Solo Canoe?


– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 12:50 AM EST –

I have paddled all over Florida since 1971, including many times on Juniper Springs.

The OP has stated he is an experienced kayaker, that he wants a lightweight boat and that he prefers a kneeling boat. I am further assuming he wants to paddle the solo canoe with a single blade. If he wanted to use a double blade, I would say a kayak (the craft from which he is moving away) or a sleek sit-on-top would be the better Florida craft.

I further agree with the point made by other posters, and I believe by me, that most canoes can be turned satisfactorily by heeling them. Sharp, snappy turns are simply not necessary in open water or very low gradient water -- unless you want to spend a lot of Florida water time practicing and enjoying freestyle technique.

Based on these assumptions, I would divide solo canoes into four categories:

1. Symmetrical canoes with significant bow and stern rocker, such as the Flashfire and Wildfire boats. Great for freestyle playing and moderate gradient whitewater, but my last choice to single stick up Ichetucknee Springs River or across Biscayne Bay.

2. Asymmetrically rockered canoes with significant bow rocker. Hemlock SRT, Bell Yellowstone. OK for Florida if you have a very good single stick correction stroke, but still more turnability than necessary.

3. Asymmetrically rockered canoes with less bow rocker. This is where I think the Hemlock Peregrine and Bell Merlin fit. Not sure what else is in this category, but they all turn reasonably well when heeled -- and snappily enough for low-to-no-gradient water. This is the category I recommend for Florida.

4. Essentially unrockered, straight ahead touring canoes. Bell Magic, Lotus BJX. Not sure of other modern kneeling boats. Many sit & switch Wenonahs and Sawyers are in this category but, again, the OP wants a kneeling boat. These rockets on rails are great boats for Florida's flat waters, but they are the least turnable.

If money is no object, I recommend the lightest commercially available layup possible. Royalex and other thermoplastics make little sense in Florida. Learn technique, be careful and take care of your lightweight canoes, and they will still be in good shape when you are 70.

And I would NOT go for the lightest

UV degradation is a real problem. As is often the case the storage can wreck a boat faster than the trip.

I would always stick with a gel coated composite for durability.

And as dragging across limestone and shellbeds is a possibility…those boats with a skin coat have not much protection between the outside and the kevlar cloth inside…which has been discussed at length on this board.

I am not a dragger but found myself grounded out enough to appreciate that the gelcoat was protecting the hull.

that’s great
nice reply, and congrats on your run.

I have found
the Bell Merlin II to be a nice compromise boat that preserves flat water efficiency yet has quite adequate maneuverability on streams. And it likes to be paddled kneeling and responds well to leans.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Peregrine. It struck me as a very nice canoe, probably more efficient on flat, open water than the Merlin II, but it felt a bit less maneuverable. But that could be because I haden’t learned how the hull liked to be paddled.

I think Wenonah has several boats that merit consideration. The Vagabond, the Argosy and the Prism might fit the bill, although the Prism may have more volume and length than you require.

Peregrine does have sticky stern

– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 1:45 PM EST –

In following seas, it requires a sharp draw to the stern to bring it back on course.

Its been explained to me that the stern has been pinched so it acts a little as a skeg.

Merlin II has a fuller stern.

There is a good case for a deeper boat for breaking waves in shallow water..The Peregrine and the MerlinII are both a tad shallow.

So I got a spray cover for the Peregrine.

Lightweight and gel coat

– Last Updated: Jun-04-09 12:58 AM EST –

I agree with kayamedic. I wasn't recommending the lightest layup possible, but the lightest layup with a gel coat offered by a responsible manufacturer. That is, not Royalex, polyethylene or pure fiberglass.

Gel coat, although it adds weight, is very helful in reducing sun degradation over time, which is especially important in the Sunshine State.

Pick up your and carry your composite boats as much as possible rather than dragging them. That's one of the virtues of the light weight.

Saw a Vermont Canoe Indie today
Openboater, just curious, are you affiliated with Vermont Canoe or just an owner of one?

I’m neither, but I saw one of these boats for the first time today at a canoe store. Nice looking boat. Didn’t paddle it, but it has the look of the kind of open canoe I would consider for Florida.

My wife was mad at me because, even
if she would stop paddling, I passed every livery boat we saw.

Shouldn’t have hurried, but my in-laws were waiting at the take out with our toddler. I knew they would need relief.

Your toddler waiting? Must’ve been
years ago.

Where is Vermont Canoe located?

– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 10:34 PM EST –

I suspect I have travelled a few miles from the door at least once a month over the last year.

But I dont know where to start looking..

Waitsfield? The old MR factory? Duh I just looked up the website. It will be a nice respite on my NEXT trip to the ferry. Open when? On appointment only?

I think Rob is the owner and I applaud his making boats again..

and Glenn where did you find those boats? I will be back in Connecticut again I sometimes live there.

You guys order gelcoat for the inside
of the boat too? 'Cause that gets a whole lot of sun.

There are very effective marine boat waxes available for the outside of composite boats, protecting from UV and making the boat easier to slip over logs.

But I don’t wax the inside of my no-gelcoat composite boats. Maybe I’ll roll on a coat of spar varnish. Paint is out, have to see damage for repairs.

Saw Vermont Canoe at

– Last Updated: Jun-04-09 12:58 AM EST –

Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton. The Indy, which is a long, lean solo, and also a nice looking tandem.

Wow, have canoe stores changed. They hardly have any canoes anymore. It's all kayaks and SOTS.

Can't find floating painter line, canoe float bags, d-rings, decent canoe paddles -- things that used to be as common as bread in a bakery.

Storage is going to be the factor

– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 11:53 PM EST –

not paddling. Most storage is upside down and you know that.

But yes the inside of my Peregrine is gelcoated.
Paint used to be used on the inside too. My Swift Heron of some years indeed is painted.

The real problem comes when you use 303 on the inside hull. Not a good idea.

Wax vs. gelcoat
There’s more in sunshine than UV. I’d have to be convinced by scientific evidence that a wax can provide equivalent protection to a permanent coating. Moreover, how long does a waxing last?

But, hey, it’s all a trade-off. If you want the absolute lightest weight, I buy that. There are other ways to protect a hull – e.g., indoors or a cover.

All of my boats are now sun damaged. I leave three of them permanently on the roof of my van – including all of 2007 in Florida. Actually, the carbon hull of my Surge kayak doesn’t seem much sun damaged. I suppose that’s because carbon, by definition, is already burned to a crisp.

My wife and I…
are the owners of Vermont Canoe.

Open M-F
We’d love to have you swing by for a looksee. We don’t have a showroom as we are primarily a production and repair operation, but of course we’d love to have folks stop by. To be sure we are here, send me and email at and I’ll give you my cell phone # so you can give us a heads up if your in the area.


Why the suggestion for ultralight
Sorry it has taken so long for me to chime back in.

The reason for suggesting an ultralight lay up, in my OP is that I will be hoisting the boat onto a Toyota 4Runner. Thus, light in weight is good.

I probably don’t need the “lightest” lay up schedule just something reasonably light weight.

In north Joisey…
thaar be three Vermont Canoe Indys an’ a Tupper at Ramsey Outdoor Stores ta gawk at - wit a great price ta boot.


You probably don’t need it
Ultralight solos are good for long portages, especially if carrying packs at the same time, or for those with limited upper body strength or physical disabilities that impair lifting. If you can military press 60 lbs or so, you should not have much difficulty getting any solo onto your rooftop.

As long as you grab the canoe at it’s balance point and there are no high winds, it is not that difficult to lift the canoe above your head and get it to the level of your rack, unless you are very short.

For example, the Wenonah Prism, which is a 16 1/2’ canoe with substantial volume, weighs 53 lbs in the heaviest (and toughest) layup. The Kevlar ultralight weighs 34 lbs and the Graphite ultralight weighs 31 lbs. The 14 1/2’ Royalex Wenonah Argosy weighs 45 lbs.

What’s the list for Indy at Ramsey?
Just curious. Last time I checked, VC’s pricing for their standard of craft seemed an obvious bargain.