After much research and consideration, I've narrowed my choiced for my solo tripping boat to the Wenonah Rendezvous and the Swift Shearwater.
I've read the reviews, done my homework and now I'm curious to hear what you think about each of these boats. Any issues with quality, the company itself, pictures of the boat (other than what are in the catalogs and on websites) in action.
My intended purpose for this boat is to paddle sections of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Primarily this boat would be for lake work and rivers to class II.
Have also considered the SRT and just today somebody recommended the Starfire but didn't say which company manufactures it.
After much research and consideration, I've narrowed my choiced for my solo tripping boat to the Wenonah Rendezvous and the Swift Shearwater.
I’ve not paddled the Rendezvous.
I have a Shearwater and here’s my $.02
Excellent for river tripping, high volume, manueverable though a bit big for small rivers/big streams.
The boat is MUCH happier with a load be it on flat water or rivers. Any time the wind blows she is better with a load.
On flatwater she’ll move along nicely though don’t expect to keep up with the straight keels or seayaks.
Terrific initial stability (use mine for fishing) and better secondary.
She’s a bit wide at the beam for some but I am tall with long arms so no concern for me.
Hope this helps!
This helps a lot actually
its going to be my SUV boat to deal with lakes and slower water on the NFCT. I don’t need a playboat and I don’t need dedicated lake tripper. I need something that does okay with both…willing to make compromises on performance.
Eric, based on your experience with the Rendezvous, would the composite or the royalex be my best bet?
I’ve had a shearwater since May and am still learning about it. WesD made excellent points and with the clarity of an engineer! I’d add to the wind comments that almost anything with the volume for tripping is probably going to have some wind issues when lightly loaded. I’ve had mine out in some good winds 20 - 30 with 1.5 to 2.0 chop and she has handled it fine even empty. I go about 215 and usually have another 15 to 20 lbs of gear for day trips. I also loaded it up with a full tripping weight and as Wes said it likes the load. These were short stretches of paddling mind you, like 30 minutes rather than 4 hours up a lake.
The Shearwater comes with a sliding seat and good trim is essential in the wind of course.
Its inbetween a true lake and a river boat but can do fairly at either. Maybe it leans more toward lake use in my opinion. She has a good steady glide even if she isn’t the fastest around.
I find that if I trim her what seems a little bow heavy and hit and switch she’ll move pretty good.
Try to find one to look at and paddle of course and I’d go through a dealer you can work with if at all possible.
For what you are describing it sounds like a good choice.
If Whitewaterweenie doesn’t check in soon on this thread you might email him. He’s had a shearwater and currently has an SRT. My guess is that he’s paddled a Rendezvous also.
Good luck with the hunt. All the boats you’ve mentioned look good to me :-).
I had an SRT, I had a Shearwater, I had a Royalex Rendezvous and totally defer to Eric about the cool Kevlar version, and I have several buddies with Starfires.
The SRT and Shearwater are similar in that they take big loads for a solo…Shearwater rated for 350 (comfortable load) and SRT rated for 400. (400!!!). I’d get another Shearwater in a minute but not another SRT. The quality of contruction of the SRT is - the best. If you need it for Solo River Tripping (SRT) - downriver - nothing can touch it. It will keep you dry in water that will kill you if you dump. It’s unbelievably stable in terms of secondary stability…itn has “big shoulders”. It’s wild in that it’s very responsive off-center - so beginners would think it’s tippy. It take as little more muscle than some solos to cruise on flat water and for me…I want the ones that feel more totally effortless. Another unique strength is that it’s unusually narrow in the center so you can get really efficient vertical forward paddle strokes right next to your body.
For emt he Shearwater was much sexier and more enjoyable…more effortless for cruising than SRT, with higher speed - and even though it’s long - it turns on a dime. I enjoy the Shearwater for freestyle even more than the SRT although both can be leaned way over and spun within their own length comfortably. I ahd lightweight kevlar and it was too weak for my taste so if I got another Shearwater it would be Expedition Kevlar (and then it’s 47 pounds…on the heavy end for a solo). Plus - I would avoid the extra kevlar skid plates that Swift seems to put on all their boats. They add - noise. Yuck. My Shearwater was silent.
From my Rendezvous (I know Eric - it was not fixed) and looking at the Kevlar boat…it’s just not possible that it could handle any better than the Shearwater since the Shearwater is so sweet, but maybe it handles just as well.
So my vote from your choices goes to the Shearwater.
Two othes to ponder - the Bell Merlin II and the Hemlock Peregrine. Neither are as fun as the Shearwater or SRT for freestyle moves or eddy turns, but for normal cruising both are wonderfully efficient and they still turn very cooperatively…and they are light and strong and versatile.
The Starfire is a way cool and versatile boat but not a real solo - like a true solo. On a windy day you’d be much happier in any of the others.
I’ve paddled both the Shearwater and a royalex Rendezvous, and I’d take the Shearwater for the use you are describing. I’d recommend getting it with the sliding seat. It will make it easier to deal with the wind if you can move the seat to adjust the trim.
As a bigger guy
at 235, most of the 14 footers seem too small for me. I want a larger boat that will be able to handle my weight and a load for a 3-5 trip. I pack relatively light so I’m lookinat a total load of approximately 275…well within the weight limits of any of the boats I’m considering.
Now the dream would be to find a used Shearwater…
Any of you Shearwater owners
have any pictures of that boat you’d be willing to share?
BryanM has some pictures of his that he sent me the other day. You might look him up through the archives and shoot him an email. He has several views of the boat including a view with a spray skirt on it.
Shearwater - pics of it’s rocker
I've got a couple pictures of a line strung tightly along the hull bottom that show the bow and stern rocker. The bow rocker develops gradually over the front third of the hull's length and when measured before the curve up to the bow tip, it's about 1.5 to 1.75". The bow stem is substantially raked and the radius is somewhat gradual ... so, it's effectively about the 2.1" listed for it. The stern rocker differs in that it is mainly in the last quarter of the boat ... developing mildly (0.5") over a couple of feet ... then increases at a sharper angle to reach about 1.5" over the next foot or so before the curve starts up to a more vertical stem apex.
The point of all the above is that the smooth bow and more abrupt stern rocker make this canoe handle more like a 14.5 to 15 foot boat. It manuevers fine even with a load!
Other aspects of the Shearwater to consider are that the Exp. kevlar layup is with a very flexible vinylester resin and an exterior s-glass layer for abrasion resistance ... so, it should be both forgiving and durable in most usage. They told me that it was designed to give and fold rather than rupture. It flexes slightly when empty in waves but this is not at all excessive in my view. I would describe the canoe as being "stoutly" made and weighing in the upper 40 lbs. range with ash trim. The workmanship was very good ... both the layup and the trim ... looks very handsome all around (mine's a rich, slightly creamy-looking green).
Skid plates ? No way ... don't get them unless you plan on doing very rough, rocky river expeditions where collisions would be frequent. Skid plates would slow down it's modest speed (4.0 mph). I can drive it to 5-5.5 mph when I row it but 4-4.4 mph is the all day speed with oars. If I had to guess it's paddling speed ... I'd say somewhere around 3.6 to 3.9 at all day pace. One of the reasons it isn't that fast (besides it's rocker) is that it has very full, high volume ends. This is not a hull that will spear waves unless it is heavily loaded (300+ lbs.) and the waves are humungous and you're paddling directly into them. So it is very dry on lakes ... and medium dry in moderate river waves. A Prism has much sharper entry/exit lines. There are no "hollow cheeks" to this hull design. If you want speed, get a Prism or Peregrine but if you want a strong, safe tripper, the Shearwater is one of the best. Lastly, with ash trim, it measures 29" across the gunwales in the center ... so it isn't a narrow waisted canoe ... best for a somewhat larger person I think who can deal with this paddling station width. Have fun deciding !!
P.S. The Shearwater is a pretty big solo ... and although it may have a carrying capacity 50-75 lbs. less than that of the Rendezvous ... I'd say that it would still deal with 250-275 lbs. optimally, 275-325 lbs well and 325-350 as a max load in milder conditions. As mentioned by others, it's has very secure primary and secondary stability ... not "twitchy" much at all (you can fish, binoc and photograph with it easily).
Rend vs Shear
I have a Shearwater in Expedition Kevlar and have a paddling buddy who uses a Kevlar Rendezvous. We’ve compared boats a few times side by side in the same conditions. As to hull shape and performance in most regards I can think the Shearwater is a better design. Wes’ description nailed its performance to a “T”. This is a canoe one can load up with gear and trip with. What always bothered me about the Rendezvous was its depth: bow 21”, mid 15”, stern 20”. This adds up to a “big sail” in windy conditions. Compare to the Shearwater’s 19”, 12.5” and 16” specs. The Rendezvous uses its tall sides (especially the bow) as compensation for the sharp entries - to deflect waves. The Shearwater uses fuller end quarters for the same purpose – advantage Shearwater. Both canoes have similar max width at the waterline, but the Shearwater has a narrower width at the gunnels.
That being said We-no-nah does have a reputation for consistently high quality control; Swift’s quality control record is spotty at best. If you decide on the Swift go through a dealer you know and trust who will not accept any crap from the builder.
FWIW, my Shearwater is my “big tripper”. It’s what I take when on long trips when I’m carrying lots of gear. I weigh in at around 195 lbs (+/-), I’m 6’2” and have been known to pile in 75 lbs of gear on occasion. Naturally I prefer smaller solos for my typical one or two day trips in smaller rivers & creeks. As an aside, if I have any reservations about wholeheartedly indorsing this design it would be the differential rocker. I prefer equal amounts of rocker fore and aft – I’ve come to appreciate less “sticky sterns”. Still the Shearwater is much more maneuverable than its over-all length would suggest.
Three years ago when I was looking for a large value solo tripper the Starfire was not available. Had it been I would have had a hard look at that hull. Based on my current preferences for equally rockered canoes I might lean towards the Starfire – the Yost designed Wildfire’s “big brother”. I’d certainly try one if possible. The co-owner of Placid Boatworks (Charlie Wilson) certainly has some strong credentials: accomplished paddler, former Bell rep, writer, instructor & current ACA President. Scuttlebutt says he builds one hell of a good boat.
All just my two cents worth. Best of luck with your decision. -Randall
Here ya go
I have had this boat for less than a year, but it is my favorite. I am on the heavy side, 240 lbs and typically take my big yellow dog, she’s 80 lbs or so as well as fishing gear, a few beers and lunch. It handles the load just fine. I can keep up with most folks at a comfortable pace. I think it would meet your needs well.
I also paddle a Shearwater & can’t add much more than what’s already been said. I paddle primarily small lakes & it’s a great boat on calm water. IMO, the sliding seat is the best out there. It’s well designed & very comfortable. (& now standard on new Shearwater’s) As Arkay already mentioned, Swift’s quality control can be spotty. Having a reputable dealer in your corner, if there are problems, will save alot of aggravation. I ordered a new one last year & had issue’s with the hull when it arrived. My dealer talked it over with Bill Swift & they agreed to build a new boat. That’s when a reputable dealer on your side is priceless. I don’t think you’ll be unhappy at all with the Shearwater. It’s a great boat that should meet your needs just fine. Haven’t paddled the Wenonah, so can’t offer anything on that one. You might want to check out the Solo Plus (also Wenonah) It’s a tandem with a center seat, that I think you also might like. At 16’ 6", it’s great on lakes & calm water. I paddled one for a few hours & liked it alot. If I we’re looking for a boat to primarily fish out of, I think that would be my 1st choice, maybe even over the Shearwater. It’s been said here many times before, try to paddle as many boats as you can before deciding. Getting opinions here is a great idea, but your opinion may not be the same after trying some out. Getting out out & trying as many as you can is the only way you’re going to know which one is right for you. And when you do some test paddles, don’t make it a quick 15 min. spin in the boat. I’ve found that initial impressions often change after 45 mins… I’ve found I need a good 45- 60 minutes in a boat to make a good evaluation. Good luck with your decision.
Thanks for posting these…
what a beautiful boat…
Regarding Swift’s seats. Swift does not offer a (Wenonah style) pedestal type seat as far as I know. They do offer a fixed (one position seat) and a slider. Both options feature a curved wood (laminated) frame with web strapping. The seat is wide enough for comfortable seating left or right of center – it does not restrict seating options as a tractor seat on pedestal does. This is the most comfortable wood frame/web strung seat I’ve ever tried. I’m also a big fan of Swift’s sliding seat, it makes trimming “on the fly” a breeze. BryanM’s pics show the sliding seat and locking mechanism – which come from the factory mounted on the rear rail of the seat (see: IMG_1526). A simple ten minute fix to move the locking mechanism from the rear rail to the front rail makes adjustment easier. Why they placed in on the rear rail where it’s so hard to reach is a mystery to me??? As far as foot room beneath the seat goes… my size 13s fit under the seat without a problem. This is one of the few canoes I’ve owned that required no height/angle changes of the seat to fit me… (your mileage may vary). The only small complaint I have about the Swift sliding seat is that it does make some minor creaking and groaning sounds as I paddle along… I’m one of those canoeists who strives for silent running.
Yes the stock seat is noisy. I fish a good bit and it was annoying. I had cause to replace the seat itself, not the sliding bars or drops and putting a contour seat from Piragis on it quieted it down. It isn’t as comfy, but I goofed and ordered the narrower seat from Piragis. What was I thinking? Its only a 7 or 8 $ difference. Must have been thinking it would keep me centered or something.
I think the joinery combined with the bends (torguing the mortises) in the stock seat is responsible for the noise.
Very little, if any, noise or squeaks on my Shearwater’s seat. Maybe my pipsqueak frame of 185 lbs. has something to do with it.
damn you pipsqueaks of the world!
A quiet seat for my Shearwater …
… is a small (10 gal.?) bean bag (vinyl w styro foam bead filling). You can sit with it providing loads of back support. It’s easily adjusted just by squishing the filling around for height, width, etc. and it will “lock” your bottom torso, rear and thighs into solid 3-D contact with the hull for better leans, body english, etc. It can also be configured as a pedastal for kneeling in rapids and if strapped down , adds to the overall floatation. Lastly, you can take it out to serve as an ultra comfortable camp chair. Small bags can be made or purchased for less than $20 bucks. Although they don’t have the “furniture look” of the original cherry/web slider, they provide long distance comfort and versatility when that’s a tripping priority. Shawn
You know Arkay
I am going to change the seat locks to the front tomorrow. It is a real contorsionist’s (sp?) act to loosen those things while underway. I often felt the coast gaurd would find my body with my hands caught beneath the seat after trying to adjust them.