Oscoda Solo 13 vs Sawyer Starlight,

royalex Bell Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo and Blackhawk Zephyr.

I own and am fairly familiar with all but the Oscoda Solo 13.

I have paddled a Solo 13 once for about five or ten minutes about five or six years ago on Sugar Creek in IN using the owner’s double blade paddle and thought that it handled pretty well on that fairly swift moving water. I didn’t own any of the other three boats at that point.

The reviews for the Oscoda / Sawyer Solo 13 are favorable, but few and C.E. Wilson seems to think pretty highly of it when I searched the archives. I didn’t find many references to this boat in the p.net archives.

Any thoughts on comparisons of the Oscoda / Sawyer Solo 13 and the three boats that I own or general thoughts on the Solo 13 would be appreciated.


Sawyer Solo 13
is a wonderfully balanced boat that will fulfull the needs of most midwestern river paddlers. It is responsive especially to heeled moves. You can sit comfortably in it or kneel and bust some nice moves in and out of eddies.

I never cared much for any of the other Sawyer solos back in my freestyle hayday. Now I have an Autumn Mist and Shockwave

Solo 13/ Coda 13
I bought one in early summer this year. My youngest daughter has claimed it as hers if I will paint it florescent pink. I took a couple short trips in it this past summer. It worked especially well on French Creek here in Pa… It turns easily and goes straight nicely.

It has good primary and secondary stability. It’s original name was Spring Fever because it was intended to be used as a small stream spring runoff tripper. It was DY’s only Freestyle design that Sawyer produced. I like mine but I haven’t paddled a Sawyer that I didn’t like. I don’t have a Starlight in my collection yet so when you decide to sell yours, let me know.


If you are looking for a Starlight and don’t mind making a bit of a drive, Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville, Pennsylvania has a new one. At least I assume they still have it. Their website is www.bluemountainoutfitters.net

Length and width

– Last Updated: Dec-19-08 4:07 PM EST –

Both the Oscoda 13/Sawyer Classic and Starlight are similar hulls - both bubble sided to come out of a split mold. The Solo 13/Classic is 13'long by 31 in wide and the Starlight 13'4" long by 28 in wide with minimal rocker. Think a shorter Summersong.

Like all bubble sided hulls, it firms up when heeled until the widest part of the bubble submerges. Further heeling submerges less

As I remember you are a compact guy. You'll need to take a step to do cross maneuvers in the Classic. Remember it is one of the few 31"wide kneeling hulls available, along w/ WeNoNah's Wilderness and Bell's new RockStar,

Star will fit you. Classic won't.

My Starlight doesn’t turn very readily
and feels rather squeamish when leaned hard, but keep in mind that my Starlight seat is stuck in the lowest position untill I modify the improperly installed seat height adjusters to allow use of the upper heights, so kneeling is not possible yet. So far, I prefer paddling it with a double blade paddle, rather than with a single blade. The 28" max beam of the Starlight does make it easy for me to clear the hull to reach the water, just as on my Summersong.

My understanding, from reading reviews and other comments on p.net, is that the Solo 13 turns rather nicely when heeled. Reaching the water in the Solo 13 would be pretty similar to reaching the water in my royalex Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo, wouldn’t it?

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone.

Keep the info coming.

Any other thoughts or inputs?

I’ve heard nothing but good things
About the Oscoda 13 but I have not paddled one.

I expect that it’s much more stable than your Zephyr and would give up noticeable speed/efficiency…the Zephyr is such a red hot boat.

I was paddling alongside one during a New Year’s Day paddle many years ago in a Flashfire when we came up to a very narrow section between downed trees while we were talking. The river was high and the current was fast (audibly fast). I politely let him go first since only one boat would fit through, then he decided to backpaddle and hold still in the fast/narrow section so I took one BIG backstroke to avoid hitting him - and went swimming. My fault entirely. About 5 or 6 boats went under that day…in 30 degree weather. It was a good lesson and I’ll communicate earlier from now on and now I pack even more comfy stuff when I carry a dry bag.

oscoda solo 13
The solo 13 is a great little boat with remarkable performance for a boat in its price range.

My 120lb wife loves its stability and hull speed. She likes she can sit-n-switch or kneel and heel the the boat over a bit and spin on a dime freestyle.

On occasion, I grab the boat, throw my 250lb frame in it and paddle fast streams fresh from spring run-off.

Its faster and a bit more responsive then the Yellowstone, certainly more stable then a Zephyr, and i don’t have enough time in the Bell to make a comparison.

If you can find one at a fair price, I’d buy it…

So, how’d the Oscoda 13 handle those

Does the Solo 13 owner use it often on rivers?

What’s max gunwale width - ouside
edge to outside edge on the Oscoda Solo 13?

Hold on winemaker!

– Last Updated: Dec-24-08 4:13 PM EST –

The Classic fits you pretty well with minimal gear. That 120 lb wife, unless she has shoulders like an NFL linebacker, would do way better in a much narrower boat. Try Hemlock Kestrel, Pb, Rapid, Flash, few canoes fit compact folks. Heritage; Curtis Mayfly, Pat Moore Reviere 1, Sawyer Starlite.

["It fits me, should also do OK for my mate who is half my size."] Not likely.

Mostly, it's guys who want to want to take women paddling. If women are forced into hulls that do not allow a vertical paddle-stroke, hence effective and efficient control of the boat those smaller folk will leave the sport.

Classic/ Solo 13 beam[s]
Molded is 29" at rails, 31" max, ~28" at WL. Wood outwales will increase effective beam at rails to ~30.5"

29" at outside edge of aluminum gunwales

The outside edge is what matters when it comes to clearance for paddling.

Well then,

– Last Updated: May-09-09 3:32 PM EST –

The individual sample you have is pulled in somewhat from the designers cross sections.

Alu rails never seem to capture the shear of the hull and are always loose between pop rivets. Wood trimmed canoes are always more solid because the hull is pinched between outwale and inwale along the entire shear line.

At 31"max beam it is still a fat little boat for folks with long legs or excess weight.

wife with linebacker shoulders?
No, she’s fairly narrow shouldered…

Mr Wilson, your points are well taken from a design aspect, but we chose the Oscoda 13 for her based on simpler criteria.

A paddler in our club had a '13 for many years paddled by his wife and kids and sampled by many who had good things to say about this old, easy-to-paddle solo. My wife had paddled the boat numerous times, for up to two hours at a stretch, while taking time-out from her own narrower-Wenonah-prototype-freestyle boat we’d bought years ago at a canoe show.

She noted the width of the Oscoda was a small issue when paddled sit-n-switch, but when kneeling, she can heel the boat slightly to negate the problem. She loves the stability, the easy of turning, and she likes the boats looks, which is an issue for some paddlers.

Most critical at the time was the cost, we bought a new boat from the factory for $450. This made it a great boat for us at a time when there were not alot of smaller solos under $1000.

All the boats you listed are, by my knowledge, not commonly available in Indiana and cost alot more then what we paid for the Oscoda 13.

I stand by my statemenmt that the 13 is a great boat based on value and performance. I submit there can (and needs to be) be good performance, decent design, and quite usable solo canoes for less then $1000-$3000 a boat. We love paddling of all sorts, but our priorities require us to look for used or special-deal boats when adding to the 11 canoes we have now.

CEWilson talked me out of the Solo 13
by his persistent insistence that it’s too wide for a compact paddler like myself - 5’6, 155 lbs and 30" inseam.

I was still tempted, since I could have gotten it to my home for about $390 and it was in good condition and I’m not impressed with my Starlight’s handling and fun factor with a single blade paddle. I can’t kneel in it because the seat is stuck in the lowest position. The Starlight isn’t too bad with a double blade, but I haven’t yet warmed up to a double blade in an open boat due to the paddle drips in the boat. The Starlight doesn’t turn easily without a lean - and leaning very far can be precarious when taken too far. My understanding is that the Solo 13 turns easier.

Too bad the water is frozen and I couldn’t test paddle the Solo 13.

Hopefully, I’ll find a used Flashfire at a tolerable price.

Until then, I’ll make due with the Summersong, Starlight, royalex Wildfire, Wenonah Whisper, MR Slipper and Blackhawk Zephyr.

Keep me in mind if you decide to sell the Starlight or Summersong.