Hemlock Kestrel

Just sold my Bell Merlin 2 and got my friend to finally sell me her Hemlock Kestrel after years of prodding. I am very excited and can’t wait to take it out on the water! Anyone paddle the Kestrel? Thoughts and experiences?

nice boat
It’s been a few years since I was in one, but I remember thinking that it was a really well-balanced design. I hope you enjoy it!

really not alot of info on this boat
there is only one review of it was hoping for more. I believe it is the new version of the Curtis Vagabond. That, I was able to get info on!

my wife
paddled it and she loved it. I paddled the Peregrine and loved it as well. The Kestrel is freaking fast. It was designed so a woman (in theory a weaker paddler) could keep up with a man in a solo or tandems. It is also pretty narrow which makes it faster then other boats of the same length and easier for smaller paddlers to get to both sides. I would seriously consider it, but I wouldn’t be able to put much more weight then me in it.

Didn’t know what you meant

– Last Updated: Jul-24-07 5:37 PM EST –

about the boat being designed for a woman, but it's becoming clear.

I did buy one and had it out last weekend. Big difference between the way the boat fit as compared to the Merlin II. The Kestrel is a narrower boat and for some reason much more stable at rest and under way then the Merlin. I was able to get up to speed faster but in the long run of paddling a few miles was cruising at same speed as I was able to paddle the Merlin which is 3-3.5 without much effort. I am sure alot of this is technique but it's plenty fast for my purposes.

I also thought that since it has less rocker 1.75 at bow vs. 2.5 for Merlin that it would track but not turn easily. Again, I proved myself wrong when I ventured into a mangrove creek with lot's of twists and turns and the boat was more manueverable than the Merlin! What's going on here? I thought looking at length and rocker would tell me how a boat would handle but..guess I have lot's to learn.

Main reason for selling the Merlin was weight. It was made in white gold an weighed 42lbs. This boat weighs 29lbs and is such luxury to carry to car and load on roof. Now I am spoiled and won't be able to ever buy a heavy boat again.

Kestral is Dave Curtis’s tweaking of the Yost designed Curtis Vagabond. RapidFire is Dy’s own redesign of the same boat.

All very cool to have tripping canoes specifically designed for smaller paddlers who often happen to be women.

Boat Design
There’s a lot subtlties that go into the design of a good hull. Much more than length & beam.

Lots of science involved but a fair bit of art too.

Sometimes I think I can tell how a boat will paddle by looking at the hull. Been wrong more than a few times.

Enjoy the boat!


as usual Charlie
you are a fountain of great information on canoe design history. That puts the Kestrel in good company I would say, unless the Vagabond was tweaked to make the Kestrel and the result was worse than original design intent. I’ve never paddled a Vagabond so can’t compare.

Charlie, have you ever paddled a Kestrel? Do you think it seaworthy for our coastal waters here in Florida? I thought the Merlin handled our large wind tossed bays very well. It has higher center depth and bow/stern than the Kestrel. Would a spray deck help? I surely would hate to drill any rivet holes on this beauty!

No kidding!
The more I read and think I understand…the more I realize I know NOTHING :frowning: