Top Solo Canoe Choices for described use

In my mind, I keep swirling around thoughts of an attempt at an ideal solo canoe for myself. I am 6’, 200 lbs.
Right now I have this beautiful cedar strip solo canoe. I believe the builder said it was based on Osprey plans. He enjoyed building it, but he said he didn’t paddle it, and it looks like it hadn’t been used. My guess it that this was based upon initial stability. I can relax in it, and can heel the gunwales down to the water’s surface. I’ve only used it to play around on small lakes to attempt to develop some canoeing ability. It will probably remain as such - a beautiful canoe to use with care, and work on freestyle type stuff on lakes. I would describe it as highly maneuverable, with more attention and skill needed to keep her moving straight. But I’m still learning.
I also have a Merrimack Tennessean and a Wenonah Adirondack tandem. These are both much more stable than the cedar strip, with the Tennessean being the most stable by a good margin. The Tennessean is also a beautiful canoe. The Wenonah Adirondack has a nicer glide if we want to cover some distance.
I live on the southeast coast, so flatwater rivers, salt marsh creeks and bays, and lakes is where I want to use it. I’m not interested in introducing compromises for rocky rivers and whitewater capability just in case. I will use something else for that.
I’m a long time avid sea kayaker, and I love paddling different sea kayaks. I think my sea kayak history may reveal more about what I am thinking for a solo canoe at this point. I’m a regular ocean and surf paddler, and my boat balance reflexes seem to adapt to canoes just fine. I’m used to my boat being heeled over without any nervous reactions or unsettled feelings. In the sea kayak world, I am quite comfortable in kayaks that many other sea kayakers describe as twitchy and unstable. All this is to suggest that while I don’t want the stability equivalent of a high performance surf ski, and I’m fine with a canoe that feels securely stable, I do not believe I need to rank stability as a high priority.
I feel like I’ve made some progress with my J-stroke, and have been enjoying that. I’d like to have a solo canoe that minimizes the needed correction. In the cedar strip I still feel like I’m putting a lot of effort into keeping her going straight, and it’s harder to keep a nice gliding pace without slowing my cadence and bogging her down with directional control efforts. Something that will track pretty straight is where I’m at. I enjoy maneuvering strokes, and in the sea kayak world, where some seem to agonize over a kayak needing some solid technique and a little more time and effort to turn, I rather enjoy it, and consider it a worthwhile tradeoff for efficiency, better glide, less slow-down between power phases of the forward stroke. I’m not going to feel aggravated because I can’t make my canoe spin as quick and pretty as those in more maneuverable canoes. I don’t need it to be any less easily maneuvered than is necessary, while minimizing the required directional control at the end of my J stroke.
Traditional seating with the ability to kneel seems pretty desirable to me. And going out and zipping through some miles for a few hours would be the majority use. I enjoy the single blade canoe paddle, and really have no desire to use my kayak paddles with it at this time. The coast tends to have a lot of waterways that are quite exposed to the wind, so well-mannered in the wind should really be something of a consideration. And of course, I’m not relying on current to take me through the miles. Unfortunately, I’m not prepared to build a canoe.
I’m familiar with most all of the possibilities in the sea kayak world. In the canoe world, I simply am not. Any thoughts or suggestions on best options.

A couple of thoughts:

New: Northstar Magic, Savage River Blackwater (or maybe Deep Creek solo), Wenonah Advantage, GRB Newman Designs Classic XL, not sure if a Placid Rapidfire sets up right, Hemlock Peregrine, Swift either Keewadin or Cruiser.

Used. besides the above: Some of the Sawyer solos like the Autumn Mist, DY Special, and, maybe, a Shockwave. A Mad River Independence might work. I know of a couple of older Wenonah Jensen 17’ canoes set up for solo & also several Sawyer 17’ 9" Cruisers set up and paddled as solos.

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Just do it.

Most solo paddlers in your canoe clubs use a “double bladed” paddle. It isn’t a kayak paddle. It has basic flat bladed canoe paddles on a shaft similar to the configuration of a kayak paddle but not spoons, no air flow pocket shapes, etc.

I use a GP paddle. Habit.

Thanks rival51. There are some options there that I didn’t know existed. That Savage River Blackwater is a unique looking design. The GRB Newman Classic XL and the Hemlock Peregrine look promising. I imagine any of them could be pretty nice.

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Overstreet, there’s just something about the use and feel of the single blade to me. I’m well-versed in double blade paddle use, so I’ve little doubt it would come quite naturally to me to use it in a canoe. But the use of the single blade paddle, in and of itself, seems to hold sway over me. It’s an integral part of my desire for the canoeing experience.

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Grb classic xl

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Darkstar, if possible, would you be generous enough to share some of your thoughts and experience with that GRB Classic XL?

I had my Osprey out for a good long paddle yesterday. Kneeling works best for Osprey and it’s more trim-sensitive than many solo canoes. Mine has a sliding seat, if yours does not then you might try putting your pack or anything you carry behind you since the boat tracks better with weight shifted rearward and can become a little spin-happy if the trim is bow-heavy. I often paddle “sit (kneel) and switch” with a short straight carbon fiber paddle. Alternating sides as necessary is another way of driving the boat straight. Shame (in my opinion) to use a kayak paddle in an Osprey since it’s so maneuverable/responsive and ideal for practicing single blade skills.

Lots of good suggestions for other boats. I haven’t paddled a GRB XL Classic but it looks similar to an Advantage which tracks straight super well but gives up maneuverability. Hemlock Peregrines are very nice…they track well and are efficient and stable but a little more maneuverable than a Magic or Advantage. The Swift Keewaydin 15 is a nice all around boat that tracks considerably better than an Osprey yet still responds to maneuvering strokes…not quite as fast and hard tracking as a Peregrine but more maneuverable. It’s more stable than Osprey yet still cruises a little faster.

Osprey is a good river boat that also works pretty well on lakes. All the others mentioned are basically lake boats that still work well on slower rivers. Seems like you want a more lake-oriented solo.

I’m in SW Michigan if you want to stop by and try a few solos. :slight_smile:

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I have paddled the Grb classic xl for many years(since 2003) and many solos have come and gone in the meantime but this one has earned a permanent spot in my quiver. It has handled monster wind waves in the Great Lakes, been loaded with gear for weeks at a time in the Adirondacks, handled class 2 moving water and i just completed a solo General Clinton 70 miler(Susquehanna) in it. It tracks well on lakes and rivers, responds well to leaned turns and paddles well under load. It may not initiate a turn as quickly as one with some rocker, but it responds very well once into the lean. That is an appreciated quality when holding a line on bigger lakes and in wind.

I use a hit and switch marathon stroke and find this boat to be pretty fast, have won a fair number of stock class races in it. It is a favorite among the stock class C1 on the northeast racing circuit and regularly wins the Adirondack 90 miler stock class.

I also use a Savage River Otegan, a bit smaller volume but a great day tripper. The savage river black water is quite comparable to the GRB, have paddled it a couple times.


I too prefer a single blade in my canoes. They are versatile in ways a double are not.

I owned a Wenonah Advantage liked it, but sold it to help finance a sailboat. I also own an older Curtis Solo Tripper, and this is my favorite of the 5 solos I have owned. The Hemlock Peregrine is the more refined version of Davis Yost’s solo tripper designed canoes. A close friend has a Dagger Sojourn in Royalite that is also an excellent solo.


We sound like we are in pretty similar places right now in terms of history and desire for a solo canoe.
I just bought a used a magic a few weeks ago and I have no buyers regret. It seems o fit the bill for what you’re describing. I love mine!
I already had a Wenonah Adirondack that I split duties with and the Magic cimpliments it nicely.

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There are a lot of solos in the 15 foot and over range that are suitable volume for your height and weight.

That said the one variable is the paddler. Just as you worked to perfect the forward stroke in the kayak you need to work on losing the J stroke in the canoe. By that I mean ending the stroke at your hip… never farther back. The catch as far forward as you can without bending forward and causing the boat to porpoise.
This takes time to master but when you are done boat shape and rocker is less of a determinant and you can do far less J stroking ( with a palm roll its much easier on the wrist) or if you do hit and switch you can do six or eight strokes a side without a switch even in a canoe with symmetrical rocker of 2.5 inches or so ( truly dedicated ww craft are not that tameable on the flats)

Thanks for your input TomL. And thank you for the generous offer to stop by and try a few solos. If only I had the time, it would be worth it to do some traveling to try out some different solos. Right at 1 year ago, we moved from the Cape Fear region, Wilmington, NC, down the coast to Charleston, SC. So it’s quite a stretch to SW MI. It would be easy to turn it into a fun adventure if I had the time off. Isn’t that so often the case?
I don’t have a sliding seat in the cedar strip Osprey. It’s a hung cane seat. There is foot room underneath the seat for kneeling, and I think that works well. I’ve been learning to make friends with the wind, where matching a tendency to weathercock with yaw introduced by my stroke can strike a balance.

The Classic XL is a great boat. I shouldn’t have sold mine.

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Thanks kayamedic. You’re preaching to the choir on this, and I always welcome more folks to join. :wink: I’m enjoying working on my canoe strokes. I’ve been concentrating on what you describe quite a bit. I need to remind myself to end the stroke at my hip, thank you. I can definitely feel it when I get things working better with less effort, but I still have to concentrate to find it. I know I have a lot of room for growth.
I’m not declaring any fault in the solo canoe that I have. I’m just aware of how I reach for my different kayak hull designs for different purposes. I stumbled upon my first canoe, this cedar strip Osprey, and bought it just to try out canoeing. I’m glad I did. But I really knew nothing of different canoe designs, and wasn’t researching such things at the time. And I know how as my skills develop, every hull becomes something different than what I previously experienced. Right now I’m feeling like it may be worth it to say “Here’s where I’m paddling. Here’s what I’m looking for right now. What will my experience be if I actually attempt to choose a specific canoe?” My hope is to enjoy it thoroughly, and that time and experience might also enhance my experience and enjoyment of the canoe I already have. It’s anyone’s guess which I may favor at any given point in time. My thinking is that these canoe designs would be different enough from what I have to hold an appreciation for both? The great thing about the cedar strip is it could make me look pretty just floating in the middle of a pond. All my kayaks walking through the shed, and the sight of that canoe is what stops people in their tracks.

Thanks for your comments. Sounds like the Classic XL is a special boat. I’ve always been a kneeler and have never really been able to fall in love with any of the low rocker sit-down bullets that I’ve tried. I think its partly because my muscles aren’t used to the sitting position. Earlier this year I bought a used Advantage and I like it a lot.

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Tom, I miss my advantage, for that type of paddling. Would buy it back. My personal taste is more toward the prospector type of canoe. I’m the type of paddler that “loves the one I’m with” paddling at that moment.

You are gonna need a bigger or another barn. .At one time or another I have had 25 solos and now just nine… All a little different!

There is a play and swap event north of Pittsburgh PA in June… The Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous. Its focus is to be able to try out others solo canoes and also some manufacturers come with demo boats. Instruction is informal and actually anyone who has expertise in paddling can offer instruction… There are double bladers too in pack canoes. I tried out a Blackwater Falcon once… a go a head straight screamer. It was fun!

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I’m almost always on rivers and appreciate an efficient boat for upstream paddling. With the Advantage I find myself paddling further than planned.