HELP !! Magic, Peregrine, XL, Otegan

Please help me chose a “straight ahead” flatwater canoe which has SOME PERSONALITY.

I love the Bell Wildfire for rivers and the Bell Merlin II for rivers/just messing around flatwater, but would like an EFFICIENT hull which has PERSONALITY (turning ability) for hanging with my sea kayak buddies on inland chains.

I’m afraid the Grasse River XL might be a bit too much like a Wenonah Voyager (basing this only on listed specifications), and the Hemlock Peregrine doesn’t look all that different from a Merlin II (NOT saying this is bad, but would it have much more glide than the Merlin II?).

I kinda like the looks of the Savage River Otegan, and just missed purchasing one for around $600 (a steal). Of course there is the Magic, which lots of you GREAT folks own, but some of you prefer the Merlin II to the Magic for ANY USE.

Regardless of my final choice, I’ll have to have a kneeling seat. I just DON’T LIKE buckets because I need to stretch out, then kneel, then one leg kneeling and one in front, etc. I KNOW I can order the Otegan with a kneeling seat.

If Tom from Ann Arbor, MI, is out there, I’d sure appreciate your input. I wasn’t crazy about the Osprey, but I never got to try the Shearwater…

BTW, I’m 5’10 1/2", 210 pounds, 45 years. One last thing - kneeling gets me ready for my denial when wife asks, “Is that a new canoe?”

What have you found about the voyager that you did not like please? As you can tell from my thread, I too am looking for a fast solo.


How about the Barracuda?

When you say you want a boat with turning ability, how much maneuverability are you talking about?

Nothing Wrong w/w-n-n Voyager
If you want a straight-ahead, carry lots of gear canoe, my Voyager couldn’t be better. Without a load, however, it likes to blow sideways downwind in strong winds. I think a canvas deck would solve this, as will weight.

Maybe I don’t know how to “steer” the Voyager, but it seems quite stiff…

The John Winters Barracuda looks VERY interesting. I would appreciate more info, including seating options.

which solo
If you want to keep up with sea kayakers you’d better plan on using a double paddle and a cruiser canoe with a straight keel or you are going to be the perennial Tail End Charlie.

Bell’s Rob Roy might be a good choice because it is decked like a kayak, but, unlike a kayak, gives you room to move around and change position,and you can access your gear easily.

seating options
Since you’d be building the boat or having someone else build it, you could do the seating any way you want. I think John recommends a sliding seat for the Barracuda, so the only thing you’d have to decide is whether to use a sliding bucket seat mounted to the bottom of the boat or a sliding bench or bucket hung from the gunwales.

misc. thoughts

– Last Updated: Jan-08-04 9:07 PM EST –

Kneeling - you can normally kneel in the Wenonahs with a bucket seat. The boats are narrow enough that your feet wind up on either side of the bucket anyway, so as long as your feet are narrow enough to fit into that gap, you'll be fine. I like to have something to raise me up a bit off the seat when I'm kneeling - a spare pfd, a chunk of minicell, a rolled up towel, or whatever. It's easier on the knees that way.

I've been told that the smaller size bucket seats work better for folks with medium to large size feet because their feet can go along side the seat instead of having to go underneath it. I have relatively small feet (7 1/2), so I can kneel in just about anything. However, I had trouble kneeling in the Otegan. There wasn't much room alongside the seat to get my feet into. BTW, did Savage River tell you that a bench seat was an option in the Otegan? I didn't notice that on their website, and when I test paddled an Otegan, the inwales (there is no outwale) did not look substantial enough to hold a bench seat.

I'm not sure how kneeling would work in the Classic XL because of the way the footbrace is attached to the seat. You'd want to check with someone who has paddled one to make sure it is possible.

If you are going to kneel in a Magic, you'll probably not want to use the longest seat drops (seat closest to the bottom of the boat). That's what I have in my Magic, and I can just barely get my little feet underneath the seat when I'm kneeling. I do like the Magic, though. It's one of my favorite boats. It has pretty good speed and is very easy to work with when the wind and waves kick up.

It's hard to compare the Peregrine and the Merlin II because I've not paddled the Peregrine. I disagree with the folks who say the Merlin II is as fast as the Magic or the faster Wenonahs. However, I've never clocked the boats on the same course and in the same conditions, so it's a pretty subjective opinion. I think I posted my impressions of the smaller boat, the Kestrel, under another thread. The gist was that it was an easy paddling boat that struck a nice balance between tracking and maneuverability. I would expect the Peregrine to have similar paddling characteristics.

The Grasse River dealer in Illinois had some used boats for sale last fall. I believe he had a Classic XL, a Classic, a Kunz Merlin, and a couple of other boats. If my memory serves me correctly, all of his boats are woodstrip.
His website is
I don't remember the prices on the boats, but they seemed quite reasonable, especially when you consider the price of a new one. What you could do is buy his Classic XL, then if you don't like it, send it to me and buy something else. Continue this process until you find something you like :-)

pleasant dilema
Classic XL comes standard w/ a tractor seat so it’s likely impossible to find used w/ kneeling seat. Am sure Newmans could customize, however. Same issue w/ Wenonahs

Magic has rocker so doubt it could offer speed you’re seeking

Perhaps you could modify seating in a used hull or order new w/ your choice of outfitting

Enjoy the search

c2g - Favorite is the Bell Merlin…
I like the Wildfire even more than the Merlin, but must admit that the Wildfire is essentially a river canoe, where the Merlin II can get along quite well on flatwater. Overall, then I like that Merlin/Bell feel…

I’ve paddled a kevlar w-n-n Voyager quite a bit, and I easily keep up with kayaks. I just don’t like that bucket seat, and it tracks just too tight for me (not to mention windage problems).

Anything out there in the 16’ to 16’6" range which “feels” like a Merlin II/Bell, but is fast like a Voyager/Advantage? (Am I talking about the Magic?) I don’t have the patience to build a wood-strip or stitch-and-glue (really).

This is why I was thinking the Otegan…Just dreaming, now, anyway…

I Don’t Like a Kayak Paddle
When I paddle a canoe, I prefer a canoe paddle. I am fortunate enough to live an hour from old Verlin Kruger, and he and his teams have done very well with single blades (not to mention great canoe/kayaks). I just don’t really have a strong desire for a Seawind at this time.

Double blades work very well in narrow canoes, however…

You Verlin fans, please don’t get me thinkin’…

can eliminate some
Well, if the Voyager tracks too tight for you, you can also scrub the Otegan. I don’t know if the Advantage was on your short list, but Wenonah’s comparison charts show it tracking about the same as the Voyager, so you can scratch it. The Prism wasn’t on your list, and you may as well leave it off.

It sounds to me like you will probably need to sacrifice some top end speed to get a boat that is maneuverable enough to suit you. If you can get some time in a Magic, I’d recommend that you do so. To me it feels like it is faster and harder tracking than the Merlin II, but it is a very pleasant boat to paddle. It feels like it hits a wall at a certain speed, but not being a gps owner I don’t know what that speed is other than you do feel like you are moving along at a pretty good clip. It’s a very easy boat to paddle and is well behaved in a pretty wide range of conditions. As far as how it tracks relative to the other Bell solos, my impression is that the balance between maneuverability and tracking is solidly biased towards maneuverability in the Flashfire.

Tracking becomes stronger as you move up the size range. The Wildfire is still biased towards maneuverability, the MerlinII is pretty evenly balanced, and the Magic favors tracking, but not as much as some of the boats from other manufacturers.

The Hemlock boat is worth considering. Like I said, I’ve only paddled the smaller version, but I thought it was a very nice boat. It tracked well, but also maneuvered well, and Hemlock has a reputation for having very high production quality standards.

If you can find someone with a Classic XL who is willing to let you try it out, I’d definitely recommend trying it out. There was a post on another thread from someone who paddles/has paddled an Advantage and a Classic XL. That would be the person to talk to about that boat.

I’ve said more than I intended to, so I’m going to bow out as gracefully as possible and leave the field to other folks who are better qualified than I am.

The magic appears to track very nicely, and turn beuatifully but… It is more sucseptable to wind then the wenonahs. On the ninety miler I saw a young man in a magic with great technique paddling a magic. In browns tract, which looks sorta like a malaria germ this kid zoomed through it like s**t through a goose. On the big wind blown lakes he had alot more trouble then teh Wenonahs or the Grasse rivers. IF sixty percent of your time is going to be windy turning rivers go for the Magic. If you are mostly going to be on big water get something that will not be as much of a struggle in a breeze.

Now before any of you bell fans get hostile this is all from observations taken over three days of the one boat. I wouldn’t mind owning a Magic if I paddled on more rivers.

from a different point of view,
as someone who regularly has traveled in the companionship of sea

kayaks in a solo canoe (mostly We-no-nah Whisper but on occasion a

Mad River Pearl too…) I have experienced that high speed is not

the most important thing for a canoe to keep up with sea kayaks, but

good tracking and low windage is. And good tracking for me means:

easy to keep on the desired course; not only on the flats but also

when paddling in wind and waves. Note that when a design is not very

maneuverable, this doesn’t automatically mean it tracks well. Also,

some quite maneuverable canoes have really surprised me in their

ability to stay on course in wind and wave conditions, where really

hard tracking canoes proved to be very difficult to handle in that

aspect, especially when they had a (too) strong tendency to weather

helm. The design that I have experienced (so far) that has the best

qualities to keep up with sea kayaks is the already mentioned Bell

Magic – as long as the conditions are not too bad. Without (the

combination of) hard wind and waves the We-no-nah Advantage is

faster I think. BUT I have to admit that I too am still looking for

a really good solo canoe for the purpose of traveling on open waters.

rob roy
i’ll give you a few comments about the rob roy, even though it’s not on your list. it tracks well and handles wind and waves like a dream, especially for a boat in which you can use a single blade. you can kneel in a rob roy, but you’d have to change the seating arrangement. i’ve got my seat about 5.5 inches off the hull right now and use a 52 inch outrigger paddle most of the time. it’s fast, agile and will easily keep up with your average touring kayak.

I’ve got it narrowed down, now. Crazy world of GREAT canoes…

sorry I’m late
Hi Wildwater,

Working a bit too much lately so took me a while to see this thread.

I haven’t yet read the feedback from others but my input will be “grab a Peregrine!”.

The glide of te Peregrine is better than the Merlin II and it’s noticeable. I always carry a dog so my average load is around 280 pounds or so. This weight helps the glide of the Merlin II a lot. As the load gets lighter the glide of the Peregrine stands out even more against the Merlin II.

According to my GPS on calm lake water I’d say the Peregrine can cruise at 4 mph…maybe 4.1 or 4.2 with medium power input (not sprinting my definitely putting in solid power) whereas the Merlin would be going about 3.7 or 3.8. So the Peregine has an edge, but it’s not huge…but even a 10% speed advantage implies an efficiency advantage of maybe 20%.

I have a Souris River Jensen Solo 16 that’s a little 16 foot bullet with zero rocker that just hums along. I THINK it’s faster thn the Peregrine by a touch but I’m not positive…they are very close.

And you can freestyle a Peregrine and maybe even enjoy it.

I love the beauty of the Bell Magic but not the boat. Feels inefficient and does not like to turn. But I’ve never paddled one wth the dog so not sure how it reacts to weight.

So - a tall order - keep up with sea kayaks in a canoe that likes to lean and turn. I guess it depends on how fast your kayak buddies like to cruise…but a Peregrine would not be far behind.