PB - Rapidfire

-- Last Updated: Jan-21-08 6:17 PM EST --

I know there has been a lot of talk about the speed of the Rapidfire. How about a comparison in speed to solo hulls of comparable length (Merlin 2, MR Indy, Peregrine, etc.)? Or how about some of the longer hulls (16' and over) that are pretty speedy (Wenonah Advantage/Prism/Voyageur, Bell Magic, Sawyer Shockwave)?


paddled how?
Do you mean to compare the RapidFire paddled as a kayak to the Merlin 2 paddled as a canoe? I suspect that not many people paddle the RapidFire with a seat more than six inches off the floor and a single paddle, and not many paddle the Merlin 2 with a seat less than five inches off the floor and a double paddle, so you’ll have a hard time coming up with comparable numbers.

My only positive contribution: I move in the RapidFire (paddled as a canoe) noticeably faster than in my WildFire (paddled as a canoe). My friends notice, that is. I don’t have numbers.

– Mark


– Last Updated: Jan-21-08 6:29 PM EST –

What ever you have for personal experience. I suspect I'll find more people paddling the Rapidfire with a double blade than a single.

I have a 14.5' solo that I attain the same speed no matter if I am using a single or double - I can reach cruising speed faster with a double but can last longer with a single.

Rapidfire speed
I own a Rapidfire and my impression is that it is quite “fast”. I use an Aleutian double blade but attribute the apparent speed to the boat not the paddle or paddler. I feel confident to say is it is faster than a Bell Rob Roy in deep water and slower in shallow water. Charlie explained that observation as being caused by hull shape in a post a few weeks after I experienced it in a shallow river followed by a deep lake.

However, I do not have GPS numbers to qualify that statement or to compare the Rapidfire with any other canoe. I was disappointed in the Aug. 07 Canoe and Kayak review because there were no GPS numbers on the canoes tested. Mike McCrea is a knowledgeable and thoughtful writer. I’m sure he would do a more complete review if the magazine supported him in doing so. Until we demand deeper reviews, we will continue to get the superficial reviews we are seeing. I dropped my subscription to C & K because of the lack of depth of most articles


Sounds like a Raystown project
I’ve GPS’s Rapidfire and Shockwave, both with straightshaft. But, I don’t want to report the results since one was paddled with a 14 degree bent and the other was with about a 5 or 7. That’s not apples to apples.

Along with…
the Saw-Off, the Sail-Off, the Stack-Off and other planned projects. Face it Brian - organizing something other than a dinner at Raystown is like herding cats. And the dinner is akin to clanking the food dish and calling “Here kitty, kitty, kitty!”


Rapidfire vs Summersong?

I’ve paddled a Summersong a while back.

What does “fast” really mean?
I’ve often wondered the same thing, or almost…it seems to me folks who own a particular boat are apt to say it’s “fast” without wondering what “fast” really means. I’ve undertaken comparative tests of my own, using a 2 mile lake as a venue, and paddling a cruising speed of 30 strokes per minute or less with the single blade, and 40 strokes per minute or less with the double blade. My unofficial impressions so far are that a 16’2" Swift Shearwater will outrun several others I own or have owned; 15’ Placid Rapidfire, 15’ Hemlock Peregrine, 15’ Hemlock SRT, 15’ Dagger Sojourn, 15’ Swift Osprey and a 14’6" Mad River Guide. It will keep abreast of a Enlightened Kayak T-16 and a P&H Capella 173 sea kayak and a Nova Craft Pal (paddled tandem). Some of these boats, in the hands of an expert canoe racer, would almost certainly outrun the Shearwater paddled by a duffer like me.

All of this doesn’t mean much, however, because it’s just me paddling against me, and only at what I would consider a all-day cruising speed. Since there was no competition I didn’t have much need to hurry, just don’t wear myself out before time to camp. I used a stopwatch to count the number of strokes per minute and a GPS to clock the mileage. My only purpose was to get relative speeds so I could make recommendations in a guide book I’m writing.

I agree with the above, not to say any of my speeds until after Raystown. But, I will say that the actual speed difference between all the 15-footers, NOT including the SRT and Guide, was negligible, that’s just my opinion of course, and I’m pretty sure others won’t agree with me.

Real question is; how do you set up a trial that is fair to all levels of paddlers?


– Last Updated: Jan-22-08 6:25 PM EST –

That info is interesting - thanks.

I have never paddled a Shearwater so I don't have any personal experience but from what I have read, although very seaworthy, wasn't considered fast compared to other hulls or similar length and width. Did you ever do a sprint or "all out" scenario?

I have paddled a Wenonah Advantage and it was the fastest solo canoe I have ever paddled. In the reviews on this site (I know "grain of salt") there was a reviewer that said basically that his Rapidfire was faster than his Advantage (at least for him).

I use a GPS while paddling (and demoing) and I know what I can do in several solos (both canoe and kayak), but I also don't count strokes per minute or have a heart rate monitor on. But I think I can tell when I am exerting the same amount of energy while cruising - at least come close :) .

Also - feel free to email those real world numbers - I am a little too far from Raystown. But I might be able to make it.

Many circumstances
I’ll throw in though I have not paddled the Rapidfire.

I prefer single blade. No good reason other than for me it’s dryer. Do not like sitting on or nearly on the floor. Simply a matter of physical size.

I paddle a Magic and from a unsanctioned 4 mile race while sadly out of shape managed 4.8 mph based on time over distance. I prefer this boat for BW type trips where portage and efficiency are a consideration. I trust this hull completely and have had it out in good chop/wind/whitecaps.

My Shearwater is used on river trips and the higher volume and roominess makes this a pleasure. Pack heavier for no-portage trips. Great boat and would use it (with load) on a BW trip with little trepidation. Most definitely seaworthy but notably slower than the Magic with me powering it.

MR Guide, a wonderful, fun river/creek boat, high volume and great for fishing and river camping but a bit of a chore for extended flatwater. Certainly not fast for flatwater and wind.

Tend to agree with Mike. Each hull shines in its best environment and finding an overall use hull is always a compromise of some sort.

Fast? Well again it depends on what you like. Certainly there are faster hulls than the ones I mention and I can attest to the fact that a double blade can be much advantage (NT is his Magic really cruises).

Find your real purpose and take advantage of gatherings where you can try a bunch of boats. I have been fortunate to attend Raystown for 6 years and have paddled many solo canoes. My current rack of boats have remained my preference for more than four years. Well except the MRGuide, picked it up 2006 after paddling one a few times.



Rapidfire vs. Peregrine
My particular preference is the Peregrine. It’s just as fast and turns better and it’s big enough to move around in for all day comfort.

I also counted paddle strokes required to turn a canoe 180-degrees. The MR Guide and Hemlock SRT where the best, Peregrine was good, Shearwater was good, Osprey was better, Dagger Sojourn was not so good, Rapidfire…well, nevermind.

BTW, it may be possible for a Rapidfire to outrun a Wenonah Advantage or a Bell Magic, but I don’t see how.

That’s what I mean about “fast”. Are paddlers just guessing or do they actually use a GPS and stopwatch for a thing like that?


– Last Updated: Jan-23-08 8:30 AM EST –

I'm glad you like your Peregrine. It is based on DY's Nomad, a ~87 design, and once the layout is taken out, the same hull as Bell's Merlin II and Swifts Heron, two later DY solo tripper designs.

Interestingly, DY designed the Vagabond for Curtis ~83. The Hemlock Kestrel is Vag with more stem layout and Pb's RapidFire is DY's 05 redesign.

Counting strokes to turn a canoe 180 degrees? If you lay the thing down to the rail and lift the stems, Flash and WildFire can turn 270 degrees with one stroke. Nomad, Peregrine, Merlin II, Vagabond, Kestrel and Rapid can be turned 180 degrees with one stroke.

How can Vagabond/Kestrel/Rapid outrun Magic and Advantage? pretty easily, if the water is deep.

Their are two major forms of resistance for displacement hulls; skin friction and wave making resistance.

Skin friction is a function of two factors: skin condition and surface area. The more skin in the water, the more drag, so narrower hulls and rocker reduce drag. Sanding a hull out to 1500 grit reduces skin friction.

Wave making in a displacement hull is predicted by the formula: Sq Rt of length in feet X 1.55 = mph. This, vulgarly arrives at the two wave wash - bow and stern supported by successive transverse waves. Of course, displacement hulls can be driven faster.

Gorilla, an Aussie rowing shell computer program predicts that to reduce wave making resistance a hull need to be 4X wide compared to depth, and 18X the width in length.

ICF sprint boats, ~16.5 feet and near 12" wide and about 3" deep, have 3-3.5" bow rocker carries back and 2.5-3" stern racker, again carried forward. This is called a wakeless recovery, and the hulls run ~12-14 mph! The extreme narrowness and significant rocker, fore and aft, both reduce wave making resistance. They are nearly wakeless.

Wakeless hulls work well in deep water; ICF has a minimum course depth for sprints. In shallow water the bow wave lifts the bow, squatting the stern and slowing the hull. USCA race hulls often run
rivers with shallows. They tend to be delta shaped, in part to resist squatting in shoal conditions.

Rapid predicts a top speed of 5.7 mph with the formula. That was my partner's average time over the Adk 90 miler. We've GPS's Rapid at 7.3 mph.

In the same deep water location, Rapid outruns Magic, SummerSong and Advantage despite their longer overall length due to narrower waterline width and more rocker. They eat Rapid alive in shallow water.

A different persprctive
To me fast is moving right along with minimum effort.I don’t have the strength or endurance I once had and sometimes need to cover miles.I have paddled some “fast” solos that seem to need a lot of effort and some “slower” ones that paddle effortlesly.My Osprey seems to need noticeabily more effort than my Merlin did even though they are ultimatly equally fast.Effort is what is important to me.Is there any way to measure that?I would be really interested in that comparison.Would glide distance be a good measurment of this?



– Last Updated: Jan-23-08 8:39 AM EST –

Momentum is Mass X Velocity, so all compared hulls would need to be loaded to the same weight and launched at the same velocity over multiple tests to acquire a large sample. Worse, all the hulls will need to be delivered to the same test facility and have the bottoms sanded out to the same wet sandpaper grit. Lots of expense and work.

And that would not address how the paddler fits in the hull. Is it so narrow the paddler cannot keep the hull still in the water? Is it so wide the paddler cannot employ vertical strokes. Their are lots of individual fit issues.

Great info Charlie. Thanks.

Some more perspective
It is my speculation (not fact) that the speed difference between most of the fine solo canoes mentioned in this thread would turn out to be unimportant for most of us; If one was able to do tank tests followed by real world tests using a heart rate monitor and GPS with changing paddlers on a loop course, I think we would fine less difference than expected. If you are a racer, a slightly higher max hull speed is very important, for the rest of us somewhat less so. Remember that if you are paddling with a group, the group proceeds more at the pace of the slower paddlers than the fastest. Nick Schade, a local paddler and the designer of Guillemot Kayaks, responds to the constant request for a “faster” kayak than----- with the suggestion to “work on the engine”.

I own and endorse the Rapidfire. I like it’s speed, ease of paddling, near bottom sitting position, adjustable footrests, double blade propulsion, light weight, good tracking while still turning reasonably well, and love the appearance (in green with wood trim). The light weight makes car topping easy. Paddle drip from the double blade in certain wind conditions can be an issue. I leave a sponge in front of the seat and squeeze it out every 20-30 min. I have spray decks but haven’t yet used them enough to have an opinion on their effectiveness. Someone who has different preferences than the ones I listed above and is firm in those preferences may choose a different canoe as ideal for them. No one size fits all.

While testing canoes, take long paddles in the conditions you expect to use the canoe. When you narrow your list, paddle them again. Choose the canoe that works best for the paddling you do most often, not the always changing buzz about “what’s best”. The hardest part of the selection process is finding many of these low production volume canoes in the same place. The only place I can think of was Raystown 07 and hopefully will be Raystown 08.

Parting thought: My late friend Bart Hauthaway (noted New England paddler and boat builder) always used to say that “the smaller and lighter the canoe is, the more you will use it”. Didn’t really understand Bart 25 years ago, but his words are more true every day as sarcopenia slowly but steadily saps the strength of this aging 62 year old.


Guess I need to go to Raystown '08, too.

“Effort” required in going fast
I won’t embarrass myself by trying to use boat design lingo. I’m sure John Winters would point out many additional factors, but I think there is one general guideline to consider.

Longer and narrower boats CAN go faster. However, the greater length also means more skin friction. This REQUIRES more power to overcome that skin friction. In human powered boats skin friction and lenght are major factor in “effort” required to go fast. To put it another way, the longer boat will be faster only if you have the horsepower to overcome the greater hull friction (from increased surface area) to reach/maintain it’s POTENTIAL higher speed.

Wide short boats will be slow and reach “hull speed” at a lower speed. Wide longer boats will have a higher “hull speed” and be faster than short boats (if you have the h.p.) but slower and require more paddling effort than narrower boats of the same longer length.

I owned a MRC Monarch and the effort to paddle it (substantial skin friction) was noticeable. In a shorter and narrower solo canoe much less effort is required (less skin friction). When I finish repairing the damaged Wenonah Voyager I bought at Raystown I expect it to require more effort to paddle than my Rapidfire. While both are narrow, the Voyager is much longer which means more hull friction.

My simplistic babbling here is only about effort. There is also a need for other considerations: tandem paddling, load carrying, big lakes, white water, for fishing, poling, ect.


i trust you charlie, but
i can’t see a vagabond going faster than an advantage with an equal paddler, load, etc. is that really the case in deep water? and what’s deep water? deeper than the waterline length of the boat? thanks.