I have found myself in the market for a solo canoe. I already own a fiberglass squareback and a couple of kayaks but I think that all of these have been bad descisions. I am 5’11 and 215 lbs most of it is my built in floatation device (pot belly) but I want to get it shifted up top. Here is my quandry I am married bought 2 kayaks thinking we could do marital bonding but found out I really did not care for kayaking it was not suitable to my other passion fishing and my wife is obviously all good intentions but no follow through. So I bought a sqareback canoe threw a trolling motor on it and it’s okay but carrying a battery and all my gear makes it impossible and my floatation device kept getting bigger and bigger. I rate myself in skill level at beginner just because I really have not made a commitment to learning any one paddling type. But I have narrowed it down through trial and error to where I would like to go with this. I have decided to go solo canoeing and now I am trying to figure out where to go with it. I know I will be paddling lakes a lot and the occasional lazy river with some light riffles but I also know if there is a rock or submerged tree I will hit it so I need something tough that hopefully I could eventually do some multiday canoe camping in up at the BWCA once I build up my stamina and became at least confident in an intermediate skill set. I would like a canoe that tracks well in a good chop on open water and possibly has an ABS hull or something that I would be less prone to cracking. I have been looking at a Bell Yellowstone Solo but I have can’t find any input. Also I rulled out the OT Pack Canoe because it has bad tracking unless your in a kneeling position which my knees can not handle unless in dire straits or I have to pray for forgiveness. Any Insight or help is appreciated.
search the archives
here for “solo canoe” – you’ll find a lot of discussions.
You can read a thousand opinions, but there’s no substitute for getting in the boat and trying it. If you’re new to canoes, do take a lesson or two before you go shopping – solo canoeing can be frustrating if you don’t have a few basic skills.
Cliff Jacobson’s Thoughts on the Yellowstone Solo:
"I envy anyone who owns a Bell Yellowstone solo canoe. Why? Because it outperforms my revered Bell composite Wildfire on all counts. The ends of the Yellowstone are more flared than the Wildfire, so the Yellowstone runs big waves more gracefully. And the differential rocker (the Wildfire has uniform rocker) helps to stabilize tracking in cross-winds. In 2002, I guided a Piragis-sponsored solo canoe trip on Ontario’s remote Steel River. We paddled more than 50 miles of mixed Class I-II+ rapids (fully loaded, of course) and for two days we ran yard-high following waves on 25 mile long Steel Lake. The Royalex Yellowstone’s were as fast as the composite Wildfires, but they turned better and were easier to control in a heaving sea. They were also less quirky in rapids. If you want a well-balanced, beautiful solo canoe that blends high-performance, grace and beauty, you’ll love the Yellowstone solo as much as me.
Where are you located and
…are your lazy rivers usually deep enough so you won’t scrape bottom? If so, why go Royalex?
You’re in for some fun
Solo canoes are just a ton of fun, BUT as has been said some lessons could help you learn to enjoy one faster. One thing many folks experience is that solo will feel less stable at first than your square stern tandem. You get used to that fairly quickly by using the boat, most have good secondary stability and once your body learns to trust that you’re into a new groove, brother. So give yourself some time. Don’t spook yourself and give up after the first paddle.
The yellowstone solo is a dandy, just plain fun in moving water. See reviews for the royalex wildfire, same boat.
You sure might look into some composites like the Wenonah Prism, Hemlock Perigrine, Bell Merlin II, and Magic, all of them would give you better speed and tracking and speed on lakes and lazy rivers, and might save you a few pounds.
And you have come to the right place to ask. There are many solo canoe owners on site and most have more than one or two canoes to talk about. I would say you are already headed in the right direction by avoiding the Pack, nothing wrong with the Pack, it is a robust little recreational do everything canoe that really doesn't do anything well except float. Almost all the good solo canoes were designed by people who were trying to build something to do a specific task. Short wide bodied canoes for sport fishing or day paddling on ponds and lakes. Mid length 14' to 15' performance boats that make great creek explorers and can handle a sharp turn and a little fast moving water and also are at home crossing the lake on a windy day are very popular. Long sleek lake boats for workouts or wilderness tripping are also in the mix. They like to be moving and are not much fun to sit and fish out of. There are times that I've gone out with the intent to go fishing and just ended up paddling instead because a good solo is just a joy to spend the day in. I think pointing to this boat or that and recomending it is not good enough anymore and I think it's important to try at least a few and as many as you can to see how they feel and respond. I know that is hard to do because there just are not many places to test a bunch of different solo canoes. So what do I recomend to start with? Well start in the middle with something highly recomended. If you can try a Bell Merlin II or Swift Osprey or something on that order and go from there. If you want more speed and tracking go to a longer hull with less rocker. If you want more stability go to a wider flat bottom boat. Everyone who is into solo has a favorite boat and mine is the Bell Magic but there are others I like too so it's kind of a "Did you do your homework?" type thing. Read the reviews. Some say they are not really a good sorce of info but at least they are honest opinions and some come from those who know. And don't forget to check used older out of production models. Some of which are the very best you can find.
Note that if you want Royalex your choice is much less for a fine solo canoe but there are some very good ones.
Bell, Mohawk, Hemlock, Wenonah, Mad river, Merrimack, Swift, Souris River, Placid, Nova Craft, Sawyer all make fine solo canoes that you can live with.
Thanks for the info everyone! I have a lot to consider. I guess its time to actual get out and see these canoes in person.
Shopping tip no.1
Look at the last two digits in the serial number. Solo canoes are not fast movers when it comes to sales and many sit in shops for quite some time before the right person comes along. Last two digits are the year of manufacture 01 = 2001 if the canoe is several years old it won’t hurt to ask for the origional price. Some dealers take offense to a well informed paddler others are glad to sell to someone who will appreciate the boat. I had one dealer in Cleveland (Gone Now) actually take offense to my pointing out that he was trying to sell me a 4 year old boat at a very inflated price.
Tandem as a Solo
How about a dual-purpose boat, that is, a tandem that can be paddled solo? Often a tandem canoe can be paddled solo by sitting in the bow (front) seat facing the other way. Essentially you make the front the back and vice versa. This makes the canoe more in trim for paddling.
A tandem used solo has several advantages that may work for you. Generally tandems are wider than solos, and generally wider means more stable - a good thing for fishing.
A tandem can carry more gear, which may be good for when you start doing canoe camping trips.
A tandem is often easier to land and launch. Why? Because you are not paddling from the center as you would in a solo (you’re in the bow seat paddling backwards, right?). Sitting in the center means you want to pull up to shore parallel and not point first. At some entry/exit spots parallel is not possible (many in the BWCA are like that).
Also a tandem gives you the option of having another person along. Your wife may occasionally want to join you.
There are many such canoes. I’d look for a tandem that was 15 or 16 feet long, preferably a symmetrical design (the canoe’s front half and back half are shaped the same). I’d consider canoes like the Old Town Penobscott 16, Nova Craft Bob Special, or Wenonah Heron.
Also, regarding the Yellowstone, I, too, have heard nothing but good reports on them. If you do go solo, that is probably a good choice.
Yellowstone Solo - fishing/sitting
I purchased a Bell Wildfire in royalex (now called the Yellowtone Solo) four years ago and have really enjoyed it. I even took it up to the BWCA for a five day camping trip. I'm 6'2 and about 215 lbs also, and the canoe is relatively light at 44 lbs, tracks quite well, and is reasonalby fast. At our weight I feel you would get the best performace if you could keep the weight of you gear down to 70 pounds or less. I have also talked to Cliff Jacobson about the canoe at Canoecopia in Madison, Wi. and he highly recommended it as his favorite solo canoe, however his was Black Gold - carbon/kevlar. When I first paddled the Wildfire at Carl's Paddlin also in Madison, I found it to feel a little tippsy when seated as compared to the 14'10, 57 lb, tandem, royalex - Old Town Pathfinder canoe (no longer in production) that I had been paddling for many years. However after a little while I began to feel more comfortable with its stablilty.
I love my Bell Wildfire and wouldn't think of getting rid of it, but that being said I still would have to say that I feel most comfortable paddling it from a kneeling position, especially with a light load (I have the seat mounted relatively high - 9 1/2'' above the hull). I also would probably take my Pathfinder with its increased size, width, flat bottom stability, if fishing would be my primary objective, although I have fished from my Wildfire. There is also someting to be said for having the option to take and extra passenger. I usually paddle the Pathfinder solo. Good luck with your new solo canoe.