Hemlock Kestrel vs kneeling Rapidfire

Does any body have any personal experience with these 2 boats? I’m trying to decide on a small easy paddled wind friendly lake tripper for a #170 paddler and #40 load max? No I don’t want to sit on the bottom.


Have you tried sitting in an RF?
The seat is 4" off the hull, not on the bottom.I am very comfortable for hours.In a kayak, where the seat really is on the bottom,I could not take over an hour at a time.

Seat heights vary
in RapidFire…mine is lower(the lowest). There is medium and high and I dont have the measurements.

Kestrel and Rapid are closely related. Approximately the same hull shape.


read Charlies response… Two of us got into the Kestrel vs Rapid for the Glades.

I am probably taking my Peregrine.

Have to admit I think Charlies workmanship is a little better. Dave has a little problem with straight lines if you want a white bottomed hull. He does it all by eye.

They are both sweet boats IMO.

Vagabond/Kestrel/ Rapid

– Last Updated: Nov-29-08 9:53 AM EST –

The hull in question started as the 1982 David Yost designed Curtis Vagabond. It was a compact 14.75' by 27.5" version of the usual solo tripper that fit more compact folks, and it was the first tripper to use Yost's shouldered tumblehome; as such it ,must come from a two piece mold. It had 1.4 In rocker at each end, that from DY's tracings of his stem pieces, not the Curtis catalog.

I might mention that a Curtis Vagabond taught me must of what I've learned about FreeStyle paddling.

After the wreck of Curtis, Dave C splashed a Vagabond to make the Kestrel mold for Hemlock Canoe. The Kestrel has the same 1" tumblehome per side, the same 3" layout at both stems, the same 14.75' length and the same 27.5 max beam. Hemlock catalogs differential rocker, but the 0.5" difference isn't apparent on the hull, but workable differential rocker can be achieved by moving the seat aft slightly. The Kestrel is available from Hemlock Canoe, one of the best contact laminators, nicely trimmed in ash with cherry highlights at 29lbs in a top-end laminate similar to Bell's white/Black/Gold construction.

Rapid started as a line down the center of a 15 foot piece of paper on David Yost's workbench in 2005. That said, it's pretty similar to Vagabond/Kestrel. It shares the 27.5" maximum width; so fits paddler's knee spread exactly like the other hull[s]. It's greater tumblehome, 1.75" a side rather than 1" allows narrower framed paddlers to get both hands across the rail a little more easily.

Rapid is a little longer. At 15' without Vag/Kestel's layout, it's waterline length is 14'6" as contrasted to 13'9", so width/ length ratio, and length speed ratios are slightly improved, and Rapid has a little bit more volume. None of these perimeters are very noticeable.

Rapid's handling is significantly improved. Drawing in differential rocker yield a slightly Swede-form hull. To compensate for those handling issue, Yost used a 5.5" stern radius and an 11.5" bow radius, which lengthens the hull in the water aft and shortens it forward. This combines with the designed-in differential rocker to allow Rapid to both turn and track somewhat better than Vag/Kestrel.

Decreased stern rocker aids tracking , while bow rocker has little effect. Bow rocker eases drawing the bow off course. Once that happens, the yaw couple guarantees the skided turn. Rapid's increased tumblehome allows greater heel angles which lifts the stems higher for more dramatic skids when heeled to the rail.

The second salient difference is construction. Rapid comes as an infused composite. All air is removed from the fabric before resin is introduced. This requires additional fabric layers to retain beam thickness and eliminates air/gas voids in the laminate. The resultant aero-space technology hull is both lighter and stronger than hand laminated boats.

Construction? Hemlock uses E or S glass as an outer layer, Kevlar or Bi-weave Kev/carbon as an inner and glass or Kev as inner partials. Placid used a carbon outer, dual weight Kevlar inner and both carbon and Kevlar partials. I have my preferences, but these are three of the four best open canoe laminates available.

Placid enhances trade dress, with two tone gel, cherry trim and dymondwood thwarts and decks standard at 29 lbs with foot pegs installed, 28 w/o. It is also available with CobraSox integral rails and thwarts; eliminating maintenance and reducing weight to 26 lbs with foot pegs.

pricing from both companies is appropriate for two of the best built bottoms in the industry.

The kestrel
is the boat I paddle. I have kayaks so paddling seated at the bottom of a canoe feels odd to me. I recently sold a wee lassie which I tried hard to like. I switch from kneeling to sitting and prefer the c or j stroke for most situations.

The Kestrel is a sweet boat for lakes and open water with moderate chop. It does very well in wind and has good speed. Turning requires a lean on twisty rivers and I prefer a boat with more rocker for those environments.

I weigh 160lbs and am 5’6" tall. I usually travel with maybe 10lbs of fishing or birdwatching gear. The build on the Hemlock boats is good and they are strong and light.

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2-tone hull
Whatever you decide, resist any urge to have Hemlock do a 2-tone hull. I am 0 for 2 with Hemlock Peregrines. Dave should remove that option from his order form. I loved the Peregrine but I just got a bad case of the ass over the wavey waterline and refused to paddle it.

Dave ought to learn
Charlie sure noticed…

I don’t care about the color but the whoopsy waterline is vertigo inducing. Fortunately I paddle where no one is looking

kneeling RapidFire
I’ve never paddled the Kestrel. I use my kneeling RapidFire (kneeling or sit-and-switch) in plenty of wind on the Hudson at Manhattan. (If you want to come down to NYC, you can test-paddle it.) It’s not as wind-resistant as some of the kayaks I paddle, but it does well enough. Short, steep chop from the side will often splash over the rails.

I’m credibly fast against most kayakers, though the sprint trainers leave me behind.

It’s not as nimble as the WildFire that I traded for it.

If you’re used to 30-inch solos, it will probably feel tippy at first. I got used to it in a month.

I’m happy to give more information, here or by private email. See also my review here at paddling.net.

– Mark