solo canoes seaworthy?

I paddle in FL mostly flatwater trips in coastal areas and bays. Experience is in sea kayaks usually multi day trips with lot’s of wind this time of year.

My question has to do with using my solo canoe a Wenonah Vagabond that I mainly use for day trips and fishing. Has anyone used this type of canoe for extended trips of say 5 days? Can it handle a wind tossed bay with max winds 25 knots?

I know I can handle up to 30 knot gusts and really rough seas in my kayak but question the seaworthiness of solo canoes. What is maximum conditions you would paddle one in?

In a loaded canoe, if waves
have a period or length favorable for the canoe, travel may be possible. I remember when I chopped the end off my thumb when on Lake Agnes in Quetico, and we laid up for a couple of days on an island. The wind was so strong, we went to the lee side of the island, and the bugs were still blown helplessly away from us. But to my surprise, there were a few loaded tandem canoes traveling in the high winds and marked chop. Most were actually traveling at right angles to wind and waves. Their loads kept their boats steady as the waves passed under them.

A canoe loaded only with paddlers is more likely to be blown around, or blown skating sideways, by high wind. We experienced that one day on Agnes Lake, when strong gusts from a thunderstorm blew us around, and their was nothing we could do but shelter next to an island.

Later, however, when we left Agnes with a full load, we had 25 mph winds and waves a little big to call chop, but because we had all our gear and food in our tandem, the boat was quite willing to hold a quartering course, plunging her bow like a battleship but never taking water, until we reached the west shore and the portage.

Paddling your Vagabond solo, you will need powerful and certain strokes with your single bladed paddle. Otherwise consider a long double blade. If you add a custom spray cover, it will actually reduce the grab of the wind on the hull, and of course it will keep out some splash and spray.

Probably pushing it…
… unless you fit it with a spray cover. 25 knots is about 28 miles per hour, and even on my favorite local lake, that kind of wind will create three-foot waves (I base that on the fact that I sometimes can’t see shore when I’m between the waves). I’m guessing your ocean bay waves are a whole lot bigger in the same wind. My Vagabond can’t begin to cope with waves that high when they are as closely spaced as they are on typical lakes, and I’ve even seen it slice into one-foot waves and sometimes take on water, and that’s with a lightweight guy like me and no extra load (I must admit that I haven’t experimented with that boat in high wind and waves, since I have a different boat which thrives in those conditions. Now I’m thinking I really should give the Vagabond a good test some time). If your ocean waves have a longer wavelength, you might do okay. If possible, maybe you can pick a day and location where going for a swim in that kind of weather presents no danger, and give it a try (be sure to report back and post pics!). The addition of a spray cover might turn your Vagabond into a peculiar-but-fun open-water boat.

not in a Vagabond
There are a couple of solo canoes I would trust in those weather conditions, but the Vagabond is not one of them. My impression of the boat is that it is best suited for recreational paddling. It certainly isn’t a canoe I would want to stake my life on if I had to paddle in high winds and rough water.

Look back to the origins…
…of kayaks and open canoes. The conditions under which these two crafts developed were quite different. You have both a kayak and an open canoe… Wright was right: form follows function. My 2 cents. RK

Canoes have been used in the ocean

– Last Updated: Jan-05-05 5:28 PM EST –

In Maine native peoples historically used birchbark canoes for ocean travel in the Atlantic to get to and from fishing grounds, not kayaks.
I used a big solo in the Everglades last year (Swift Raven). I needed the size to accommodate 11 gallons of water for my eleven day trip, which addes just a wee bit of weight. We had a big storm and a cold front with winds of 25-30 mph for four days and temps at night of 40 degrees. It wasnt that I didnt feel safe, the canoe especially solo, bounces pretty well over the waves without plowing(though if the ends are fine it might be another matter). But progress was mighty slow with 30 mph quartering winds. It was just too tiring to paddle!
I was on the Gulf side; didnt much like the Wilderness Waterway. I did use a double blade. I have and use a kayak but when I am seeking sun I hate to cocoon myself in a yak and like a canoe better. Plus I have a better shot at actually climbing in a chickee without upsetting.
However I have paddled a Sandpiper(small relative of Vagabond) and find it small and fine endeed. I think that you will be overloading your Vagabond and piercing every wave. Given your options you might think kayak.

Yep, these are the
conditions I paddle in when doing my Everglades Trips.

Comments relating to the Vagabond in terms of perhaps not being the right boat for the trips I am thinking of taking may be true. I know very little about canoe design. Are there any solo canoes better suited for large loads (water is heavy to carry)? I am small about 5’5" and weigh about 160. What about the Mohawk solo boats.

solo canoe in wind and waves
I agree with the other comments…those conditions are on the edge and you should consider a spray skirt.

I’ve been out in much bigger wind - but on a sheltered river - so taking the wind but not the waves - with no problem. Actually heard and saw three trees break one day.

I’ve found that for me (and the dog) in big wind on lakes it usually turns out that when the wind and waves get big enough that water starts to spit into the boat occasionally, I’m also on the ragged edge of having enough power to drive into the wind…I’ve paddled in wind high enough to blow me to a standstill.

I’ve also found that waves even only 18 inches high can get a little hairy when they keep rolling straight at you fast one after another with little whitewater curls on top. I’ve been in 3 foot waves with a Swift Osprey (carefully and accidentally)…and it was fine but the waves weren’t coming at us that fast…we had some time to roll with them. The challenge is to stay relaxed!

Another perspective is - if 30 knots is your max capability in a decked kayak with spray skirt…you’d better back off more than a little for an open solo canoe.

Finally - please remember that you can get yourself in trouble too easily in high wind because when you drive straight into the wind and get near the limit of comfort and security - it’s probably already too late to turn around…since turning around is the risky part when you are near the edge. But of course if you make the turn then you get to surf home fast. If you don’t make the turn, then at least your boat will make it back to the put-in.

Scott Cunnigham
Circumnavigated all of Nova Scotia in a canoe. I believe it was in the 80’s and in an aluminum canoe.

But not solo
Still an amazing feat, especially crossing St. George’s Bay from Cape Breton Island to mainland Nova Scotia. I met Scott this summer at his place in Tangier. Told him we refer to his book as “the Bible”.

there are a handful
of canoes that can handle it. i have done many coastal gulf coast trips in my bell rob roy. it is decked, though. it can handle 25 knots on open water pretty well. i don’t think i’d do it in a vagabond, although i haven’t paddled one. other options:

kruger sea wind

mad river monarch

sawyer loon

clipper (maybe)

JEM should have a nice decked canoe out soon.

dave curtis or DY boat with a cover

I’d add the Swift Osprey and the Bell Magic to the list. The Osprey has seen me through some very nasty conditions, and I have just as much confidence in the Magic, although I haven’t pushed the envelope as hard with it. I’d probably want a spray cover on the boat, but I’m a spray cover fan anyway. I don’t have anything against the Vagabond, I just don’t think it is the right boat for those conditions.

please explain (enlighten)
why you think the Vagabond is unable to handle situations like canoeing the everglades for a 5 day trip. I am a novice regarding canoe design and would like to know why the canoes suggested in the above posts would do better. There are not many people that I can talk to let alone dealers down here in FL that know anything about solo canoes. Not many are into the solo canoe sport I guess.

So here is what I figured so far and why I bought this boat:

In the kayak world there are differences in hull design and I am sure the same occurs in the solo canoe realm. Here are dimensions for center depth, bow and stern height and also the shape of the hull. The vagabond is supposedly a shallow arch hull which according the canoe books I read is able to respond well to rougher conditions as opposed to a flat bottom canoe. The center depth of this boat is 12 3/4 inches bow 16 and stern 14. Shallower the better for less wind resistance. Waterline width is 28 3/4. The overall length is 14’ 6" which should be about right for my weight/height. Rocker: 1/14 better for flatwater.

What else should I be looking for?


– Last Updated: Jan-07-05 1:17 AM EST –

Eric's post below makes the most sense - may as well try it out. If the Vagabond works for you, that's great and I'll be glad to eat my words.

Having said that, my impression from my one relatively brief paddle, probably about half an hour, in a Vagabond, and from the info on the Wenonah website, is that it is, for lack of a better description, toward the lower end of the performance spectrum and probably better suited for calm to moderate conditions. The quote from the Wenonah website that I keyed in on is "exploring on moderate waters." My personal opinion is that "a wind tossed bay with max winds 25 knots" qualifies as more than moderate conditions.

To handle those conditions, you will want a boat that stays pretty dry in waves and that you don't have to fight to keep on course when it is windy. I also like the boat to be relatively efficient because I like to scoot along fairly quickly if I'm trying to get someplace and the weather turns to crap. What boats qualify is pretty subjective, and it can be quite surprising which boats are not acceptable.

The reason I mentioned the Osprey and the Magic is because I have paddled them in similar conditions and been pleased with their performance. There are undoubtedly other boats out there that would do the job for you, but those are the only two that I have paddled in those conditions that I feel comfortable recommending. Definitely take a look at Chad19's list as well. He knows the area you are talking about and has spent a lot of time paddling in the conditions you will be dealing with. I'm comfortable with the two open boats I mentioned, and I'm also confident that Chad's advice will be sound.

Just bear in mind that when you are on a storm-tossed bay in 25 knot winds, you want to be 100% confident in whatever boat you have under you.

I understand where you are going with this. I already own this canoe but it could be put up for sale if I find it does not suit my needs.

I bought it for fishing primarily and then fell in love with solo canoeing and now even want to replace my kayak with it. I have been bitten by the solo bug…

In my introductory post I was really concerned with wind. And I am, but, where I will paddle this canoe is really in moderate conditions (i.e., everglades backcountry bays and coastal) these get pretty rough sometimes and I have had trouble traversing some of these bays even in my kayak on very windy days. I equate it to the conditions I found in the Boundary Waters areas of bigger lakes that is how big these bays are and they are very shallow as compared to the BWCA. I will also do some coastal water paddling but not exposed as I do with my kayak. My question originally was to find out from others what is max wind they would paddle a solo canoe in when loaded with gear.

I am just worried because of my inexperience with a loaded solo canoe. Typically the trips starts out great then you are day’s away from put in and get into strong winds as fronts pass through. I will launch in 20 - gusting winds to get to my next campsite and get into trouble and be stranded. 15 - 20 knots and gusting is normal for our winter paddling. Sometimes it’s like glass but not the norm.

I have tried this canoe in 20 knot gusts coastal conditions with a cooler on board and fishing tackle. It did pretty well but wasn’t loaded with water and camping gear. The cover idea is pretty good I have already looked at the Cooke Site. And I am looking at the recommendations on float bags and other canoe models. But don’t want to spend more money if there are better canoes out there for this task.

I will invite some friends to accompany me on a trial as suggested.

Perfect canoe day on the sea. (pic)
From a club outing a couple years ago, Prince Edward Island is about 12nm off their bow:

If that tree at their 10 o’clock positio
… is 12 nautical miles away, it’s gotta be the biggest tree in the world ! Nice pic … what is that … a 16’ Prospector? The saltwater trips chapter of Jack Wainwright’s British Columbia Canoe Trips book has a couple of good pics of long Sea Clippers (18’6") near Moresby Island up there. Clipper’s owner, Marlin Bayes, told me that they do well in big waters … but that high surf conditions can force you to wait (sometimes hours) outside the line until you get a chance to come in. I continue to think that competent canoeists, in long and deep, shallow-arched hull canoes that are spray-covered … can sucessfully trip along most coastal areas that provide a modicum of shelter (islands, coves, etc.). Sure the risks are higher than for most fresh water tripping, but the opportunities are there.

Good eye
Prospector, yep. Seems to be the dominant design 'round these parts. Oddly, I’ve never seen a spray-decked canoe on the water. Seems to me the ideal solution to coastal paddling, I’d like to see more of them.

where do you paddle
i paddle the everglades and southwest coast A LOT. maybe we could meet up and you could try my Rob Roy for a comparison?

FYI Randall…
Louis Sullivan made that quotation, not Wright…

picky, picky, picky…!!