Sawyer Loon: first paddle.........

Well I got to paddle the Loon this weekend for the first time. Was only about 90 minutes of paddling.

Very cool boat.

At first I was disappointed until I figured out that the boat is very trim sensitive and the seat position on the boat was all the way forward thus unweighting the stern. As such, once the boat started to yaw to one side from paddling, or if it was set in one direction by the wind or current, it would slowly but steadily continue in that direction despite my attempts to correct with hard paddling on the side to which it was yawing or with small stern sweeps, etc. I found myself not being able to track on the course that I wanted.

Then I thought about it a bit and remembered the sliding seat and thought that maybe the stern was too light. Well that was it!

After I slid the seat backward to it’s intended primary position (this boat had two positions: one forward which was obviosouly intended for paddling with a pack in the back, and one back). That made all the difference; although now I could not really reach the foot bar so I couldn’t really get a full feel for the boat without having foot support…I am having that modified to acommodate my shorter than average legs.

After getting that situation rectified the boat was totally different. I can therefore conclude that this is a fairly trim sensitive boat.

Once trimmed out right I found the boat pretty impressive. For comparison I will compare it to my Magic.

I found it to be faster than the Magic. I paddled with a GPS and found that it could be pushed to the upper 5mph range and into the low 6 mph range and kind of almost felt like it sort of planed on the surface of the water when you got it up to speed…of course I know that it was not planing but it had an interesting feel to it at speed where it felt like a it was skipping across the top of the water. My Osprey feels that way too and it is a satisfying feel.

It was much more stable than the Magic. Maybe too much so in that it was harder to heel over deeply. The Magic can be heeled all the way to the gunwale when sitting if you have a good brace planted on the surface fo the water, but the Loon turned quite well without having to edge so much.

Also, it was more stable in currents. I paddled in some slight river current (class II-) and crossed eddy lines etc and it felt quite unaffected by the swirling currents etc. Also was easier to keep you ferry angle which I can’t say for the Magic.

Surprisingly the boat did not feel too wide and I was able to achieve a nice vertical paddle stroke without hitting the side of the boat at all. I have to admit that my paddle sometimes hits the gunwales on the Magic when I am not paying close enough attention. Not so with the Loon.

Overall it was fast, maneuverable, stable, and seemed like it woudl be quite seaworthy in both chopppy conditions and in river currents. Impressive boat, despite the fact that it is truly funny looking…not as beautiful as the Magic unfortuantely but beauty means little when it is outwieghed by performance.

In short, I see little need to keep the Magic now that I will have the Loon. As I suspected, the Loon can do everythign the Magic and can do and can do all of it better it seems. Only thing the Magic can do better that I know of for sure is portage easily.

Now that being said, that was based on one test paddle so I may be wrong, and really I need to get the Loon out in some high winds. I know that the Magic does well in high winds and paddles pretty neutrally and is easy to control. I can’t imagine that the Loon would not be better given its more sea-kayak like hull, low profile and deck. I woudl expect it to be much less affected by the wind.

Last thign though…this Loon did not have a rudder.

I am still debating about putting one on.

I have never paddled with rudders in kayaks, but that was an interesting selling point about the Loon in that it woudl allow you to make switches only when you want to, allow absolute tracking in wind and conditions, etc.

On the other hand though the boat really seemd to track well. Much better than the Magic, and required less switching it seemed and seems that it would be very neutral in wind thus maybe making the rudder unnecessary. I would be curious to hear your opinions about the rudder.


Good paragraphing, but cut it to about
half the current length.

If it’s too long
Then just read the first half, that way I can keep the length the same which makes it easier for both of us.


Interesting about the rudder
I didn’t realize they were ever offered without the rudder. Verlen said they were tough to paddle straight without a rudder. I would add one.

The Sea Wind has a rudder, and I have paddled mine with it up, but you can get so much more consistent speed and control with the rudder that I couldn’t understand why anyone would paddle one without.

The long and the short of it
I don’t really think it was too long and the paragraphing was okay. I think if g2d would invest the time and effort to develop a good forward stroke, he’d find the length more pleasing. Perhaps a lesson or some tutelage from experienced paddlers would allow a better appreciation of the post’s length. Sometimes we blame the length when really it is just a lack of paddling skills. Also, spending some time doing quality paddling trips, that’ll help, too. Get back to us when you have those things wrapped up.

The devil made me write that.


The Reader’s Digest
for those who cannot focus on the novel. Do the same here. Read every 20th line.


– Last Updated: Aug-02-10 8:50 PM EST –

thanks for the support man.

Yeah my review may be a little long...and maybe I have some excessive paragraphs, but when I post it sometimes tends to be more of a stream of consciousness.

And....just like this superfluous paragraph...I tend to type differently when on blogs and forums in that I make more paragraphs and use the .... a lot too.

Wouldn't do that in formal writing...but this isn't formal writing!

Just some thoughts on the boat. Not worthy of publishing...although I have published articles in professional journals before...they are more properly written perhaps than my posts are.


I liked it.

– Last Updated: Aug-02-10 10:58 PM EST –

Your post had some very useful information. g2d has his underware on a little to tight.

Is this one from out west or from Blue
Mountain Outfitters?

I had forgotten that Verlen’s first versions didn’t have rudders.

I had read that the Loon is quite trim sensitive, but mine seemed good for me the way the original owner had set it up, so I haven’t experimented with it.

I look forward to further reports.

This is the one from BMO. The guy in the PNW let me out of the deal on his so his is actually still available if anyone is interested. It’s near Olympia in WA and includes a skirt and paddle. His has a rudder.

Yeah the one at BMO is an 83 model so it’s probably one of the very early ones. Not sure what year they started making them. But it was basically in brand new condition.

I was impressed by the weight too in kevlar. I did not weigh it but it carried easily and felt to be maybe 45 pounds tops.

I left it there though as I need them to extend the track for the foot bar so that I can reach the foot bar in the proper seat position


Dang! My Loon weighs about 56 lbs.
I wish mine was less than 50 lbs.

I am leaving within the hour to drive from Pittsburgh Pa. to the top of Michigan to pick mine up. I started paying for it last October and am finally going to get it. They were always the most expensive Sawyer. I expect to be selling 16 other Sawyers when I get home if it is as good as everyone says.


Oh yeah
My experience is parallel to the author’s in several ways. I went from a Magic to a Mad River Monarch. The Monarch was Verlen’s design he left to Mad River to mass produce when he was out on his long journey. Mine is kevlar, weighs about 50 pounds, and has a rudder. It is perhaps less trim sensitive than the Loon. Perhaps. Or maybe Verlen figures you can just move your packs around to adjust trim, because this boat has a Kruger style height adjustable seat instead of the Sawyer height adjustable sliding seat. It has adjustable foot braces and adjustable rudder pedals above them.

MUCH more stable than the Magic. Very efficient to paddle with a rudder and simply switch sides when you get tired.

Wonderful in the boils, whirlpools, eddies, and barge wakes of the MO and MISS Rivers. While it might not be the fastest boat out there, it is efficient. And the paddler is not wasting energy trying to keep upright and brace and deal with interesting water, the boat just floats through it.

I’m speaking as if the Loon is the same as the Monarch…they aren’t, but they are close.


The Monarch is supposed to be very similar to the Loon.

I was talking to Doug, the owner of BMO who actually met Verlin. He told me that Sawyer sponsored Verlin for his Ultimate Canoe Challenge, but about half way through they told him they were in financial trouble and couldn’t continue to sponsor him.

Verlin had already sold them the design for the Loon but needed money for the trip so he modified the design just enough to allow him to sell it to another company…Mad River. They bought the design and produced the Monarch.

I woudl agree the Loon is efficient…but I would also say that I think it is pretty darn fast too.

Not the fastest…but I woudl think it would hold its own with most.

In my short test which only provides a little data it seems to be faster than the Magic and seems to be about on par with about how fast I recall the Wenonah Advantage to be and that is a pretty fast boat.

Of course I admit to a small amount of data and limited time but as I recall from paddling the Advantage I could maintain it in the low 6mph range at an exercise pace. The Loon seems to be in about the same ball park…5.5 - approx 6.2 mph.

Again, limited seat time but that is about the bracket it seemed to fall into when pushed, and that was with no rudder and with a foot bar that really didn’t allow me to get my full power into the stroke.

Pretty fast in my opinion.


Paddling impression of my new Loon
For those of you who want the short version; I like it.

I just got back from a 1,320 mile trek to pick up my Loon at the top of Michigan. We did some sight seeing along the way. Went from Pgh. to Toledo an then turned North. We went along the shore of Lake Huron up to the town of Oscoda, the home of Sawyer. From there we headed west on River road and followed the Au Sable River across the state. What a beautiful river, I was kicking myself for not reversing my route so I would have had a boat to paddle. Across the state to pick up my Loon and then follow the shore of Lake Michigan south heading for Superior Canoe to spend some time with Scott Smith, the designer and builder of the Superior Expedition decked canoe. Scott also has the tooling that is left from old Sawyer and will custom make which ever model you want. We spent a few hours with Scott discussing Sawyer, past and present. After checking out his manufacturing facility Scott loaded a Superior Expedition on his van and we headed off to the Grand River to do some paddling. With Scott in his Expedition and me in my Loon we headed up the Grand. I found the Loon to be very stable with the seat in the middle position but my paddle was too long so I slid off the seat and adjusted it to the highest position while still in the boat. This made the Loon a little less stable but still acceptable for me. It took a while to get used to adjusting my course with my feet instead of switching sides. This type of canoe takes a lot less paddling skills to operate because the rudder can be used to compensate for poor paddling skills. When we reached the point of return we switched boats for the paddle back downstream. The Expedition felt hugh compared to the Loon. Scott told me that he designed the boat to hold a deer inside the back. Something surprising to me is how these big boats don’t feel so big paddling, they just look big. Off the river and finish the trip home. I am anxious to paddle the Loon long term and believe it will be a good addition to my Sawyer collection. The question now is which model will be next. The hardest one to find is going to be the 24 foot long Saber. Anyone have one hanging in the barn gathering dust?


Sawyer Loon. Lawyer Soon.
Just thought I’d throw that in.

Questions on Rudderless Loons
The closest thing I’ve paddled was a Clipper Sea-1 which didn’t paddle much differently heeled over than it did flat. Makes it hard to turn into the wind without the rudder.

I assumed that the rudder was on Verlen’s boats to let the boat manuver in the wind. I didn’t realize that any of them came sans rudder.

So I wonder how the Loon hull sans rudder responds to heeling?

Will it carve on an outside heel like some Sea Kayaks and the Magic will?

Will it carve on an inside heel like the Perigrine and Wildfire will?

Or will it paddle straight regardless of heel?

Just wondering.

Superior canoe website
popped up an “unsafe” warning from my Norton AV software…anyone else get something like this? If someone has Scott’s email please let him know.

Never a problem with the site for me NM

Verlen designed, then made,

– Last Updated: Aug-09-10 8:03 PM EST –

Expedition boats. Immensely seaworthy, fast, stable, able to haul huge loads and built for repeated landing on hard seacoasts. They were never meant to be fun. You can't knee steer them down a stream, letting the current force the stern into carves. You won't be sticking every eddy, surfing every wave. You'll never stick a 270 Axle. You;ll regret every carry.

In fact, if you were to tell a serious sea kayaker you needed the rudder to turn your boat you'd be met with laughter. Then she'd walk away shaking her head.