Shearwater solo

I have read archival postings on this boat, and talked with Bill about the Swift Shearwater. I am now asking you P.Netters. Do you have any opinions of this boat for a guy new to padding a dedicated solo for tripping, fishing, and going up and down flat river current (3 - 5 mph current). I am 6’4" at 225 pounds. I have really only paddled a tandem backwards and am looking seriuosly at a solo. Any comments would be welcomed.


I think it’s so perfect for you it’s spooky. It’s super stable yet also super maneuverable. It’s really efficient…effortless to accelerate and cruise at low to medium speeds. Roomy for fishing.

I always kneel so if you plan to sit and not kneel, it won’t be quite as rock stable. But - I think it’s one of the most stable solos out there so if you’re really in the market for a solo I think it’s a bullseye.

I loved my Shearwater and it was fast with or without the dog…so proven for 190-275 pounds. 225 would be an easy load for the boat and it would be happy and it would stay happy even if you add a ton of gear.

I’d get Expedition kevlar next time; my lightweight kevlar boat was too flimsy for my tastes.

I’d also go out of my way to get a boat with no skid plates…Swift seems to put them on all of their boats but I remember that my Osprey with skid plates was noisy as heck but my Shearwater without them was dead quiet.

The other option for you is a small tandem set up solo…like a Souris River Quetico 16 or Placid Boatworks Starfire or the new Hemlock Eaglet. They’d be way more fun than what you’re used to, but nowhere near as hot as a Shearwater.

There are some timing and pricing issues to be aware of with regards to a new Shearwater. Basically they involve the original mold and a new mold being built. It is also possible that which mold they use has something to do with the skidplate issue.

I’d call fairly quickly and get all the skinny you can. Seems like you may know your way around but some friends of mine here on pnet found Rebecca at the Muskoka store to be very forthright and helpful.

I’ve just ordered a Shearwater
after talking with knowledgeable paddlers and Shearwater owners here on and over at myccr I decided to get the Shearwater to handle me and my gear for month long trips.

Then I talked to Bill Swift and Carmen and Mike at Swift headquarters and I was even more certain I’d made the right choice. Then I emailed John Winters, the designer, and from his feedback I’m totally convinced I made the right decision.

The issue with the skid plate is not a concern for me. I bought the Shearwater as a working boat for big rivers (Missinaibi for example) with lots of rocks and ledges so I definitely want the skid plate. I have it on my Swift Osprey Kevlar Light and I’ve not noticed any gurgling as others have mentioned UNTIL I push the boat past it’s cruising speed. Then I start to set up a bow wave that gurgles.

As for paddling a tandem backwards…

  1. Big boat high out of the water catches wind
  2. Hard to get trim for efficient cruising
  3. Lack of control because the cross strokes are not as effective,
  4. Boat reacts slower because its so big,
  5. Tandem usually weighs more and harder to handle off the water and on the truck.

    In summary, having talked to you at length about your needs I’m convinced you have the ability to learn how to paddle a solo well. Taking up soloing will tremendously enhance your enjoyment and satisfaction. And you’re welcome to come and try out my solo’s anytime you want - the water is still soft here:)


Shearwater attributes
Large volume with significant flare (bow will rise over nearly all waves short of large white water).

Very maneuverable … up to 300 lbs load; sluggish thereafter.

Lot’s of stability … more than most in the large tripper category.

Efficient at medium speeds (3.5 to 4.0 mph … which is pushing it when loaded); much less efficient when striving for higher speeds (4.2-4.4). This hull is a generalist tripper … not a go-fast (zero rocker) design. I mostly row mine … and often wish the hull was faster. But at medium cruising speed (3.8), it’s effortless rowing that can be done all day.

Mine doesn’t have skid plates … and I’m glad … it slices the water better. The hull is just barely sleek enough (as a near tandem-sized solo) to be a good easy-effort cruiser … and I wouldn’t want extra turbulence up front.

To really get the most out of this boat … outfit it with a spray cover. That will greatly extend it’s range wherever white foamy waves are encountered. And it will also be better for severe weather tripping with a cover … drier and warmer makes for happier tripping.

One of the very best big solos with an excellent build (flexible kevlar lay-up). Mine’s heavy, but very strong. Gunwales are very stout, but a bit wide (29"). Shouldn’t be a problem for you. I really think you could take this boat almost anywhere on freshwater and quite a few places with saltwater … if you were to outfit it for maximum safety.

Beautiful boat for a large solo … very competent looking intuitively. It’s by far the best looking boat I own (5 others). For a big guy, this boat fits for every reason except speed. It has decent speed but only that, no more.

I agree with much of what’s been said so far, but opinions about some points do vary.

I own a Shearwater in the Expedition Kevlar lay-up with cherry trim, sliding seat, foot-brace. It’s a very stable boat (1st & 2nd) and can handle a lot of weight. It’s a hull design that I think would fit the original poster’s height, weight and intended uses very well. It makes a pretty good solo tripping canoe for use in large rivers & lakes.

In my experience it definitely gets blown around in cross winds when paddled empty (would probably improve with a spray cover). This is a canoe that definitely behaves better carrying a gear load than running empty.

In my opinion it’s not exceptionally maneuverable in tight places.

For its over-all length one could call it maneuverable, but only in comparison to rockerless lake canoes of similar length. It has fairly typical handling for a canoe with differential rocker (sticky stern). It’s not a “playful” handling boat, certainly not a WW boat, but is a good pack mule for mild current and flat water tripping.

I would not call this a fast canoe, but it does have decent glide and moves along at an acceptable pace without undue effort. I find it a touch quicker than its little brother the Osprey for instance, but it could never keep up with many of the straight keeled We-no-nah solos or a Bell Magic.

Its over-all stability is so solid that virtually everybody feels confident in it, so it makes a good canoe for a beginning level canoeist (someone who feels queasy in “tippy” canoes). This is a big relaxed tripping canoe - an old school automotive analogy: a Buick Roadmaster. I generally kneel in this canoe, but it’s also quite stabile sitting as well.

As to the skid plates – opinions differ. In my view skid plates are something you put on if and when you need them – not something I would want on a brand new composite canoe. I’ve paddled Shearwaters with them and without them. IMHO Swift’s Kevlar skids plates are very rough textured & thick - to my ears they definitely gurgle. I specifically ordered mine without them. Without them there’s a pleasant “slicing” feel to this craft. Skid plates definitely effect the sound and glide of this boat – in my opinion. In the past Swift put skid plates on the Shearwater and the Osprey to cover a molding seam mark that ran vertically down the stems. Getting one of these canoes without the plates is a special order (or was when I ordered mine) because it’s extra work for them to deal with smoothing off the seam. Perhaps things will be different with their new mold, if they indeed have a new mold, they were talking about building a new mold for this boat 3-4 years ago…

When I ordered my Shearwater I dealt directly with the Swift store near Gravenhurst, Ontario (Muskoka). I was promised a 4 to 6 week turn-around when I placed my order, in reality it took Swift eleven months to come through with a satisfactory canoe for me. Eventually I ended up with a well built & handsome canoe. While I waited I did have the use of a loaner Shearwater for some of that time - which I appreciated. If I were to buy another Swift canoe I would definitely go through a dealer in the States. My experience with the Swift store did not fill me with confidence regarding the consistency of their quality control and their straightforwardness. Just my two cents, I hope you’ll find it helpful in your quest. - Randall

Thaks to all…
I appreciate the info offered on this thread. I am quiet sure the Shearwater is indeed the boat I am looking for. Your thoughts and experiences relative to this canoe have been very useful.