Opinions of "Blue Steel" Layup?

Does anyone have comments on Nova Craft’s Blue Steel layup? I saw a Supernova in Blue Steel on Rutabaga’s website for an astonishing $2745 (vs. $995 in RX). That’s the highest price I’ve seen for an open solo canoe. The Supernova is intended for solo wilderness tripping in moderate WW, so it would seem logical that the material is suited for that application. However it is a Kevlar/Carbon/Spectra layup, so wouldn’t it share the rough-use limitations of other boats using similar materials? The 34 lbs. advertised weight is attractive, but whether it’s worth the almost 3X price of the Royalex model is certainly debatable. Anyway, I was wondering what you all think. Thanks for any information.

Supply and demand determines the
survivors of the market. There is a group of paddlers from the baby boomer generation that is maturing in age and also matured with the advent of composite canoe technology. The successful ones are financially capable of paying the new higher prices to enjoy the lightness of high tech canoes. They deserve that right.

When you compare the cost of even $3,000, including some nice accessories for a hi-tech canoe purchase, that is still much less than what most fishermen pay for a bass boat rig. How about a jet-ski purchase?

The $3,000 is also less than what hunters pay for their equipment, guides, and trips. Can’t mention golf, because I can’t afford it, and don’t even want to know how high it can run in costs.

On the other end of the spectrum, many newbies see canoes in newspaper sale flyers that sell for about $400 or $500, and think that price range is what the “norm” is for a canoe. Those do sell, and they serve a purpose. For many, that purpose is realized in wanting a better and lighter canoe. So, the spiral begins for a better and lighter canoe that also costs more. Where it will end remains to be seen.

Let’s enjoy paddling, in whatever we can afford.

Oh, I did see a blue steel canoe in a shop, and it looked good. My fiberglass canoe looks good, too, and it serves its purpose very well.

But, it I had the money…

what is your application? I mean do you want to trip and do WW or what? I wasn’t sure by your post. ANYways, I spent the big money on my solo canoe. I am pretty sure that WW isn’t in my future…but if so, it will be by surprise, and my preferences won’t matter. I bet that it would hold up, but I woudln’t spend the money on it to find out.


If you really want one, you might be
able to get it cheaper by driving into Canada, buying there, and bringing back over the border. I think it is a good layup, and will stand up well for a boat of that weight.

…and at 53 I’m in the market group you mention. I own a $2.2k Kevlar/Carbon Hemlock Peregrine, but would never consider taking it on a whitewater trip. For that type of paddling I’ll take one of my Royalex solos. It seemed odd to me that the Blue Steel layup would be used for a boat primarily designed for whitewater tripping & am trying to get a feel for whether or not folks thought the material is suitable for that use. The cost is secondary if the material is appropriate.


– Last Updated: May-14-06 9:45 PM EST –

...motivated my post more than anything else. High-end, lightweight laminates seem out of place in a whitewater boat, so I was looking for opinions on this application. No real desire to buy...just trying to keep abreast on materials vs design.

Doubt it’s as tough

– Last Updated: May-16-06 6:48 PM EST –

I can't imagine it would be as tough. From what I remeber, Novacraft uses a vinylester resin system, and foam core bottoms. I believe any glass boat destined for prolonged whitewater use ought to have a ribless or flexible rib bottom, epoxy resin, and, ideally, S-glass or polyester cloth somewhere near the outside layer.

I have heard good things about the durability in WW of Souris river Canoes, Hellman canoes, and the Duraflex models from Western Canoeing.

Don't get me wrong - I really like some Novacraft boats, I just don't think their glass layups are well suited to serious whitewater (I suspect it would work if you were the sort of paddler who values precision, and rarely makes big mistakes, and doesn't stay and play in the rapids - just gets through them).

Bluewater uses heat-cured epoxy.
Heat curing. Vacuum bagging. I agree with your point about the foam core, but Bluewater really does not pretend to offer a WW canoe. Their foam core is exceptionally well planned and done, but vulnerable at the edges. They also were slalom boat constructors for several Olympics, and Gary Barton is right up there with the best for composite boat construction knowledge.

You weren’t associating Bluewater with Bluesteel, were you?

Just remember that high-end
composites are used for WW slalom boats, and they actually stand up quite well under hammering. You should lift a 20 pound slalom boat, and then paddle it, to experience the astonishing overall stiffness. It’s like auto design. A super-stiff chassis makes for better handling.

They only have to be designed to flex where they are most likely to be hit. And they flex enough. The vulnerable part is the foam core deck, and the long tails (now shorter by half a meter) are also vulnerable to being folded and broken.

Question about Nova Craft.
I’ve only seen one in a retail store in my life, but I noticed that their prices seem to be about double what competing brands are. I also notice this price disparity when Canoe and Kayak Magazine does a review and includes a Nova Craft model.

The one that sticks in my mind was the one they did on river tripping canoes where the Nova Craft in RX was around 2 grand.

Are these boats really that much better or is there business model that of “doubling the price means the same income and half the work”?

I do really like their seats but I’m not sure I’d pay an extra thousand to get nice seats in a RX boat.

Frank, I’ve seen Novacrafts over the years during my visits to Canada, and now we have retailers here in Michigan. Their products aren’t any more than a comparable Bell, or Wenonah with the same outfitting. I think that maybe historically Novacraft’s prices were in Canadian, which would until the recent swale in the value of the US dollar to the Canadian dollar would have accounted for much of the elevated cost you are talking about.


I don’t see that at all
Here’s a quick check of current prices for some comparable boats, all in Royalex:

Nova Craft Prospector 16: $1195

Wenonah Prospector 16: $1119

Wenonah Solo Plus 16.6: $1228

Wenonah Adirondack 16: $1099

Nova Craft Super Nova: $995

Mohawk Odyssey 14: (I paid between $900 and $1000 for mine last spring)

I can’t comment on the particular boat you mentioned, but I sure don’t see a trend for Nova Craft costing twice as much as you should expect.

Its all abuot weight, and performance
When you pay that much for a canoe it’s all about weight and performance, and asthetics. This is a wilderness tripper not a whitewater canoe, although Nova Craft insists on calling it that. A wilderness tripper will encounter all sorts of water, from big lakes with wind and waves, tiny creeks, big rivers with big rapids and wave trains, and usually lots of portages over rough terrain. That’s why I paid the big bucks for the Supernova Blue Steel.

As PK and others have pointed out, Rx boats scratch, too. One solution is to buy a Blue Steel canoe with white gel coat. Gel coat always scratches white, so on a white hull the scratches don’t show as badly. Also be leery of the 34 pounds advertised, (I think they’ve actually stopped advertising that weight). It must be for a Blue Steel hull without gel coat, and with light aluminum trim. My Supernova, with white gel coat and Cherry trim, weighs more like 45 pounds. The Supernova at Rutabaga must have some extras on it. Comparing prices, the Bell Yellowstone Solo Black Gold with wood trim lists for $2400, which is about what I paid for my Supernova Blue Steel with Cherry trim.

Comparing performance, the Supernova is about half way between the Mad River Guide, and the Wenonah Prospector 15 in my opinion. The Supernova doesn’t carve turns as quickly as the MR Guide, but it’s a heck of a lot dryer in ledge drops and big wave trains. The Supernova is also faster than either the Wenonah Prospector 15 or the MR Guide. I managed to take 3rd place in men’s solo canoe class, 7 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes. That’s just under 4.5 mph. The winning time was 1 hour 13 minutes in an Old Town Penobscot 16 rigged for solo. The course was a combination of flat water, sluggish water, class I swifts, and was mostly in shallow water a foot or two deep where you had to pick a trail through boulders and ledge outcroppings to keep from hanging up.

Performance wise I’m very pleased with the Supernova Blue Steel. Weight wise I wish it was only 34 pounds, but it’s still lighter than either the MR Guide or the Wenonah Prospector by a good bit.

jes’ my two cents, eh!

Yeah, my mistake. Substitute “Bluewater” in my previous post with “NovaCraft”

I think it depends where you are and the prices the dealer gets. Here in Winnipeg, Novacrafts are one of the least expensive, and considered as good or better by most, so you see a lot of them.

Thanks to all for the comments. What I’ve read from everyone was pretty much what I expected to hear. Most of my whitewater paddling involves a moderate amount of rock bashing, so I’ll stick with the RX layups. The advertised 34 lbs sure was attractive though. By the way, here’s where I got my price information:


Thanks again

More than likely thats in
Canadian dollars…