Solo canoe advice needed..

-- Last Updated: Mar-19-15 7:19 AM EST --

Gained an interest in paddling last year. Want to learn to paddle solo. Only really interested in single blade. Application would be streams, smaller rivers, and sometimes lakes.

Looking for a solo to learn with. If it’s possible, something that is a good compromise between handling and tracking. Would also like to be able to both kneel and sit.

Budget at this juncture is under a grand.

I’m a 130lb male. 5, 7”. Average build, and in decent shape.

Any insight in the matter is much appreciated.

How much are you willing to spend?
If you want to buy something new, there are lots of beautiful solo boats made from composite materials, but you’ll be spending a few grand. I’d love to get a Wildfire. You’re smaller than me and could probably fit in a Flashfire. I’m sure others will weigh in on their favorites.

Otherwise you are going to be looking for used boats, and the pickings could be slim depending on where you live. I have a Royalex Yellowstone Solo which has served me well. I’m planning on keeping it for a long time.

Under 1k. So with RX out of production, I’m of course limited to the used market, which around this area is severely limited.

Might not actually be on the water for a season or two, I guess.

Where are you located?

Yes, location please. Boats can often be transported surprising distances by fellow paddlers going or coming that way. I’ve used that delivery method for my last two solo canoes. Should be able to find something within your budget.

Located in Michigan

Most paddlers will help with transport
and even refuse gas money…Thanks Dick. Not many boats available in north central IA so most of my boat purchases come from the surrounding states. All but one of those purchases I have been able to find transport that got the boat within 2 hrs of home. Check out the classifieds here and do a CL search there is a boat out there for you.

local deal

– Last Updated: Mar-19-15 10:56 AM EST –

If you are willing to take a day trip to western PA (5 hours from Detroit, 7 hours from Grand Rapids -- where I used to live) there is a guy about 2 miles from me in Pittsburgh selling a 25 lb. kevlar Vermont Tupper solo for only $850, half the new price. They've retrofitted the seat so it could be used kneeling or sitting. Pretty good price -- I have been debating it myself but I really don't need a 5th boat.

I may go look at it on the weekend if it is still available -- could report back to you if it is worth the drive.

BTW, I do drive to Michigan several times a year -- have family there all over the state, will be there in July for a huge family reunion in Williamston.

Used solos to look for for your size:
Wenonah Sandpiper

Wenonah Vagabond

Curtis Lady Bug

Curtis Mayfly

Curtis Vagabond

Blackhawk Zephyr

Clipper Packer

Blackhawk Shadow 13

Blackhawk Fishhawk

Sawyer Summersong

Mad River Liberty

Mad River Slipper

Grass River Peeper

Grumman G-129 Solo

Vermont Tupper

Hemlock Kestrel

Bell Flashfire

Placid Flashfire

Colden Flashfire

Placid Spitfire (set up for kneeling)

I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few.

None of the above boats should feel extremely overly large for you in most conditions and none would likely be too small.

Good luck in your search.

I need a primer in boat design…
For instance, if you gave me the geometry of a bicycle frame, I would have a pretty good idea of what a bike with those numbers would be suited to, how it would handle etc.

I don’t want to spend what is, to me, a sizable chunk of money without having some kind of idea of my own about what exactly it is that I’m purchasing.

That said, please continue with the boat suggestions.

And if someone can point me to a good intro to boat design/geometry/whatever, I’d appreciate it.

Adding to Yanoer’s List:
For a small person like the OP: Mohawk Solo 13 would work well.

Bigger boats that would still be very manageable: Mohawk Solo 14 and Odyssey 14.

Of these, the largest, but also the most playful on rivers would be the Odyssey 14. The Odyssey 14 also handles light whitewater the best, but is less easily paddled in wind. The Solo 13 and 14 don’t have much rocker, but these boats respond really well to being heeled (that is, the stems lift clear of the water better than is the case with some others, one in particular being the Wenonah Vagabond. The Vagabond responds rather poorly to being heeled).

The old Bell Wildfire and Bell Yellowstone Solo might do well too (the Wildfire in Royalex is the same boat as the Yellowstone Solo, but the composite Wildfire is unique). The Royalex Wildfire was once the best-selling solo canoe in production, so there may be decent chances of finding one on the used market. The composite Wildfire is not the same boat as the Royalex model, and it’s probably a better choice for someone really wanting to enjoy single-blade paddling (the Royalex Wildfire, and Yellowstone solo, have a sticky stern which makes paddling easier for beginners, but also detracts from overall capability). Still, the Royalex Wildfire is well liked by many river paddlers.

Mad River Slipper in Ft. Wayne, IN

– Last Updated: Mar-19-15 1:27 PM EST –

for $825.

I'm 5'6 and about 160 and used to own one. The gunwales are a bit wider than I prefer.

It tracks well, turns well enough and has decent speed.

I don't know where you are in MI, but if not too far from Ft. Wayne, it might be worth checking out. I'd try to get it for $650 or $700.

It would be good if you could test paddle it or get some solo paddling instruction in it.

At under a grand, don’t be too picky

– Last Updated: Mar-19-15 1:47 PM EST –

see what pops up used in your area, or as far as you are willing to travel, and then do another post here to ask if that boat will work for you - I suspect the makret for used RX boats has dried up a bit with the demise of RX - people are hanging on to what they have

also, consider contacting BWCA area outfitters to see what used boats they have - most of them tend to turnover thier rental fleets every year or two - most would be "lake" boats, but see if anyone has an old Merlin II for sale - that would work nicely for you I think - Ely would be within a day's drive for you I'd guess

EDIT: took a quick look at the classifieds on here - a quick run to NC for a Mohawk Odyssey for $350, or a soloized Penobscot 15 in WI for $950 - that's about it - haven't looked at the classifieds for a while, but I'd think normally, in years past, there would be a couple of pages of offerings at this time of year- now not so many

If I were you and wanted to get on the water sooner rather than later, I'd probably go make a play for that Odyssey - a good deal is going to disappear fast - snooze and you lose. Buy now, enjoy now, and sell it later if you don't like it - vs waiting for the "perfect" boat in your price range

Picked up my Summersong for $200
It floated, but didn’t like the color and it had some poorly done patches on bow, stern and both sides.

Spent another $200 on supplies and turned it into this…

Worth every penny I spent!

Basic Stuff

– Last Updated: Mar-19-15 3:33 PM EST –

Look at the specs for every solo canoe for which you can find published info (usually this can be found online).

Since you are small, and looking more for maneuverability than tracking, you'll want something toward the short end of the spectrum (discounting whitewater boats). That shorter range would be between 13 and 15 feet, and the best ones for you probably would be less than 15 feet. The Merlin II mentioned by another poster is about 15 feet long, and for basic cruising, that would probably work, but for a "turny" boat you'll do better with something shorter.

For width, you will probably want something within the narrower half of what's available, though where the cutoff is (what's too wide) won't be absolute.

For rocker, you want it to be "moderate". This isn't necessarily well defined, but rocker that's between 1.0 and 2.5 inches probably fits the bill (note that with differential rocker, there will be more rocker at the bow). Anything that's not a whitewater boat and not a lake cruiser will often (not always) have rocker within this range, but be aware that not all companies measure rocker the same way, and rocker isn't necessarily the same on boats made from different materials. Neither is length the same for all materials, for that matter (for example, a Wenonah Vagabond in composite has the same specs as shown in the catalog, while the same boat in Royalex has zero rocker and is half a foot shorter).

As far as hull profile goes (how the bottom looks when viewed from one end), most decent canoes will have a "shallow arch" bottom. More rounded makes the boat feel more tippy but handle well in waves, more flat makes it feel more stable. Most decent boats will "tip" fairly easily but provide firmer resistance to tipping once they are heeled over a ways.

Tumblehome is when the gunwales are tucked in compared to the widest part of the hull, and this makes handling normal paddle strokes easier. Not all boats have it. Some forms of tumblehome are not so good when the boat is leaned far to one side.

Anyway, this is a good place to ask specific questions about specs and performance, for example if you come across a specific boat and need to decide if it will work for you. I agree with others who've said you don't necessarily need THE right boat, especially the first time you buy.

Also, check out the "Guidelines" section on this site (it's a subsection within "Articles"). There's a lot of really good, basic info there.

Very nice job, sir! n/p

Awesome job

Flashfire/Wildfire or what is availabe
The best boats for the handling you want would be a Flash or Wild. Wildfire or other larger solo canoes will need ballast for the optimal weight. Ballast is easy to add. Just get some cheep wally world dry bags and fill with sand.

Used Flash Fires are harder to find than hens teeth or a jackalope. Wild fires can be had but usually sell for more than your budget.

The problem with solo canoes except for the Mohawk solo series, Classfive dolphin and Oldtown pack everything is high end. They have stopped making roylalex a while a go so the Mohawk Solo 14 is no longer made. Oldtown seems to still be making the Discovery 119. An interesting choice in a new boat that is within your budget. Classfives Dolphin has basically the same shape as the Discovery 119 but as it is made out of fiberglass is much stiffer. The Dolphin looks to be close to the old Mohawk fiberglass Solo. That makes sense as Classfive bought all the Mohawk fiberglass canoe molds.

Dolphin is wide and heavy. 59 lbs, 32".

Where in Michigan?
I know a guy who has a habit of picking up some used canoes & doing some refurb on them. Prices can be good if he likes you. He may have a couple around the house.