Solo canoeist needs help

I'm a solo wilderness tripper. Weight 160 lbs at 6 feet. Will carry, depending on season and length of trip from 60 to 90 lbs of gear, 70% lake travel with rest being about 10% up to mild and short class II and 20% exploring small creeks. I will have to travel quite far to try boats as I'm the only solo tripper within miles and I am out of the canoeing loop. Sometimes long portages are involved. I want a resistant lay-up.
So far my choice are down to the Peregrine (premium), Merlin II (Blackgold or W/G)and Osprey.
Has anyone paddled any 2 or all of these boats loaded?
Your opinions would be appreciated.

Your shopping trip
Bring all your gear or something that approximates your usual load. The actual gear is best so you can see how the load goes.

Now plan your route. I have the MerlinII. Hemlock has the Peregrine. Maybe there are others in Western NY who have an Osprey or a MerlinII (cause I am a little inconveniently located)…if there are p’netters out there who own one of these boats along your travel route, that would give you the best answer.

Yes I have paddled all three with a load but at very different times. The Osprey was back in 1999 and the Merlin II since 2005, and the Peregrine in 2007. So its hard to put my recollections in objective order. It would have been better had I paddled all three the same day.

My recollection is that I like the Peregrine the best for glide and it spins on a dime when heeled, as well as the MerlinII. I would have bought one but the Merlin II came along first, cheap. I am happy enough with it that I am not trading in…the Peregrine does not paddle fifteen hundred dollars better.

your choices

– Last Updated: Nov-08-07 12:27 PM EST –

If you swing through northern New York, you can probably try a Merlin II at Lake George Kayak or Raquette River Outfitters, or rent one at St. Regis Outfitters; try an Osprey at Adirondack Lakes and Trails or Blue Mountain Outfitters; try a RapidFire at Placid Boatworks; and try a Peregrine at Hemlock. I don't know anything about the Swift dealers' inventory; you might have to go to Collinsville or an Ontario store instead of northern New York.

I've paddled both the Merlin II and the Osprey for a few days as rentals. I didn't *love* either one (I much prefer the RapidFire), but I couldn't outfit either rental as I would have liked. The Merlin's seat was too low, for example. The Osprey was heavy and had been treated roughly. The Merlin was ultralight and almost new. I liked the Merlin more, but I can't say whether that was because of the shape or because of the realization of the shape. Both were perfectly competent for the lake-and-portage trips I was doing, and I don't think you need to worry about getting a "bad" boat for your needs with either. (But don't get a Kev-Light Merlin if you're going to bump many rocks.)

I imagine you're really asking about which is the slightly better good boat. I don't have the data to help you there.

I don't like Swift's sliding seat at all, though many people love it. When I paddle hard, which I like to do, the seat slips.

I think the two have about the same capacity, but Winters's designs always *feel* bigger to me than Yost's -- I've never known why.

Good luck with your choice. You're looking at excellent boats.

I'm 205 pounds at 6'0", but I pack a little lighter than you (30 to 45 pounds), so I guess our boats' total burden would be about the same.

-- Mark

If you kneel in it the Osprey is a fine boat for class II+ whitewater as well as easy to move on the flats.

IMO the rapids would rule out the Perigrine.

Re: Rapidfire
nycmhandy said he liked the RapidFire.

Even if the RF was set up for kneeling and the occasionnal sit I never even considered it because of the gear (food, etc)needed for a 3-4 week trip. Also seems not very deep at 11 inches unless a sprayskirt was added.

Thanks for all replies so far.


I have an Osprey

– Last Updated: Nov-08-07 8:50 PM EST –

and am in WNY, so you are welcome to come paddle it anytime.

Also Bay Creek Paddleshop in Irondequoit, NY (near Rochester) has Swift boats, and is situated right on a creek for test paddles.

boat comparison[s]

– Last Updated: Nov-11-07 4:24 PM EST –

In ~ 78, David Yost developed a 15'X 39" Solo Tripper for Curtis Canoe. In 82 he designed a shouldered 14.75' X 27.5" Vagabond for Curtis. In ~ 86 he designed the 15.3' X 28.5" shouldered Nomad for Curtis, replacing the flared Solo Tripper. In ~ 92 Yost designed the 15'; X 29" Heron and 14.5'X 28" Loon, both bubble sided, for Swift. In 95 he designed the 15' X 29" merlin II for Bell. In ~03 Dave Curtis of Hemlock redetailed the Nomad and Vagabond into the to 15.5' X 28.5" Peregrine and the 14.85' X 27.5" Kestrel. David Yost designed the 15' X 27.5" RapidFire in 2005.

On the water, it would be a pretty nuanced paddler who could tell the Nomad from the Heron from the Merlin II from the Peregrine. Same song, second verse with Vagabond, Loon, Kestrel, RapidFire.

If I were a kneeling paddler and was REALLY going out for a month, I'd get the Peregrine because it is a solid core boat built by a meticulous, semi custom, builder.

The Vag/ Kestrel/ Rapid are all too small for you unless you sit low and, mostly use a double paddle. All are solid core; of course i have my preferences.

All of these hulls will survive class 2, but not play in it.

Osprey is a neat boat by John Winters. It seems like kind of a WildFire for "relaxed fit" paddlers, but looking at its rocker and length, it is really a relaxed fit tripper; a little wider than Merlin II and peregrine.

Flash and Wild are harder tracking on lakes, meaning more skill required, and better paddling on streams. They play class 2 and survive class 3. Fit depends on size.

Thanks everyone
Thanks gang you have been more than helpfull.


Osprey vs Wildfire
IMO the Osprey is much drier and more capable in whitewater.

The Wildfire is a sweet Freestyle boat but I cringe when folks talk about running rapids in them. Bit of a submarine that.