Solo Canoe for Windy Condtions and Speed

I am a pretty passionate kayaker turned solo canoeist. I am trying to find the right combination of canoes to best suit my needs…since I am still learning about canoeing I am still refining my needs / desires.

Bottom Line: Is a longer and straighter keeled boat like the Bell Magic or one of the similar 16-17 foot Wenonahs going to be better able to track and be manageable in windy conditions than a shorter and moderately rockered boat like my Swift Osprey or Bell Merlin II? It seems that a longer boat that tracks better may do better in the wind…but on the other hand they have more length to be affected by the wind and are probably harder to turn and correct once blown off course I would think.

I live on a pretty wide river and paddle on it daily. It is often fairly windy here and as an avid kayaker I have always enjoyed windy day paddling for the choppy conditons.

I just recently got into solo canoeing. Right now I have a Swift Osprey and am looking to supplement this with a royalex 14 footer for river use.

Since I will have the maneuverable and playful end of the spectrum covered, I am debating over whether I may be better off with a faster/ harder tracker for my other boat rather than the Osprey.

The Osprey is a great boat and I like its blend of maneuverability and speed but it is not the greatest in the wind. It seems to weathercock pretty strongly in these conditions.

I am considering a Bell Magic or one of the longer Wenonahs.

How do you think the Osprey and a boat like the Magic would compare in terms of windy day paddling? How about speed? I know the Magic will be faster, but would it be noticeable?

Last is on hit and switch paddling…I find the Osprey is good for 3-4 strokes for me (but I use the J stroke more than hit and switch). Would a Magic or similar boat offer a noticeably greater number of strokes before having to switch and better faciltate the use of a bent shaft paddle (right now I don’t care for a bent shaft with my Osprey b/c the wind and current where I paddle requires a bit of correction and the bent does not do as well at correcting course and I end up losing effieciency overall by struggling to correct the boat’s course when it veers on its own will)

Wondering what your thoughts are.



RapidFire comes to mind
and would be spirited for a larger person. At a L/W ratio of 7.5 it is right up there with the Magic.

Low sheerlines get less blown around by the wind…which is sometimes difficult to correct when the wind comes from the stern quarter… Note that the lower the stern the less problem this should be. Wenonahs tend to have lower stern sheer.

I have had pretty good luck with Peregrine which is some faster than Osprey but still in the same general category.

What is fastest has the least skin in the water to avoid skin friction with the water.

Bottom line is its about your strength and technique as a paddler. I do believe the best workout boat is an OT Pack.

But I think you are looking for the WOW factor and not resistance training.

Clipper Sea-1

– Last Updated: Apr-18-09 12:05 AM EST –

would do the trick.

What are you “hitting” ?
I “sit and switch”

If I was hitting something I would be using a bat or stick !


Jack L

The trouble with open boats
They got this big hole in the top.

You can raise the shear to better keep the waves out but that makes it tough in the wind.

You can lower the shear to ease up on wind effects but that lets the waves in.

The only fully decked touring canoe that I’m aware of

is the Kruger Dreamcatcher. Read the reviews here and elsewher and you will know as much as I about those.

I don’t believe an open or semidecked canoe will ever be as good on open water as a touring kayak.

My experience in the Osprey is that winds from in front or sides are not too bad. Winds from behind can be a real chore.

My brief experience in the Magic and Perigrine makes me think that either of those would be a significant improvemnt over the Osprey for paddling in the wind, at the expense of significant manuverability. Both of those have enough rocker to allow you to turn across windwaves and are well behaved as things get rough.

I recently aquired a Toughweave Wenonah Voyager in hopes that it will work for me in those conditions. I’ve yet to take it out and, looking at the high shear and long straight keel, I can only hope that it will let me turn up wind without too much of a struggle.

If it does I might just chop down the shear and put a full deck on it.



…how does switching seats make the canoe move? :wink:

follow up…
I am still trying to figure out what I want / need in a canoe and where they all fit in the spectrum of things.

Being an avid kayaker and having owned probably a dozen kayaks I understand a good bit about boats and trade-offs etc. I have not fully gotten a feel for how canoes fall in across the spectrum.

For instance with kayaks…after having lots of longer and shorter boats I settled on one. I had gone back and forth between having a long one for speed, and a shorter one for maneuverability and play. Ultimately though, I found the shorter one to be too slow, and the longer “fast” boats to be fast but at the expense of a whole lot of effort to paddle them. It took a lot to get them up to speed and overcome the frictional resistance and take advantage of their longer water line. I also found them a bear to handle in the wind. While they tracked great, they weather cocked like crazy becauase of the amount of hull exposed to the wind.

I ultimately decided I like just one boat for everything…a NDK Explorer. Somewhat of a jack of all trades boat that offered a balance of speed, efficiency, tracking and maneuverability. Allowed me to go reasonably fast while still having a maneuverable fun boat that was very blanced in the wind.

So…now on to canoes! From the reviews I have read (which I know you should take with a grain of salt but they are all the info I have right now) It seems that the long Wenonah boats (encounter and voyager) are fast but sounds like they are really optimized for paddlng with a load. Also sounds like they are sea worthy and track well but that they may suck in the wind and become cumbersome.

The bell magic is a bit shorter and seems to get pretty good reviews for offering a good balance of tracking, speed, sea worthiness, neutrality in the wind, etc. Of course the trade off is maneuverabilty.

Boats like the Merlin II and the Osprey that I currently have seem to fit in the middle between a boat like the Magice and one like the Yellowstone or ARgosy. Seems that they are a bit slower than Magic but more maneuverabile. Mine is fun becuase if does offer pretty good speed and good playfulness…but not as playful as a 14 footer, and tracking is only moderate in my opinion. Not optimal for going really fast because I can only get a few hits on each side if doing sit and switch. I also find it to be less than stellar in the wind.

Guess I wonder how it would compare to a boat like the Magic in the wind. It tracks better, but is longer. Sometimes a shorter boat that exposes less to the wind and is more maneuverable to keep you on course may be a better bet in wind than one that wants to track and may not be in the direction you want! Also not sure how they compare in sea worthiness. Obviously with wind comes waves (which I love to paddle in by the way)!

in summary
if a boat like the magic will offer better speed and tracking, and be a little better in the wind and waves than my Osprey, then maybe I am better off with it rather than my Osprey since I will have a 14 foot plaful boat already.

Not sure. They Osprey sure is sweet though. Just would be nice if it were a little better in wind and allowed a few more hits before switching…I also find it hard to use with a bent shaft because a breeze pushes it off course enough to make correction necessary which is hard to do with the bent. As a result I end up veering all over the place when using the bent in a breeze or with some river current and lose all the efficiency and speed that I gain from the bent.

Test paddling is of course the way to go but not easy when you live where I do and of course you can’t guarantee a nice windy day to test paddle in.



I’ve paddled a Magic in the wind, and it’s really good. I have a royalex Bell Yellowstone Solo which I have paddled in winds upward of 20 kt, and it handles great. The freeboard is a little low for significant waves, but the tumblehome on the rails takes care of some of that issue. It’s also more maneuverable than the Magic at a modest tradeoff of speed.

If I could store more than one canoe (Shed is already full of kayaks & bikes), I’d have a Magic as well as the YS solo. But I can’t see myself paddling a composite boat down the Willimantic river in the summer – too rocky for my tastes. Royalex handles it beautifully.

I’d also look into the Wenonah
Advantage. Fast, sleek and has a low profile which helps immensely in a wind.

clipper sea-1 is pretty darn nice. Krugers are awesome too, and they turn on a dime. Never tried a Sea-1, so I can’t speak for them. Wouldn’t hurt checking out. Rudders are better than sit and switch, imo.

…nice boats…
Nice boats mentioned Matt. Guess my $.01 would be that…there’s never a “need” to switch when paddling, but it can help if one arm is getting a little tired.

I own a Wenonah Voyager…
that rarely sees use since I’ve bought a GRB Classic XL ( The Voyager is fast, but without a load and its high sides it can be a handful in a wind.

The GRB Classic XL is still somewhat effected by the wind, like any canoe, but much less so than the Voyager. Additionally, I find the XL just as fast and slightly more manueverable than the Voyager.

How many “hits” per side do you think
is average for skilled paddlers in straighter tracking boats than the Osprey?

My impression from reading many posts, is that, without any correction in the stroke, with a bent shaft, 3-5 strokes per side before switching is pretty common when sitting.

Bell’s bottoms r.e. Kim & Eric
Before the flood that deposited Bell 200 miles downstream and on the other side of the river, Bell made BlackGold solo hulls of all cloth construction. Kev Krystal hulls, solo and tandem, were foam cored, the foam and foam cover[s] being bagged over the first two, catalyzed, outer layers.

Bell didn’t have a hot box to allow pre-shapping the foam, so the cores were edged, and dropped into a paste of resin and mirco-spheres, the Kevlar cover, release film, breather, bag and then vacuum applied.

When pulled from the mold, the solid core Black Gold were as David Yost wanted. The foam cores in the KK hulls rebounded a bit, flattening the hull bottom.

One can assume that Bell/ORC now has an hot box for foam cores and ribs; that foam cores are pre-shaped to the hull, and that all is fine in LaCrosse except for the Brett Favre thing.

High Hopes
I recently purchased a Wenonah Wilderness but have not yet had it on it’s maiden voyage. I did a bit of research on it before purchase and think it might fit your needs as well. One of the things I did in research was to run my choices of Wenonah boats past the folks at Wenonah via email. They were quick in response and helped in my decision. You could probably do the same with most any manufacturer.

I hope my wilderness will handle the wind OK but may go to a wind cover if needed. I have heard that a kayak paddle may help with control in the wind so I picked one up. Bad thing is that it won’t fit in the boat assembled. Will see how that works out.


I dont have my Merlin II here
but its a model from 2000 or 2001.

Might go to show how production processes might change and people who have the same boat might not have exactly the same boat. Too bad we sometimes beat up on one another. Might be useful to pay attention to the year in the reviews plus the layup.

Doc CEW has my boat that I hurt.

no sliding seat?
I take it you don’t have a sliding seat in your Osprey? That’s the only reason I can think of for you not being able to handle the way you would like in the wind.

I think Eric hit on key issues in citing
the Magic and the Merlin. To perform well in waves and wind, a canoe can’t be too lightly loaded. The Merlin with one person aboard will sit a little deeper than the Magic, and that can make a lot of difference.

Hull design matters too, obviously, but even if a canoe has sharp ends and a rounded bottom, it will blow around like a kite if it isn’t carrying enough load. We used to rediscover this issue in our 18.5 Moore Voyageur. Loaded with 2 weeks of food and gear, it was steady and dry in whitecaps. But with just two paddlers aboard, it would blow around like a kite. We might have been better off in a 16 foot Wenonah.

The amount of hull exposed to the wind is important also, but our experience suggests that if the boat is properly loaded, high sides are not a big issue.

So, even though it seems like a larger canoe would be drier, it can still make for a wet ride if you can’t maintain course through the waves.

solo for wind
In my experience the Merlin II is already noticably faster and better in wind than an Osprey. The Peregrine is better still…I’ve had mine out in big wind and it behaved beautifully…it has a relatively low rofile with less rocker than Merlin II so the ends don’t get pushed around easily yet it still responds to turning requests. At same time I think a Merlin II handles big wind just fine.

I like boats that can also turn reasonably well. I did not fall in love with the Magic because I felt it did not like to turn plus it required too much muscle to generate speed…I’ve never had a Magic out in serious wind but I would think it would shrug it off.