Looking for a kneeling solo

I’m thinking of buying a kneeling solo later this year. I’m 6’1" and about 185 and paddle coastal areas along Southwest Florida – bays, rivers, Gulf of Mexico – day trips, solo overnighters, fishing, etc.

I’ve been paddling a Merlin II but I can’t find one used. A Bell Magic? Hemlock Peregrine?

I see plenty of used Mad River Independence boats out there. They seem like a generation older than the Bells, Hemlocks, etc.

Any thoughts?

Sounds like you might encounter some tidal surf etc…

I will toss the Supernova into the mix. Big solo boat, but you are tall. She is deeper than most, does NOT take on water easily, turns well, solid secondary stability.

The VT Canoe Indy…
Where in Florida are you? There’s one at Mosquito Creek Outfitters in Apopka to look at and float on their demo pool if you’re near there. I bet Sissy103 would love to paddle, too, if you are that area.


So what do you like and dislike about the Merlin II?

I’ve had to thin down my boats due to lack of income/employment but I have many miles in a Merlin II, many miles in a Peregrine, I owned and did not like (although others do) a Magic, and I’ve paddled Independence more than once.

Independence is a fun boat if you can find one for a good price. Peregrine is a sweet boat but I like both Merlin II and Peregrine better with some weight in them. Swift Osprey is a lot of fun…more playful than Merlin or Peregrine and happy with your (light) load.

There are really lots of choices depending on what you’re after.

There’s no reason to avoid an Independence, they are fine boats.

I like the Merlin
It paddles very well. I keep hearing that there were years when the Merlin was built with a flatter bottom – giving the boat a dead feeling.

I’d love to paddle a peregine. I might even buy one on the spot if I could fine one used.

I’d say the Peregrine and Merlin are at the top of the list, although I’ve never paddled the Peregrine. Can’t imagine it’s not a sweet boat though judging by what I read.

The Merlin feels good in the water and moves along efficiently. Not super fast, but seems easy to keep at speed. Don’t know that I’ll find a nice used one in Florida that’s not a flatter bottomed boat.

The Indy boats are pretty easy to come by. There are two for sale in Florida on pnet at the moment.


Merlin, Peregrine, Osprey
I think the Peregrine is a little more oriented toward flatwater paddling, in that it tracks a smidgeon stronger than the Merlin II, and at least seems a tad faster. With less stern rocker, it doesn’t turn quite as quickly. It seems to have a bit less depth (though I haven’t measured it) which would mean less windage but also less freeboard in waves.

The Osprey strikes me as just a very pleasant all-around boat, well-mannered and seaworthy yet still quite efficient.

All three are great canoes and which one is best suited for you is impossible to say. If you weren’t crazy about the Magic, I’m not sure you would prefer the Peregrine to the Merlin. The Peregrine is more like the Merlin than is the Magic, but again, it’s strong suit relative to the Merlin seems to me to be its straight-ahead efficiency. The same might be said about the Magic relative to the Merlin.

I’ve never owned an MRC Independence, but there sure seem to be a lot of Indy owners who revere that boat.

Different boats
Kneeling fit is a function of hull width and seat height, but how far you can comfortably spread your knees is the key to not becoming a swimmer.

Peregrine is 28.5 inches wide, Merlin 29, Indy and Osprey, also WildFire and Argosy 30.

Tumblehome aids forward efficiency by allowing the paddler to keep the shaft closer to the boat and more vertical. All the above boats except Indy are tumblehomed.

Despite all the chat about “strong tracking”, any skilled kneeling paddler can drive a Super Nova or WildFire, the two most highly rockered kneeling solos, in a straight line or into an “inside circle”.

Skegged sterns resist induced yaw, when the paddle is carried behind the body or the top hand is kept inside the rail, or the stroke is guided along the rail. Tumblehome helps with the latter two problems, but paddle sensitivity is the ultimate answer and it takes time in the boat.

All that said, cross sectional shaping is another factor. Indy’s V bottom has specific handling characteristics, as do arched bottoms and Yost’s elliptical bottom.

You can look at the numbers:, email me at charliewilson610@roadrunner.com to get a comprehensive comparison, but you’ve gotta paddle the things to find what works for you.

Osprey Indy Magic Perigrine Voyager
My Osprey is my do it all boat from moderate whitewater to the ocean and everything inbetween.

Steady, dry, agile and quick, she’s a very efficient boat at 3-5 mph but I don’t believe she wants to go much faster. She also requires constant attention to heading. Might be frustrating for a marathon racer.

My Indy is a lovely lake boat with a sweet feel like no other. Not a boat I want in rough water and her lack of tumblehome leaves her feeling a bit beamy.

I really like the Magic. Steady in a tempest. Good speed and surprisingly agile when you get her up on edge.

I’d class the Perrigrine with the Magic as a lake tripper. Not with the Osprey as some others do. Maybe a little better speed than the Magic? I’ve only spent a short time in one, no load, in wind and boatwakes on Raystown Lake. Boy she made me grin!

The Voyager is big and fast. IMO the fastest I’ve paddled. She responds well to an outside heel. But with my 180 lbs and daytripping gear the wind can be an issue.

I raised the seat tubes 1.5" and find her pretty comfey kneeling. Steady too!


skegged stern
not only reduces induced yaw, but can also reduce possible weathervaning in asymmetrical designs, which can save energy – for skilled paddlers too.

I kneel in my Old Town Pack

the seat is the perfect height to rest your butt on, with your legs underneath the seat, while kneeling on the floor. Very comfy even without pads. Maneuverable too.

The MR Independence shines in
whitewater and swift flowing rivers. It’s not really a Florida boat, though if you’re not in a hurry it will do nicely.

Waiting game

– Last Updated: Jun-24-09 11:19 AM EST –

Probably should try as many as I can, drive up to Raystown and make somebody an offer.

Still didn't get an answer on the Merlin II "flatter hull" years?

Here's the current working list:
1. Peregrine
2. Merlin II
3. Magic
4. MR Indy
5. Rapidfire

Indy in Whitewater?
Wouldn’t have been my first thought but I don’t know the history.

Is it like the Malecite in that respect? A down river racer? Or is it something else?


I’ve not had my Indy in WW
But it does hang next to my Malecite and the bow shapes are very different. Much more flare to the Malecite.

I wouldn’t mind trying the Indy in some mild class II. Very pleasant boat, especially in the wind.

I read all kinds of things
about the MR Indy. Some people say it’s slow. Some say it’s fast. Some say it can’t handle waves. Some say it’s fine for waves.

So it goes…

The motor and pilot are always variables
I wouldn’t expect it to handle waves particularly well. But, it’s a Jim Henry design, so it no doubt holds some surprises.

I took a few gallons over the side
last week in confused chop (wakes). I was a little surprised. Indy might not be the best in following seas.

models and flat years

– Last Updated: Jun-24-09 1:50 PM EST –

I noticed you included Rapid in your list. If you want to sit in a low bucket, it'll do fine. If you want to kneel, it'll be as narrow as the Kestrel which came from the Curtis Vagabond. Rapid is DY's redesign of that hull. It's too narrow for you to kneel.

I don't know enough about ORC induced changes to the Bell laminates to help much. The offending Merlin II's were the Kev-Lite/Krystal/whatever laminate: pretty much two layers of kevlar with a foam core. The early foam cores were placed without pre-shaping in an oven and tended to rebound/flatten the light duty hulls when de-molded.

There are two ways to make a hull light. Make it fragile or make it expensive. Bell did and ORC does both. Find a Black Gold Merlin or the top Hemlock laminate Peregrine. They are both ~the same DY designs; Peregrine being molded off a Curtis Nomad plug with increased stem layout. Similarly, try an Osprey in the best laminate Swift makes: their infused Carbon/Kev hybrid w/ integral rails. You'll be happier with the best.

I wouldn't spend much time hoping for silver-bullet help from a skegged stern in cross winds. That aid is wind velocity and angle and hull speed specific. [Google peripatetic pivot point for the sad news. Improved paddle sensitivity is a better answer.

My own travel through solo hulls may be of interest. Their was a time when I had to have a V bottom to reach my destination. Once I had my hundred hours in I started to notice arched and elliptical tripping hulls could do things other than go straight, but go straight hulls did only thyat. Later, several more hundred hours under the loving admonitions of Tom Foster and others, I discovered hulls with lots of rocker at both ends were more fun.

Strangely, my exit from Pb had a lot to do with paddling with my dog at a Labor Day party. Jo'el was noodling around with Remy in her Flash, I was cursing my differential rockered tripping boat because it wouldn't turn tighly. For me; 2.5 inches rocker at both ends and a big smile.

I have a little mantra I go through when I test a new solo canoe. I get it running and lay in a Duffeck. If the hull didn't turn past 180 dgs I get out; if it did, I nail a couple Cross Forwards and try the Inside Circle. If it won't do that, I get out; if it did, I lay on a couple sweeping forwards and try the Cross Inside Circle. Either way, I get out. If it didn't I walk away, if it did I buy the boat. There aren't many boats in my garage.

bon chance

my two cents
as an Everglades paddler appreciate my Hemlock Kestrel in the larger bays, tidal rivers and wind that is so typical of our winter paddling season. It also works very well in twisty mangrove creeks. Ask Dave Curtis if the Peregrine is comparable to the Kestrel in these conditions. I did not enjoy the Merlin II as much for Everglades paddling.

Indy does as Indy told
Ran my Indy for about 15 years in Maine’s Kenduskeag race before trying different hulls. There be some whitewater there. Indy will do what its told like a good canoe should.

Sure, there is always a better design but a paddler and a boat do reach an agreement where marketing hype is taken for what it is.

Geez, I’d never have guessed that an Indy would do well on a lake! I’d be reluctant to run my Indy on a lake.