I received by boundary waters catalog today and there they are…the two solo canoes that which I have read about many times within this forum…the Wenonah Vagabond and the Bell Yellowstone…and I still can’t make up my mind as to which one I should buy. Can somebody help me? First of all, price is not an issue with me. I just want the best one for my use on days when I don’t have fishing buddy. Mostly, I will fish with this canoe in the James River…and the sections I float are no worse than class II water…some sections require tight manuevering. Occasionally I will use a TM to help propel me upstream.
I’d think the Vagabond for fishing
The Vagabond is more forgiving and stable than the Wildfire. For the casting, retrieving and pulling in fish, the Yellowstone is fine. But, if you are prone (like me) to hang-ups, snags and reaching well under the water to retrieve hung-up lures, a little extra stability can mean a lot.
I have a Vagabond in Royalex, but it now takes second place behind the Mohawk Odyssey 14 I bought this spring. I think you really might want to consider the Mohawk Odyssey 14 over a Vagabond, unless you prefer a composite hull (in that case, go with the Vagabond). I bought my Odyssey 14 based only on what I had heard about it from some people here that I respect, and I can’t believe how much I have come to love the way that canoe handles. It has a tad less primary stability that the Vagabond, but pretty good secondary, and it handles rougher water than the Vagabond and is much more manueverable. I believe it’s just a bit slower than the Vagabond, which may matter to you if you have long distances to cover, and it has more freeboard which makes it a bit harder to handle in the wind. If you get a Royalex Vagabond, be careful that you don’t end up with one that’s an unwieldy tub like mine (mine lost all its rocker when it shrunk after being taken off the mold, so it doesn’t turn worth a crap), but working with Royalex is something the folks at Mohawk are good at, and from them you will get a boat that’s shaped just like it’s supposed to be.
I agree with guideboatguy
I’ve paddled a Vagabond.
I own an Odyssey 14, and a Wildfire.
I think you should seriously consider test paddling an Odyssey 14 if one is available.
Would really be nice to be able to test paddle all boats mentioned before you buy any of them.
A fourth boat you also “might” consider is the Mohawk Solo 14, if boat weight is any concern. Having owned & paddled one of them, I think it might also fit your needs. I’m not a big fan of the Royalite layup used for the Solo 14; I prefer Royalex.
considered the Mohawk Odyssey. 55 lbs for the royalex seems a little heavy. 45 lbs for royalite is interesting, but is royalite suitable when used on rocky rivers?
I have a second hand O-14 in r-84. It was dinged up when I got it, I added mall custom skidplates, and I have paddeled the hell out of it for 3 seasons,(1200miles±). On a 3 mile portage, you know it is there, but It carries OK.
Yellowstone: 14 ft. 44 lb. width at waterline: 26.5 in. height: 18 in. front, 12.5 center, 16 rear rocker 2.5 in. front, 1.5 in. rear.
Solo 14: 14 ft. 39 lb. in royalite width at waterline: 30.25 in. height 18-12.5-18, rocker 1 in.
Odyssey 14: 14.2 ft. 55 lb (45 in royalite) width at waterline 30.5 in. height 19-14-19, rocker 1.75 in.
Vagabond: 14.6 ft. 42 lb. width at waterline 29.25 in. height 16-12.75-14.5 rocker 1.25 in.
All other things being equal, I prefer a longer solo, just because it makes carrying fishing rods a little easier. Slight advantage to Vagabond.
The Vagabond is the lightest Royalex canoe, and only the Solo 14 is lighter (and it’s in Royalite). And that’s only 3 lb. difference. I don’t think 3 pounds is worth getting what I would consider an inferior material. Advantage, Vagabond.
The Mohawks are a little wider at waterline, so should have a little more initial stability. The Vagabond is slightly narrower, probably a bit faster, not much difference in initial stability. Yellowstone is significantly narrower, should be faster but much less initial stability. Advantage, well, it depends on what you’re looking for, but in my opinion the Vagabond is a good compromise.
Height…one thing I’ve found is that the higher the ends are on a canoe, the more it catches crosswinds. All other things being equal, I want lower ends. Advantage, Vagabond.
Rocker…all canoes are some sort of compromise between maneuverability (more rocker) and tracking ability (less rocker). For a river fishing canoe, I prefer a compromise that leans a little bit toward tracking ability. Any Royalex solo is actually pretty maneuverable. The Solo 14 has the least rocker, but that may be negated by its wider width at waterline. The Vagabond has slightly more rocker. Odyssey and Yellowstone have more yet. Advantage, Vagabond.
I own a Vagabond. I have paddled the Mohawk Solo 14. I haven’t paddled the other two. I REALLY like my Vagabond.
…the earlier poster, when discussing the vagabond, that said to be careful that you don’t end up with one that’s an unwieldy tub…How do you avoid this? Is it safe to order from a dealer like Piragis?..will they make sure the canoe is free of these defects before they ship it?
More details, another perspective
Just a few comments from my own direct comparison of two of these boats:
“All other things being equal, I prefer a longer solo, just because it makes carrying fishing rods a little easier. Slight advantage to Vagabond.”
Actually, the Royalex Vagabond is only 14 feet long. At least that’s how long mine is, and I’ve been told by a few people that this is normal for a Royalex Vagabond. A number of people here on P-net have also stated that it’s because of shrinkage after being taken off the mold. As I stated earlier, I think uncontrolled shrinkage during manufacture is why my Vagabond has zero rocker, too.
“The Mohawks are a little wider at waterline, so should have a little more initial stability. The Vagabond is slightly narrower, probably a bit faster, not much difference in initial stability.”
My Vagabond has a very flat bottom, while the bottom of my Odyssey 14 is arched a bit. Therefore, the Vagabond seems to have more intitial stability, in spite of having less width. But you are right, the difference is not much. It’s just in the opposite direction from your guess, as far as I can tell, anyway.
“Height…one thing I’ve found is that the higher the ends are on a canoe, the more it catches crosswinds. All other things being equal, I want lower ends. Advantage, Vagabond.”
The original poster says there’s some class-II where he’s going. I can’t take my Vagabond on class-II very easily, and when I have, it has taken on plenty of water which had to be bailed out at the first opportunity. Also our local lakes when the wind blows, the Vagabond slices right into the waves and gets takes on water pretty easily. Less windage is of no advantage in that situation. The Odyssey can handle Class-II and also lake waves much better than the Vagabond, partly due to the higher sides, and partly due to the fuller ends which ride the waves rather than slicing through.
“Rocker…all canoes are some sort of compromise between maneuverability (more rocker) and tracking ability (less rocker). For a river fishing canoe, I prefer a compromise that leans a little bit toward tracking ability. Any Royalex solo is actually pretty maneuverable. The Solo 14 has the least rocker, but that may be negated by its wider width at waterline. The Vagabond has slightly more rocker. Odyssey and Yellowstone have more yet. Advantage, Vagabond.”
I’ve measured the rocker on my Vagabond with extreme care, and found it to be 1/8 of an inch, NOT the 1.25" it’s supposed to be. This boat does NOT like to turn. This total lack of rocker is an obvious accident on Wenonah’s part, and who’s to say what the rocker might be on some other example of this boat. The composite Vagabond is nicely rockered for a general-purpose boat, and would be more manueverable than the tub that mine is.
I don’t doubt for a moment that your Vagabond works well for you. I actually like mine fairly well too, for the things it does well. I just thought I’d provide my perspective on some of your same points.
I wish I knew the answer to that
It MIGHT be that ALL Vagabonds come off the line with noticable shrinkage-induced defects. Or maybe it’s just a few of them. I’ve heard talk in the past at various times that Wenonah isn’t really very good at working with Royalex, and my boat seems to verify that. On the other hand, this is just a single-boat observation on my part, with the rest of it being second-hand reports, and vague ones at that. Maybe you could tell your dealer what you concern is, and see if they can shed any light on the situation, or promise to refuse shipment if the boat fails to meet published design figures. I really don’t know what you can do. I like my Vagabond well enough, but NOT very much for the sorts of things I originally bought it for, and that’s only because of the lack of rocker.
Deviation from advertised specs
Guideboatguy brings up an important point: Royalex shrinks after removal from the mold. If the engineers (or those at the factory in charge of “winging it”) don’t have their calculations exactly right the resultant boat can end up being quite different than intended or different from the composite version at any rate.
As I understand the process a Royalex sheet is heated in an oven then removed, attached to a surrounding frame then drawn down over a female mold using a vacuum (vacuum-formed). The equipment needed to do all this is a significant investment - making the mold is a very expensive process in itself. If the mold doesn’t produce the intended design the manufacturer may simply decide to “live with it”. Which is to say by the time they make the investment to build a mold for production the die is essentially cast – it can be just too damned expensive to start over… As has been pointed out We-no-nah is an independent company, not part of some mega-corp. Though they are “large” in the small world of canoe building, they are still a relatively small company with limits to the depth of their pockets. I suspect We-no-nah simply miscalculated when they designed and built their form and the resultant Royalex version is significantly different then their composite version. If this is actually the case the result would be that there really are two different boats which are being advertised as “Vagabonds”, yet We-no-nah is sighting the specs of the composite version in their ad copy. That’s all speculation on my part, but I think it seems plausible and we’ve certainly seen this same sort of thing from other canoe builders – it’s hardly unique. If that IS the case We-no-nah probably should use a different model name on their Royalex Vagabond to separate it from their composite version – if only to be straight forward with their customers. My two cents worth of conjecture - Randall
Fishing from a Vagabond
Well, I have never paddled a Yellowstone and I just purchased my Vagabond (Royalex) so my experience is somewhat limited. Also, I have not taken the time to measure it and compare it to specs. That said, I had the Vagabond out a couple of days ago on a lake. Winds were west at 12 - 18 MPH with moderate waves. I am 5’ 11" and weight 205 lbs. This is my experience: no water taken over the sides due to wave action, wind affected it much less than wind effects my Old Town Pack or my Nova Craft Bob’s Special, reasonably good tracking, turned very easily (I was using a single blade canoe paddle), decent initial stablilty (however, I would not stand in it and I have stood to cast in my Old Town and Nova Craft). All in all, I am pleased that I purchased the Vagabond. I bought it used (1 year old and well cared for) so had a minimal investment (about 1/2 the cost of new).
Clarifying one thing I said
When I say my Vagabond doesn’t like to turn, I’m specifically talking about two situations: abrupt manuevers in rapids, and very sharp pivots and “tailspins” on little creeks. In those situations, the Odyssey 14 is a hands-down winner over my Royalex Vagabond. It’s not even close.
That said, I probably did overstate that part about how it “doesn’t like to turn”. If you are cruising along an average waters at average speed, it turns well enough, if only because it is a rather small boat. No real problems there.
All in all, I’m sure the original poster will find the Vagabond to work just fine, except in those Class-IIs or heavy Class-Is, in which cases, the boat will be a definite compromise, but probably tolerable.
As to my statement about lake waves, those who are familiar with my “windy-day guide-boat cruises” know that some of the local lakes here are a few miles across and get pretty choppy, and also that I really don’t consider 12- to 15-mph winds to be “windy” conditions at all, so what I said about slicing into the waves and taking on water in high wind probably wouldn’t be a concern for most users of this boat.
Lot’s of Good Imfo
Only thing I have to add is to quell any fears about ordering from Piragis. I’ve bought two from them and have dealt with Steve Shon and Steve Piragis. Both very knowledgable, honest, and they are PADDLERS, not just salesmen. I’ve paddled the Vagabond, and would have no qualms fishing from it, but I prefer the Mohawk Solo 14. I have the royalite and it seems to be holding up easily as well as royalex canoes I’ve had on our Ozark Streams, AL. Good luck, Hog, I think you would be happy with the Vagabond. WW
I went out and carefully measured my Vagabond…
Length: 14 ft. 3.5 in.
Rocker: As near as I can measure, it’s about 1 1/8 in.
It’s actually a little wider at the waterline than specs, about 29.5 in.
Makes me wonder how much the Royalex Vagabonds vary both from specs and in individual boats.
At any rate, mine actually turns a little easier than I’d prefer if I had my druthers. It’s MUCH easier to turn than the old Oscoda Coda solo I have, which is fiberglass and has zero rocker. The way the Vagabond is designed, it has much less length in the water. It’s tracking ability is much improved compared to the Sandpiper I owned before it, and even more improved from the Old Town Pack I owned before THAT. But it still turns on a dime on the small, narrow creeks I fish a lot, even when very heavily loaded.
I CAN stand up in mine. I don’t think I could do a lot of flyfishing standing up in it, but I often stand in it just to stretch my legs or to get a better look at upcoming rapids.
I agree that the lower sides and narrower entry lines would make it pretty wet in heavy class 1 and class 2 rapids, and perhaps on windy lakes. I don’t use it much on lakes.
I’ve been pretty pleased with the durability of the Wenonah Royalex. I’d heard that their canoes seem to be softer than others, but the Vagabond is holding up better than my newer Penobscot 16, and nobody treats their canoes worse than I do.
I bought both the Vagabond and the Sandpiper before it from Piragis. Great people and excellent service.
Wanna trade boats?
Thanks for reporting those measurements. I think my Vagabond might be the same length as yours if I were to include the plastic end caps, but I don’t think those count so I just measured the length of the hull itself. Your boat has a lot more rocker than mine, and I sure wish mine would have turned out that way. I agree with you that the difference in rocker between the two boats brings up an interesting question about quality control and about how much variation in measurements there might be among all boats leaving the factory.
I have also heard people say that Wenonah’s Royalex is softer than that from other canoe makers, but like you, I’m not sure why I should believe it. Supposedly, all canoe builders buy Royalex from the same source, so it should all have the same scratch resistance.
Lots of people say that Royalex in general scratches more easily nowadays than it did several years ago, and perhaps that is true, but since the material gets harder with age, I’d want to hear that from someone “in the know”, rather than based on a comparison of the performance of old boats to new boats.
Looks like we may be buying Mohawks
from Wenonah, anyway. Hope they bought some of the ABS expertise with the molds.
SOMETIMES it is possible to increase rocker in an ABS boat by widening the center thwart. In addition to that, I recommend pushing a minicell seat under the center thwart to make SURE the bottom of the boat is not pooching up under load.
If one is opposed to widening the center thwart, it may be possible to add rise to the ends by installing additional thwarts to spread the hull a bit at the bow and stern. It would not be hard to put temporary spreaders maybe 25% from the bow and stern to see what effect it would have on rocker. The thwarts can be very light so as not to add weight. I use spruce or fir, glassing the ends where the screws go through, and putting a thin layer of epoxy over the entire thwart before adding varnish with UV filtering properties.
I had an Old Town Tripper with a wide center thwart and a foam pedestal to force the bottom down. That boat had a dynamite center pivot section, and was far more agile than it was originally. It did not lose much speed, but Trippers don’t have much speed to start with.