Off Beat Solo Canoes

-- Last Updated: Mar-01-13 4:31 PM EST --

I would like to try out some "off-beat" solo canoes, like the Swift Shearwater & Hemlock SRT. Anyone in the Chicagoland area have one of these boats that would be willing to let me test paddle it? Looking for more of a river solo, and not a lake canoe (i.e. I need some rocker). Interested in a versatile boat, can carry a load, lighter weight (less than50#). Not interested in any boat that oil-cans or is poorly made. Thanks.

Add Curtis DragonFly
to your list. 85 made…not sure how many still exist. I know of about eight.

Colden DragonFly. I have one. There is one other…maybe two.

Swift Shearwater is a big boat…not specifically a river runner, though like its smaller cousin the Osprey it will run rivers but has a skegged stern.

The DragonFly has a couple inches rocker bow and stern.

I know someone will bring up Millbrook boats; I am not familiar with them.

Even for a lake canoe, I would prefer
some rocker. When Bell was still an option, their tandems had a sensible amount of rocker. I can’t make a case for a zero rocker fast lake cruiser, suspended in a trough between waves.

What’s your size?
I’ve got a Curtis Vagabond, Curtis Lady Bug, Bell Flashfire, Bell Wildfire, black gold Bell Yellowstone Solo, Blackhawk Zephyr, Phoenix Vagabond set up for solo and a Mad River Monarch.

All are river worthy craft, depending on your size and load.

I’d be glad to entertain you down here in central IL to try out a boat or two.

You might even be able to talk me in to selling one.

You are selling your Monarch???
I have a collection of offbeat solos too but as Im some thousand miles east of IL, not much use.

The Swift Heron is my most offbeat.

More likely the Vagabond and Wildfire.
The Vagabond for sure. It’s a bit tougher decision for the Monarch, but selling it would fit right in to my debt reduction plan.

If I had more space & money, I’d keep all that I have and add a few.

North Central Indiana.
I have a NovaCraft Supernova. Great big load solo boat. NOT for a small person. You would be welcome to take her for a spin. She is fairly beat up, but solid and paddles very nicely.

You got my attention!
Are things thawed down by you? I would certainly love to come and test paddle your boats.

I’m a big gal, and take doxies with me often. If I find the right boat, might even take tripping.

Kneeling 100% of the time is becoming a problem for me… I need to sit sometimes to rest the legs. I’m no spring chicken anymore… 8 hours on the knees is no longer an option.


– Last Updated: Mar-03-13 2:09 PM EST –

I didn't like the Supernova..... a bit wide for my liking for solo. Though the one I paddled had seat altered (placed center instead of aft of center, and I believe the seat is place aft of center usually).

I have a bell wildfire, and love the boat to death. I just am not comfortable kneeling 100% of the time (I need to sit at times to get blood to the feet), and find her a bit tippy when I sit in her... not to mention the issues of switching from the sitting to kneeling position has always been a problem for me in this boat. Did I mention I'm a big gal? LOL

I need rocker....I'm a river runner at heart, and want my maneuverability over speed.

I eyeballed the Bell Rockstar a lot, but those are few and far between. Bought the Wenonah Rendezvous... hated that boat; it belongs to someone else now.

My goal is to find some people willing to let me test drive solo canoes. I can find on the internet all the solo boats out there, but the problem is I can't find retail stores that carry them so I can test paddle them. I can't keep buying boats over and over and over to 'find the right one'.

It frustrates me that canoe companies are not marketing their boats. It is like they are operating on a wing and a prayer. I don't get it.

Partial Reply

– Last Updated: Mar-03-13 3:31 PM EST –

I have a Supernova and have always been a bit perplexed by the seat placement. The boat has a fair bit of rocker and so trim affects tracking and turning characteristics quite a bit. With the seat in the factory position, you NEED to put something heavy in front of you to level-out the boat. I think the boat is heavily marketed as a solo tripper which means they expect a person to be traveling with a load. If you have only one big pack with you, putting the seat a bit toward the rear makes sense (I always carry two packs to make it possible to level-out a boat even when the seat placement provides proper trim with no load). They might also be considering the fact that many people don't have enough reach to comfortably paddle from closer to center (as you found out). Anyway, a pretty standard thing to do with that boat is to move the seat forward from its factory position by one seat-width, as that puts it about the same distance rearward of center as what's standard for solo canoes. However, I do remember seeing in one of the reviews on this site that someone wasn't happy with the boat handling until they'd moved the seat BACK one seat-width. I can't imagine someone liking the way the boat would handle in that situation. Odds are, they weren't good at paddling, and "sticking" the stern that way helped tracking for them.

As far as the way canoes are marketed and the lack of models being available for test paddling, I think it's because canoes are not selling like hotcakes anywhere these days. Profit margins are very slim, and producing more boats than what's been ordered probably would kill whatever profit is there. Three companies I've dealt with only manufacture a specific boat once it has been ordered, so if there are any extra ones out there, it's only because a dealer ordered them and expects to sell them soon, not because someone wants to make them available for test-paddling. It's unfortunate, but I don't think there's much potential for increasing sales simply by making more boats available. The fact is, the number of people who are out shopping for canoes probably can't easily be increased right now.

Solo Canoe Events
Yeah it’s nice to put be able to paddle a boat before you buy it.

There is a thread on the Getting Together and Paddling forum about the Western PA Solo Canoe gathering in early June.

The Raystown Lake gathering in October is another to look for. Neither are close but sill might be worth your while.

PA Rendezvous
I am planning on going to the PA solo canoe Rendezvous in early June. Would like to have a boat b/4 then, but if I have to, I will.

I see your point
I see your point on what you stated above, but I don’t understand why ALL the canoe companies don’t get together and sell the public on canoes? By not having any boats out there to gaze at, touch, and say “ahhhh… I need one of these”, they aren’t going to sell any boats to people other than staunch canoers. I am no business guru, but I know as soon as I saw my first Bell canoe, I knew I was going to buy one. If I never see a canoe, then there will be no ‘tickle’ to get my wallet out. Are they in the business to SELL canoes, or just to make them?

guideboatguy, we had a battle about the
Supernova seating position on myccr. I’m a proponent of kneeling right smack up, thighs under the center thwart. In that position, I’m reaching forward to take the catch over a narrower portion of the boat. I can skip j-stroke correction on most strokes, and the boat runs straight cheerfully.

If someone sits back where Novacraft puts the Supernova seat, they have to take the catch over a significantly wider part of the hull, and physics shows that the boat will need more correction.

I simply don’t understand why any solo paddler would want to sit or kneel back toward the stern, rather than in the center where much of one’s stroke takes place in a narrower zone of boat width.

If you have a solo by then bring it
Lots of us are going to bring lots of other choices to expand your solo wardrobe and potentially deflate your pocketbook.

W Pa Solo Canoe Rendezvous is NOT a commercial event. We paddlers do ourselves in.

Because paddlers are predominantly from the eastern Midwest and western East, there are not many Wenonahs brought.

One year a fella that works at Rutabaga was kind enough to bring a bunch out.

Install foot braces in your Wildfire.
Then you can sit in it and still have pretty good control while stretching your legs.

They’ll add a an entire new dimension to the Wildfire.

Maybe next Sunday - 40’s forecast.
Some of the local small lakes should be thawed out.

Also, Wenonah sliding foot braces or other foot brace options can be installed in any solo canoe to make sitting more comfortable and in more control than without foot braces.

Next Sunday
Yanoer - heading up to Canoecopia next weekend. Maybe the weekend after that? We are to get more snow here this week too. Ugh.

Forgot about Canoecopia.
Sometime after that if you don’t buy a boat there.

I picked up used solo canoes the last two years at Canoecopia.

Bell Wildfire vs. Hemlock SRT
I have both canoes. If you think the Wildfire is too tippy to when in the seated position, I guarantee the SRT will feel even more tippy. It’s narrower at the wateline than the Wildfire and the bottom shape is more rounded. Hence faster but tippier.

I drop my SRT seats about 1.5" below where Harold Deal and Dave Curtis put them. This gives me more seated confidence but still allows me to get my feet out from under the seat with low volume booties. I can sit higher in the Wildfire and feel less tippy.

The SRT is my favorite solo canoe but it wouldn’t be if I had to sit more than 10% of the time, or if I had to sit in anything more than minor wind and waves. It’s a kneeling canoe.