there who recognized my forest green Curtis Lady Bug (that I had bought used for $900) that he had built in 1982. And got some great coaching (I am new to solo canoes.)

BTW, I use a 220 cm Bending Branches kayak paddle (long tapered blades) with that 26" beam Lady Bug. At 32 pounds, it is not as featherweight as the ultralight Hornbecks and Placids, but the Bugs often turn up for under $1000. And at 72 I can still hoist it pretty easily onto the roof rack.


The Spitfire is a great choice in my opinion.
My Magic has the same 29" beam as the Spitfire and I too prefer a lower seat position for paddling. On the other hand, a higher seat is nice for getting in and out. The Magic’s seat hangs on 4 1/2 - inch arched drops, but being taller than average my center of gravity (to be polite) still seems high so I’m extending the drops to 6". We’ll see how that goes.


@jmyers - I really think you should test paddle any boats that you are interested in if you can. Even the $50 fee is no big deal; I imagine they just want to discourage joyriders but you are serious and a 15 minute paddle can tell you a lot.

I’ll also comment that you might look at Northstar’s Trillium or Firebird pack canoes. Both are super efficient modern/recent designs made for lighter loads and will be lower price than Placid or Swift in the 25 pound kevlar lay-up and you would not have to wait a year. Just another option.

29" beam for SpitFire? Here are the specs for that canoe. The photo of the blue SpitFire on their page is actually my boat; I took that picture on Rock Springs Run several year ago.

Sorry, I should have specified that the Spitfire 13 has a 29" beam. Yours is a beautiful boat, btw.

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Measuring 24.5 inches across the rails thus making paddling with a shorter paddle easily doable, the Spitfire would have been my first choice but I talked with Joe Moore at PBW and he confirmed that production was “about” a year out. A $1000 deposit will hold one’s place in the queue but (and here’s the zinger) Joe informed me that the deposit is “usually” not refundable. Seems to me that with the good fortune having such a production backlog, returning a deposit shouldn’t hurt business. And when your as old as I am, almost anything can happen and it usually ain’t for the good.

The Spitfire 13 would have been my first choice, but the higher price plus a 2000 mile road trip to pick it up just wasn’t in the cards for me … never mind putting down $1000 and then waiting a year. The Swift Cruiser 12.8 is the only alternative I can think of that fits your preferences as I understand them - (1) relatively narrow at the gunwales, (2) 12’ long or so, and (3) built with double-bladed paddling from a low seat in mind.
Happy Thanksgiving all.

Hi Fellow Geezers!
To coin an ageist term, I feel “pretty spry for an old guy”. Got my left hip replaced 3 months ago. Right one 15 years ago. Bilateral symmetry at 74. Special shout-out to you 80+ year old mates - you really inspire me.

As for whitewater - Hell, I’d be more than happy to paddle some more Class III. What keeps me out of that game is the realization that I really don’t want to swim through Class III. That also tempers my enthusiasm for surfing “bigger days” off the coast of Oregon.

Stuff takes a lot longer to heal, lost muscle is hard to build, balance isn’t what it used to be, recovery from hard exercise takes longer. On and on it goes. I figure backpacking, mountaineering, and martial arts probably didn’t help the wear and tear on my hips. But absolutely no regrets. I tell the Young Turks to climb and paddle big stuff while they can; I’m certainly glad I did.

Where I live, Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier seem close enough to touch and I’d be lying if I say they don’t call out to me. Fortunately, I have a “standard of fitness” rule for mountaineering that keeps me honest. Namely that you should be fit enough to summit and descend, and then when you hit the parking lot, have the juice to do it again immediately if your life depended on it. I don’t come close to meeting that standard, so the idea gets knocked off the table.

The phrase “use it or lose it” took on new meaning for me when I turned 70. Physical setbacks periodically knocked me out of the game and I lost a lot of ground physically. Frustrating, but what’s whining about it going to get me? Nothing good, I figure, so I’m just grateful for medical technology, good friends, and the fact that I can still kayak and hike, albeit not as ambitiously as I could “back in the day”.

Bottom line is that any day that I can get out on the trail or the water is a very good day indeed. I’m grateful for that and mindful of the fact that the effort I put into cold water safety gives my life meaning, and that paddling provides me with community. Meaning and community - two things that I think are critical to feeling good about my life.

Thanks to all of your for sharing your stories. I enjoyed reading every one of them. And a special thanks to the OP for getting this conversation started. Big Hugs to All.


If the SpitFire would have been your first choice, take a good look at the Hornbeck New Trick 12, which weighs 18 lbs.

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A couple of days ago I bought a used New Tricks 13. The boat is in very good shape and the price made it a bargain I couldn’t pass on. The Hornbeck NT is a very basic canoe, plain and simple and in the couple of hours of paddling before the weather deteriorated I was favorably impressed by the way it handled and moved. I can see that I’ll need to add maybe three inches or so to the seat to make it easier to use a 220cm paddle. I think the boat has enough inherent stability to handle the higher CG. I’ll just keep adding closed cell foam until things get too twitchy. And if the New Tricks is as good as I think it might be, maybe I’ll send Joe Moore a deposit to hold my place in the queue for a new Spitfire. And, that for sure will be The Last Boat, a perfect birthday gift to myself for my 82nd😊.


Keep on paddling. 81 year old here, still paddling, just, no current please, kind of sad in a way, someone stole my OC1 slalom national trophy many years ago.


Paddled with this gentleman, over the weekend. He was 91 years old.( Guy with the blue paddle). 10 miles on the Black River, with a group of 14. He stayed at the front all day. Sharp as a tack, knew every turn in the Three Sisters Swamp. Only needed minor assistance, when getting out. Good to go otherwise. No trouble navigation all the cypress knobs and stumps. I suspect he is good for a few more years.


Haven’t paddled the Black in years. Some wild country.

wow91years old I’m 85 but don’t paddle much anymore since I ran out of Geritol! :grinning:

@MoultonAvery kudos for being active. The idea of kayaking after a 2nd hip replacement is not something I have had to consider. You are inspiring! We are hopeful Oregon coast paddlers. Always feel encouraged by older paddlers. Maybe my husband Eric, 70, and I, 68, will seek you out for wet exit certifying for OOPS!

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Very good advice— thank you, @SeaDart