Solo canoe research with a smile

-- Last Updated: Jan-06-07 3:56 PM EST --

I have been pondering the purchase of a solo tripping canoe for this season. I want to get myself up to the BWCA or Quebec - been too many years since I was last on Shield waters.

So, if finances permit, and the filling I broke last week doesn't set me back $1000, I will probably add a solo tripper to my fleet.

In the company I keep I cannot fling a dead cat without hitting a Bell Magic. ANd you guys complain about the QCC "cult"! Hah!

What I want in a tripper is (obviously) load capacity, controllability, rough water security. Not so much speed. I am a dawdler and smeller of flowers.

I once put a large gash in a kevlar/foam-core slalom C-1. That makes me wary of lightweight boats made with styrofoam planks.

Back in the early '70s a friend was building Hahn C-1s out of S-glass with oven-baked epoxy resin. Incredibly durable for their weight! Any hull made of baked epoxy is a plus in my mind.


I look at websites. I watch fellow paddlers with their Bells and Wenonas this past season, but I did not want to test any hulls lest I get the "fever". And I missed Raystown, which was to be my main test session.

And then I did an archived thread search of P-Net. Crikey! What a treasure trove of info and opinions! Dozens of hits. I really got a kick out of everyone's take on all of the various brands. Quite a lot of real-world experience, too.

My intent was not to start yet another lengthly discussion thread, but I have to say that based on theoretical research - no test paddles yet - I am leaning toward a Souris River Tranquility Solo.


PS: The search was for "tranquility solo"

SR Tranquility

Can’t say I blame you for checking out this boat. It sounds like it would fit your needs well. I paddled one back in May of 06 and I must say, I liked it. I also paddled a Prism, Magic and a Merlin 11. The SR was incredably stable feeling compared to the others and seemed to track well. It has a flat bottom with quite a bit of flare in the front. Should be a dry boat I would think. Some say it’s slow, some say it’s fast. Most complain that it’s hard to turn. I didn’t try it on a river but would have liked to. The 33 lbs. weight in kevlar is great! It carries well on your shoulders. They are expensive to purchase. Used ones are scarce as hens teeth. I now paddle a Bell Yellowstone in RX and don’t like the 48 lbs. actual weight. I keep dreaming about the Tranquility.


Look at a Wenonah Advantage or Voyager.
In Tuffweave , the Voyager is about $1K. fast, seaworthy, lots of capacity.

Would the Advantage be able to carry
about 300 lbs…half paddler/half gear on big, deep inland reservoirs?

Swift Shearwater?
Might want to rule that one in or out too.

300 lbs
I’ve had 260 lbs in an advantage (myself). With this load the advantage will still move along almost as fast as the voyager, but only in calm water. In 12" waves the bow cut so deeply into them that I was within two inches of the waves breaking over the bow. The voyager is a much better choice of solo canoe for a 300 lb load than the advantage is.

I am going toss my boat into the mix
If you are looking for OK speed on the flats, big capacity, dry in rapids, good maneuverabilty the Supernova really fits.

I have taken her through solid class II rapids on the Shannandoah with me(300lbs) and a good 200lbs of gear (500lbs total) with no problem. On the Buffalo, where many other boats were getting swamped my boat remained totally dry, even riding some of the wave trains sideways.

OK, on the flats she won’t be as fast as a Merlin, but with the rounded hull she has less wetted surface so she isn’t a dog by any means.

Shearwater is a high volume tripper
It has a flattish arch bottom with flaring sides and very full ends. I think it handles 300 lbs OK (it’s sluggish above 280) but performs best in a 240-280 range … i.e. nicely responsive. It’s all-day speed via paddling is usually between 3.2 and 3.6 mph and when I row it … more like 3.6 to 4.0 (loaded). When empty, it travels 5-10% faster … and can sprint (rowing) to maybe 6.0 mph. This is not fast … but adequate for tripping when the primary concern is safety and performance attributes at lower cruising speeds. I have a snap-on cover for mine (ash, exp. kevlar w s-glass exterior). which helps with windage and allows me to tackle rougher waters knowing I won’t gulp a few gallons if a rogue wave comes on unexpectedly.

The large Wenonah trippers are much faster but have their downsides (windage, broaching, etc).

I failed to mention
that I have a Mad River Freedom Solo which is my choice for rivers and easy WW. Fine boat for those uses, but not my choice for lakes & portages.


great boat but (if I may speak for him)
… it is too much overlap with his freedom solo. Jim is looking for something a little straighter tracking, speedier and less wind prone (though really the SN is not bad in that dept).

How’d I do Jim?

Hey! you posted while I was writing! NM

Frank and I
thought you might like to join us in the Boundary Waters this spring. I thought you might rent a Souris River solo and try it out. I’ll have the Magic and Frank just bought a Wenonah Prism. We’re thinking of entering at Sawbill, paddling and portaging to Cherokee, and maybe camp there and day trip to the surrounding lakes.

Interested? I think Frank will be e-mailing you.


That would have saved some typing…

just kidding. Actually the supernova is a totally different boat loaded for tripping than river running empty. it was designed as a solo tripping boat with a huge load capability.

It does share some of the duties the Freedom has so there is overlap. good luck with your search.

Rick you mean 400 lbs don’t you?

Go to Piragis in Ely, Minn. if they
aren’t iced in. You can paddle lots of different canoes.

solo canoe
Hemlock canoe works. New for 2007.

Eaglet 1

Thinking of one myself.

Swift Osprey
is my boat. I did own a Souris River Tranquility for a very brief time. The boat may still be for sale at Adventure Times Kayak in West Palm Beach Florida. Call and ask for Steve. I found the Tranquilty to be quite slow and far too stable for my purposes. Many love the boat.


Depends on your paddle buddies
If they are in Magic and Prism then you want to be able to keep up with them. As much as I like my Supernova and my Swift Osprey they are not in the same league speed-wise, and from what I read and hear the Tranquility is slower than the Osprey.

Closer to home my lake boat of choice is the Hemlock Peregrine. Paddled side by side with my Swift Osprey the Peregrine is much much faster, tracks more easily and will carry a bigger load. The builder Dave Curtis is near 6’ and 200# and he trips in the Peregrine with 100# gear.Price wise it’s similar to Magic, and the build quality is as good or better.

I’ve not paddled alongside a Magic, but when I solo’d the Magic it felt just as fast, but tippy and hard to turn compared to the Peregrine. I only paddled the Magic empty for less than an hour in 15 mph wind so I might get to like it more with more miles. The Peregrine seems roomier, too, compared to the pinched in sides of the Magic. jes my 2 cents. In all honesty, you won’t go wrong with the Prism, Magic or Peregrine, they are all damn fine boats.

Wondered how long
it would take! Haven’t paddled the SR you are eyeing, but if you will be with 2 other Magics I gotta think you will be disappointed (or tired) at the end of the day. Before you rule it out head on up to Pgh and we’ll get you in a Magic. When we did Kinzua last spring I easily had over 300 pounds of load (me, Gray, beer cooler, cast iron dutch oven, fresh food, etc…) and paddled in through nicely textured water.

Even more demonstrative of it’s stability is a week in the Boundary Waters with Gray catching fish (up to 36" pike) and never taking a drop over the gunwales.

BTW I’ve seen you guys mention a spring BW trip. Don’t know the reasoning but the bugs suck till late June, so unless you’ve got a sound reason to go early, you may want to do a fall trip instead. You get the lack of crowds, plus warmer water for the occasional swim, and no bugs!



Frank and I are talking about early spring.That doesn’t preclude a fall trip as well. We hope to be there early enough to precede the bugs, understanding the weather may be a factor.

Frank was there last year but this will be my first time. I’m hoping Jim might join us. Perhaps others will be interested (N.T.?). What we plan might be pretty tame - day tripping out of a base camp on Cherokee.