I’m looking for a solo canoe that I can load on the roofrack and portage myself. I’ll be doing day trips and occasionally a weeklong trip. I’m a 51 yr. old female and an a fairly experienced tandem canoist. My current thoughts are a Hemlock Kestral or a Bell Merlin or Wildfire. Any input would be apprecialed.
Stay small … if loads will be < 225
Since you didn’t mention river tripping, the Kestral sounds perfect for an easily manageable lake solo. Assuming you have the bucks … so you may also want to look at a lightweight Wenonah Sandpiper or Vagabond … but they are a bit wider and not as quick as the Kestrel (it’s truly a connoiseurs’s (sp?) solo). Another great small solo would be the Packer by Clipper … but that’s a long shipping distance if you’re on the right coast. It’s the most affordable, composite, easy-paddling small solo around … unless you pick up a used Sawyer or some other slim design from the 80’s or 90’s. Lastly, a paddling width (at the gunwales) of less than 26-27 inches will feel best in the long run (even if you have a large body)! Just my two cents … you’re first thought about the Kestrel may be the best due to it’s light weight, fine performance and workmanship.
The type of paddling
you will doing would make a difference. Rivers or lakes? You can certainly portage all the models you mentioned quite easily. I have a Merlin II that is a dream at 38 lbs. The Wildfire is a shorter boat and has more rocker, so will spin easier (a good thing for tight twisty creeks and rivers; not so desirable in larger open water); I use a Wildfire for freestyle paddling. It also might not hold a weeks worth of gear, depending on how light you prefer to travel. The Hemlock Kestrel has a more low-seated paddling position, if I recall correctly. You might also like to consider the Hemlock Peregrine.
All nice boats.
are looking for something to paddle rivers, lakes, and/or both? the merlin will track better than the wildfire and hold more gear. the wildfire turns easier and is nice day paddle. it too will hold gear for a smaller paddler. i’ve only demoed them but a number of times and like them both for what their designed for.
if your doing strictly lakes and slow rivers check out the wenonah prism or bell magic if your doing longer flat water trips.
i’m not familiar with the kestral. too many canoes and it’s all too confusing for myself on which to choose : >]
You may also want to look at the Bell Magic. It is fast and very light. It also tracks very straight in all wind conditions.
Mohawk Solo 14
$650.00, 39 lbs. Good for lakes, streams and rivers to CII.
The three boats you named are all good choices. If you will be doing primarily streams, the Wildfire would be a really good choice. If you are doing primarily non-moving water, the Merlin II or the Hemlock would be better choices. If you want to go extra light and money isn’t a concern, it might be worth taking a look at the Grasse River website. http://www.grasseriverboatworks.com/
what I paddle
I have a WENONAH Vagabond. It is 14.5 feet long and very light if purchased in kevlar. I like it. It does not turn so fast as a Wildfire but tracks straighter. I paddle both small lakes and rivers so I neeeded a boat for both. I have not taken it on an overnight but I think it has enough capacity to do it. I have always paddled WENONAh canoes so it was a natural choice for me.
if you are doing rocky rivers.
13-1/2 feet, 39lbs in royalex, but also available in kevlar (27 lbs) or graphite (22 lbs). It easily carries a week’s worth of gear unless you are carrying the kitchen sink. I paddle mine mostly on slow to quick rivers, whitewater of Class I and II. I find it very responsive and forgiving on the rocks. I like this boat. I also have a Bell Rob Roy in kevlar, but I don’t take it on the rocky rivers that I love so much.
I’m 5’2" and I have absolutely no trouble roof-racking it by myself on a Toyota Sienna mini-van, or portaging it.
All the boats mentioned are very nice (are’nt they all!) but don’t rule out the We-no-nah Prism. I just returned from three days on Lake Lila with my Grasse River XL, great boat, very efficient, but not even close to the Prism when the big waves kick up as they did on Wednesday. We have a Prism in Carbon that came in at 28 lbs., slightly under the advertised weight of 29 lbs. that is a tremendous boat for tripping, fishing or just day cruising.
We also have an advantage in carbon and between the three boats the Prism is by far the best all around boat, efficient, capacity and lightweight.
Good luck with your decision.
I feel like I have a bunch of friends out there. Thanks to all who took the time to reply. After test paddling, hopefully sometime in Sept., I’ll let you know my selection.