Solo canoe suited for single blade?

-- Last Updated: May-23-14 5:52 PM EST --

I am looking for a solo canoe that is well suited to use with a single canoe paddle, loved it as a kid.

a) My goal is to work seriously on improving my skills with single blade on local lakes in MN (not to exclusion of rivers).

b) I'm looking for a lighter canoe I can get on/off high vehicle (35 lb max). I'm 5'2", 140 lbs, 50 yr old female.

c) I would like to sit primarily, and kneel if going gets tough. I need advice because light canoes I can afford seem to have low seats and sides, inviting double paddling. More experienced paddlers, please advise!

d) I have a budget of $1500 ($2000 is really stretching it)-- in used canoe market, I'm guessing.
Old town pack would fit my budget, but maybe hard for someone my size to hone paddling skills in a 30" wide canoe?

Any help in narrowing the selection before I try out what I can find would be fantastic.

I've come back from years of chronic illness to good health, and can't wait to 'get my feet wet." My ultimate goal (likely in different canoe) is to do extended wilderness trips.

Take a look at the Wenonah

Jack L

Having owned both…

– Last Updated: May-23-14 6:15 PM EST –

I wouldn't call either the Pack or the Sandpiper good canoes if you're doing lakes. I find it easier to take a longer, faster, better tracking canoe down a river than I do those short, slow ones on a lake. I'd way rather go with a kevlar flexcore Vagabond at 38 pounds and $2000 suggested retail. If you can find it used, or a comparable canoe in length and width, I'd jump on it. According to the Wenonah website the Vagabond is still available in Royalex at $1300 retail, too. That's a little heavier than what you want, but I find it easily manageable. There are always tricks to make loading it don't have to lift the whole thing that high all at once.

two options
is the Merlin or passage from Northwest canoe. both can

be made to come in at under 40 lbs and under a $1000 if you have some friends who have woodworking skills to help you build them.( and a place to build. ) I would not recommend the Pack as a single blade boat as it is too short and tracks horribly. you did not say where you are located. I have ultralight solo that I would sell that would be good for your weight. Unfortunately it is pediestal so knelling is out.

I greatly enjoy my royalex Sandpiper
on lakes and think it’s a great boat for a smaller paddler like me)to learn single blade skills. It’s a nice & snug fit for this 5’6" 160 lb paddler kneeling and sitting.

It’s not a speed demon, but it’s well behaved and reasonably efficient at moderate speeds.

But, the royalex Sandpiper weighs closer to 38 lbs and is no longer made and not that easy to find used.

A Bell Flashfire would be a good option if you could find one. Seat height can be adjusted to accommodate stability issues.

I know of a Curtis Vagabond that’s available in IN for a good price, but it weighs in at 40 lbs.

Blackhawk Zephyr or Shadow would also be good used options that occasionally are available used in WI and MN.

Curtis Ladybug would be another good option.

Good luck to the OP in her search.

Im a big fan of the wenonah advantage or the Bell magic. The magics are harder to find, but you can find used advantages in good shape for under $1000 used semi frequently

search on

Smallish Solo Tripper
At your size you’re probably going to need tumblehome to get hands stacked across the rail. Sitting you’ll want a bent shaft paddle, but kneeling you’ll need a straight blade, which will be a nice trade back and forth to reduce fatigue on longer trips.

There have been several small solo trippers produced, starting with the Curtis Vagabond, currently re molded as the Hemlock Kestrel. A used BlackHawk Zephyr should fit as would a solo trimmed Placid RapidFire. A used Sawyer StarLite would be fine and Swift’s old Loon and current Keewaydin 14 solo both fill the shorter length, narrower width with tumblehome mantra.

The Placid and Swift can be had infused with integral rails near 25 lbs.

The others will be heavier.

After that, tumblehomed solos tend to be dedicated sit down/bent shaft boats or be a little wide and long, but older BlackHawk NightHawks, FishHawks and KittyHawks may crop up.

I’ve a file on solo boats dimensions that may help. Email charliewilson77@gmail for an electronic copy.

bon chance!

Start With Your Paddle First
A good paddle will eat up 1/4 of your budget. So ask around if anyone might be selling a light weight solo canoe where you’ll be paddling. You might get lucky and score a Yellowstone Solo?

Which for
her would be a barge. She is too short if arms are proportionate to get a vertical stroke in a YS.

Your height and solo canoes
Is really not a good match or easy single blading, especially if you want to do this over an extended trip. You might see if you can find a used Summersong - older one - rare than hen’s teeth but a local paddler about your size has one and doesn’t seem swamped by it. I have a Merlin, but would not recommend it for someone who is shorter than me with your distance paddling goals.

Maybe a Hemlock Canoes Kestrel… not sure of the fit but it may be worth a look. A good couple inches narrower than the Merlin.

One obvious option, but it is pricey, is small makers that will customize them. Like these folks.

There is another one whose boats I have seen, based in the Adirondacks that I forget the name of but they are gorgeous.

$1,500.00 budget…

– Last Updated: May-27-14 10:58 PM EST –

A $1,500.00 budget was suggested by the lady.
1/4 of her $1,500.00 budget would be $375.00!
She said she would be starting out on local lakes, trying to improve her paddling skills.
NO WAY does she need a $375.00 paddle!
She could easily find a paddle that would be suitable from Sawyer, Bending Branches, or Grey Owl for less than $150.00, and I question whether she even needs to spend that much.

I didn't pay $375.00 for "both" of the custom made, Blackburn Design Lutra Pro S paddles I own.
They aren't exactly chunks of unfinished wood.

She should be able to get a new paddle,a new pfd, and a fairly lightweight/used/solo canoe for
$1,500.00. And if the canoe is not one that she would choose to use later, for wilderness tripping; she can sell it, and apply proceeds towards a decent tripper.


Celia there are older solo canoes
for tripping that fit smaller ladies just fine.

What the OP does not need is a long canoe with lots of skin friction to overcome nor a wider boat like the Solo 14 or Yellowstone.

The Curtis Vagabond occasionally passes by used. It should be sub 1000. It was designed for lady trippers. The Kestrel is the closest current model but trying to buy one sub 1000 is a shopping challenge.

Looky the classifieds here . There is a Mad River Ladyslipper for sale now. Perfecto.

It is a shame that as the population got fat and less skilled solo boats followed suit…:slight_smile:

Summersong is pretty hard tracking.
Kestrel, Curtis Vagabond, Wenonah Sandpiper, Curtis Ladybug, Blackhawk Shadow or Zephyr would be more conducive to learning good single blade technique and more fun, unless you just want to go straight.

The Zephyr actually has relatively wide gunwales for a narrow hull, so might not give OP easy reach to the water.

Curtis Vagabond gunwales a bit wide up
front. Much wider than the Curtis Lady Bug.

I know of a Vagabond in IN that will likely be available soon, but it weighs in at 40 lbs.

I know they exist…

– Last Updated: May-26-14 9:30 AM EST –

but as you mention, it seems many of the top names are older boats that may require some patience to find. I know people who have owned just about all of the boats mentioned here that are sai to be size-appropriate, the operative part being "have owned". Some years ago. Many fond memories of the Ladyslipper from a friend who had one until a couple of decades back.

The Summersong is a tracker and a half, but it is also a fairly fast boat. At least the old one is - I have no idea if someone has issued an altered version of it.

I wonder if the Kestrel by Hemlock Canoes may be a prime combination of being available new enough to find one that does not need restoration, but old enough to have the right blend for the OPer for both day paddles and tripping. Their web site is dated thru January of this year, still shows the Falcon boats. Opinion?

Paddles, dimensions

– Last Updated: May-26-14 9:36 AM EST –

I agree with CH, above. Paddle quality is very important. A $50 paddle upgrade results in a better, more controllable stick while the same amount spent on a hull, new or used, is insignificant.

OP intends to both sit and kneel, so she'll need a straight blade and a bent. Paddles to consider might include Bending Branches Expressos, Grey Owl Fleetwoods and Crickets. Two good sticks might approach 20% of OP's budget.

I am amazed at recent hull suggestions and dimensional thoughts.

Mad River's Brown designed LadySlipper/Slipper has 27.5" rail, 29" max and 28" waterline molded beams, with the caveat that outwales increase rail width 1.5". Targeting what was once an average male, it is too wide in all cross sectional dimensions for the OP.

The Curtis LadyBug features, 26" rail, 29" max and 27" wl beams. I am astonished to find that Vagabond, 25.5" at rails, 27.5" max and 25.5" waterline beams is "wider up front". I missed "New Math", but a boat that's 1.5" narrower at both maximum molded and waterline beams and a half inch narrower at the rail adds to a lot narrower.

There have not been many boats designed for smaller folk, the prevalence of XS clothing on close out sale racks maybe indicating why.

Sawyers, StarLight, Curtis's MayFly and Vagabond, Mad River's Pearl, Moore's Reverie I, BlackHawk's KittyHawk and Shadow 11, Swift's Loon and Keewaydin 14, Hemlock's Kestrel, Placid's SpitFire and RapidFire, and now Colden's MayFly seem to be the entire group; eleven hulls by five designers. The latest three have been Yost pack canoes fitted with higher seats for the diminutive.

Strangely, the market has not responded well to McDucks 'Super Size" campaign either. As the solo paddler population widens we'd expect 30 to 32" wide Solo Trippers, but the 1980 Sawyer Autumn Mist and Wenonah's Wilderness are alone in the big guy market if we don't count Bell/Placid/Colden's WildFire and Merrimack's Baboosic, both with symmetrical rocker designed for more practiced practitioners.

Thanks for a good list
Worth stashing in a safe place or many of us.

It is odd that the sea kayaks are now doing better at responding to smaller sized folks than the canoes. While kayaks rule around us except for serious tripping in the Adirondacks - I think because the basic transitional boat is a heck of a lot easier for a newbie to manage than a canoe - there are parts of the country where canoes still have a strong hold. And all indications are that serious long boat kayaking is taking a hit as some of us get older and more personalized in our paddling goals, while younger folks are just trying to pay off enough debt to move out of their parents’ house.

It may be going the way of road bikes - the price of entry is a more customized, pricier model.

Maybe my Curtis Vagabond was modified
From original by the original owner, but in front of the paddler near the thwart, I remember it to be about 2" wider on the outside edge of the gunwales than the Ladybug when measure the same distance in front of the seat.

This didn’t effect sitting paddling, but did kneeling paddling, because of reaching farther forward.

Vagabond is noticeably narrower at the seat.

Being wider up front would presumably help the Vagabond ride over larger waves, but I never had mine in large waves or on a river.

Shadow 13 OR blow budget on new ?

– Last Updated: May-26-14 2:31 PM EST –

I have been bowled over by the response to my question -- my sincere thanks to everyone. And Mr. Wilson, I appreciate your thoughts on this topic and the list of boats you have put together -- invaluable advice for a short paddler!

Here is what I'm thinking of after reading this thread and looking at used canoe ads. if anyone is kind enough to follow me on this, I'd be, well, I'd be relieved and grateful.

1) I see a Shadow 13 for sale in my area by a former canoeing instructor for $1000 -- a size up from the Shadow 11 on Mr. Wilson's list. I need to look around more on the internet for info on this particular boat. Any advice -- is this too much boat for me to develop paddling skills on local lakes and to learn more about my preferences, which could inform a future purchase from the list?

2) I don't see many used canoes to my scale, and it is hard to wait when you are 5.... or 50! Of course, I could keep waiting...

3) A third alternative would be to gulp, defer house repairs, and spring for a new RapidFire (if the Spitfire isn't set up for sitting/kneeling?) or the brand-new Keewaydin 14.... It's hard to know what would suit me best without more time paddling and without paddling particular canoes -- it doesn't sound like a great idea. But my thought is that if the Rapidfire (for ex) just didn't work out for me for some reason, perhaps I could sell it used -- maybe the "loss" would be comparable to the price I would pay now for a used boat that really isn't sized for me?

Thanks for any help in thinking this through -- this forum is a fantastic resource, Martha

As you can see from my title, I inserted option #2 (wait) as an afterthought. I have been looking around since late March, but without this advice. Maybe it’s worthwhile to keep looking!