Swift Shearwater, the first 100 miles

Several paddlers have asked how I feel about my new Swift Shearwater in Expedition Kevlar, so here’s a report on my first hundred miles. With just my 220 pound weight the SW floats high enough to be bothered by cross wind. If trimmed level she tends to blow sideways rather than weathercock. A headwind or tail wind doesn’t seem to bother her, even when gusting to 20 mph. Then I loaded 338 pounds (combined paddler and gear) in her for 60 miles of Class I-II river tripping. As predicted, she was sluggish to start, slow to turn, refused to sideslip, once started maintained speed well and was pretty much impossible to overturn. The most stable of all my solo canoes. Then I dropped the load to 270 pounds (me and gear) and the SW performance was outstanding. Sideslips, eddy turns, bow and stern ferries, Class II rock gardens, ledges and wave trains, calm water, windy lakes, it was all fun.

On calm water I can maintain 5 mph for hours with a double blade. With a single blade I can maintain 4 mph all day. I spent about ten minutes with a 4-1 wood rasp and a pad sander and shaped the skid plates to feather into the hull. Now I don’t get any bow gurgle at any speed, (even at 6 mph) Except when paddling upstream on a rippled water surface, then I get a bow gurgle. But, so did the kayak and the tandem canoe paddling beside me.

I’ve bumped down dozens of ledges and gravel bars, some of which I had to get out and drag over, and banged into my share of rocks, but still the hull shows only normal scratches, no worse than a Royalex boat would show after the same treatment. At the end of the season it won’t take any time at all to wet sand and buff the scratches and make her look new again.

My conclusion is that I chose well when I bought the Shearwater. For the kind of river tripping that I’m doing I can’t think of any other of the solo canoes that would be as capable as this one. My Swift Osprey turns better but carries less weight, my Mad River Guide turns better but isn’t as roomy or as fast, my Dagger Sojourn tracks better but doesn’t turn as well. When I add it all up the Shearwater is the best “all around” solo canoe I know of and I’m delighted to be on the water with her.


Update, compared to Osprey
I had occasion to paddle the Swift Osprey yesterday for several miles and there are some distinct differences between the Osprey and the Shearwater. The Osprey turns much better. From a dead stop the Osprey takes two solid sweep strokes to execute a 180. The Shearwater takes 4 hard sweep strokes. The Osprey doesn’t track nearly as well as the Shearwater, but still tracks better than some other 15’ solo canoes I’ve paddled. A simple pitch stroke will keep the Osprey on track mile after mile. The Osprey seems quick and agile while the Shearwater seems sleek and steady. The Osprey cruises well at 4 mph with a double blade, or 3.5 mph with a single blade. Osprey is very responsive to paddle cues and weight shifts. Both of these canoes are delightful to paddle, but one is the sports car and the other is the luxury sedan.

Are both posts you? Or is Headwaters someone else?

I’m just wondering if the speed comparisons are one paddler or two different paddlers.



both are my posts
I wish you lived closer to me so you could try these two boats out. Swift has a demo day coming up later this month in Connecticutt where you could try them both. I sure would be interested to hear your opinions after paddling them for a while.