I’m an experienced tandem canoeist with too many boats, but now I want a solo tripper. My next river is typical of what I will be wanting a solo boat for. I want to canoe this 250 mile river from its beginning as a small stream initially dropping 12-15’ per mile, but gradually becoming a slower river before it empties into a larger river. There are a few short Class II rapids and maybe a class III drop or two, but nothing real difficult. Rocky shoals are frequent in the upper reaches with unavoidable scrapes and bumps in the shallows. There will be approximately 60 miles of flatwater in 4 lake impoundments and portages (2 lengthy) around 4 hydroelectric dams. Carrying capacity is not a huge concern since I weigh 155 lbs. and as an ultralight backpacker, my gear on extended trips is lighter than most. I like to alternate between sitting and kneeling depending on the water conditions and to reduce fatigue on my 59 year old joints. I like speed, but need a boat that can also handle mild whitewater and be tough enough to stand some bumping and grinding. Cost is not a major consideration. I’ve looked at Wenonah Prism & Voyager & Advantage & Yellowstone Solo, Bell Magic & Merlin II, Hemlock SRT & Perigrine, and Savage River Savage. At one time or another, I’ve said “yep that’s definitely the boat I want” for all of them. Before I roll the dice, what are your recommendations for canoe and type of layup?
One more to consider
My Swift Osprey seems to handle a wide range of conditions from technical class II to large open water with speed and grace.
Mine is the expedition layup and seems pretty tough. I don’t abuse it like I do my plastic boats but it’s taken some scrapes and hits with no problems.
I have a …
Bell Yellowstone solo. I did some class 2&3 a few weeks back,and it did well. I am a beginner canoeist,and a rank beginner WW canoeist. My seat is not set up for kneeling,so I sat. I was dumped at one rapids,but that was more lack of skills then the boat. If I was kneeling I think things would have went better. I was greatly surprised how easy it turned,and behaved in the WW. I have a royalex model,and it took some real abuse. I had one gash that did require some patching,because it was into the foam core. Other then that just scuffs,and scratches. I think the Yellowstone is the lightest royalex 14' boat at 44lbs. I am a big guy 6' 240lbs,and it will still float in 3" of water,so it should take a fair load. Is not a flatwater screamer,but I can keep up with my sea kayak friends. Over all I am please with my Yellowstone.
Happy Paddling billinpa
MR Freedom Solo
Lots of capacity, agile on the river, takes abuse, turns on a dime. Jim Saults and I each paddled Freedom Solos on the Middle Yough last weekend and they behaved beautifully on the class II river.
this is too far fetched since they aren’t made anymore but I found a used Dagger Reflection 15 which would fit your needs and wants. It will easily handle class II and is long enough for slower water travel. It’s steady and you can kneel/sit with plenty of room for gear . But, Reflections like any Dgger canoe are difficult to find these days.
I agree, a nice boat and I DO know where there are three new ones as of a few weeks ago because yours truly is interested. I owned a dagger canoe and it was very well made. Never dealt with K.C. Paddler but quick, cordial e-mails when I’ve asked questions. Here’s a link. WW
Thanks for everyone’s responses. I’ve been able to cross a couple of boats off my list, but unfortunately now have another couple to consider. Eric Nyre, I especially appreciated your knowledgeable posts (as usual). I looked at your review of the Rendezvous and was amazed that it performed so much better in the composite layup compared to Royalex. A full 1.0 mph faster at cruising speed would make a heck of a difference on a long trip. Definitely makes the Rendezvous in Kevlar worth considering as an all-around tripper.
I could never understand why folks liked the Rendezvous so much until I paddled a kevlar model. When you set the kevlar boat and the royalex boat next to each other, it is obvious that they are significantly different boats. I spent some time in a royalex Rendezvous and figured I could learn to like it, but thought it was way overhyped. After spending about an hour in a kevlar model, I understood why folks said good things about it.
Kevlar WildFire for sale
I test-paddled a Kevlar Rendezvous (on a lake) and found it a fun boat to paddle. If it were a car, I would say that it “floats” through turns – really easy, smooth, and steady – but I guess floating is expected behavior for a canoe. If I wanted a boat that excelled in rapids and was adequate on the flats, I would surely consider the Rendezvous. But since I want to sell you a different boat, I shouldn’t say too many nice things about the competition. The Rendezvous takes concentration if you want to go in a straight line. I had to do a hard C-stroke when kneeling, or put in only two strokes per side when sitting and switching. It’s not nearly as straight-tracking as a more touring-oriented boat – for example, a Bell WildFire
I prioritize straight-ahead speed over whitewater moves, so I preferred the WildFire to the Rendezvous. The WildFire is a great river-tripping boat, but I suspect it would take in more water than the Rendezvous would in a Class III single-drop rapid. I put a detailed description of the boat that is for sale, plus ruminations on Phreon’s requirements (which are similar to yours), in my post “WildFire for sale” in the thread “What solo canoe for me? So many choices!”
Bell’s Black/Gold Composite
Thanks for the Wildfire offer Mark. If you were somewhat less than 1300 miles away, I might take a look at it. After weighing all the alternatives, I see I really need 2 solos. Something like a Yellowstone Solo (formerly Wildfire) or Rendezvous for the rapids up to Class II, and then a Bell Magic for the slower waters. But to get one canoe for everything that will be on one river, I’m leaning heavily toward a compromise with the Merlin II in Black/Gold Composite. I’m willing to sacrifice a little maneuverability for decent speed/tracking and will just have to tiptoe, line, or portage through the rough stuff. Does anyone have any thoughts on how much of a bruising Bell’s Black/Gold composite layup can take?
One more. Swift Shearwater
Big brother to the Osprey. 16’ with good manueverability. In the “heavy” or expedition layup it weighs in at 46#. High volume and dry. I’ve run it in class I+, maybe low class II and smacked a rock or two taking off some jell-coat.
I’ve paddled the Osprey and it’s a bit more agile but the Shearwater will carry a little more speed on the flat. I’ll go with TommyC1 on the Osprey but also like the Shearwater for this use.
I own a Bell Magic and love it for lake tripping or flatwater rivers, not sure I’d take thru class II or III drops.
Paddled the MR Freedom and love it. Great down river boat and responsive as all get out. Flatwater; it’ll do the job but if your talking very slow current then don’t be in a hurry.
Hope this helps.
You gonna bring the Yellowstone Solo to Raystown? If so, I’d like to take it for a test drive. Getting close to selling the tandem and adding a creek basher to the fleet!
BlackGold and Merlin II
My impression is that BlackGold is really tough, but I don’t have direct experience. One indirect measure: I never did any structural damage to my WhiteGold boat, despite a few halfhearted attempts in rapids, and BlackGold is supposed to be considerably stronger. The one solid data point I have in this regard: If you look up Bell’s warranty, you’ll find that they give a much stronger guarantee to their “solid-core” boats (like BlackGold) than they give to their cored boats (like KevLite and WhiteGold). That should tell you where they think the reliability lies.
On the Merlin II: I paddled one for a few days and didn’t notice much difference from the WildFire in tracking or speed, so I decided not to trade in my WildFire for a Merlin II. I recommend you stick with a Yellowstone Solo, since you want to do river work and you won’t be penalized much in your lake work. I have a vague memory that, for the YS, they took the WildFire and made it asymmetrical, which presumably improves tracking (not that it needed much improving, in my view). Check that fact if it’s important to you, but if I’m right, I think the YS is your better choice. I’m assuming you’re talking about the composite YS. If you’re talking about Royalex, ignore what I say, since I suspect the two boats with the same name are really different boats.
Don’t black gold layups have a foam core?
I understood that they and the kev-light had the shorter warranty, and the Royalex, fibrelar and white gold had the lifetime?
Please correct me if this is not the case.
Incidentally, an e-mail to Bell confirmed that they will still make white gold if a customer wants to special order it.
I just caught your above post about my Yellowstone. I will try to bring it,and the Shockwave. I have to widen my racks,so I can haul 2 boats. Will work on that this weekend. You know you are welcome to try it out. Fun boat. See you in a few weeks.
Happy Paddling billinpa
foam cores on Bells
My WhiteGold WildFire definitely has a core. My understanding was that BlackGold does not.
I’m not a Bell dealer or an expert in their layups, so your best bet is to ask a dealer or call them for an authoritative answer.
Mine is the Kevlar expedition layup and it has been used heavily every other day for 3 years. Also Hemlock canoes are tough and made with care by Dave Curtis. SRT is a possible.
I’d say a Swift Osprey is a bullseye for you, with a Bell Wildfire coming in close second. I’ve owned both - and I’ve owned an SRT and have a Peregrine.
You seem to need something that can cruise on slow water yet handle real river conditions. For slow water the Pergrine (or better yet for you - the Kestrel) is perfect. Merlin II adds some maneuverability but it’s still not a river boat and in my opinion it likes having some weight in it - your planned load is light. I’d just avoid the SRT if I were you; they are cool but a bit funky and not efficient enough in my opinion.
Bell Wildfire is quite versatile and will be more efficient than the Yellowstone; Yellowstone will handle river work but might get frustrating cruising on slow water (again - my take is that the Wildfire likes a little weight for cruising -like over 200 pounds…not sure about Yellowstone).
Leaves the Osprey. I owned one and would get another in a minute. Cruises much better than a Wildfire since it’s a foot longer and asymmetric, and it’s really happy and hot with a lighter load (rated 150-260 I think), and it’s super happy in moving water too. I’d get Expedition kevlar since it’s tough, and I’d avoid the skid plates since they make noise. You would love this boat for any intended use!