one wierd little boat...

yesterday i made like an icebreaker and went out on a local river in my buddies Blackhawk canoe. this is one strange craft. a small solo canoe, fish form, very shallow with slots to hang the seat from, either higher or lower and sliding forward and back. most unique gunwhales i’ve ever seen. there are pictures of this boat in use in a freestyle canoe book from way back. pretty cool. anyone out there have one or know of these odd creatures? made originally in Wisconsin they are no longer. what advantage would a fish form design have in a canoe i wonder?

Sure I’ve heard of 'em
PJC has one, and someone here on the board was just recently looking for info on them and picked up a used one somewhere. These boats were designed by the same guy who designs those infamous QCCs. I don’t recall his name, but someone will mention it soon, I’m sure. I can tell you first-hand, PJC’s Blackhawk Starship is a mighty fast and graceful little tripping boat. Oh, and PJC’s boat has brand-new gunwales which really look sharp!

did you say fish form?
i think most of his designs are swedeform

Sure, I’ve heard of them too…
I even have one. A 14’2" Zephyr. There’s even one posted in the P-net classifieds too, oh yeah, that is mine, lol.


I have a Blackhawk; a 15’1" Ariel. It a dark leaf green color with wood trim, part of which I’m pretty sure is mahogany. Mine is the sport model with fixed cane seat as opposed to the adjustable seat on the Ariel ICS. Was purchased by it’s original owner from Rutabaga, and was supposedly one of the last 2 that Rutabaga had in stock. If the last numbers of the serial number is the year it was made, and I believe it is, it was made in l995.

I’m very happy with mine, and now that I’ve recovered, it was worth the marathon/900 mile round trip drive to Illinois (they sure have a lot of corn) I did to go get it!

Would like to find a Zephyr in the same condition as my Ariel…


P.S. QCC? What is that? Quality Control Concerns? LOL!!!

Blackhawk/QCC connection
I’m going by memory here, but I think the Blackhawk/QCC connection isn’t thru John Winters, but thru Phil from QCC. I think Phil either worked for, or owned Blackhawk canoes before he went to work for QCC. QCC may say something about it on their website. I think that’s where I read it, but that was 3 or 4 years ago.

Pat Moore also designed fishform boats
such as his Proem. You can still see pictures if you dig into . Pat’s rationale for fishform is that most canoeists do not paddle hard like marathon types. They paddle maybe half power. At marathon speeds, parting the water at the front is more important than replacing it at the rear, so marathon boats and many other boats are Swedeform, with bow taper longer than stern taper. For a boat paddled at an easier pace, replacing the water gently behind the boat can yield bigger gains, so Pat designed the Proem with a short bow taper and a long stern taper, fishform. Probably there should be more fishform boats than there are. Some of the recent WW open slalom boats are also fishform, but for somewhat different reasons.

I agree
I remember seeing a blurb about Phil being the head honcho at Blackhawk too.


interesting dialogue as usual
thanks for the insight. and yes indeed it is a noticeably fishform boat. not sure what model my friends is, i’ll have to measure the length as it’s name is not on it.

cheers, jbv

I’m still seeking …

– Last Updated: Nov-17-04 6:51 PM EST –

Still seeking old Blackhawk Canoe catalogs, or copies of same. Would willingly pay postage & copying cost to anyone who'll help me out. Would
also be willing to pay a reasonable amount for original catalogs; if anyone has any they want to part with.


P.S. Was searching through some old Canoe & Kayak, and Paddler Buyer's Guide today. A little surprised at retail prices on 1994 Blackhawks. May have something to do with why you don't see too many?

Ariel 1,589.00
Phantom 1,389.00-1,995.00
Shadow 929.00 to 969.00
Starship 1,599.00-1995.00
Zephyr 1,489.00
Combi 1,129.00-1,229.00

Blackhawk canoes
Yes, indeed, Phil was the owner of Blackhawk. He used to comandeer the lagoon on the Rock River in downtown Janesville WI for demo paddles. That Proem was a tippie little rascal, and seemed even more so when the water was COLD, but it moved along really well.

My $0.02

Steve Baker

New Lenox IL

My take is that Blackhawks are totally cool…way ahead of their time and still hot and very well made (with occasional spotty quality control due to artist in charge). I’ve owned an Ariel, Zephyr, Combi 14.9, Combi 15.8, and Shadow 14…all have new happy homes now. General feeling from locals in Ann Arbor area that have owned these boats and other Blackhawks are that all are cool boats…hot and capable. The shallow vee designs allow them to perform and they are generally a bit skinny (narrow) relative to their competition so they perform but also wiggle around a bit (tippy) compared to current shallow arch designs. You can argue that they are also more graceful and just “carve” turns like a sports car (shallow arch is more like skidding). Reputation of Zephyr is hottest/best Blackhawk of all and I could easily outpace tandems in my Zephyr solo…and it was faster/hotter even than a Bell Flashfire. But small and low volume and easy to sink and tippy. Ariel is still hot but not quite as fast/quick…but can handle big loads. Combi 15.8 is great all around tandem with solo capability…on the narrow/fast/hot side. Combi 14.9 great for small people tandem or big person solo. Quick! Just a blast solo/freestyle on quiet water. Shadow 14 great all around boat but not as hot as Ariel or Zephyr. Shadow 13 great boat and top freestyle boat before Bells came along. Never paddled a Starship but want to…and told that it’s nothing too special. Have paddled the Watersmeet and it’s nice and it’s sweet but it’s a family boat and not too hot.

All Blackhawks seem to “hit a wall” if you paddle them hard…moreso than current shallow arch designs (“softer” wall in my opinion). But with the Zephyr you could actually drive it through the “wall” and just keep going faster.

All Blackhawks a touch heavy…but strong…typically made of fiberglass. Kevlar rare. Wood trim some of best ever…many with mahogany. Yum. Extremely well-fitted thwarts…boats never loosen up or squeak.

They stopped making boats in 1995.

So I think they must be good investments…if nobody else wants to buy them from you in the future, I will!

paddler weights?
Always been curious about the Blackhawk canoes, but not sure which model I should be looking for? 190 lbs, intending to use for daytrips or shorter paddles – light or no load. Zephyr or Ariel? Dave Curtis had one of each about a year ago, and I kick myself for not trying them when I had the chance.

both would fit
You’ll fit in either boat…you’re at the high end but still within the rated weight range for the Zephyr…and you’re “just right” for the Ariel (although my take is that the Ariel likes to have a nice load in it’s belly…I liked carrying my 70 pound dog in the Ariel). The Ariel would be more comfortable (roomier) and stable while the Zephyr would be tippier but higher overall performance. For freestyle I’d lean towards the Ariel because it’s easy (and perfectly stable) to bury the rail in the Zephyr and let water in. Both turn on a dime. I had them both at same time…they are different. If you just jumped in and paddled both…if you felt comfy in the Zephyr I think that’s the one that you’d fall for…that’s what happened to me.

Thanks paddlinmachine
Reading your description of the Zephyr, really made me sit down and think about the last time I paddled my Zephyr. You know it’s been too long. I remember when I first paddled the little tippy boat and thought I needed to have this classic sport canoe. Well my son found a fondness for it and has been the one paddling it for over a year now. Lately he has been thinking of going back to a kayak, so we figured to sell the Zephyr. But thanks to you I think I will hold onto this little gem for a bit longer and make it a point to get reacquainted in the spring.


Thanks Mike! Bring it out to Ann Arbor and we can go for a paddle!