Help choosing canoe

Hi all,

I’m looking for some help choosing a canoe.

My wife and I live full time on our sailboat and we enjoy paddling to explore whatever area we’re in at the time. She currently has a small sea kayak and I’m pedaling a Bote lono aero. The lono is ok, but it’s big and heavy and doesn’t have the same feel as paddling a nice boat.

I’ve had sea kayaks in the past, but I have issues with my legs falling asleep pretty rapidly when I’m sitting with my feet out in front of me. So unfortunately that means no sea kayaks, surf skis, or packboats for me.

I’m looking for a good all around canoe. Something that is maneuverable enough to explore mangrove rivers and estuaries, but has good enough tracking to handle choppy open water paddles in moderately windy conditions, and enough speed to at least attempt to keep up with my wife (I don’t dare try to paddle faster than her haha). Enough load carrying capacity to handle the occasional week long trip would be a plus as well (I’m about 6’, 200 lbs).

I like to paddle in a seated position in calm stuff, but switch to a kneeling position when it gets rough.

The boat also needs to be light weight and very durable. It’s going to live outside on the side of our boat with lots of UV exposure. It’ll probably wind up dragged up on the beach fairly often as well.

Currently I’m looking at the Swift Prospector 14 and the Merrimack Baboosic. I love the looks of the Merrimack boats, but I do worry about maintaining the wood with all the humidity and uv exposure. Plus, I have enough boat maintenance on our sailboat.

Anyone have any thoughts about those boats for my circumstances? Or suggestions for other boats to consider?

I know people love Prospectors, but I prefer something narrower. There are a lot of 14-15 foot solo boats that would fit the bill. I have a Wildfire (and a Yellowstone Solo), and can easily get a week’s worth of gear in it. I’m a little heavier than you, and the boat sits low when loaded for camping, but I have never had an issue even in easy rapids or choppy open water. I think you would enjoy it more exploring the mangrove rivers and chasing after your wife.

1 Like

Both have symmetrical rocker; the Swift less than the Baboosuc. Sure you want a little rocker but for open water you want something with more bow rocker and less stern. You will overload a boat if you are camping for a week if you have to carry fresh water. So 15 foot is better than 14. Symmetrical rockered boats on the Gulf in waves tend to want to turn too fast on waves coming from behind so they are harder to keep on course

Swift makes a Keewaydin 15 and Hemlock makes a Peregrine. I am not familiar with Northstar boats but they make a lot of tripping solos.

Some older boats do well too no longer made but sometimes pop up for sale like the Bell Merlin II and the Curtis Nomad

I have been exploring the Everglades since 2005 for ten days each year and I have used a Peregrine, a RapidFire ( in a pack canoe configuration; they can also be ordered from Placid Boatworks with a standard solo seat) and a Curtis Nomad. I love the open waters of the Gulf but also twisty little devils like Halfway creek and Charley Creek and the Labyrinth.

I also can maneuver a Mad River Monarch through tunnels but at nearly 18 feet not as much fun. And its a heavy open water boat no longer made.

When having to carry fresh water you really have to factor that in. I have a WIldfire and would never have enough freeboard with 80 lbs of water in jugs. If that is a concern for you that is.

FYI, the interior of the Baboosic is covered in fiberglass so the boat requires no more maintenance than other canoes. Both Baboosic and Swift Prosector are relatively wide, safe, stable solos. Baboosic has a lot of rocker so the boat has very little tracking but always obeys the paddle. I think the Swift Keewaydin 15 is an extremely versatile boat. The maneuverability is more than enough for exploiting mangroves yet the boat tracks and cruises nicely. I’m about your weight and the boat does nicely with me alone yet can also easily handle the weight of a large dog. I think the efficient load range is 180-320…you’re a bullseye. Swift offers two position side pods so you get the higher kneeling position and also the lower sitting position. I have 7 solos and my Kee15 goes out often. Another good all around boat is the Northstar Northwind Solo. It’s similar to the Kee15…less expensive and easier to find. But it’s like most solos where you need to pick one seat position…low enough for stability while sitting yet high enough to get your feet under the seat kneeling. The NW Solo is quite stable so you should be able to find a good compromise seat height.

Swifts have a thicker gelcoat than Northstar canoes…so can handle abrasion a little better but even the super thin skin coat on the NW Solo can handle being pulled onto a beach since that’s not hard on a canoe.

Hopefully you can store the canoe upside down to protect the wood thwarts and seats from exposure. If you just spray the hull with 303 UV protectant occasionally (perhaps monthly) I think a canoe would last a very long time even stored outside. Just get aluminum or carbon gunwales to avoid the maintenance of wood.

If the Baboosic is your dream boat it would indeed work for you. They are sometimes used for freestyle so the boat can spin like a top…but the high rocker also makes it safe in big waves. Baboosic is kind of wide so it’s harder to keep your paddle shaft vertical than on most other (narrower) solos.

The Wenonah Wilderness is another possibility if you could test paddle one. A little less rocker/maneuverability than the others (probably similar to Prospector 14) but stable and versatile…and I think you can get it with aluminum thwarts and well as gunwales. I’ve never paddled one but people seem to like them.

The Keewaydin 15, Northwind Solo and Wenonah Wilderness are all available in lay-ups just over 30 pounds.

PS - if you need a personal chef I’m a pretty good cook


Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses. There are a ton of options haha.

I think I could probably store a 15’ boat onboard, but that’s definitely the limit. That’s one reason I was looking at the 14’ boats. I saw the Northwind solo, but I think it’s getting too long for managing on the sailboat. The Phoenix looks interesting, but definitely has a lot of rocker.

Speaking of rocker, the Baboosic is listed as 3" of rocker… is that 3" total (i.e. 1.5" bow and 1.5" stern), or 3" at each end?

The Swift Keewaydin 15 is definitely an interesting boat that I’ll add to the list. I’m assuming the Keewaydin 14 is slightly too small for my weight?

If I do any trips in the boat, they’ll likely be inland trips, so shouldn’t have to carry a bunch of fresh water with me. In the salt, we’ll likely just do day paddles from the mothership.