Solo to replace a Wenonah Solo Plus?

My wife and I are committed to get back into paddling this year so we checked out our much-neglected canoes to see what we had to work with. Her canoe (a Mohawk Pack fiberglass canoe we originally bought for our sons) is in decent shape. On the other hand, my canoe (a Wenonah Solo Plus Kevlar Center-Rib Skincoat) is a real mess. The skincoat is popping off all over the place so it may be a big project to get it back to a usable condition. No real complaints, it has served me well over the years as both a tandem and a solo - I installed a sliding pedestal seat and foot brace which helped me trim the boat for various configurations as our sons were growing. We agreed that I should get a new boat (woo-hoo!) so we can take our time figuring out what we’re going to with the Solo Plus.

Using the Solo Plus as a basis, I want my new boat to be similar in efficiency but more maneuverable and still be able to handle my weight (300#). I paddle exclusively sit and switch with a bent shaft paddle and will be paddling mostly on the Mattaponi River in central Virginia (no whitewater). I’ve been comparing the various Wenonah offerings and here’s what I’m thinking about so far:

Wilderness - similar to the Solo Plus in efficiency but more manueverable (based on the charts on Wenonah’s site), available in all of the composite layups

Vagabond - even more maneuverable but less efficient and lower in capacity, also available in all of the composite layups

Argosy - this is where things get interesting… as efficient as the Vagabond but with better maneuvering and higher capacity than either the Wilderness or Vagabond. I’ve also read reviews that the Argosy is actually faster than the Wilderness (at least in Royalex) - the down side is that the composite Argosy is only available in Kevlar Flex-core or Ultra-light and they don’t list the sliding center seat as an available option

Rendezvous - not on the Wenonah site except for Royalex but there are some Kevlar Flex-core ones with sliding center seats on the Canoe Colorado site. About as efficient as the Argosy but even more maneuverable and with a higher capacity

The only other solo canoe that I’ve had a chance to paddle was a Bell WildFire many moons ago when Charlie Wilson brought one to an ACA event in northern Virginia (Mason’s Neck?) - it was a blast to paddle but there’s just no way I can deal with being on my knees for any length of time.

I’m thinking about getting a composite Argosy since I’m guessing I’d have to do some tweaking to really be able to check it out (fiddle with the seat, move the center thwart back, etc.). If it works well I could replace the seat with a sliding pedestal seat and be a happy paddler. If not, we’ll see if my wife likes the Argosy and I’ll try again.

Thanks for reading this far and any comments/advice/etc. would be most appreciated.

solo for big fella
The Wilderness certainly sounds worth test-paddling. My guess is that it’s quite a bit more efficient than a solo plus yet also significantly less stable…the Wenonah catalog rates solos against solos and tandems against tandems I THINK.

You might also consider a Hemlock Eaglet since it will easily handle your weight and be stable yet efficient without kneeling, plus it should turn better than a solo plus yet be at least as efficient.

If you run across a Swift Shearwater in the heavier expedition kevlar lay-up it’s worth paddling since it’s very efficient yet stable and turns way better than a solo plus…and it will handle your weight easily.

The Wildfire is too small for you but if you trip over a Bell Starfire you need to check it out and I think you would fall in love with it…it’s the next size up from Wildfire.

A Blackhawk Combi 15.8 would also fit your wishes well if you can find one, and so would a Mad River Malecite.

The Wilderness
would seem to be the way to go. (You don’t mention the Prism, which is great for most flatwater conditions but may lack the maneuverability you’re looking for.) Since kneeling isn’t an option, be sure to get a pedestal-mounted bucket seat you can adjust for trim.

I’ve no insight into the weight issue. Talk to a pro who would know, and don’t get anything you haven’t tried out and found suitable.

Having paddled all of the boats you’ve mentioned I think the Wilderness in the composite for would suit you best. Consider the Tuff-Weave layup. Very durable, a little lighter than the Royalex and relatively inexpensive.


Thanks for the input…
… I’m definitely going to check out the Wilderness as suggested - Wild River Outfitters in Virginia Beach has a demo day coming up in May that I’m going to try to attend. The Tuf-weave Flex-core lists for $1359 + $75 for the sliding center seat which isn’t too bad.

I didn’t really consider the Prism since I wanted something shorter and more maneuverable than the Solo Plus.

I did see the StarFire on the Placid Boatworks site but I don’t see me spending that much right now. The RapidFire seems like a better deal and may be the boat of choice if I stay with it and want something faster.

I was looking over the hull of the Solo Plus this afternoon and the Kevlar seems fine underneath all of the cracked and popping off clear stuff. I don’t know what the clear stuff is but it’s very thin (thin as a credit card) and brittle. I’ll probably contact Wenonah to see what they think but my first instinct is to bang on the hull with a rubber mallet to pop off as much as I can and then “paint” it with some epoxy resin. Buying a reasonably-priced Wilderness will get me out on the water while I sort out the issues with the Solo Plus.

One more for big guys
No one seems to have mentioned the Dave Kruger designed Bell RockStar. It is, basically a longer/wider version on the Bell Yellowstone solo / Wenonah Argosy theme.

It will be more maneuverable than the Wilderness because it has more bow rocker.

Charlie, some of us just can’t resonate

– Last Updated: Jan-19-09 3:06 PM EST –

with the "Rockstar" thing. A generational defect.

Did you get to try those Spheretex samples?

Demo an Escapade -
It’s worth a try. You can use a plastic milk crate to

demo it solo with by putting the crate behind the

center thwart. It will be more maneuverable than the

Solo Plus, because it has higher capacity and will have

less draft. It will surprise you.

Still continues to surprise me.

Thanks, Here’s "The Plan"
Many thanks to everyone who responded - my plan is to try to fix up the Solo Plus over Spring Break (strip off the gelcoat and refinish, replace the cane tandem seats and wood thwarts with aluminum thwarts, and whatever else I discover as I go along). If that goes well I’ll stay with the Solo Plus for a while and maybe get a new boat later on. On paper I like the idea of the Argosy/Yellowstone Solo/Rockstar design with more rocker in the bow than the stern. If I can buy some time (and maybe even lose some weight) with the Solo Plus I may be in a better position to check them out later this summer.

If I can’t get the Solo Plus fixed up I’ll probably get a Tuf-weave Wilderness with a sliding seat this spring. It will be more similar to what I’m used to with decent stability which is probably a good thing since I haven’t been in a canoe for a while.

Bell Merlin II?
Since you liked the handling of the Wildfire, have you considered the Merlin II? At 15.5’, it’s a foot longer than the old Wildfire, and offers a great balance of efficiency/speed and manueverability. It think it’s one of the best all-around solo models out there. At 300 lbs., however, you will push the upper limit of its optimal load. I have loaded mine only up to 240 lbs., but with no trouble.

It is very narrow at the waterline (25.5"), so initial stability is not good (cost for efficiency), but secondary is excellent.

You don’t have to kneel in it. I paddle a combination of sitting with bent shaft and kneeling with straight shaft equally well, just different.