Hemlock Peregrine Test Paddle

Yesterday I met up with Dave and Carol Curtis and took a Hemlock Peregrine out for a test paddle. The actual boat I took out was Frank’s (Thanks, Frank!) customized model. The seat was dropped down a couple of inches with the front edge 3/4 in lower than the rear. It’s definitely set up for sitting only. The layup was the Premium. I’d previously paddled the Shearwater, Prism, Argosy, and Merlin II. This boat was like none of them. Not even close. First of all, the attention to detail in the construction has to be seen to be believed. Dave’s fit and finish work is awesome. I still have a hard time understanding how he gets this boat with wood rails, thwart, seat, decks and gel coat to come in at only 33 lbs. And yes, the hull is stiff and substantial. Incredible. Ok, on to how it felt:

I immediately felt comfortable in this boat. Initial stability was the best of all of them that I’d tried, including the Shearwater. This may have been because of the lowered seat. I didn’t work on trying out secondary stability because I’m still new to this solo stuff but there were a few others out there doing freestyle moves with the same boats and as far as I could see the secondary stability is ridiculously good. I was able to reverse sweep this boat very easily. Forward sweeping was more difficult. Could be me though. Can’t tell yet. I’m a slow paddler but I was able to get up a little speed at one point and this boat had good glide. As good as the Merlin II, a bit less than the Prism. But it maneuvered more easily than the Prism. I didn’t spend enough time in the Merlin to know how it maneuvers. It’s clear to me that this is a canoe I can feel good about now and also a canoe with plenty to grow into, skills-wise. I didn’t challenge the volume at all and am sure it will easily carry me and my gear for a week or two. I saw another woman paddling the same boat. She’s average-sized and had her 40 pound dog with her. It was a lot of boat for them. The Kestrel was a perfect size for them. In fact, she bought the used Vagabond listed on the Hemlock site. When I got out of the boat, I reached for the thwart and realized it was too far forward to be helpful and that made me realize it would be too far forward as a place to hang a convenient thwart bag. I’m short. Dave offered to move the thwart on one that I would buy.

I wanted to put Frank’s boat on my rack and take it home. Instead, I left Dave with a deposit and left dreaming of my own Peregrine: premium layup, dropped seat, moved thwart, white gelcoat. Four days. Can’t wait.

Thanks for the writeup. A Hemlock solo has been on my “someday” list purely by their reputation among experts, and it’s nice to hear a review from another novice canoeist.

Don’t I live out where you can test paddle nice solo’s?

Why don’t I have the time and funds to go where the boats are?

Why is there air?

Anyway that sounds like a sweet boat. Congrats!


Tommy, Tommy, Tommy
Tommy… you are a day’s drive from Hemlock Canoe unless you’re way the heck downeast Maine. You’re in New England, right? Best of all, between here and you are the Adirondacks. I think what I’m saying is ROAD TRIP!


I saw your Peregrine when I was at Hemlock buying the last Kestrel that Dave had in stock. Beautiful white Peregrine! I’ve got the first kevlar Peregrine that Dave made and I love the boat. Also love the Kestrel.

I think you’re going to be happy with your Peregrine.

I could not agree more about the quality of Dave’s boats.

Lucky you!
My friend bought the Kestrel and that is a gorgeous canoe and fast. She also has a Current Design Solstice kevlar kayak. The Kestrel cruises as fast as her Solstice on flat water.

One of these days…I too will own a Hemlock canoe.

Road Trip! Demos, sexy canoes
Yeah I know.

Trouble is when I drive that far a test paddle isn’t enough. I always come back with a boat! That’s where that funding bugaboo comes up.

Being totaly unrealistic I want my local shop to stock demo’s of all the cool canoes so that I can just casualy stop by, check out their lines, maybe paddle them around the pond a bit, maybe demo them three or four different times.

I’m such a dreamer!



– Last Updated: Aug-27-05 2:21 PM EST –

how would you compare the stability of the peregrine vs the merlin II? is the peregrine stable enough to fly fish out of? have you ever tried paddling a bell magic?

extremely similar
The two boats are very very similar. Even the specifications are very close.

I tested a Peregrine and a Merlin II last year at Raystown Lake, paddling one after the other and repeating. I could not distinguish any significant difference between the two boats. Both are very nice solo boats.

I ended up with a Peregrine and do frequently fish from it. For spin-fishing, I have no problem with stability.

looking at the specs it looks like the peregrine is somewhere between a merlin II and a magic. i sure wish i could try a peregrine out here. i demo’d the merlin II and magic. i preferred the magic overall and for the type of paddling i mostly do.

On the water
it seemed to me that the Peregrine is more like a Merlin II than a Magic. Spec. wise its got an extra 9 inches in length.

Compared to either Merlin II or Peregrine, the Magic is a bit more about straight ahead paddling than straight and maneuvering. Also the gunwale width is shorter in the Magic. I found it quite a bit akward to change between kneeling and sitting positions in the Magic, but much more easy in either the Merlin II or Peregrine. Another boat that I looked at that I I felt had similar handlng characteristics to Peregrine and Merlin II was the Swift Osprey.

Peregrine/Merlin II
I’ve put more miles on my Merlin II than any other boat. It’s got a bit more acceleration than a Peregrine and not as much glide/speed, and the Merlin II turns a bit tighter too. The Peregrine has a bit more volume.

I used to have an Osprey and loved it. It turns better than a Merlin II or Peregrine or Kestrel and it’s a better river boat but it gives up a little speed.

I’d say the Pererginer would make a fine fishing canoe…it’s a friendly boat.

Peregrine and Merlin II
I’d say the stability was similar to the Merlin II and I’m not at all worried about fly fishing out of the Peregrine. Can’t wait. One major difference between the two is that the Peregrine is a higher volume boat. When I was in the Merlin II it sat too low in the water and there was no way I’d load it with another 60 or 80 lbs of gear. The Peregrine will have no trouble handling me and that much more. And more than that, even.

As for the Magic, I’m too wide in the butt to even want to consider that gunwale width. And I figured it has the same weight capacities as the Merline II so I didn’t even bother trying it.

I didn’t notice much difference. Based on specs, I would have expected about the same freeboard.

Specs say:

Merlin II: bow 17, mid 12, stern 15

maximum width 29

optimal load 160 - 280

Peregrine: bow 17, center 12, stern 14.5

maximum width 28.5

efficient capacity 150 - 300

yeah, i saw those specs too. but when i was in the two canoes, the difference in freeboard was definitely there. i’m talking like a few inches. is there some sort of curve for displacement… up to a certain amount it’s equivalent but after a certain amount the differences exaggerate? dunno.

Perhaps it was just perception
You said that the Peregrine you tested had the seat dropped a few inches. This might have made the gunwales appear higher relative to your seating position, … and relative to the standard seat position of the Merlin II.

i put my hand on the side and spread it and felt how far down the water was. did that on both boats. also, the two young people helping me with the demo both noticed how low the merlin was with me in it. there clearly wasn’t enough freeboard. why? no clue.

displacement is volume
Two canoes can have the similar specs like are noted above and be totally different hulls. A Jon boat could have the specs quoted. Just giving the maximum width does not indicate how fast the hull goes to that maximum. And a hull with severe tumblehome, or “the classic Yost Bubble Side as Harry Roberts used to gush when Yost designed for Sawyer” will not have the usable volume for gear of a straight sided canoe. The displacement of the Merlin II vs. Peregrine can be different due to how the hull bottom is rounded and tapered from bow to midships. The shallower the arch of the bottom and the fuller the bow section, the more displacement the hull will have at the 1" 2" and 3" waterlines. If a hull sank further with the same paddler, it has less displacement volume in the bottom of the hull.

A 240# paddler will displace 3.85 cu. ft. of 60 degree F. water. Add boat weight and gear and clothing and the approximate 300# total is equal to 4.81 cu. ft. of water at 60F.

4.81 cu. ft. at a 3" displacement requires an average of 2770 square inches of surface for each of the 3" of displacement. A board 15.4 inches wide and 15 feet long would have this displacement. Now taper this shape to like a canoe bottom and the math gets really complex. The real world answer is that fast skinny solos with sharp bows and a continuous taper to aft of the midpoint have very little volume. A whitewater canoe of the same length and width with a full bow and a long straight midsection with a fast taper from bow to midsection may have twice the volume at the 3" waterline.