I need help selecting a Solo Canoe ???

I am looking for a solo canoe to do the following please make a suggestion, based on these the criteria below.

  1. Paddled with a kayak paddle and fairly narrow so its not radically different when I switch between my kayaks and my canoe.

  2. Agile and strong enough be carefully paddled up and down class two rapids, for day paddling workouts, on a familiar river, but could scrape or bump an occasional rock.

  3. For tripping the boat would primarily be used on lakes and deep flat rivers.

  4. Fast enough for doing a race like the Adk 90-miler. (not to win, but to keep up)

  5. Light enough for long portages.

  6. I am 215lb.

    I don’t know all the boats very well, but was looking at the Dragonfly, Magic, Merlin, RapidFire, Bell Wildfire, SRT…

Merlin II single blade

– Last Updated: Aug-26-11 1:37 PM EST –

I suppose if you were tall enough and could handle a hugely long paddle you could double blade it, but something like the RapidFire is a much better choice.

Forgot to mention - Magic also not a great double blade candidate.

Probably a RapidFire
will fit all of your criteria, but am not too sure about the CII stuff…others with more time in the boat may answer…

I like your criteria. Not a canoe expert by any stretch, but I do have a summersong which is about 28 inches at water line and has a significant tumblehome which makes double blading pretty awesome if the seat is 6 inches or lower. I sure wouldnt get it anywhere near class two stuff, or really moving water. Like you I kayak mostly and prefer the double blade style canoes. Most of them have little rocker which makes the moving stuff a challenge. Any boat over 30 is probably going to be not a lot of fun to double blade, but some do and seem to like it. Good luck, Im interested in other’s answers.

Ryan L.

Narrow and fast versus agile

– Last Updated: Aug-26-11 3:04 PM EST –

I have a Merlin II, and wouldn't even consider using it in Class-II rapids, and not just because you'd have to bail it out after every set of waves. I think it's pretty grabby at the ends, and the skegged stern (designed to let a beginner go straight more easily) is even more sticky than the bow. Turbulent conditions where sudden crosscurrents are encountered will have their way with you when the end of the boat noses (or backs up) into them, and the rest of the time it really doesn't like to turn easily like a boat made for those conditions will do. A strong lean reduces this effect, but it's not a boat you want to lean much in waves because the sides are so low. On the other hand, it's a pretty fast boat, and I once loaned it to someone who used a double-blade paddle, and it worked well from a kneeling position (I have the seat mounted as high as it will go, for kneeling, with the back edge flush with the gunwales).

I think you will find this problem with any canoe that is "narrow and fast". I'd say the same thing about the Wenonah Vagabond that I used to have. Slicing through big waves instead of riding them, and grabby stems will be the rule with any boat of that type that I'm familiar with. Hoever, my context for saying so is that, for me, single-blade paddling is "the way" to make a canoe manuever well, and I don't try to do radically different kinds of water in just one style of boat. I think that a boat that's "narrow and fast" will be fine for double-blading in flatwater, but add waves and turbulence and you'll have your hands full.

Regarding the Wildfire, I think at 215 pounds, you can forget about "fast", but it will retain some reasonable maneuverability with that load. The Royalex model from Bell (now called a Yellowstone Solo) has a VERY strongly skegged stern which I think provides an undue handicap for maneuverability - especially for backferries - but it seems that lots of people don't even notice.

Wenonah Rendezvous
That one should probably be on your short list. Can’t speak to it personally though.

what sort of Class II?
Paddling in Class II water is really the kicker here, and one would have to see the particular rapid(s) you are speaking off since there is an enormous difference between different Class II rapids.

I would look for something with a downriver racing heritage, like a Wenonah Advantage. Given your size, you probably wouldn’t want to load that down with too much gear, but if you travel light, it is a good tripping boat.

I don’t think a Sawyer Summersong would allow you to carry any real payload without hogging it down excessively.

Really like my Wen Vag KUL and drive
it with a GP. Keeps up with most of my yak friends. Getting a bit scratched and fuzzy but told it will hold together in C-II, just need a face lift and some patching now and then. I’m an old 6’1" and 200#, Love the 30# weight, and low adjustable tractor seat & foot brace. Likes to run straight with a single blade (I’m not too skilled), but GP spins & turns her fine when needed. Plan to use her for an NFCT adventure next summer and carry a patch kit. Just thoughts. R

Two thoughts
1. Get something different for Class II

2. Buy a Rapidfire. It meets all of your criteria but the Class II and is probably the best of the lot for paddling with a double blade.

I agree…
Class 2 could mean bony rock gardens requiring lots of maneuverability, or big enough waves to require a dry ride. And if you need maneuverability for the class 2 you won’t find anything really fast or easy to paddle upstream. You’re almost asking for two mutually exclusive qualities with your criteria. Best you can do is probably something that does it all but some of it barely adequately.

By the way, I paddle a Royalex Wenonah Vagabond that I think does very well in places requiring maneuverability–maybe the Kevlar Vagabonds are more grabby on the ends, haven’t paddled one. And it is reasonably quick with a double blade, which I use only to paddle upstream in slow to moderate current, I use a single blade for anything downriver. I wouldn’t hesitate to paddle mine in low volume class 2, but it won’t be a dry ride at all in standing waves of any size.

having owned or paddled all of the
boat nominees except the SRT (I dont call an hour in it qualifies me to comment on it)…all can be paddled with a 240 cm double blade sitting or kneeling.

The Magic is not a good rapids choice. I have enough invested in RF to not want to do Class 2 unless its hight water and no chance of a pin.

DragonFly and SRT sure. DF is a little on the small skittish side…its been known to be intimidating espcially unloaded for the sitting paddler.

RF historically has placed well in its class in the 90 miler.

Merlin is a bigger wider boat and not as speedy as RF… The L/W waterline measurements are less.6.9. RF 7.5

WildFire heavily maneuverable L/W ratio of app 5.8 makes it slower

DF and WF being asymmetrically rockered call for a very careful double blade stroke in order to avoid excessive yaw.

Quick boat and maneuverable boat involves a compromise. You will have to pick the criterium that is most important to you and make the boat adapt as best it can.

All can be found at light weights. But so far the only non rubber boat I would do moving water with is the Dragonfly… I don’t know a thing about Millbrook boats which perhaps you should consider. Rendezvous should be pretty quick ( I have its little sib the Argosy) but not so lightweight…There again what do you consider lightweight. I can double blade the Argosy and don’t know about the Rendezvous.

two canoes
Best to select two canoes.


– Last Updated: Aug-28-11 11:37 AM EST –

Length /width ratio do not tell us much about potential hull speed, but is useful in evaluating tracking or directional stability.

The best number to evaluate tracking, course keeping ability, is block co-efficient, Cb. The "block" is WATERLINE length, width and depth. The less of that three dimensional block the hull fills, the better it can be predicted to track.

Since most tandems are loaded 4-5" deep and most solos 3=4" deep, we can simplify tracking estimation by using waterline length/width, or more properly length/beam, ratio. Finer hulls track better than fat ones. Wow! who'da thunk? But, the length/ width number doesn't tell us much if anything about speed. See below

Waterline length is the best indicator of forward speed. Speed is predicted by using the waterline length. The formula is the square root of the length, in feet, multiplied by the speed/length ratio, which runs around 1.55 for mph using feet as units. Longer hulls are faster.

Withing given waterline lengths, more precise speed estimates can be made using prismatic co-efficient, Cp, the prism being the maximum waterline beam and depth as the prism and extending it to waterline length. The cubic area of hull filling that prism yields the

Winters, in 'the Shape of the Canoe', claims recreational hulls should have PCs in the .51-.55 range, performance boats .60 to .62 Lazauskas in various articles published by University of Adelaide, one with Winters, and in Boat design Forums, suggests optimal speed results have somewhat higher Cps. Of note, John Winters Olympic Sprint Kayak had a Cp of .665

Again, L/W doesn't address speed; it is a predictor of tracking. The second most important indicator of tracking is stern rocker. Less of it counters poor forward stroke technique, carrying the blade aft of the body and diagonal rather than vertical paddleshafts, which cause yaw, turning the canoe/kayak off course.

dont yell
I did write waterline length.


– Last Updated: Aug-28-11 11:03 AM EST –

L/W ratio is still not a speed predictor!

The Waterline measurement thing is for general consumption, the overall length and msximum beam/width are inconsequential, particularly with laid out stems and bubbles/ shoulders several inches above waterline. For Cp, Cb and L/B or L/W only waterline dimensions are important.

Class_II & keep up with racers = no way

– Last Updated: Aug-28-11 11:47 AM EST –

Of course I think it matters what you want to do in Class_II...you want to straightline...lots of racing boats can do that I think.
There's an SRT that "might" still be available = mint cond..pretty cheap that is a good moving water boat. A little wide...(email me for link if want to check out), ..think c2g's idea of a Rapidfire might not be bad for your weight, and a Magic would be nice for flatwater...have never paddled it in moving stuff. Wenonah's Rendezvous would work well = handles both moving & flatwater pretty easily. Undoubtably a number of canoes could work...

Where’d the Class II question come from?
I’d consider the Wenonah Advantage or the Superior Sawyer Shockwave. I’ve never paddled one but I’ve heard the Savage River Otegan fits the same type. Personally I love the Advantage. It took me a year to really get used to it. Once you figure out where the edge is on it you can make it sing! I love it’s ability to eddy hope in an upstream racing situation. I weigh 210 lbs. so I’m similar size.

Forget the double blade kayak paddle idea. I’m sure it would do fine with a kayak blade but there are too many advantages to a canoe paddle. Get a 15 oz. carbon with about a 15 degree bent shaft paddle. The weight lifted per mile is so much less than any kayak paddle you’ll be comfortable all day long. a 15 oz. carbon paddle will take anything you can dish out. Rocks, logs, mud, whatever.

Yes it takes more skill to use a fast narrow canoe and a single blade. But that’s what will make you special once you master them.

From the OP
who said he intended to paddle the boat up and down Class II rapids.

I suggested the Advantage as well. It is seaworthy enough to be run through many Class II rapids. I wouldn’t necessarily call it agile, but it can be maneuvered well-enough with side slips as can most downriver racing designs. It would have enough volume for the OP to carry a modest payload for tripping.

It is narrow enough to paddle with a double-bladed paddle if desired and has enough speed to attain up rapids if there are no drops involved.

OK two boats, it is.
First - A boat for training on my local river. Its mostly deep moving flat water with some class II chutes and wave trains. I often eddy hop up the river for about 40 min and then and then take about a 15 min DR run back to my car. On the weekend I can do a longer DR run and use my bike to run shuttle. If I am in royalex boat I might catch some surfs or take some more challenging lines or small drops.

  1. I want the canoe to be narrow enough to be able to be paddled with a kayak paddle.

  2. And fast enough to make class I attainment moves.

  3. If its royalex, up to 15.5 footer does not scare me, because of the room for error, but shorter is OK if I don’t have to give up too much speed.

    Second, I need to find a solo kev/glass boat for light weight lake tripping and doing the Adk-90 in.

  4. Still want it narrow for using a kayak paddle

  5. Does not need to be a super strong layup, for deep water and I can wet foot.

  6. Very fast and on the lighter side.

  7. Performs well in wind and big lake chop.

    Your comments were very thorough . Thank you for taking the time to be so helpful. I really appreciate it. If you have any boat recommendations for these, now two boats it would be great.

    Thanks, Matt

Boat 2
A wenonah voyager would meet your requirements for boat 2. Although it does catch some wind the double bladed paddle should make it bearable. Btw you will want a substantially longer paddle than what you are using in your kayak.