Solo Canoe Help

This is getting more difficult than choosing a Russian bride off the Internet!!

I’m in the hunt for a high-quality lightweight (composite) solo canoe that I can use for day-tripping, fishing, and camping, with the ability to hold at least 10 days-worth of gear without compromising the craft’s load capacity.

My stats are 6’, 215 lbs, 65 years of age, fit enough, and an avid kayak fisherman.

I’ve read reviews until I’m about to go batty, and have looked at canoe specs until I’m going cross-eyed. One problem is that I live in Homestead, FL and there aren’t too many canoeists who own composite canoes down here, so test-paddling options are limited.

Here are the canoes on my short list, in alphabetical order so as not to show favoritism:

Bell Magic

Bell Merlin II

Clipper Freedon

Clipper Solitude

Hemlock Peregrine

Placid Rapidfire

Souris River Tranquility

Swift Osprey

Swift Shearwater

Wenonah Wilderness

Wenonah Prism

I spoke to a guy at KC Paddlers for his expert advice and he recommended a Wenonah Prism for a guy my height/weight to satisfy my needs. By sheer chance I saw a kevlar ultralite Prism on a car in Homestead recently and it did look quite nice. Not sure about the tumblehome on it though. He also said the Bell Magic and Souris River Tranquility would be too small for me. This seemed odd given the weight capacity specs for the Magic. I even took the test on the Bell site to see which boat of theirs they’d recommend, and I scored an 18, which would be the Merlin II. Odd that they’d recommend a Merlin II when it’s the same width as a Magic, yet a foot shorter. Actually, I’d prefer a 15’ or 15 1/2’ boat over a 16’ or 16 1/2’ boat, but I can be swayed either way.

I REALLY like the Clipper Solitude, even though it’s the heaviest of the composites, and the Swift Osprey and Shearwater have both caught my attention. Shipping is a problem, especially from Canada.

HELP!!! Any suggestions would be MORE than welcomed. I’ve read discussions on this subject on but thought I’d bring it up again.

ALSO: If any of you paddlers know of anyone who owns any of these canoes, especially a Bell Magic and/or Wenonah Prism, who lives within a reasonable driving distance, and who wouldn’t mind me giving it a test-paddle, I can’t tell you how appreciative I’d be. Okay, I’m all ears.

How much gear are you going to carry?

– Last Updated: Jan-15-10 2:34 PM EST –

If you have to take your own water or if you are going dehydrated food all the way and can filter water is a huge factor.

Also what is your paddling philosophy..Straight and fast or take time exploring twisty streams?

I have paddled most on your short list and own three. Friends have the others so I get to paddle them a little more than cursory usage.

RapidFire is going to be a tender boat if you get one reinforced for kneeling. Its basically a sit in the bottom ope top kayak canoe. Some people that are used to a very narrow craft enjoy it kneeling others dont. I have paddled it in the Everglades with ten days of water but the freeboard was getting on the short side of six inches.

Peregrine can haul a load but with ten days of water and food that makes it sink low makes it sticky and harder to turn unless heeled. Again on a ten day Glades water toting trip it had a little more freeboard than RapidFire.

Merlin II can haul 350 comfortably. For big loads though its trim sensitive. I usually saved mine for two week walking adventures in Quetico and the ilk.

Swift Shearwater was made to haul a big load..and was made for people your size.

The problem is that while you can compose a short really have to paddle something to find if it fits your particular boat philosophy. Time and again I hear of people buying based on Internet research and being disappointed in the result, which looked so good on paper.

The Souris River you can cross off. Its very much a straight line boat. (I had a friend paddle one on a Candian creek and the language was sacre dieu****) Much more so than the Prism, which is less maneuverable than the Magic.

The Wenonahs are admirably suited to hit and switch paddling when seated. Bells and Swifts have a different background..the hull shape tends to have shoudered tumblehome which with some length arms makes a vertical sit and switch plant less likely. (though I suspect your arms would be long enough and this may not be a factor at all)

Wenonahs tend to have a deltaish shape with width down low..This makes heeling the hull to aid in turns perhaps an interesting experience for the unwary. Not everyone wants to heel the boat though. The advantage is a narrow paddling station to aid in vertical strokes.

Bells have a more flared shape till the the width is higher.

You might be fine with the Osprey. Again if you can find one. Its a little "looser" than the Peregrine.

Usually at canoe symposia there is a wide range of boats. If you can even if you are boatless, attend one.

Solo help I hope
Very well written inquiry

Here is my $.02

I am 6-3 and 220, I own three solo boats each with different uses for me.

Bell Magic – use it for general flat water paddling and trips to the BWCA. Have loaded it for up to 9 days in the woods. Last year did a 7 day trip with likely 100# of gear (some was “community” gear). Have had it in some pretty challenging wind and waves with a full load as well as empty. Never an issue with stability or seaworthiness. For fishing purposes the Magic works just fine. Mine is the Black Gold Layup listed at 34# but with wood trim is close to 36-38#.

Swift Shearwater – use this boat for river trips on larger rivers with low class rapids. This is a high volume comfortable canoe. Paddles nicely though better with a load than empty. Very good for trips with little or no portage as the expedition layup is a bit heavy at 46-48 lbs. Very capable and seaworthy, not as fast as the Magic but carries a bigger load more easily.

Mad River Guide – High volume and nimble. Great for fishing and tripping on smaller streams and rivers. Can carry all the gear you need without sacrificing much in handling. Not great for flatwater but have had mine in class II and it’s a fun boat. This one is an older boat and probably is close to 60# in Royalex, pretty sure it’s not available in composite. Not one I would like to portage a great distance.

Hope this helps

That’s quite a list! To start to pare it down, you need to select a stance in the boat.

Are you going to kneel? Y/N, what % if yes

Are you going to sit with a single blade paddle? Y / N %

Do you intend to sit low and use a double blade paddle? Y / N.

Answering these three questions will eliminate over half the boats on your list.

Then what will be your percentage of Lake verse Moving Water travel? That will eliminate another half.

Thanks everyone, so far.
I generally like to sit and paddle with a conventional single-blade paddle, (purists, close your eyes!!!) but I’m not opposed to using my double-bladed Epic kayak paddle either. Kneeling is okay if it gets rough but I really prefer to sit in a conventional seat. Most of my paddling will be in open bays, tidal rivers, and some creeks in between. No portaging needed where I paddle. By the way, I’ve paddled the 99-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway in Everglades National Park three times solo, and all three times were in a 17’ aluminum Grumman! Hence my quest for something faster, lighter, and sexier.

I find the adjustable-height sliding seat on the Clipper very intriguing, and the sliding seat on the Prism looks good too. Several friends on a kayak fishing forum own Placid Rapidfires and all have told me to go paddle one and I’ll be sold on it. I’m not too keen on the low seating arrangement on the Rapidfire though, and would prefer a craft with a conventional seat.

The Wenonah Prism was on the top of my list for some time but I keep going back to others on my list, especially the Bell Magic, Swift Shearwater, and the Clipper Solitude. The guy I spoke with in Missouri has 40+ years of paddling experience (Lynn @ KC Paddlers) so I respect his opinion that the Magic is too small for me. He said he fishes from a Magic and a Prism and, when the water gets choppy, he says he has to pay more attention to the canoe when in the Magic than he does with the Prism.

I do like the volume capabilities of the Swift Shearwater and the Clipper Solitude. I found a Wenonah dealer in St. Pete and he even has a graphite Prism in stock, but I’m a bit paranoid of graphite where I paddle, what with all the oyster bars and barnacle-covered pilings on chickees.

Thanks for the much-valued input so far. I’m still all ears.

Come on Charlie
Break it down in fine detail! I’m a whitewater paddler who has the same questions about a flatwater boat and I would like to see your views on each and every one of those boats. They are the same boats I have on my list. I am planning a trip to canoecopia this year and I plan on buying a boat while I’m there. Your input would help me decide what I want to look at. I know you don’t have anything else to do!!!

One of our regular posters has
expedition paddled a Prism all over the US and it is all i can do to keep up with him in my RF.

Harry, you out there?

Don’t think I’m dissing anybody with that last post of mine addressed to Charlie. After I read it, it looked like I didn’t value any other input. I suspect I will have a wealth of information to think about from all commers. Please, more information from one and all.

Yo Harry!
Yeah Harry, I’d like to hear your take on the Prism.

By “RF” are you talking about the Rapidfire?

I just phoned Clipper and spoke to their saleswoman. She said a Solitude would suit me just fine, and shipping to Miami is only $200. Boat price is $2050 in kevlar ultralight but, again, their kevlar ultralight is heavier than other brands/models I’ve looked at. They offer an S-glass first layer, then two kevlar layers, and additional layers at stress points. Needless to say, their saleswoman said that Clipper canoes are constructed better than other brands/models they sell…Wenonah being amongst them.

I’m fully aware that what looks good on paper might suck in person, and I found that out when I drove down to the Keys just to look at a Native Compass 12.5…it weighed 23 lbs but talk about flimsy!!

Okay, continue on…I’ll await Harry’s valued input.

A stable, go straight, sit-on-the-seat
boat is what it sounds like to me that you need, given your preferences and paddling location.

In south Florida you don’t need a maneuverable boat or one that is good in rivers.

If you prefer sitting on a seat to kneeling, eliminate the boats that are primarily kneelers such as the Swifts. The Rapidfire, to me, is a kayak.

I don’t know the Clippers, but I don’t think you can go wrong with whatever Wenonah feels seaworthy and stable to you.

I’m going to disagree with Glenn
at least a little.

You mentioned the WW. You need a boat with good waveshedding and one that is not so much of a “straight ahead” boat that when you load it (remember that fresh water load) that it sinks so low that its a great deal of work to turn especially in a stern quartering wind that you get in the Glades.

The Wenonah shape would work for you but I fear the Prism while a good boat for the BWCA and its lighter loads would do you a disservice under a heavy load.

In some ways your Grumman though is a good boat for the Glades ( and you can live in it) so you might want to disregard any Glades info from your purchasing plans if you are planning on keeping it.

Now if we help you could only ferret out a Shearwater in Florida.

Paddled over oyster shell bars and

– Last Updated: Jan-15-10 5:45 PM EST –

barnacle encrusted rocks in Florida.

Was so happy that I had a poly kayak in that environment; and those with composite boats were not always so happy with putting those initial "character" scatches in their mutli thousand $ boats.

Why do you want a light composite canoe - do you plan to portage?

IMO: If you don't have problems getting a "heavy" boat on and off your vehicle, sounds like a good used seaworthy canoe constructed of Royalex might fill the bill.

Yes, RF= Rapidfire

mine doesnt look so good after
being massaged by barnacles on a chickee piling. But looks dont matter much.

Canoes are going to get scratched
… no matter the material. I suppose I want a lightweight canoe (lighter than aluminum or Royalex) because I’m tired of lugging heavy boats around. And a lighter boat is more nimble on the water. I owned a Wenonah Solo Plus in Royalex for awhile and it was a nice boat for its purpose, and the option of solo or tandem was nice. But now I’m looking for a straight solo craft.

I’ve owned a number of polyethylene SOT fishing kayaks but sold all of them in favor of a fiberglass Kaskazi Dorado from South Africa. Best fishing kayak I’ve ever owned. Now I want to complement it with a speedy, relatively light solo canoe for camping and for fishing when the water’s too nippy to paddle a SOT kayak.

Speed isn’t all that important but I don’t want a lug either. Something that moves reasonable well with good glide will fit the bill.

Wenonah Wilderness
I’m about your size and and I’m an avid fly fisher. I’ve paddled the Magic, Merlin II, Prism, and owned a Hemlock Peregrine. Once owned a Dagger Reflection 15 [no longer made]. But, the canoe that I think would fit you best overall is the Wenonah Wilderness. It’s not as fast as some of the others but not slow. It is stable for fishing, holds a lot of gear, and you can sit and kneel when you want. The Wilderness is " A jack of all trades and master of none". A fine all around canoe.

lighter boat is more nimble on the water
interesting. Some of the most nimble boats I have paddled weigh 80 lbs. Try a classic old wood and canvas boat such as a Prospector. Heavy. Yet nimble.

That light weight on the water means nothing. When there is 20 lbs of difference in a canoe paddlers cannot even discern the difference.Hull shape and rocker determine nimbleness.

Light weight does matter with increasing age. With age your car gets taller.


– Last Updated: Jan-16-10 12:09 AM EST –

Glenn, I am not sure why you say they are primarily "kneelers." I have a Shearwater and hardly ever kneel to paddle. It seems plenty stable that way.

Some of the Swift designs
are “sporty” when unloaded and people feel more stable kneeling in them.

I have a Swift Heron which is that way …a little twitchy. People challenge me and it and say that they can paddle it seated. They almost always get wet.

I find the Shearwater and Osprey stable too and others dont. But you can always lower the seat if you are going to always sit.

Indian River Kayak
in Vero Beach has several Wenonah solos including the Wilderness, Prism in lightweight layups. John Mckee is the owner and Im sure he would let you try them out. He also has an Argosy and a used Mohawk solo 14 in royalex. I have a Hemlock Kestrel and a Placid Flashfire you are welcome to try. Im in Boca Raton. Both boats may be too small for your intended purposes.