Looking for input on Three Tandem Canoes

I am looking at three lighter tandem canoes and ones that would be somewhat less tender then my 1980’s fiberglass Lincoln 5.3 for the simple reason that I’m now in my late 60’s and have to car top to paddle. The three I’m looking at are the NorthStar Northwind 17, Swift Keewaydin 17, Wenonah Spirit II and all three are substantially lighter then my Lincoln. I’m assuming the Spirit II would be the most stable of the three, but don’t know how much it gives up on efficiency and don’t know how much more stable I might find each of these to my present boat. I’ve always been comfortable in the Lincoln and it is efficient, but now looking ahead to paddling when I’m older and probably will eventually feel more comfortable in a slightly more stable hull design, but don’t want to drop down to a recreational hull and give up to much on efficiency. If anyone has experience with any of these three boats and would like to share thoughts/input … most appreciated.

Between the Spirit and the Northwind 17, you’ll find a little more rocker in the NW, and a little more volume upfront, which makes it more comfortable for bow paddlers who want more leg room. The straighter line of the Spirit assists in flat water speed, but it isn’t quite as manageable in tight, turny situations (or in waves, for my money). Initial and secondary stability are pretty comparable on the two boats - neither is ‘more stable’ than the other, to my feel.

Construction quality on Wenonah is the standard for the industry, though Northstar’s build quality is also excellent. There are more options available in Wenonah in terms of trim and seat styles, but Northstar’s base price is a touch lower. In the end, they’re both excellent designs, and you’d likely be quite happy with either one if you’re looking for an all-purpose 17 footer.

The Swift Keewaydin 17 is designed by David Yost and he designs for seakindliness and seaworthiness. This means the bow station has ample room so that if the waves come up the bow paddler is not prone to ejection… DY often says capsizes are mostly caused by bow paddler instability and tries to avoid that.

I had a Bell Northwind which I believe is the same hull as the Northstar Northwind. The boat is very stable and the handling is superb…the boat can easily be steered and controlled by the bow or stern paddler alone even on rivers. But the efficiency is only average if your load is 500 pounds or less. If your load is 550 to 600 then it’s a fine choice.

If I were you I’d want to test paddle the Kee 17.

Do you kneel?

I have a Spirit II in kevlar that is set up for sit and switch paddling with a sliding bow, tractor seats and foot brace in the stern. Great boat and easy to paddle. Stable, carry a ton of gear, and I would say that it is efficient - but I’m not quite how to define that. It’s a big boat that can be susceptible to wind with light loads.

The canoe would be almost always used for just tandem day paddling and to tandem fish/ fly fish from so I don’t see its’ load exceeding 400 lbs max as a general rule. The Lincoln I presently have is really designed to be in its’ full glory when weighted down like it would be if used for tripping, but because it doesn’t get used that way it tends to sit a little high in the water and thus a tad tippy for ageing paddling if one isn’t paying attention or over reacting physically such as can happen when casting while fishing etc. Speed and ability to handle rough water it has, but now looking for the next boat to be still efficient, lighter and a somewhat more stable. One store that carries all three put the stability factor as 1. Spirit II, 2. Northwind 17, Keewaydin 17 , but if others disagree or if anyone has experience paddling the Swift Keewaydin 17, I would be happy to hear your thoughts and input. If I were still younger, I wouldn’t be asking, but such is life. Thanks.

I haven’t paddled a Northwind or Keewaydin, but the Spirit II is a very stable boat. Staple with a light load, but like I said earlier, might get a little blown around in the wind. Paddle them and let us know what you think.

Varney your issue is not with the boat aside from it being too heavy for what you want to carry now and in the future. Its in the seat height. Lower the seats.

None of the boats you list are inherently unstable. Since you have access to all three go forth and paddle and let you be the decision maker.

To answer TomL’s question … we do not kneel while paddling. Did years ago whitewater paddling plus back then my brother was a serious canoe racer with a small fleet of tandem and solo racing boats that I on occasion would play in, but that was then and this is now.
Yes I am a believer in trying before buying, but lets face it … the purchase of higher quality boats (both canoes and sea kayaks) has dropped off drastically so the many shops and venues that I did have available within comfortable driving distance are now long gone and the few that have survived have changed their offerings to meet today’s market being now mostly plastic, rec or fishing kayaks. Even less for canoe offerings because to keep their businesses “afloat” they had to make those changes making it much harder now to test paddle boats like I am looking at. The very few places that are still offering test paddles often only carry one of these lines so comparing one boat against the other on the same day isn’t even an option and often they will only hold a demo day just once so if you miss it, you have to wait till another year for a new shot at it. The Swift line is the least available canoe in this area which is why I am hoping for some feedback on that one. Times have changed.

Hey Varney, I don’t know anything about your Lincoln but I do remember having a bad experience test paddling a Lincoln with my wife many years ago. My memory is that it had good primary stability but got squirrelly when it was hit broadside by a set of big waves. As far as stability, you would have a hard time falling out of a Northwind 17. But 400 pounds is not enough for that boat. The Spirit 2 has a fine reputation and excellent reviews and the Kee 17 is going to be a super friendly boat too. Not all 17 plus foot boats are going to be happy with such a light load so it’s good to hear from a Spirit 2 owner that it’s a good boat with a light load. If you are sitting then it’s good advice to check your seat height even on your current boat and see if you might want to lower it…even half an inch can feel like a huge change.

I’ve paddled a Kee 16 and personally I don’t think it’s the best choice for you since it moves around a bit as you paddle. I’ve got a Northstar Polaris which is very friendly and efficient but I imagine that the Kee 17 would offer even more stability for folks that always sit.