Trying to decide between a Lotus Caper or Bell C J solo I have run into. Already have a BELL Magic and Yellowstone as well as Swift Osprey. Both the CJ and Caper are same price. Don’t really need another canoe but can’t pass up a great deal on a classic canoe. Think the Caper would help replace my old Wildfire I sold. Open to suggestions.
Go with the Caper - prettier and
The CJ Solo was/is a very early Bob Brown design. Straight sided and straight keeled, it’s a tripper without pretension of being interesting.
Mike Galt’s Caper is a beautiful boat, especially the later ones with that beautiful adjustable seat nestled between side pods. The parallel center and abruptly pinched hips render it one of the slowest 14.8’ hulls of all time. The hull is fun playing forward but problematical in reverse. Very much not similar to a Wild.
Galt told me
the max weight for the Caper to perform is 180# so that may play into your decision. It is a beautiful boat, but not great for FreeStyle as it is so asymmetrical that reverse maneuvers are not as easily done as with a symmetrical hull. It is also fairly shallow so if you exceed that 180# level, you don't really have much freeboard if you venture into rougher water.
That being said, if you can get one with the paranah (sp?) pine trim, it is incredibly beautiful...I sold my mint condition one as I am substantially out of the desired weight range, but I still sort of regret letting it go. Certainly a collectible boat as it is totally unique in the solo world....sort of like Mike himself!
Charlie is right in stating that the Caper is nothing like a Wildfire...if you're looking for a replacement this ain't it. Less maneuverable, shallower, slower, won't carry as much weight.
CJ solo can best be described as the "pick up truck" of the solo world. Large, stable, useful, unexciting.
Don't know what you intend to do with either after you decide which one you want?
BUT if I were you; I'd pass on the CJ Solo & swoop on the Caper. In my opinion, the Caper is one of the most beautiful canoes ever made, they are not easy to find, and will become more scarce in the future.
I own, and paddle a Caper with the adjustable seat briefly described by Mr. Wilson. I most often paddle mine in a huge, protected lake cove; for excercise, or "just for fun". Mostly the latter. That's what I bought it for in the first place. Unlike you, I kept my Wildfire. I have multiple "utilitarian" canoes; so my Caper does not have to fill any clearly defined purpose. It's just beautiful & fun.
If you are looking for a multipurpose, all round, utilitarian canoe; the Caper is not that canoe, in my opinion. It's was not built for hauling a big load of gear, racing, or crashing through big, standing waves. There are certainly other boats more worthy of use in freestyle.
I have a Caper and consider it the most aesthetic composite solo touring canoe I have ever seen. Galt’s craftsmanship remains unmatched: the recurved stern, the internal side sponsons, the recessed gunwales (first ever on a commercial canoe), the parallel sides at the paddling station, the hand-carved sliding seat, the gel-coated interior, the differentially sculpted end flotation tanks.
If you are about 165 lbs. or less the entire stern will crack loose when you heel the canoe on the pinched asymmetry of the stern, and you can pivot the canoe easily. The lighter you are, the bigger the stern crack and the easier the turns.
I have a Wildfire also, and it doesn’t paddle like a Caper. The Caper paddles straight more easily and efficiently, in my opinion, and the relative flatwater speeds are comparable. I paddle the same five mile flatwater course two or three times a week and time myself with a GPS. The Wildfire and Caper are close, but I’d give the flatwater efficiency edge to the Caper.
The Caper has essentially no rocker whereas the Wildfire had 2.5" inches of symmetrical rocker. Hence the Wildfire will naturally turn more easily, especially with heavier paddlers. The Wildfire can also thus maneuver and play much better in a technical class 2 rapid than the Caper.
CJ and Caper
Have passed on the CJ and now negotiating on the Caper purchase. Any idea what a fare price would be? It does not have the sliding seat but has the original web custom seat.
Please do not regret your decision. I love the Caper that I purchased sight unseen from you. I paddle it regularly in Austin, TX area. It is the most aesthetically pleasing canoe ever made! Which is exactly what Mike wanted.
Invariably, someone will tell me what a beautiful craft I am paddling. Occasionally, folks ask about the great one’s signature gracing my craft, and I tell them about you.
I am 155# and it paddles wonderfully.