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      Recommendations for solo canoe for small paddler     

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jillpine
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06/15/2019 07:19AM
I currently solo-paddle my Souris River Q16 (tandem) from the bow. It is fun and stable, but too heavy (45# Duralite) and too big. I would like to buy a designated solo for lakes and rivers with no more than Class II rapids, with weight being the over-riding factor because of portages.

I have been reading that some solos are better for heavier bodies (Prism, for example), so I'm wondering if you have recommendations for a novice solo paddler who is 5'4" and 120, and currently dog-less. Thank you.

Also, any tips for professional lessons in the metro area? Thanks.
 
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MidwestFirecraft
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06/15/2019 08:00AM
If you are in the Twin Cities, I would contact Dan Cooke for lessons or attend a Wednesday paddlers event and get free help.

As for small solos, locally there is the Northstar Trillium, Firebird, ADK solo, etc. Wenonah Fusion, vagabond, etc. I have a Swift pack 13.6 that is 26 pounds, but that can really only be used with a kayak paddle. Swift makes many other light solo models that can be used with a single blade as well.

If you are in the market for a used one, there are many more models that will fit your needs.
 
RTurner
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06/15/2019 08:28AM
jillpine: " so I'm wondering if you have recommendations for a novice solo paddler who is 5'4" and 120, and currently dog-less. "

My first recommendation would be to get a dog.
 
jillpine
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06/15/2019 09:35AM
MidwestFirecraft: If you are in the market for a used one, there are many more models that will fit your needs. "
Thanks for the ideas. There are so many models that it gets a bit overwhelming. I was looking at the ADK. Hadn't considered Swift. Thank you.
 
jillpine
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06/15/2019 09:37AM
My first recommendation would be to get a dog. "
Thanks. I have a 12 yr old lab who paddled with me for 11 of those 12 years. She's too old now with some health problems that preclude BWCA trips. I don't want to subject her to a younger, rambunctious dog right now. When she is gone, I will get another one. It's a tough time. She sees the packs come out and it's heart-breaking, so I've taken her on car-camping overnights. She knows, though. She knows it's not the same. Someday, that will be us, won't it?
 
MidwestFirecraft
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06/15/2019 11:26AM
Where are you located? If near the twin cities the Wednesday paddle nights are a great way to get instruction as well as possibly try different solo boats. Swifts are hard to come by in MN, but you would be welcome to try mine before dropping $3500.
 
jillpine
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06/15/2019 11:37AM
I'm in River Falls (basically east metro). I would love to try out a Wednesday paddle - I see i missed the last two (I was in the BWCA ironically) but I'll keep my eyes out for the next time. Or are they every Wednesday, just not posted as such in the MCA calendar? I would love to try the Swift. I've only tried a Prism, with the sliding seat. I found it to be a lot of work in even very light wind. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong, but I found it hard to paddle from a tractor seat when I'm so used to a fixed seat and just getting onto knees when needing to adjust trim or go lower in windy conditions.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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06/15/2019 11:42AM
Dan Cooke posts updated info about the paddle nights on his Facebook page.
 
justpaddlin
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06/15/2019 03:42PM
You might be able to buy this used Trillium for under $2 as it's been on Craigslist for some time.
Trillium
 
Ole496
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06/15/2019 10:34PM
So at your height of 5'4" and weight, a shorter reach to the water would be important. You need a general purpose style boat that fits you that can conquer all waters.

Northstar: for a solid tripper canoe Trillium. I was told it's like a mini Magic. For a day use, river and lake boat or even short length tripper a Firebird would be perfect. Bet you'd love that little Firebird. It would fit you like a tailored outfit. The next size up and more for rivers would be your Phoenix.

Wenonah: Vagabond for a tripper and maybe a fusion for day trips. The fusion is a fun little canoe but definitely not anything you'd really want to trip in. It's a little more full in the middle, moderate speed, not quick but not designed for a loaded down trip. It could be fun as a day boat.

Swift: They have tons of smaller boats, all of which are great for you. I will defer to others on these as I am not experienced with their boats. They do carry a great reputation as do the other brands.

It sounds like you'd be a good candidate for the Adirondak style pack boats. These are multi-purpose craft generally 14 fort or under. You mentioned the ADK was a consideration which would also be great for you as would the Wenonah Wee Lassie.

Horn beck makes some great tiny pack canoes but I've seen one in person or paddles one.

 
06/15/2019 10:51PM
If you try a Firebird and like it PM me. I have one that I'll be letting go soon.
 
jillpine
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06/16/2019 07:16AM
Thank you for this help. I really appreciate it. It's exciting to open a whole new world of a solo tripping canoe. Thanks everyone.
 
06/16/2019 08:27AM
If you're going to be tripping in the BW or comparable I wouldn't go with anything under 15 ft. Crossing bigger lakes the added bit of length will really help. My recommendation would be the Swift Keewaydin 15 especially if you'd like to add a dog in the future.

Keewaydin

I bought the 16ft 2" Swift Shearwater in March and it's pretty incredible so far. I haven't tripped with it yet but me and my 50lb. dog will be going in September.

If you don't intend to cross bigger lakes and plan on no dog then the Keewaydin 14 may be the ticket. I'm pretty sure you can get the canoe delivered to Rutabaga in Madison Wi.

Keewaydin 14

 
jillpine
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06/16/2019 08:50AM
TomT, thank you for the tip about 15 versus shorter. The SR is 16 and feels too long so I had been thinking 14-15. The use will be almost exclusively lake paddling in bwca quetico. No competition or rapids above I or II. I am hyper-careful about wind. I don't see solo crossing Brule or Burntside but waves are waves and even smaller lakes get hectic. And, dog, yes. One day there'll be a new dog in the bow but not for now. :) Just need to go find these canoes and try them out! Contacted the Madison guy about the trillium on CL but his price is so close to new, I think it'd be more beneficial to work with a salesperson and find the right boat, as opposed to saving a few hundred bucks when I don't know what I'm doing. TC Metro works best but rutabaga is also great option. Thanks.
 
06/16/2019 09:12AM
Hi,

You are indeed a smaller paddler. If you haven't yet, give a look at the Adirondack pack canoes, like the ones from Horbeck. I think you might just find what you are after.

Hornbeck Pack Canoes
 
sedges
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06/16/2019 09:13AM
I disagree about the longer boater is better idea. It is better to match the size boat to your weight. If you have a bigger boat than you need wind becomes an issue on big lake. I'm sure you have experienced this paddling the tandem. It doesn't take much of a breeze to make life difficult when so much of your boat is exposed.

Something not discussed so far is what lay-up. If you are serious about Class II rivers the lightest lay-ups are going to be pretty vulnerable. Lets say Northstar Firebird(I really think this would be a good boat for you). At 26 pounds the starlite lay-up seems wonderful. If your moving water skills are solid I would add some skills in composite repair and carry a repair kit on any longer trips. The Blacklite would be better and only 2# heavier and a good compromise. I would recommend the IXP. At 39 pounds it is a third of your body weight. If you have no structural issues(back problems, etc) you should be able to portage that if you are not trying to single portage. You can build up strength to deal with it if you are not there now.

If you can afford two boats, don't hold back!

The Firebird with its symmetrical rocker is going to nice on class II rivers.
 
kona
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06/16/2019 10:40AM
Please clarify, will this be a boat for paddling with a dog (eventually), and if so a lab or similar sized dog?

I ask because this should have a bearing on your decision. Rambunctious 50+lb dogs in narrow beam solo canoes change the equation significantly.



 
nash52
 
06/16/2019 10:48AM
jillpine: "I would like to buy a designated solo for lakes and rivers . . . with weight being the over-riding factor because of portages."

I can recommend the Savage River Illusion for solo use. I have one, it weighs 16.5 lbs. Weights can vary, depending upon layup and options. No need for a yoke; I carry my Illusion over my shoulder for portages, and I wear my backpack, so I do single portages.

http://www.savageriver.com/canoes/recreational/illusion
 
justpaddlin
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06/16/2019 12:45PM
I guess it depends a lot of the weight of your next dog and how often you plan to take the dog with you and also whether you plan to kneel. For the used Trillium I'd offer $1800 if I was interested...maybe 19 max. When you price the Swifts the used Trillium will look like a bargain. I recently paddled at a Swift demo day and the Keewaydin 14 is a better fit for you than the 15. But neither of the Keewaydins turn or dance like a Firebird (not even close). I'm 6 feet and 175 (and take a 60 pound dog almost all the time) and I generally prefer a longer boat like 15 feet but that darn Firebird is a hot rod and was quite a joy to paddle with no dog. It's a kneeling boat...kind of like a better Flashfire for the real world. Firebird is a better river boat than a Kee14 and the Kee is the better lake boat but the Firebird would handle lakes better than the Kee would handle fast water. But the Firebird is not good if you intend to get a big dog...I definitely could not take my dog in that boat. The Kee14 and Firebird would indeed fit you like a glove and also have plenty of capacity for tripping if you don't also add a dog. I haven't paddled a Trillium but it sounds similar to a Kee14. Although I'm a Swift fan and love my Osprey and Shearwater, given the price of new Swifts I'd push you towards that used Trillium or Blatz's Firebird at around half (or 60%) the price of a Swift.
 
06/16/2019 12:55PM
I am bigger - 170 & 5'11", have a 40# dog and trip with maybe another 50#s in luggage, tea lights, faberge eggs and bon-bons.

I have a NS Trillium and like it a lot, but am probably at the upper end for it; it might suit you well (it's supposedly a scaled down NS NW Solo...). With CF gunnels mine's 24 lbs.

Another one I'd steer you to consider (if I am spending your money, and for purposes of this fantasy, I definitely am) is the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire (15') or even the brand-new Oseetah (14'). Lighter even than the Trillium with the right options.
 
justpaddlin
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06/16/2019 04:37PM
Sorry to overland you jillpine but I forgot one...the new Swift Prospector 14. I test paddled one and it's a very versatile boat. Fine for both rivers and lakes. It has an exceptionally wide "happy load" range of 150-400 pounds. I think we may tend to project our own preferences on you (at least I probably do) but after rereading your original post looking for a beginner solo that can handle both rivers and lakes you might love this boat. I have 6 solos so don't really need the versatility plus I tend to push my boats hard and paddle upstream a lot but if you paddle at a reasonable pace it could fit your needs really well. It is more stable than any of the others mentioned and comes with a seat that can be put at two different heights...low for sitting and high for kneeling. They carry Swifts at Rutabaga in Madison so you might call and see what they have in stock if one of the Northstars closer to you doesn't seem just right. The construction quality of the Swifts is excellent.
Swift Prospector 14
 
yellowcanoe
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06/17/2019 06:17AM
Jill T it is not true that tripping boats for smaller paddlers need to be 15 feet or more. That is an axiom from the days when men did the paddling.

Dave Curtis and Carol Curtis of Hemlock Canoe commissioned two exactly the same boats but one scaled down for Carol... She could not keep up with Dave in exactly the same canoe as he had in the BWCA. Skin surface has a lot to do with paddling ease for smaller paddlers. Powerful guys won't notice. Dave Curtis has been making boats for a very long time.. Hemlocks are a niche canoe not well known out of the East but incredibly strong and quick.

In the world of solo boats there are pack canoes designed to be paddled with a double blade sitting lower to the floor and dedicated solos with a standard height seat designed to be single bladed.. In each case you CAN paddle with a single or a double but the designs were intended for each paddle use.

The Kee 14 ( Swift) or the Hemlock Kestrel come to my mind. In the East we see few Northstar canoes but that is due to distribution not to quality so try those
Prospectors are a great design but were never intended for lake touring. They are terrific river boats. Usually they are 2.5 inch rocker fore and aft and Swift cut that to one inch bow and one inch aft. Symmetrical rocker fore and aft makes the canoe more responsive but also harder for a new soloist with less than perfect strokes to keep going straight.. Now that one inch.. I have never seen that little bow rocker in any canoe! I think Wenonahs even have 1.25 inch which to me indicates the bow will grab crosscurrents etc.. Most canoes have more than that of bow rocker.

The Firebird is a reincarnation of the Flash FIre.. A boat designed for Freestlye where turns are executed with momentum and static paddle placement and fast acceleration is required.. Those techniques are great to apply to tripping but again with lots of symmetrical rocker a stern wind will slew you sideways.. ( I have the Bell FlashFire and taught FS for 20 years). Now if you ask Dan Cooke he uses a Flash for tripping but you might not find it fun for tripping. So if you can do go to one of his weeknight sessions. Sharing boats is the best way to find what you like in person.
There just was a Solo Canoe Rendezvous near the PA OH border for this particular share and play purpose

Back in 1995 when I was learning FreeStyle I brought a straight keeled fast tripping boat to class.. It would not turn as easily at all as everyone elses boats.. Felt so inferior.. It really WAS the boat. I bought Flash soon after and the other is just for tripping. I also have a WildFire that I love because it is 28 lbs and have used it for tripping but its again real sensitive to stern winds. If I put a dog in the bow ( my current Buddy is training in it) steering is well interesting... I don't trust Buddy in the back.. Steering would be better for sure.
 
jillpine
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06/17/2019 07:39AM
yellowcanoe - thank you very much. This was highly informative, as have been the other replies. Thank you, everyone. I have also found how to access the message board archives so I could educate myself some more on the topic. What a helpful forum. Thank you.

The advice for a Hemlock Kestrel is timely; I was advised yesterday by a paddler of similar size and boat-use to take a look at the Kestrel. It may mean a road trip to NYS?

However, with access to the northern Wisconsin river system, the Firebird in a BL lay-up is really looking fine.

And, no. No dog in this boat. Good points about making that a primary consideration. Thank you. Current dog can't trip anymore. "Future dog" can train and trip in the SR Q16 with me.

I have my work cut out for me! Thank you again.

 
06/17/2019 09:07AM
If you run across a Mad River Slipper or Independence in Kevlar consider a paddle. Stable and would handle a dog. Check with Spring Creek at Iron Mountain, MN. They might have something that works.
 
jillpine
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06/17/2019 09:19AM
GSP: "If you run across a Mad River Slipper or Independence in Kevlar consider a paddle. Stable and would handle a dog. Check with Spring Creek at Iron Mountain, MN. They might have something that works."

I bought a used SR Quetico16 from Ted in 2006. He had two for sale, and I often felt I should have purchased both of them. The one I have is in constant use. Wonderful outfit to work with. I looked at their website and didn't see canoes for sale. I'll contact him. Thanks.
 
kona
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06/17/2019 11:29AM
With no dog and your size, the Firebird is a great option to look into for river work, bearing in mind the excellent point YC makes. I enjoyed my brief paddle of the Firebird and would love to own one. I’m 180 5’10” and it’s pretty lively for my weight, but I’m also a whitewater paddler, am comfortable with strokes and balance and heeling a boat, and enjoy working every eddy line I can find on a river. For someone new to a proper solo canoe, a hull with rocker like that takes some time to grow into but can make you a much better paddler in the end, if a protracted learning curve is of interest.

I currently have a Kevlar/wood Mad River Slipper (quite stable even empty with little to no rocker) and a royalex Bell Yellowstone Solo (more rocker and slightly less stable empty) that you’d be welcome to try sometime. I often make it over to lake Nokomis for weekday sunsets. Feel free to PM if you want.
 
sueb2b
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06/17/2019 01:33PM
I'm not quite in the market yet. But I'm enjoying the discussion. I'm hoping to get a solo eventually, and have been considering the packboats.

A couple years ago I rented a Wenonah Prism. That worked, but it was about as heavy as a tandem. I was heavier then, too, so I probably wouldn't have gone much smaller on a canoe. I did use the a kayak paddle and found that worked well in the narrower boat. A lot faster than doing a j-stroke with a single blade.
 
justpaddlin
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06/17/2019 08:14PM
Frankly I think every boat mentioned would be good for you. I had a Kestrel and it would fit you like a glove and it is an awesome lake boat...fast and efficient and stable for such a fast boat. I definitely like it better than the Keewaydin 14 since it's faster and also turns better. Hemlock quality is top notch. Hemlock has a great website that shows how a Kestrel turns...I used the phrase "cooperatively" and Dave agreed. But I think many (small) experts trip in Flashfires (13 feet) and I had a Flash and the new Firebird cruises even better...so mega versatile. It's also one inch deeper than a Kestrel in the midsection which feels comforting and the difference feels like more than one inch. I thought of you and this thread today when paddling on a local river (in my Swift Osprey). When you are picking your line around lots of fallen trees you want a boat like a Firebird that works well on rivers...so you can change your mind...change your line...adjust your position, or just spin it around instantly and turn around and start over.

 
jillpine
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06/18/2019 05:39AM
justpaddlin: "Frankly I think every boat mentioned would be good for you.

I read this and thought of the old Coca-Cola jingle: "I'd like to buy the world a coke (canoe) and keep it company". A few more canoes in the world would be a good thing. Thank you for sharing those photos! I can just see the situation in my mind. Photos like these, justpaddlin, do not cultivate patience within the grasshopper. :)

Short-list at this time: Firebird, Trillium, Hemlock Kestrel. I am really trying to work the due-diligence angle and avoid an impulsive decision. I'll make arrangements to test-paddle some of the suggestions, and keep an open mind to the others.

I took a similar approach with a recent car purchase. It was interesting because, ultimately, I got exactly the car I was looking for, and it was a model I had not considered during my search. I happened upon a good salesperson, who, coincidentally, shared a lot of similarities with me: small stature, female and liked driving a manual transmission, so she had a strong understanding of the products and was able to help me make a great decision. I can't believe how much I like the car. It will happen with the canoe as well, if I can remain patient.

 
jillpine
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06/18/2019 06:46AM
I forgot the Oseetah. I haven't considered a pack boat because, frankly, I was ignorant about them. Lightweight, stable, fast-paddling with double-blade. However, it doesn't seem to be a very comfortable way to a week paddling. It seems like you'll get wet from the double-blade, and sore from sitting low. This is my ignorance speaking. In the SRQ16, and every other canoe I've paddled, it is a hung seat. I sit, I kneel-sit, and if it's really windy, I get down on both knees and pray as I scurry to the shoreline.
 
07/15/2019 03:48AM
jillpine: "yellowcanoe - thank you very much. This was highly informative, as have been the other replies. Thank you, everyone. I have also found how to access the message board archives so I could educate myself some more on the topic. What a helpful forum. Thank you.


The advice for a Hemlock Kestrel is timely; I was advised yesterday by a paddler of similar size and boat-use to take a look at the Kestrel. It may mean a road trip to NYS?


However, with access to the northern Wisconsin river system, the Firebird in a BL lay-up is really looking fine.


And, no. No dog in this boat. Good points about making that a primary consideration. Thank you. Current dog can't trip anymore. "Future dog" can train and trip in the SR Q16 with me.


I have my work cut out for me! Thank you again.


"


Yellowcanoe's info is so very pertinent! When I was researching for my own smaller/lighter solo Yellowcanoe chimed in and gave me some very good info on smaller boats when most of the voices were saying go bigger. I am 5'4" and a bit heavier than you.

I ended up buying a Hemlock Kestrel (14'9"/ 32lbs) and have since acquired a Hornbeck Lost Pond (10'6"/16lbs).

I use the Hornbeck most frequently and the only issue I have had is an occasional wave breaks over the bow when the waves are larger and I am loaded down with extra gear/food for longer trips. I am a bit short in the torso so I sit on top of a folded Crazy Creek chair to lift me up, otherwise I hit my knuckle on the qunwales. As it is a pack boat you need to use a longer double blade to paddle it. A small lighter dog could fit in the bow with a CCS Pioneer Pack behind the seat in the stern. There is a learning curve to entering and exiting this boat.

The Hemlock Kestrel can be paddled with either a single or double blade. I find that it is " less stable" feeling but I don't mind it but I had a friend tell me she hated it after borrowing it for a weekend because of how "tippy" it felt. It has more room and can handle larger loads so I use it for longer trips and lend it out to my 6' nephew for trips.

I am in the Twin Cities so if you have any interest in test paddling either of my canoes shoot me an email. I can meet you at a local lake.
 
arm2008
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07/16/2019 09:03AM
luft: "jillpine: "....
The advice for a Hemlock Kestrel is timely; I was advised yesterday by a paddler of similar size and boat-use to take a look at the Kestrel. It may mean a road trip to NYS?
"

...I ended up buying a Hemlock Kestrel (14'9"/ 32lbs) and have since acquired a Hornbeck Lost Pond (10'6"/16lbs).

The Hemlock Kestrel can be paddled with either a single or double blade. I find that it is " less stable" feeling but I don't mind it but I had a friend tell me she hated it after borrowing it for a weekend because of how "tippy" it felt. It has more room and can handle larger loads so I use it for longer trips and lend it out to my 6' nephew for trips.
..."


I live 30 minutes from Hemlock Canoe Works. 3 or 4 summers ago I test paddled the Kestrel and the Peregrine multiple times before buying the Peregrine. The Kestrel felt faster, livelier, and easier to turn. I found it harder to go straight, but I also hadn't paddled in about 15 years and felt like with a bit more paddling skill it would be fine.

In my prior canoe experience I paddled bow on a 2000 era Bell tandem (North Wind?) with tumblehome, and I found the the Kestrel and the Peregrine had that same "tippy" feeling when you're expecting initial stability but getting secondary stability. It's something that I grow into with time, and the first paddle of the season the feeling usually comes back and then I settle in.

The seat position on my Peregrine is balanced more for kneeling, but I'm a sitter. I did lower the seat and stability improved. It paddles a bit better if I toss a bag of water in the front. I finally went out tripping with it with 40-50 lbs of gear, and it felt wonderful in the water.

Why Peregrine over Kestrel? I felt more comfortable in the Peregrine and liked the larger capacity for tripping. I'm about 200 lbs and with 50 lbs of gear that would put me at the posted max efficient weight for the Kestrel. though Dave said it would easily handle it and more. I also was in the right place and at the right time when a lightly used Peregrine came in on trade and I got a good deal.
 
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