solo canoe decisions

Thanks to everyone who helped me with the SOT vs. Solo issue. Solo wins out for me and my situation. I am seriously considering the Wenonah Vagabond. I have the touring kayak for flat water, will be using the solo for moving water, class I,II at most. I might do some light, overnight camping. Will use it instead of the kayak on brushy creeks as well, where getting in and out or portaging are issues. Any thoughts? Suggestions?

I have a 230 Werner glass kayak paddle,as well as a bent shaft. I hope to use one of them with it but plan on buying a single blade as well, any thoughts on a paddle or any other necessary paraphenalia I have overlooked?

For rivers…
I would look more at an Argosy from Wenona or a RX Wildfire/Yellowstone solo from Bell. If you are over 165, the MRC Guide/Freedom Solo would be worth a look also. I have owned/paddled them all and the Vagabond is the least river oriented of the lot. YMMV.

solo thoughts
I agree with the previous post that the Wenonah Argosy would seem to more nearly fit your described needs for river work. However, it shouldn’t be hard to find a dealer where you can paddle the Vagabond and Argosy (and, if they carry Bell, the Yellowstone Solo) side-by-side so you can decide for yourself. If you live at all near Wisconsin, Rutabaga in Madison can set you up. Nothing wrong with your Werner doubleblade, but do get a good canoe paddle, too. Three that I enjoy are the Ottertail from Turtle Paddleworks, the new Black Widow Plus from Bending Branches (light, tough and flexible) and the spectacular Whiskeyjack Paddles from up in Duluth. A good canoe deserves a good stick! Have fun on those river trips.

Choosing a boat is always tough

– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 11:35 PM EST –

If I'm thinking of the right thread, I was one of those who thought a solo canoe is superior to a kayak in really tight quarters with brush and deadfalls. When it comes to choosing WHICH solo canoe, there are a lot of things you might think about. I had a Vagabond for a few years (just recently sold it), and it was a very nice little boat. For large rivers it was very good. For small rivers, not so good. For rapids, it was so-so in Class I and not so good in Class II. If you want something that is fairly quick on flatwater and less affected by wind than many solo canoes, the Vagabond will work great. If maneuverability and the ability to perform in light rapids is important, there are other boats that will work a lot better.

For me, when I think of a better boat for manueverability and better whitewater performance, the Bell Yellowstone and the Mohawk Odyssey 14 come to mind. I've paddled a Yellowstone and it's very lively and fun. I own an Odyssey 14 and it's my favorite all-purpose canoe (I admit that I haven't tried nearly as many models as a lot of people have). Neither boat is as fast as the Vagabond, but the speed difference isn't huge, and probably not such a concern on twisty rivers anyway. Both turn a lot better than a Vagabond, and that will make life a lot easier on small rivers. Both will take on less water in Class II rapids, especially the Odyssey 14. Between the Odyssey 14 and the Yellowstone, the Odyssey 14 is the much better-behaved of the two when back-paddling (it's a symetrical boat).

I just looked at Mohawk's website, and it looks like the new owners bought the website along with the boat-building equipment. There are some new notes put there by the new owner which say that right now, boats that are normally made in either Royalex or R-84 are only being made in Royalex. That's good news, because a couple months ago I'd heard a rumor that they were dropping the Royalex option and switching to R-84 only. Royalex is tougher than R-84 (some friends who often paddle rocky Ozark rivers say R-84 doesn't hold up as well), so it's good to see they will still make Royalex boats.

As for paddles, the person who said "a good canoe deserves a good stick" is correct. If you are only going to get one paddle, and if twisty little rivers as well as rapids are in your future, get one with a fairly short, broad blade, not a long skinny blade, because it'll be better in shallow water. Personally, I wouldn't do without two paddles; one for quiet water and one for whitewater. The quietwater paddle will be lightweight and a joy to use for hours on end, while the whitewater paddle will be tough but heavy. For twisty-turny stuff, I prefer a straight shaft to a bent shaft, but some use a bent-shaft paddle for everything. If you really want to make your canoe dance between obstacles, and not just get from here to there, you NEED a single-blade paddle. It can be really frustrating learning to use one, though, which keeps many solo-ers hooked on double-blades. Just remember it takes time.

While I agree…

– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 11:08 PM EST –

that the Argosy, Yellowstone, and Odyssey 14 are more "river-oriented" than the Vagabond, if most of your paddling is going to be on Class 1 and occasional light Class 2, the Vagabond will suit your purposes just fine. If all your paddling is going to be on narrow and very twisty creeks, you'd be better off with one of the others, but if you are going to occasionally be on flatwater or on larger streams with longer pools, I would personally prefer the Vagabond, because I don't find it to be difficult to turn at all, and it certainly should be a little quicker and better tracking for flatwater and slow pools. I use my Vagabond on everything from tiny little creeks where it's more of a walk the riffles-paddle the pools thing while fishing, to typical Ozark streams with occasional long, dead pools, to small local lakes.

Royalex needn’t be “tougher” than
R-84. It depends on the gauge of the ABS layers, and to a smaller extent the thickness of the central foam layer. The outer vinyl layer on Royalex doesn’t provide extra strength. The substitute outer layer on R-84 has been said to provide more stiffness, but people have griped that R-84, Royalite, R-Lite, etc., don’t wear as well as vinyl.

"other necessary paraphenalia"
You might want a kneeling pad (in which case you may want to raise and/or tilt the seat), and you might want a footbrace. A footbrace is great if you are a sitter (as a kayaker, you already know that), and an especially nice thing if you’ve already tilted the seat for kneeling but have decided to sit for a while instead.

A timely topic for me!
Having just returned from 6 days and about 80 miles on the Current River in MO, I have a few comments on two boats. I’ve been paddling a MR Guide for a few years both on day trips and Overnites. It holds lots of gear and a 35lb dog no problem. And it still turns and behaves well. I picked up a new for me Vagabond (thanks Eric) and found it to be my new day tripping boat. Lightly loaded with me (155 lbs) and the dog it is faster, tracks great and turned just fine. I took it down a few twisty tite side channels with no issues. On Saturday we had some fairly breezy conditions that the Vagabond faced with ease. On Sunday however we were faced with 30+ mph gusts that struck at all angles. I’d have skated all over that river in the Guide, even staying upright would have been challenge. While still tough, I certainly appreciated the Vagabonds lower wind catching profile.

From my experience, the Vagabond and Guide are both entirely suitable for what I paddle depending on the conditions. For fishing, flatwater and most river daytrips, it will be the Vagabond. For Arkansas’s Buffalo next weekend on a three day overnite, it’ll be the Guide. And I use a single blade paddle

I agree…

– Last Updated: Apr-27-07 12:11 PM EST –

I generally agree with the assessments/comments provided by duggae & guideboatguy.

I've previously owned a Vagabond. Currently own a Bell Wildfire, a Mad River Guide, and a Mohawk Odyssey 14. My wife currently paddles a Vagabond. In my opinion all four are excellent multipurpose, solo, canoes.

Previously owned a Mohawk Solo 14 in the R-84 layup.
I liked the boat's size/dimensions; didn't like the R-84 layup, felt flimsy to me, I sold it. I'll stick with Royalex, and deal with the few pounds of extra weight.


For solo canoeing it is hard to beat a traditional ottertail or beavertail straight shaft paddle. I particulary like the feel of a one piece paddle for this kind of canoeing. A couple of nice ones to look at are Kettelwell and Shaw and Tenney.

I do have three bent shaft paddles, including one ZRE carbon one, and a couple of laminated paddles and they are very nice - just not my first choice for soloing.

If you want to use a kayak paddle in your canoe, you may have to go considerably longer than the one you know have. I do not use a double balde cause I just get too much water dripping in the boat and I love the control and versatility of a a single blade.

The Guide would be “All Over” the River?

– Last Updated: Apr-30-07 6:17 AM EST –

I paddle a Bell Wildfire. I purchased a Mad River Guide for faster, more rapid-y rivers. It has a flat-ish "V" bottom, big rocker, and big sides.

Is the reason your Mad River Guide would have been all over the river because of the wind? Yes, I agree.

But as far as capsizing, wouldn't the Mad River Guide bring you home. It feels ROCK solid to me.

Question for Duggae...