Solo canoe advice

-- Last Updated: Aug-23-12 9:49 PM EST --

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I just can't decide on a solo boat.

I'm 6'1", 230-240lbs depending on where in the calendar year we fall in relation to thanksgiving. For a large white man, I have surprisingly latin hips. I paddle a Kipawa and a Canyon but have been using my Dad's old 14 foot cedar-canvas prospector on solos but she leaks like a sieve and is as fragile as glass after 40 something years.

I'm looking for a royalex boat that will get me from A to B on the flats but won't self-destruct on some I's and II's on the way. Assume an extra 50lbs of gear is all I usually bring and I always one shot my portages so that weight is all in one pack which will obviously affect my ability to properly trim the boat. Eventually a dedicated ultralight flatwater solo (Shearwater most likely) will be mine but right now I'm a poor graduate student looking for cheap kicks.

So far I've considered:
Wenonah Argosy - I REALLY like this boat but worry I'm too big for it
Wenonah Wilderness - probably more my size but everything I've seen/read points to it being a less exciting boat.
Bell Rockstar - thoughts?

Discuss/throw other suggestions and questions my way!

Rockstar might work if you can find one,
But if I were you I’d be looking at a Supernova.

I second the Super Nova. The backwater gets handled well after you learn how much j stroke to use. Carves the IIs in my favorite section like a boss. I’m 6’4" 270LBS. I can kneel or sit comfortably. Its a treat of a canoe.

I’m 5’10", 225 lbs.
I love my Bell Yellowstone Solo. It’s comparable to the Argosy, and I’m definitely not too big for it. I’ve paddled an Argosy and like it as well, except for the clunky adjustable seat.

With gear, my Yellowstone is a little sluggish, but serious tripping is an infrequent event for me anyway. Either boat would be fine in class I/II. I don’t know about the Argosy, but the Yellowstone is a submarine in big waves.

Good luck

Another vote for Supernova
I’m a lightweight guy, almost too small for a Supernova, but I’m tall enough that reaching the paddle around the gunwales isn’t a problem for me, and I really like this boat. Between you and your gear load, I would expect most “average-sized” solo canoes to be really sluggish and slow to turn. For example, I love the overall handling of my Mohawk Odyssey 14 with a light load (my 165# plus minimal gear), but it’s a completely different boat when I add 40 or 50 pounds of camping gear. It’s still okay, but no longer as “lively” as I like.

Sloopsailer on these boards is a big guy, and used to be even bigger than he is now. I’ve paddled with him a number of times over the years and he’s been doing really well in his Supernova.

I think you need a high-volume boat. I can’t speak for the Wilderness or Rockstar, except that by the specs they won’t have the lively handling of a Supernova. Whether they might be better for you, I can’t know.

The seat position of the Supernova is suitable for trimming the boat with one pack, but handling is slightly compromised when the paddler is that far behind center. Every Supernova I’ve seen has had the seat moved forward one seat-width, which you might want to do also if you ever paddle the boat empty. To trim the boat with a well-centered seat, you need more than one pack. However, it’s easy to break up a one-pack load into two, and if you use gear-organizing sub-packs (I use the zippered bags from Cooke’s Custom Sewing) it will only take about a minute to make the switch each way.

"I can’t speak for the Wilderness or Rockstar, except that by the specs they won’t have the lively handling of a Supernova."

I can’t speak for the Rockstar, but I’ve had a Wilderness ever since they came out. The above quote is accurate, and your initial assessment of the Wilderness is accurate. It isn’t an exciting boat to paddle. However, I have never found anything I dislike about it. It is a good, solid, general purpose boat that will not deliver any unpleasant surprises.

I used to own a Supernova and thought it was a very enjoyable boat. Since you will be paddling moving water, I agree with the other posters that it is an excellent boat to consider.

How about?

– Last Updated: Aug-24-12 7:49 PM EST –

The Mad River Guide/Freedom solo? (Or perhaps the Nova Craft Prospector 15?) Nothing wrong with the suggestions so far, but there are some other pretty nice choices out there. The Guide is a nice predictable boat, turns well enough, is dry in the conditions you're looking at, and is OK on the flats. Good all around solo canoe, IMHO. Haven't heard it mentioned here much lately, but its worth remembering. There surely are some out there floating around used that would fit a budget well.

How about you?
We need to know how you paddle. Kneeling, kneeling at a standing heel, sitting? Do you use a straight or bent paddle.

How’s your J stroke? Most are happier with differential rocker, the skegged stern aiding in tracking.

It sounds like you might want a wider longer hull. I’d drop Wilderness and Autumn Mist from consideration because their total lack of rocker will be a pain in moving-whitewater.

You might consider splitting your gear for trim, a bill’s bag for food that drops into the pack’s top for portage?

You might find a composite Shearwater, Osprey or RockStar used for less than the price of a new RX. They’d surely be more fun to carry than RX,

I’ve a spec sheet on all solo boats, composite and RX that will help you get closer to a usable array to choose from. email me for the Word file.

Nova question
A whitewater boat with that rocker can be a pain to paddle long distance on flat water, especially in any kind of wind (it can spin them like a top). Maybe the people who know the Supernova could comment on whether that applies? I’ve never paddled it so I have no opinion. I guess it matters how far apart “a and b” are, too. :slight_smile:

It “trends” in that direction

– Last Updated: Aug-25-12 10:38 AM EST –

The Supernova is not so much a "whitewater boat" as it is a general-purpose boat who's design is more toward the moving-water spectrum of things than almost any other general-purpose boat. It's actually not a difficult boat to paddle on flat water if your stroke is any good, but being toward the opposite end of the spectrum than "ease and efficiency", you do notice the difference, compared to a straight-line cruiser. I find that it's fairly easy to deal with wind by paddling on the "easier side", the side where the power stroke tends to undo the change in heading that the wind is causing. Of course, that can be a problem because paddling mostly on one side is more tiring. My other boats act the same way and I'll paddle on the easier side to deal with wind, but this situation probably is more severe with the Supernova. Of course, it's a bigger than average boat and it has higher sides than most, and that in itself adds to the difficulty with wind, probably more so than the rocker. Also, if a really strong wind turns the boat off-course, getting it back on track is actually a whole lot easier than with a low-rocker cruiser design.

That's a pretty muddy answer. Hope it helps. You already made the key point, it depends on how far you need to paddle on the flats (and of course, how much white-water capability you want when the time comes for that).

Is the original poster really talking a LOT of class 1 and 2, or the occasional rapid within long reaches of slower water? In other words, is running class 2 the most important consideration, or is getting down the river pleasantly and efficiently? In the Ozarks, we have mostly class 1 with very rare class 2, and a lot of fairly slow water. I’ll always opt for the compromise boat that does well in flatwater, because I find that I can make just about any solo canoe get down class 1 easily and make it through the rare class 2, but making a semi-whitewater boat get through the long flat stretches of flat water is a pain.

So no way would I want the Supernova in my waters. For one more thing…it’s heavy! 58 pounds is a lot more than I want to fool with in a solo canoe. The Wilderness, at 49 pounds, is about the upper limit of what I’d accept in a solo.

OP update
Thanks all for the replies.

Although the Supernova is the boat I would have chosen if I was focused on moving water, the reality is that I’m looking for a primarily flat water boat that won’t implode on R1s and R2s. When I got my carbon-kevlar Kipawa a bit of my soul rubbed off every time she touched rocks in the moving stuff so I decided for a solo I was much more concerned with getting something that I wouldn’t mind abusing in the rapids between lakes but at the end of the day still be able to take her across the lakes without feeling like I’m paddling a banana. The royalex preference was mostly in terms of ruggedness and price. I’m very open to buying used, but the next question is…does anyone have any experience buying used boats across the border in terms of delcaring them/paying duty/taxes?

Charlie, I already got the specs doc from an older post on myccr. thanks again.

Argosy is great choice
I own an Argosy and having owned and sold numerous other solo canoes, there is a reason I stuck with the Argosy. IMHO it is the best all-purpose solo canoe. I can take it down class 2 rapids and paddle UP swift currents. It tracks better than virtually every boat on this thread AND can handle the rapids BUT I do agree the clunky adjustable seat did require me to make an alteration by bolting it permanently in a perfect position for my needs. Once you do this, it is a great boat. The significant tumblehome,… another design characteristic not present in the other boats listed here makes paddling so much more enjoyable.

Used boats

– Last Updated: Aug-29-12 4:48 PM EST –

Make sure you have paddle, PFD and pack in the rig; just returning from a csnoe trip! The issue isn't canoes, it's that you might have escaped paying VA tax in Canada if you bought the thing in the US.

I bought a used Osprey, a larger, faster, more seakindly hull than most with lots of tumblehome for an ex's new guy last fall. No issues!

And, it's about time in this thread for folks to start suggesting you'll like their hull because they do. The chances of that are in proportion to how closely their size, usage and stick skills match yours with a lot of Kentucky windage thrown in if they have experience with the speciation of the solo canoe market.

I’m shorter, but only a little lighter and the Argosy has been great for me. It will be approaching max pleasant-handling capacity with you and 50 pounds of gear, but it’ll take it. You may want to set up your pack so there’s something easy to unclip and throw at the other end, because trimming it well does help.

2nd thought,…Rendezvous
After considering your size and after previously owning a Wenonah Rendezvous,…I believe it would be the perfect canoe for your needs. I had the tuff Weave version with a much sharper entry and it paddles better BUT not as indestructible as the RX!

Not so
and I actually paddle an Argosy. When a Yellowstone floats by in Royalex I will ditch the Argosy.

The handling in Class 2 is squirrely due to the wide part of the hull being low and allowing water to ride up the side into your lap…also the fine bow. Mine really does need airbags to deflect some of the water that is heading in the hull to stay out.

But I have had fun in my Argosy. Sometimes its where you go and not what you paddle

Its about time…
Isnt that the point? We all chime in with our suggestions based on personal experience? I wouldnt trust someonez opinnion who hadnt actually used to product in the manner I intend to. My thread from awhile back asked much the same question while providing information about my build and plans for the boat. The replies where from folks with PERSONAL experiences sharing their own preferences and opinnion. Until there is a “boat decision making calculator” what else can we do?

We-moan-ah the same, Ms. Kim.

– Last Updated: Aug-30-12 11:39 AM EST –

When I had the Royalex Wenonah Rendezvous, that Jensenesque legacy of lower largesse often proved a tricky catch point for myself (and, as I had observed, other, more skilled paddlers who possessed the boat prior to me) when giving too much upstream lean catching eddies. That "bubble of bygone buoyancy" just loved wallowing in the boil, and a few times took me along for the bath.

Then, with a certain misfit canine acquaintance along for the ride (Talk about unresponsive bow strokes!) hearing some mischievous paddling colleague shouting monosyllabic rodent enticements to the furry cur (Why does he always thrust his heavy-headed search over the upstream gunwale first?), things truly did get squirrelly, and fishy, all at once!

With the used Kevlar Rendezvous I acquired, I've found better glide, the bubble a bit higher (perhaps the Royalex lady sags a tad more in her molded-emergence), a still somewhat stubborn responder to bow rudder and draws (although it's a tad easier to lift this lighter though sharper-entry front of suspect 2.5" rocker), and a decent carrier (trimmed properly, of course) of cargo and self across wide lake and river expanses - the usual wind quartering battles to be expected.

Anyway, I've paddled the Royalex Supernova, too, though not extensively. If I had to travel down Class II or less rivers, without any stop-n-play or hairy maneuvering, and do expanses of lake and riparian flats, my preference remains with the Rendezvous. In the latter scenario, it's a little more work/less glide with the Supernova, though, as Eric states, not difficult. If there is any quick maneuvering or dropping to do, or if you just wish a more responsive hull while still carrying gear, I think the Supernova wins easily.

Not certain where the Wenonah Wildnerness might come in for the initial inquirer, twixt that Rendezvous-Argosy land of Royalex, but as c2g states, it does not displease. I think Dave's hull is a composite, though.

I guess I should add I'm 6'-0", 220 pounds (should loose 20, at least) of fair-to-middlin' paddle ability, and prefer rivers and swamps over most other bodies of waters, although forays across wind-whipped lakes and marine estuarine environments have been on my dance ticket a few occasions.

Oh! And are you sure you need to stay in the, as Mr. Wilson often calls it, Tupperware material market? Yes, seeing a glistening black carbon Old Town Koru once that had been scrimshawed into a great white elephant whale was a tad painful, but hopefully the operator(s) of deep pockets enjoyed their rides. Seems to me that if, as you say, you won't be pinballing per constant progression through the oh schists of high class ("Three, sir!") riparian Antioch, you might find a quite durable composite that adds the joy of lighter frame to all your progressions, paddled or portaged. I've got some early 90's Mad River fiberglass hulls, purchased used at "student" rates that have stood up to some pretty gnarly gnawin' and, although their red gelcoats are etched a bit, they seem to still pretty-up right nice with some Penetrol and, in the spirit of Spongebob, "That's all right, Capt'n! We can buff those scratches out!"

Perhaps a used Swift Osprey's sounding better all the time! Just ask TommyC1!

Restore that old canoe, and…
have the pleasure of paddling it another 40 years. Not to mention, I bet it does everything you’re asking for in a modern hull, and restoration would be cheaper.