Solo Canoes Part Two

My research continues (many thanks to previous info in Part One). I’m looking at the Prism, Yellowstone Solo, Vagabond and OT Pack. The Vagabond and Pack seem to be fine for the smaller rivers and lake fishing areas I might frequent. I also like the intrique of paddling/floating the Missouri River. Though this would not be the primary destination, it could ultimately be a favorite (KC to St.Louis). The more I read ( for instance)the more I lean towards getting a canoe that would be more practical for these waters too. Thus the inclusion of the Y-Solo and the Prism into my purchasing thoughts for a solo canoe. Any thoughts regarding these canoes for my purposes would be gladly read.


A couple more to add
The OT pack is a fine poke about and fishing boat, I’d I recommend you add the Mohawk solo 14 and Odysee 15 to the list of boats you consider.

The Yellowstone Solo paddles nice. I like it, but you should try one out before you buy one. It’s like the SUV of solo canoes. It hauls a load, goes anywhere, and is kind of sporty to boot.

Yellowstone Solo
I paddle this boat but I am not sure I would feel that comfortable with it on big water. I have not paddled the Missouri. At lower water stages it might be OK. But in higher water with all the squirrely eddies and boils and big chop, I think I would be a bit too much on edge to really enjoy the experience.

If the Missouri River intrigues you that much, I’d suggest paddling it first in a bigger boat, like even a Grumman tandem. I soloed that boat for a few years before my rebirth in smaller and lighter solos.

You might also check out the Nova Craft Super Nova. It is a bigger volume boat than the Yellowstone.

I would have thought differently about it on big water. I’ve run short Class II in it, and have paddled it on the Mississippi and on big lakes in wind in the BWCA with waves to about 1.5 or so. People uses these canoes all over in somewhat rough conditions.

Lot of assumptions
I am assuming from the poster’s questions that he is not overly experienced with paddling solo boats. Experienced paddlers do some rough water with the Yellowstone. And I can bet even they were happy to get their feet planted on shore after some rough experiences.

Just saying, some boats are more bomb proof, i.e. error forgiving, especially for the less experienced paddler. The potential consequences on bigger water are bigger. The Yellowsone is not a do all boat.

You’re right about…
my not having any experience in a solo canoe. It’s just that I’m attempting to cover as many bases as I can with just one canoe. The Wenonah Prism sounds very promising but I haven’t paddled it. I guess I am just a little anxious to get “paddled up”. At what point does experience make up for paddling a less than ideal canoe (like a Prism, Vagabond, etc.)on a river like the Mighty MO? I’m not suicidal, but crusing down a long river like the Missouri has appeal to me. But as always, weight (portability) and money are considerations that I have to deal with. It would be great to find a used canoe to start out with (I do have tandem experience). What exactly are you giving up with a Prism or V-Bond when you don’t go with a “big river” canoe? Thanks again!

personal canoes
First; decide whether you want to kneel and use a straight paddle, sit and use a bent, or sit lower and use a double blade. Required volume goes down as we lower the paddler’s CG, but we still need to float you and gear.

Kneeling solos to consider mght start at Mohawk’s solo 13 and 14, include Bell’s Yellowstone, Swift’s Osprey, Pb’s WildFire and Loon Works’ craft. The price range starts ~$700 and runs past $3000.

If you want to kneel and sit, try Bell’s Merlin II, Hemlock’s kestral and peregrine and Loon Works tripper.

Dedicated to Sitting with a bent means looking at several Wenonah’s, including Vagabond and Prism, Bell’s and Magic and couple Souris River Models. prices run from $900 past $2500.

Tripping pack canoes are rarer, but Hornbeck and Pb both have offerings from $2000 and up. Merlin or Pregrine can be driven with a double blade if one can endure the teasing.


I suggest that you closely read

– Last Updated: Jan-27-07 1:02 PM EST –

through several canoe company websites and look at the canoe specifications and where each company places their canoes in different categories -- whitewater, river running, flat water touring, recreation, etc. They will also rate their boats for various handling features like maneuverability, tracking, seaworthiness, stability, etc.

You will find some crossover between categories for the more hybrid type models. Some models will fit more tightly into one or two categories.

The type of boating you are considering on the Missouri would probably fit into the river running category. These boats are made more for running for several days, encountering some whitewater, and are rated strongly in seaworthiness and stability under load.

The archive in Pnet is loaded with discussions on questions similar to what you have posted.

You might not find one model that meets all your needs. I'd find a used (or new blem mark down if possible) Yellowstone or Wenonah Argosy (better than a Vagabond) and start paddling on smaller rivers and streams. Or the MR Freedom Solo or Mohawk Odessey as suggested above.

Those boats cover quite a rangle of …

– Last Updated: Jan-27-07 1:47 PM EST –

... "personalities" and optimum usage. The Prism is a boat I've never paddled, but it should be the most performance-oriented hull of the bunch when it comes to putting a lot of miles behind you, with or without a load. The Prism will be the least maneuverable of the boats you listed, and that may be an issue in the swirly water of a big river near shore, but that's probably not an insurmountable problem most of the time if you plan ahead when crossing turbulent spots. The Pack is at the opposite extreme, and it will be great for going short distances on small waters, but I'd really stay away from that one if you want to be able to cover much ground or travel big fast rivers. It's not made for traveling as much as putzing around. I've test-paddled a Yellowstone (an older boat with the Wildfire name, but it was Royalex so I believe it to be the same), and I have quite a bit of experience in the Vagabond, sometimes paddling alongside a Yellowstone. I'd expect the Yellowstone solo to be faster than the Pack, but I'm quite certain it is slower than the Vagabond. However, it will be quite a bit more maneuaverable than the Vagabond, especially if the Vagabond is Royalex (my Royalex Vagabond has zero rocker, not the specified 1.25 inches). The Vagabond is VERY forgiving (though probably less so than the Pack), but for a beginner, the Yellowstone will take a good bit of getting used to before you feel comfortable. That said, once the apparent tippyness and the unsettled feeling that goes with it have passed, the Yellowstone is very versatile. If either the Yellowstone or the Vagabond seem like good boats, you might also consider the Mohawk Odyssey 14. I think it's probably more similar to the Yellowstone when it comes to speed, and closer to the Vagabond when it comes to initial stability. It is quite maneuverable, though perhaps not quite as quick to respond as the Yellowstone, and I think its rough-water capability is a lot better than the Vagabond and a little better than the Yellowstone. One possible down-side of the Odyssey 14 is hull material, because someone posted a comment here recently that it will now only be available in Royalite or lightweight Royalex (the two may not be the same, if I remember another comment on these boards), not standard Royalex. That's a piece of information worth knowing if the boat will be bashing any rocks, and probably somewhat important in regard to hull stiffness.

Someone mentioned the Novacraft Supernova as a model to consider too. I have that boat, and would not recommend it in preference to any of the ones you are considering except the Pack, and maybe in preference to the Prism if you want a boat that doesn't track so well, but in that case I'd consider the Vagabond, Yellowstone, or Odyssey 14 first. The Supernova is not an easy boat for a beginner to start out on, and it's big and cumbersome. Unless you plan on doing whitewater or carrying big loads or both, I wouldn't put it near the top of my list based on what you've said so far.

Personal canoes 2
Sorry, life intrudes.

Tripping boats should have a waterline length to width ratio, L/W in same units, around 6-7. This will lead to adequate forward speed, ~1.5 X sq root of wl length. Boats with longer waterlines are almost always faster but always take more effort. Note the pack canoe has a L/W if 4.6; it will be slow.

The next issue after paddling style is fit, which is critical oin a kneeling boat, important in a sit down canoe and almost unimportant in a pack canoe.

Kneelingwe have a tripod stance in the boat: both knees and the butt. The boat needs to be narrow enough to have a vertical paddleshaft under forward power, yet wide enough for the knees to be spread for stability. You can fiddle seat height up or down and kneepad thickness to adjust fit somewhat, but heavy folks with long legs and narrow shoulders may find they just cannot get a kneeling fit. if the boat is wide enough for a stable stance they may not be able to get the offside top hand across the rail for a “stack your hands” forward stroke.

Most trippers are about 15ft by 30 inches wide overall, say 14.5 and 28 at waterline. A couple makers build smaller boats, Hemlock’s Kestral, Pb’s RapidFire and bigger boats, Hemlock’s eaglet for folks off the bell curve.

Sitting at medium height using a bent doesn’t lower paddler CG much, so the same 15 by 30 or 16 by 31 dimensions carry through. Please note footbraces are necessary for stability.

Pack canoes lower the CG enough to narrow the boat significantly, but at the risk of chaffed armpits for the compact who use double paddles.

A comparative example, used because I’m familiar with both hulls would be Bell’s Merlin 2 anf Pb’s RapidFire. Same designer, same length, same purpose; touring.

The Merlin 2 is really 14’8" at waterline and 27.5-28 wide. It’s a fine kneeler for those up to 6’1"-or 6’2" not much over 200#. Heel it, stick Duffeks, etc. If one lowers the seat and used a bent, using less heel in technique, paddler weight can increase maybe 50#.

RapidFire, on the other hand is 14’8" with max beam of 27.5 and waterline of 23.5" A fine kneeler for a 120 pounder, but 200 pounder will generally swim a lot. Some forward efficiency gain due to improved L/W, but accessible to most of use only sitting low, which requires a double stick.


Canoecopia, lots to
look at and absorb. Do they have discounts on canoes there that warrant a days drive? If I have a “Final Four” canoe list to work from then I should be able to make good use of my day. Let me know if you have found significant savings and if they “deal” or list a % off.

Another question, with a Royalex hull in a solo canoe, does the idea of adding flotation make any sense for travelling down the Missouri in a 14’ er. I assume it wouldn’t be needed but just thought I would ask more experienced paddlers. I realize this would simply aid in “whoops recovery” and would diminish the space available for gear.

Thanks again!

Thanks for posting this stuff
I noticed you said that footbraces are necessary for stability. I’m a novice but have come to believe the same thing. If I’m not kneeling, I still want three points of solid connection to the boat. It seems necessary to get the most out of the canoe.

Typical discount at Canoecopia
has been 10-20%. They also have some blems available. We drive three hours so I can get my ‘two for one’ Smartwool socks and see the presenters. We’ve saved money on equipment as well. Also, check out The Paddlin’ Place because they have deals on the same weekend.

We got the small Voyageur endbags for our Mowhawk Odyssey 14s and we should have gotten the larger size. The small ones don’t take up enough space and really are of minimal help. We have a large center bag in our tandem and it has floated the boat high in the water, reducing entrapment probability and making it easier to recover. If you get bags, go bigger.

By the way, I paddle my Mowhawk sitting with a kayak paddle. Not a hot rod, but steady and has reasonable maneuverability.

Swift Raven
nobody has mentioned it. Its 15’4" and about 31 inches beam.

Made for river running, not river playing. Will do fine in up to class 3 without spray skirt. Will also carry a load. You might be carrying fresh water. I camped for two weeks in the Everglades and covered 100 miles. That would be about 130 lbs of water, plus more pounds for gear and pounds for me. I bought it not for the Everglades but for the Allagash, St John and Androscoggin and Penobscot, all rivers close to home.

Old Town Appalachian ia a fine downriver boat too.

Look for some of the older models. Whats newest is not whats only suitable.

Give Solo boats some time
You’ll want to spend some time getting to know solo boats before you buy. I’d suggest really spending some time in all the options that you’ve listed. I think that once you become used to the feeling, you’ll find that some of the canoes that felt tippy at first don’t later.

And you can always start paddling a solo with a lower seat and jack it up as you get used to the boat.

This isn’t a contradiction of what Charlie wrote, but an aside that also can work for some people to increase the feeling of stability.

If the inwale is wide enough, sometimes it’s possible to wedge a knee under the gunwale to add a little extra support. Kind of like a knee brace in a kayak. Also, you can install a thwart at the right distance to brace your feet against if you have big enough feet. This avoids the extra footbrace.

I wouldn’t add floatation
I wouldn’t worry about adding extra flotation on the Missouri River.

flotation in Royalex boat
I don’t know the Missouri River, but I have tried to do a deep-water rescue of a solo canoe with only the minimal, factory-installed flotation, and it’s a lot of trouble – probably impossible in conditions in which you would really expect to capsize. If you will need to do deep-water rescues (as opposed to moving the boat to shore), I recommend adding flotation.

This is more important if you paddle alone. Even if you think you are going to self-rescue by going to shore, be aware that swimming with a waterlogged boat is tiring. You might not be able to move the boat as far as you need to.

Try it in mild (but not completely flat) conditions to see what is involved.

If you pack light, like a backpacker, you can put a lot of flotation in the ends of most solo canoes, while leaving space for two packs near you in the center.

– Mark

inflate around gear
I usually pack the gear closer to me in the center and then just inflate the large float bags around what gear I decided to take. It has worked for me on a couple of trips.