I've Gone Solo!

After listening to some of the advice here I went to Collinsville CT today to demo a bunch of boats. The owner had them bring a Shearwater along because I asked.

Having only paddled “all purpose” tandems my entire life, the solos were a different world. They all had very little initial stability. I felt as if I were riding a bicycle on most of the boats when I was sitting in the seat. I tried the Shearwater, the Osprey, the Kee 15 and the Kee 15 pack. I liked the feel of the pack and out of the sit/kneel boats, the Kee seemed to to have the most initial stability.

But I’m so used to a kneel/sit boat I didn’t want to lose that option. In the end they had a slightly used Kee 15 (supposedly loaned to a local newspaper reporter once) with the sliding seat, at $500 below the usual price. It was red, I didn’t want red because I like to stealth camp sometimes and it’s hard to hide a red canoe, but compared to the option of waiting until June for a different color boat, I went with it.

I was disappointed to learn that Swift no longer offers the option of a drop in, sit on bottom seat. They said they had too many issues with it as it was designed. However after speaking with the reps about my desire to sit/kneel and have the option to sit on the bottom like an Adirondack pack boat, they suggested I order a pack seat and use industrial strength Velcro to hold it in place. I have a friend who is an airline mechanic who can get that stuff easily, so I bought the sit/kneel model and ordered a sit on bottom seat so I can use either depending on my mood and intended purpose.

I have to say it was a pleasure handling the boat and putting it on the roof vs. my MR Explorer and I’m looking forward to a season camping, fishing and recreational paddling in a responsive boat. I played around with leaning it on its side to make sharp turns, but the water temps and the fact I had no extra clothing limited my experiments with that aspect. Once the water gets warmer I’ll explore that further and I;m sure I’ll get that down pat in short order.

Thanks to everyone here who guided me in the right direction after my initial post here.

Very nice!!
You will feel a lot more comfortable with water time and may in the future want to kneel /sit higher when the “bike” is not so wobbly.

There is a real psychological hurdle. Every time I go from my Mad River Monarch to a Flash Fire I go through a short period of “uh oh”

Solo is awesome and you’ll enjoy it a lot. Stability is all relative and you’ll have no problem with it after a short time. You got a good boat too. Enjoy and paddle a lot

congrats on your new ride
I’m always jealous of you folks in the central and eastern parts of the country and the wide variety of canoe manufacturers and models you have access to at your paddle festivals.

The paddle fest in Portland, OR. is going on this weekend too, and as much as I appreciate Wenonah canoes, it would be nice to experience some of the other canoe brands like Swift. Wenonah is the only canoe manufacturer represented in this area (aside from the basic Old Town and Mad River rec canoes sold at Dicks and REI). I am thankful the Wenonah folks do make the trip out here though.

Enjoy your new canoe.

You’re going to love it. There is nothing like paddling solo in a boat designed to be paddled solo.

Congratulations on the new boat. Sure, it takes a little while to get used to the less stable feeling, but once you get past that you will have a great time.

Your recounting the feeling of how unstable the boats were reminded me of my first outing in my first solo canoe, a Swift Osprey. It was on a relatively sheltered part of the Chesapeake Bay in a light breeze. I thought I was going to die.

The guy who ran the local canoe shop told me to be patient and I’d get used to it, and I’m glad I listened to him. That canoe eventually wound up feeling like an extension of my mind and body. Hopefully yours will do the same.

Side-topic: A brand sort of near you
Have you thought about Clipper canoes? They aren’t exactly next-door to you, but a lot closer than most, and they make some fine boats.

You will love it
I can’t remember the details of your original post, as far as why certain models would be right for you, but I agree with others who’ve said you’ll get over your stability worries. Solo canoes are a whole different animal. You’ll wish you had done this sooner. Have fun.

Like it now
but you’ll soon learn to love it. After getting used to a solo, paddling a tandem will seem like pushing a barge.

I sure appreciate your concerns about stability though. I got my first solo (a Blackhawk) after many many years of pushing a Grumman 17std. along solo. When I first test-paddled the Blackhawk on a pond in a rock quarry it felt tippy but the glide and acceleration was simply killer. Like nothing I’d paddled before. It was apparent from the first ten strokes that all day paddles would be MUCH less taxing in this and much faster.

I then tried a draw stroke and applied my back to the job as if trying to pull a Grumman sideways. Well, that’s what it takes with a big ole Grumman… I immediately filled it with cold water to my thighs. The salesman thought it was impressive how well I handled it after swamping it though. Never did that again and my ability to finesse a canoe improved very rapidly as the season progressed.

You’re in for a real treat this season. You’ll learn to love soloing. Congrats.

Attaboy due
Congratulations on your new boat, you are gonna love it. I’d like to give an attaboy to Swift and the Collinsville shop for hosting this event. They are a local shop for me and and I really appreciate all they do for our paddling community. And, I have no affiliation with them.


ruled out a lot
My discussion with others here ruled out a lot of really narrow solos because I’m 240 lbs. I my had heart set on demoing a Placid Rapid Fire, but a several people here suggested I wouldn’t like it. The Shearwater was suggested as good for a heavy paddler so I wanted to demo that and some other Swift solos.


what me drown?


Clipper Canoes
Thanks for the note. Turns out I am familiar with the Clipper brand, but you never know. They are located about 5-6 hours north just across the Canadian border. The whole state of Washington is between me and them. It’d be nice if they had a dealer in our area. Surprisingly they don’t seem to have any dealers in the US.

I see their boats come up on Craigslist from time to time, where they themselves also advertise new boats and the benefits of a great exchange rate between the US and Canada. So you can get a pretty good deal on them. From what I’ve seen, they do make a great product. I wish they had a slightly larger solo model for someone my size. The Solitude might fit that bill. I’ve got an old Wenonah Solitude project boat I’m working on repairing. I’ve always wondered if the Clipper Solitude is the same hull design as Wenonah’s. The seat setup is obviously different, but the specs are mostly similar, but not identical. But that’s probably a topic for another thread.

Solo canoeing
is a most rewarding experience. The learning curve is a little steeper than other paddle craft but I like to think the reward is too. Solo popularity seem to hit it’s high in the 80s and has faded’s since kayaking has taken over. A bit of time in the boat and instruction if you need it and the boat will become an extension of you and the ability to move it in any direction with complete control and ease will be a real treat for you. FreeStyle techniques can help you acheive that. And for those of us who have “supersized” ourselves over the years, it’s the only chance we have to even approach being graceful!

What layup is it?
And how much does it weigh?

Congrats on your new canoe.

You will get accustomed to the initial and secondary stability with practice and familiarity. When its warmer, practice heeling (tipping) the canoe to the gunwales in shallow water. Paddle forward heeled for long periods just as stability practice. By the end of the season, you should lose your concern over initial stability and look forward to intentional heeling in order to turn the canoe more sharply and rock over beam waves.

That’s a nice 1st solo.
Congrats and have fun!

Kevlar Fusion
It’s the Kevlar fusion layup, 30lbs. One thing that I found disconcerting during the demos is that I asked who I assumed to be experts that Swift had on hand what layups I was using. None were sure. One said he’d have to check the boat list. Another said “It’s hard to tell by looking at it”. Then I noticed the “Kevlar Fusion” stamp on the side of all of the boats I demoed. How can they not know that? Seriously.