If you could truely only have 1 Solo?

-- Last Updated: Jul-06-11 11:31 PM EST --

OK, this may be an oldie and may or may not be a goodie but I do have my reasons for posting this:

If you could only have one solo or converted tandem canoe for day trips, over nights and tripping up to a week on flat water AND rock & log strewn streams and rivers (maybe up to pool drop class II but most likely nothing above C1) what would it be?

Obviously this will require many compromises but I'm just wondering if I'm missing something.


I loved my (WhiteGold) WildFire for the kind of use you describe. I pack light, though. For a kitchen-sink camper on a week-long trip, it might be too small.


I made this combo canoe decision …
… for the same variety of multi-purposes you outline, except I didn’t have to give up any of my other 11 canoes.

My decision was a Hemlock SRT. After three years, I still believe my decision was the best one for me.

The SRT has the depth, side shape and bow fullness for whitewater and tripping loads, the narrowness and skegged stern rocker for fast flat water speed, adjustable seat drops to shift the paddling station fore or aft, and a Deal bucket seat to allow for single-sided kneel paddling or seated sit 'n switch paddling with a foot bar.

I even bought another canoe after the SRT, a Bell Wildfire, for other purposes: freestyle play and day or short trips on easy waters.

Both canoes fit the general bill, but the SRT gets the call when the water gets whiter, the tripping load gets heavier, the trip is longer, or I want greater speed to make time or go upstream. The Wildfire is more fun to maneuver unladen and to carry.

Any small prospector

– Last Updated: Jul-07-11 7:10 AM EST –

If you lack, as I do, the discipline required to pack light, the Prospector will forgive you. If I had to pick only one for the various uses you describe that would be it. The worst thing I can say about it is that it does blow about a bit in a wind.


I have a wenonah Vagabond. It is a great all purpose solo. I am selling it though because it is tuffweave and I do not want to destroy it on all the sharp rocks in the river I paddle now. It was the perfect boat for where I lived when I bought it and in RX it would be perfect now.

Wen Rendezvous

– Last Updated: Jul-07-11 10:16 AM EST –

mines Rx, and I'd far prefer a composite version for a week long flat water trip that included lots of portaging (ala BWCA style)- I've had it packed for a 28 day trip and its what I use for weekend overnight trips - I don't use it for lakes, but have once or twice (did 60 miles of mostly flat water in 3 days with 2 or 3 portages - about 50 of that was lake) - the Rx boat is too slow and heavy to be much fun as a pure lake boat - but it will do everything you asked for in the original post

an MR Guide…

Tough call wit maybe a Propector fer a larger load.


Colden DragonFly
so far it only has about a hundred miles of trips under her belt but it will handle gear for a few weeks.

Deep boat and very fast. Originally designed as a downriver racer.


Colden Dragon Fly is the reincarnation of the Curtis DragonFly.

No way am I doing the stuff shown in the picture.

I still have my old
Dagger Legend 16 for that. A heavy hauler and stable, royalex tough, and can easily handle Class 2-3 ww loaded with a week’s worth of stuff. Not the fastest in the world, and a heavy beast, but it is efficient and it has done what you describe for long time and will keep doing so for some time I would imagine.

Osprey, Wildfire, Yellowstone
My Osprey is my do it all boat but the Wildfire would do everything you speced and would be a little more fun unloaded on quiet water. The Osprey is a little better in Class 2+.

The Yellowstone in royalex is a little less lively but many folks stress less when they scratch royalex. The Yellowstone would do all you ask and maybe more.

I’d sure like to test out that Dragonfly!

Bell Wildfire
after owning over 30 solos over the decades, this boat comes closest to a “do it all” hull that I’ve had. Still, no one boat will do absolutely everything at the top level.

As mentioned SRT and Dragonfly are similar.

I’d keep a dedicated WW canoe

If I could seriously only have one boat, I wouldn’t keep a compromise boat. But that’s just me at this time and given my geography. I’ve got good WW at the Youghiogheny River and the Slippery Rock Creek. And since I only get a fairly limited amount of time to spend paddling, I spend it doing what I enjoy most. No thanks on my “one boat” being a crossover compromise.

Pick one?

– Last Updated: Jul-08-11 12:01 AM EST –

Haven't had to make that decision yet; hope I never do. If I do, I think it will either be my SRT, or MR Guide.

Bell Wildfire considered, but it won't (in my opinion) efficiently carry the heavy gear load I'd carry for long trips, or deal with the upper levels of class II when loaded as well as either the SRT, or the Guide.

Would also consider the Mohawk Odyssey 14.

Glad I don't have to choose "just one".


P.S. I don't do big lakes; therefore I have no need for a big lake boat. Prefer moving water rivers.

Thanks for the link.
I thoroughly enjoyed that discussion!

Probably my Penobscot 16
but if I were about 6’-2’ tall, it would definately be my Wenonah Jensen 17

jack L

my next one!
I would build a Modified Northwest passage solo for all those requirements. I am now in the lull while pulling together materials and manpower to finish the one in my garage. Once I finish that one I will know ho w I want to tweek the one I build for my self…

Grasse River ADK XL
or maybe my Bell Magic.

Unless were talking Kayaks, then it would be my early 90’s CD Solstice or my Nordkapp HM…

Good thing I dont have to make that choice!!!

Dragonfly and SRT are not similar
Steve, perhaps you misspoke. I don’t mean to go off on a tangent, but since you post often and teach, I suspect both Hemlock and Colden wouldn’t want a misimpression about their boats to be propagated.

The Colden Dragonfly, originally spec’ed by Harold Deal and plugged by DY in the early 80’s, comes from the same mold, modified for infusion, as the original Curtis Dragonfly.

The SRT is a completely different design solely by Harold Deal in the late 90’s. The waterlines, rocker lines, sheer lines, gunwale lines, side shapes, gunwale recesses, and volume distribution are all quite different as between the Dragonfly and SRT.

In short, the Dragonfly was designed as a WW racing canoe specifically for the “solo combined class”, which combines the times of WW slalom runs plus a WW downriver run. The Dragonfly was designed for the combined class racing courses as they were laid out in the early 80’s and per the racing hull specs in place at that time (much since changed).

In contrast, the SRT was designed as a recreational tripping hull, not constrained by any racing specs, to handle both the whitewater and to move swiftly over big open lake flats, with their wind and waves, that one finds in places such as the Canadian wilderness. It can be paddled either kneeling or sit 'n switch. Just for fun, Deal did run the SRT in the solo combined class on the lower Yough and came in second to Kaz.

sweet looking boat
I like that they sold 56 in 12 years. Some much money in boat making.

Ryan L.

My 15’ Mad River Synergy has been
my one boat solution to driving around the 48 states and paddling rivers ranging from flat up to class 2-3. (Because I usually paddle alone, I am likely to portage class 4.) It certainly is not a fast cruiser, though with low wetted area and a narrow beam, it moves easily at its preferred speed. I certainly can do more with it than I can with my MR Guide.

However, I’m sceptical about the one boat “solution.” None of the examples nominated so far have both the big lake capability and the ability to do serious technical maneuvering in class 2-3. Let’s accept it. Those are very different environments.