Old Town CJ Solo

So, I’ve owned this Old Town canoe for many years, and finally had a customer service person who was able to identify the model for me based on the specs and manufacture year (after a few unsuccessful calls to their customer service over the years to identify it by the serial number).

This is what I know about it:

-It’s a 1985 Old Town CJ Solo, fiberglass construction.

-15’6" long, 29" at the gunwales, 31" at the waterline. -Weighs 52 lbs.

-Mine was originally white, but apparently it also came in blue or green.

Does anyone know anything more about the history of this model? I understand it was part of a company merger…What else? How long did they manufacture it, and what was it designed for? What’s the “reputation” of this model and why was it discontinued?

Just curious…

check this

– Last Updated: Jul-08-15 1:17 PM EST –

C J stands for Cliff Jacobson, if you had not already gathered that:


You can read a page out of Cliff's book (which he references in the above thread) here:


This thread also discusses the CJ Solo:


As "C J" notes, neither the Old Town nor the Bell version of the CJ Solo were exact copies of the boat he originally designed and built.


– Last Updated: Jul-08-15 1:18 PM EST –

I actually found that thread, but was also curious about what the general thoughts were on this canoe when it came out. I've heard others refer to the Northern Light a bit wistfully, and wonder why this one didn't hold out. Maybe it was just too limited in production to really have a reputation?

This is literally one of the only canoes I've really paddled around, so I don't have much to compare it to. I weight about 150 now (I was probably barely hitting 120 when I first got it), and never had any issues with the CJ Solo even though it seems to have been designed for a larger paddler. The post from CJ himself says that paddlers have found this this canoe was "too big" for them....but I guess I don't know what that means.

Big canoes
Longer hulls have a greater potential top speed, but they also have greater wetted surface area and therefore greater skin friction. Relatively few recreational paddlers get a boat up to or above maximum theoretical hull speed, and if and when they do, it is typically not for very long.

Longer boats are also inevitably heavier given a similar hull shape and beam, and require more material to build, and are thus more expensive. For most paddlers, giving up a little theoretical top speed for a boat that is lighter and accelerates up to cruising speed more easily and quickly is a very good trade off.

The original CJ Solo as described by Cliff had a maximum beam of 30 inches. That is a bit wide for a high performance solo canoe unless the paddler is on the large side. Having a canoe that is a bit too wide hurts in several ways. First, the additional beam results in a lower water line length to water line beam ratio which means a boat that is harder to paddle up to speed. Second, it makes it difficult for a small to medium sized paddler to get a good form paddle stroke with a relatively vertical paddle shaft angle and both hands out over the water. If you paddle sit and switch, the wider boat makes switching sides more awkward. Lastly, the greater than necessary beam may make it difficult for the paddler to comfortably kneel with both knees optimally placed in the chines for maximum stability and control.

A big boat with a medium sized paddler and no load is also going to float higher in the water resulting in more freeboard. That can be good at times but also results in more windage.


– Last Updated: Jul-08-15 2:05 PM EST –

Huh....that info is pretty interesting. I'm wondering if since this was the canoe I "learned" in and have always had, I just naturally compensated for the width and other issues (such as pretty much never going out during high winds). Obviously this boat wasn't designed for a 15 year old girl, but that's who ended up with it all those years ago. Being your usual "casual paddler" I've also had no formal instructions on different strokes or correct paddling techniques....I just always used a double ended paddle, and paddled in a way that felt comfortable and natural for me. I feel like I probably have more back-and-forth torso movement to make the paddle vertical in the water with each stroke, though I also have long arms for a woman so perhaps that helps. The only issue I've ever really had with this canoe (that I'm aware of) is the weight. 50+ lbs is a bit heavy for one person with spindly arms to be lifting on and off of a car, though of course I managed. It's entirely possible that if I tried a different, narrower canoe, that I'd love that.....but I've really grown to love this one because it's *mine*, if nothing else. My husband has an Old Town Pack, which is marvelously light...but I can't help but feeling like it must be a chore to paddle (I've yet to try it out); how can it possibly track well?

If you love it and
Don’t have paddling issues just enjoy it. If you want lighter, try different models to see if it is worth changing. I always say it is sort of the pickup truck of solo canoes…not exciting but gets the job done reliably and safely. You may enjoy the sportier feel of a smaller hull for your size but only you can determine that based on the type of water you paddle and what burden you carry. Nice, stable solo though.

CJ Solo & Old Town
For its time the CJ solo was a nice rounded design. It did not sell well for the same reasons as the Canadianne and Columbia of that time did not sell. There were other equally good canoes from Wenonah, Mad River, and Sawyer. And those canoes cost less, and weighed less. Typically Old Towns canoes in fiberglass cost as much as the others in Kevlar. And the kevlar Old Towns weighed as much as the fiberglass Wenonahs. Not strong selling points for a tripping canoe. Cliff Jacobsen is far from a large man. If it was sized for him even with a tripping load it would not be too big for you. Coompared to the Old Town Pack, its like comparing a Camaro to a Kia Rios. The Pack has its place, like drifting down a creek fishing; or being dragged thru the brush to fish a pond. It is not the canoe to paddle any distance. Be happy you have a piece of solo canoe history. The Wenonah Wilderness in Kevlar would make you smile when you lifted it, and feel very at home when you paddled it.