Which canoe for solo BW?

Heading to the BW in September. Unfortunately, it is looking as if we will have three as one of the group cannot make it and replacements are difficult to find.

If it ends up with three, I have the choice of two solo boats. Swift Shearwater and Bell Magic. Both are kev layup and about the same weight. I have confidence in both and have paddled both in some decent chop and waves though not what can occur on some of the bigger lakes at the BW.

I weigh in at 200# or so and either will carry the gear weight I expect to take along. I’ll be in the company of good friends in a SRQ17. The Magic is faster but the Shearwater is higher volume. Both behave well with a load.

Any experience with these boats for a 7 day trip? Would appreciate some experienced opinion from this group.

Thanks in advance


And leave the Eagle behind?
Boy if I could muster another week of vacation…

It’s funny how life changes our plans. We had planned to be there next week, but some things came up a month ago and we had to cancel our permit. A few days later after cancelling, some other things changed and by a chance of luck there was one permit still available for our only available date. We returned home a week ago today from another awesome trip in the BWCAW. Funny how life changes our plans and sometimes it still works out.

More to the point… solo canoes in the Boundary Waters. My guess would be both would work fine. I would pick the one that puts the biggest smile on your face while paddling. Here’s and example of how two canoes intended for different uses performed on our trip. I had an SRT and Lisa had a Kestrel. The SRT being a high volume river boat and the Kestrel being a lower volume tripping canoe. Our load was fairly light, being just under 75# with 2 liters of water for the two of us, this gave us each one pack in each boat. The only draw back to one pack each was lack of trim adjustability. The SRT with it’s greater depth was more affected by wind, so trim was more critical. I ended up with both packs to fix the trim. This proved to be a double blessing, the Kestrel trimmed better empty, and the SRT trimmed better loaded. This also helped keep our paddling speeds closer. Both were very well behaved canoes even on the larger wind blown lake we crossed. (similar to Raystown Conditions)

Solo canoes in the BWCA are sure a rare site. There is a feeling of companionship had by paddling tandem, but solo gives you a great feeling of self accomplishment.

Enjoy the day, Mike

Which solo
I’ve paddled both the solos, but not on seven day trips and not in heavy waves. I’m the same height as you are and go about 255 lbs without gear - probably about your weight plus the gear weight you’ll have for 7 days. They are both fine boats and I know the magic would make an excellent day touring solo for me - a nice paddling boat. But on an expedition I’d be more inclined to take the shearwater with 255 lbs in the boat, especially if your trip is past mid September when you can expect more wind and waves than in the calmer waters of summer. If it’s only a choice between these two, I agree with the previous post, go with the boat that puts the biggest smile on your face.

But you can also have the capacity, seaworthyness, and the speed you are looking for with a Wenonah Voyager. I think a load of 250 to 325 is ideal for this boat. Just a thought.

which canoe to solo
i took the magic on a 84 miler last summer, it is light, paddled straight, and didn’t get too wet on the big lakes, but is tough to turn on small rivers and creeks

Only Two Boats I’ve Soloed There…
…are tandems. Kinda funny, eh? No help for you on those two hulls, I’ve soloed with Wenonah Adirondacks and the Souris Quetico 16. But, if you need a 4th person, I know a possible “Fill-in” if you’re interested and the dates work; ME. What’s your route? WW

Bell Magic
I don’t post here often, so you probably don’t recognize my name or know my experience level, so for what it is worth… I weigh 200 pounds and paddle a Magic in the BWCA on long distance trips. It’s fast – you will probably outrun the tandem. It handles loads well. And it turn so-so. Getting a fully loaded Duluth pack between the gunwales is a little difficult. The boat handles better with a two pack system with about 30 to 35% of the weight in the front pack. I’ve paddled my Magic fully loaded with two to three foot wind waves in the BWCA and it did pretty good. Slightly spooky, but then again in October and solo you don’t like to take risks like that. I also have a Wildfire, but on long trips don’t use it much.

I will be using a Magic on a solo trip in September from Rainy Lake to Grand Marais along the Voyager Highway. I plan to make the trip in under 10 days, and am confident that the Magic will handle any conditions that I choose to put it in.

I’d take the Bell. Fun boat.

Solo Canoe in the BW
"Solo canoes in the BWCA are sure a rare site. There is a feeling of companionship had by paddling tandem, but solo gives you a great feeling of self accomplishment. "

You may be right, but that is not my experience. I have soloed a few times. However, many times I have taken a group trips that have solos. I just returned from a BW trip where I paddled a solo and my trip mates paddled a tandem (by the way, I think it is easier to socialize this way. You need only paddle side-by-side. With a tandem you either are talking to someone behind you or to the back of someone’s head).

I also do an annual trip with three other guys, all of us paddling solo canoes. I also know a few other people that solo often. That being said, we are probably out of the norm.

As far as canoe choices, I have paddled neither. However, a buddy has a Bell Magic and loves it! He paddles the BW in it all the time. However, the Shearwater may be just as good … don’t know.

If I was confronted
with such a difficult decision, I would consult a Magic 8 Ball.


Or I could flip a coin for you.

Totally agree
Yep. Exactly what he said. I weigh about 200 and love the Magic in the BW. CCS Pioneer pack in back (fits just right) and a daypack in front. Headed in again in Sept. and Oct.

Did you get my e-mail, Wes? (I’m back at home)


Thanks Rags
I was out today trying to get some miles for fitness…too little too late I’m afraid…

I thrashed the water with my new Zav in the Magic and there was some nice wind and chop.

I think I’ll paddle the Magic, the Shearwater is great but the Bell just simply cruises. I found that with some ass behind the stroke the Zav gave me a real pleasant flex and kick…dusted a couple Carolina class rec-yaks but I don’t think they were trying.

Kevin, the offer I made the other day stands. If you are there at the same time !!


Bell Magic
I would definitely opt for the Magic. It’s a beautiful boat, handles a load and holds a line. I’ve taken several solo trips in the B-dub and Quetico in mine, and also solo paddle with a group. I recently took my 3 1/2 yr old son on a river trip on the Perre Marquette in Michigan. Small river, good current, no rapids, but the Magic performed flawlessly in the moving water. I had no trouble with the constant twists and turns. Awesome boat. Enjoy your trip!

I do a lot of 3 day paddles with my 75# Labrador and my 190#s. I pack pretty lite and find that the majic is really great. The small volume does effect how much you can take and the freeboard may be lower than you want, if you are crossing large lakes. The majic also tracks very well in windy conditions, which is probably in part do to lower wind aspect and no rocker.

Subtracting the space I need for my Lab you should be fine. It is a fast boat. PS: I paddle in Southwest Florida.

Thanks for the input.
As I said it will be the Magic. We have a team plan on packing and will be able to split the loads to trim as required. Otherwise I’ll requisition a good sized rock for the bow ballast.

Can’t say enough for the efforts of Ragamuffin building me a portage yoke. I have the tools and maybe the skills but not the time. Thanks Kevin.

Look for the trip report and pics. For some reason I’m the designated scribe…this does allow for poetic license…