Solo "canoeing" a Phoenix Vagabond.

tandem kayak/decked canoe

Boat: 1987 fiberglass Phoenix Vagabond with front seat set for solo paddling.

Me: 5’6" 155 lbs.

Conditions: Small lake with light & swirling breeze.

Paddle: 47.75" Zaveral (ZRE) Medium bent shaft.

I hadn’t paddled this boat in a few years and got it out to see what it was good for, so I tried it out with kayak paddles and canoe paddles and was unsatisfied with the handling of the boat while sitting in the front seat positoned for solo paddling. Since the hull of this boat is transparent, I could see the water level up front and it looked like the bow was too deep and plowing the water, so I decided to move my weight back a bit. I landed the boat and moved to the back seat and voila, the boat handled just like I wanted it too - it tracked easily with just a small flip of the paddle at the end of the stroke and is very easy to turn with minimal effort using a lean and a bit of a sweep stroke. About the front 1.5’ of the boat is a bit out of the water while sitting in the stern seat, but the boat still handles the wind from all directions better than it did when I was sitting more forward in the official solo position for this boat. The boat is also narrower in the stern seat, so the paddling stroke is more comfortable than at the more forward position. My expectation is that this trim would also work well for non-whitewater river touring and larger lakes without a lot of wind. A heavier paddler than me may benefit from a little ballast up front to lower the bow a bit.

Hmmm, maybe a retrofit with a Wenonah sliding tractor seat is something to consider for this boat.

Moral of the story, before giving up on a boat because of dissatifaction over handling characteristics, mess around with trim to see if a sweet spot can be found for your preferred handling characteristics.

I really like the feeling of paddling the Vagabond with the Zav bent from the stern seat, but, judgeing from the time it took me to make my normal circuit around this lake, soloing the Vagabond this way may not be as fast of a means to get around as my Sawyer Summersong or Mad River Slipper, but it sure feels sweet. I didn’t feel like I wanted or needed to go any faster and didn’t feel physically tired afterward either, just satisfied.

(Yes Charlie, I know that I’m making use of artificial rocker)

Are you advising or suggesting that
people consider the Phoenix Vagabond as a canoe? I always thought it could work for that. Might work for kneeling as well as for sitting. How fast does the hull seem to be? How much water does the hull draw, with more than your midget frame aboard?

Yes, use the Phoenix Vagabond as a canoe
- solo canoe, that is, and paddle it from the stern seat. I have no idea how it would work as a tandem canoe in the standard configuration, because I haven’t tried that yet. It’s been a couple years since I’ve paddled it tandem with kayak paddles and I don’t remember much about that. It hasn’t been used as a tandem since we got the royalex Wenonah Solo Plus, which my wife prefers.

The Vagabond has a flattish bottom, so it shouldn’t draft too much, even with a Maxi Me (standard sized 180 t0 230 lb man) aboard.

Another characteristic of the flattish bottom, besides extreme stability, is that it oil cans some, even though it is fiberglass. Keep in mind that this hull is 20 years old and the original owners used it on rivers for fishing and it wasn’t treated with kid gloves, so that may be a factor in the flexing of the hull. I have no idea if the current constructions have the same amount of flex / oil canning, though I don’t see how you could avoid it with a flat, non-ribbed hull.

My impression is that it’s not a particularly fast hull, but I’ve never timed it or put a gps on it. My expectation is that most boats with flattish bottoms won’t be particularly fast or efficient, though the Vagabond seems to move along at a leisurely pace when paddled solo with a bent shaft Zaveral with seemingly little effort and without tiring me.

I haven’ tried kneeling in it, but I suppose it could be done. My preference is for sitting.

Forgot to mention…
I was sitting on a 4" thick square boat floatation cusion and had narrower and stiffer foam piece between my back and the back of the seat.

The stock seat is too low for me to comfortably use the bent shaft canoe paddle.