Sawyer 222 vs. Swift Quetico

-- Last Updated: Jun-24-10 12:06 PM EST --

I have a Sawyer Cruiser 222 that was built under license by Swift in the 80's. I have been keeping an eye out for another for a friend that would also like one as a family canoe. In about 2000 Swift released their own 18'6" model by John Winters, called the Quetico. I have not seen this boat, but they seem similar on paper. Does anyone have a comment on the similarity or differences?

Also, why Swift does not make any of these 18'plus "Super" canoes anymore? Swift has two 17'6" canoes and recently released a 17' Keewaydin model, but nothing bigger.

I did find a broadly similar post about the Swift Quetico and the Bell Mystic:
It includes some confusion due the the use of name Quetico for a 15'10" model. There is a positive review of the Quetico but no info on its demise; perhaps only that it may be considered boring.

My guess about relative scarcity of
18.5 foot canoes is that most people don’t need the extra speed and capacity enough to put up with the weight. We still have a Moore Voyageur in that length. In glass only it weighs 85 pounds. Now a comparably durable “Kevlar” supercanoe might weigh 60 pounds. (We’re not talking ultralights here.) We now rely on a Bluewater Chippewa, 17’, 16" deep, quite durable, and only 48 pounds. If I had a 60 pound Moore Voyageur, would I use it rather than our Bluewater? Not if there were a bunch of portages.

There are some really good 18.5 supercanoes around. But Swift, and Bluewater, don’t offer them.

I’ve never paddled a Sawyer 222 and most of my experience is solo but I can tell you that my paddling buddy and I have a super fond memory of the Swift Quetico 18’4" (I think it’s a bit under 18 and a half…it doesn’t matter). I had a Bell Northstar for a long time and would get another in a minute, and to us te big Quetico felt like a big Northstar…way faster but still super efficient and we were shocked at how well it turned (sort of reminds me of my Osprey and Shearwater…they turned like a freestyle boat even though the advertised rocker was only 1.5 front, 1.0 rear). My buddy and I went to one of the Swift demo days in Windsor and basically paddled their whole fleet…including time on the Detroit River…big water (fairly serious water…I would have had second thoughts about going out in the Northstar but the Quetico handled it effortlessly, and had amazing speed and efficiency and turned effortlessly too). We were shocked at how well it did everything - and with a very light load, I’m sure it would have loved some more weight. I’d call it a big/fast Northstar, or a big/long/super fast/slim Mattawa.

The Quetico was our biggest surprise of the day and our favorite boat. We liked it way better than the Bell Northwoods and the Northwoods is really quite a special boat too.

Based on my limited experience it’s a great boat and I’d love to get one even though I don’t really need a super canoe. I’d use it as a day tripper!

Big Canoe in Canada
The Canadian market seems stuck on 16’canoes. While lots of 18’6" canoes roam similar water in the BWCA and Adirondacks; Canadians seem stuck on the 16’Prospector and its clones. Thousands of 16’ long fiberglass canoes, but only a handfull of canoes over 17’. You can stand at any put-in and count the canoes that launch. The numbers are big, but the variety is limited.


Big Canoes
18.5 footers are a hard sell. They have lots of wetted surface/skin friction/drag. It isn’t that they take two mesomorphs to run them, but the tandem team needs to paddle well to move the bigger boats; opposite sides, in cadence, stacked hands, switching sides together, etc.

Sadly, most tandem teams paddle pretty poorly, switching willy-nilly out of cadence, etc, so the 18.5’s seem unresponsive.

Wenonah seems to get the majority of the big boat business with the Minn II, which must have a lot to do with price, weight, and nearness to the BWCA.

Bell’s NorthWoods is my personal fav in class because the tumblehome allows smaller folks to see and reach the water.

Yes, stuck at 16
Thank you for the good responses. Yes, we do seem to follow Bill Mason’s lead with the 16’ Prospector. Companies are not going to build what does not sell.

I did not realize that the performance fell off with poor paddling; interesting. My experience was that a pair that did not have real good technique moved the 222 pretty good, but they were fairly strong, and turning was not required.

Maybe we need some broader enthusiasm for canoe skills to be generated here, helping the retailers move some different product, and getting more people on the water.

Practical reasons too for 16’
I think.

Combine about 440 lbs (200 kg) and the average 0.03*2 HP

at around 40 s.p.m. and 16 feet turns out to be

an efficient length for a tripping canoe?