New canoes in Western PA

Been prowling around here getting info., especially about older canoes that I might buy used. If I went new, I’m wondering if I could try out the most interesting to me at the meetup in Western PA. Northstar Magic and Phoenix. Hemlock Peregrine. Placid Boatworks Rapidfire. Keewaydin 15. It would be super cool if a guy could try these out side by side. Likely?

The vendors that show up at the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous have been different year to year. Dave Curtis from Hemlock Canoe has been a pretty consistent visitor and I assume he will likely come this year. If so, he will almost certainly have a Peregrine demo.

Joe Moore of Placid has been there on occasion in the past but I don’t know about recently. Also, “Bear” from Northstar has come but I don’t know if he has consistently. I have not attended for several years.

In addition to manufacturer demos, a lot of quality privately owned canoes are usually available to try out with the owner’s permission but there is no way of knowing what they might be in any given year.

There are facebook pages for “Western Pennsylvania Solo Canoe Rendezvous” and for “Bruce Kemp” who is the main organizer for the event. I would suggest that you message Bruce on one or the other FB page although he may not yet know which vendors plan to attend yet.

Thanks for the help. It looks like Dave Curtis has already committed, and Savage River. I’ve owned a Vagabond but that was a long time ago and I would really like to try the Peregrine. Of the many things I’ve kicked myself for over the years, it was selling my Vagabond and and Lady Bug, and for not buying the Nomad instead of the Vag.

Savage River is new to me. I’ve not heard anything about their canoes.

I sure hope Northstar and and Swift show up, or I can get hooked up to people who will let me demo their canoes. It’s a long way for me, but if I can try out the canoes I’m interested in, and combine it with some family visits, it’s definitely doable for me. Nice to be retired.

John Diller makes Savage River Canoes. He has made primarily racing and fast recreational canoes in past years but he has introduced some small solo models that might be available for demo.

His Blackwater canoe is one of the fastest solo canoes that is not an all-out racer that I have paddled.

If a dealer doesn’t come it is likely that anyhow an owner of one of those canoes will be there. It is a low key event . Maybe 150 paddlers.

Dave Curtis is as close to a fixture at this event as Bruce and Becky are.

thanks. There are northstar dealers around this region, so I can test paddle those here, to the extent they have one. I’ve located a Phoenix to try out. Of the things that sound interesting, I’ll be looking at the Hemlock boats, and hoping to see a keewaydin 15 and a PBW rapidfire. I appreciate everyone’s help. It’s nice to find out what’s going on. When I moved to the West 20-some years ago, I started thinking freestyle was dead since everyone paddles plastic kayaks and SUPs.

Here are a few shots from the 2021 Western PA Rendezvous to give you a sense of the event


If you’re coming from the west you’ll probably go right past my house in SW MI. I’m near water and you’re welcome to try my Kee15 and Magic (I’ve owned Peregrine and Phoenix in the past). You might call Rutabaga in Madison and see if they have a Swift Demo Day planned and if not you can see if they have a Kee15 that you can test paddle.

I think that sometimes quick first impressions can be a bit misleading so I’d encourage you to spend as much time as possible in all the boats you are considering (it’s worth paddling a couple at a dealer or at my house and then again at the solo gathering).

Tom, I just talked to my sister and a cross country adventure is starting to shape up for me and my son. I appreciate the offer and will try to take you up on that. I believe you are right, it would be easy to just get more confused by first impressions. I’ve been out of the canoe scene for a while so I just may find I have no skills. But I don’t want to do what I often do, is get obsessed with internet information and make a quasi-intellectual decision with no real data.

As long as you know it is possible to overthink…Follow your gut. Maybe after a couple of years your gut changes its mind… That’s ok. It has happened to all of us.

Some boats are just the ticket on paper and you get into it on the water and it just doesn’t feel right. Some things can be changed( seat height is the first one you can twiddle with ) and some cannot.

kgergely, here’s another, somewhat different thought on finding a good canoe…

My perspective on canoes is much like my perspective on skis and bicycles: If you choose one that seems like it should work well for you based on a reasoned set of priorities for how you intend to use it, it’ll be a good choice. You learn the strengths and weaknesses of any design and then have fun getting the most out of it.

I’ve owned nine different canoes (down to four now) and only paddled one of them before purchasing. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. They’re all quite different from each other and did best within a range of conditions. None of them are perfect. But they’re all a lot of fun when used as designed. I learned to get the best out of each canoe and just had fun paddling, not worrying about whether I chose the “right” canoe.

Just a thought,

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I will be at the Solo Canoe Rendezvous and will have my Placid Rapidfire and my Wife’s Spitfire with me. Here’s a link to more pictures from last year:
2021 Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous Photographs

PM me before your trip east if the trip pans out (to exchange contact info).

I think you mentioned heading to West Virginia after stopping in at the Western PA Rendezvous. If you leave there on Sunday afternoon, you and your son would be welcome to stay over with me in Pittsburgh Sunday night and then continue south to WV in the morning. I have a rental a couple blocks from my own house that will be empty for the summer that I am keeping set up and furnished as a guest house until Fall, so plenty of room and handy to the interstates.

I also have a large garage/boathouse at that property so if by chance you buy a canoe in your travels and don’t want to haul it with you for the trip to see the family, you could stash it here and pick it up on the way back.

I am still planning to be at the Rendezvous so we could discuss it there.

Hey, thank you. That is very kind and generous offer. I will take you up on it should I head that way. I have developed some ambivalence. I should go, since my aunt in WV is 96, blind, living alone and falling down a lot. I’m pushing it, knowing there is an end in sight and I want to visit.

On the canoe front, I’m becoming somewhat reconciled to buying a new canoe. There aren’t many interesting canoes that go for sale in this part of the world. Mostly Wenohahs. It is possible to test out Northstar Canoes within a few hours drive. Stock is low though. I did realize that I was getting so obsessed with trying something out or finding a used canoe, that I risk spending more on gas or shipping than I would lose if I bought a new one, didn’t like it, sold it, to buy another. I guess that might have been obvious. I tend to obsess over my life passions.

Will follow up. Thank.