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Hemlock SRT Solo Canoe Review

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    I'm 180# have tripped a lot for days with my hemlock kestrel and swift keewaden 14. I only paddle flat water and avoid heavy waves. No problems. Different strokes.


      Originally posted by Glenn MacGrady View Post

      Gumpus, I'm not Waterdog and am not involving myself in this heavy duty gambling, but in his last post Waterdog empirically verified that, for him, his SRT is faster than his Yellowstone, which he then sold on the spot.

      I don't understand what you mean by gambling; I like hearing different opinions. In my experience the Royalex and black/gold Yellowstones paddle quite differently. I really like the combination of cruising ability and river capability of the composite boat, it fits my needs and preferences better than a composite Wildfire although I like Wildfire too.


        I'm eagerly looking forward to Waterdog completing his review of the Hemlock SRT after he has had a chance to paddle the canoe with a tripping load.

        Like Waterdog, I also paddle a Mad River Outrage X in whitewater and a royalex Bell Yellowstone Solo for moving water and class I-II day trips. I weigh about the same as Waterdog (215 lbs) and fully agree with his assessment that the Yellowstone Solo is just too wet of a ride when tripping. I also have a royalex NovaCraft SuperNova that I use for solo tripping, but it is an early version and weighs over 60lbs (which is just too heavy for me for pleasant portaging).

        I have 30 years of of whitewater and wilderness tripping experience. Much of my tripping experience has been paddling tandem, but in recent years more and more of my tripping is solo as I'm finding that I have more free time than others I know (i.e. I never had kids).

        I'm thinking of replacing my Bell Yellowstone Solo and NovaCraft Super Nova with a Hemlock SRT. This would be my first composite solo canoe and all my tandem canoes (with the exception of a prior home-built tandem cedar strip canoe) have been royalex as well. I've been in touch with Dave Curtis (builder) and Harold Deal (designer) about the durability of the SRT.

        I'm interested in an SRT, but I'm hesitant to drop that kind of money without having a chance to test paddle one. I live in Madison, WI, so I'm 750 miles from Hemlock's location in upstate NY, so going there for a test paddle isn't a viable option. I contacted Dave Curtis and the closest SRT he knows of is near Dayton, OH (which is still a 450 mile drive for me). Does anyone out there know of an SRT that is closer to southern Wisconsin that I may be able to test paddle?


          I was very impressed with the strength of my SRT given that it was a big solo with nice thick wood gunwales and it still only weighed around 42 pounds and mine was an early one so new ones may be lighter. Given Glenn's comment about trying to move the seat rearward and watching the Hemlock video where Harold Deal put almost all of his tripping load behind him to the point where it appeared light enough in the bow to see daylight under the bow you might bring a pack that you can put behind you to give the boat it's best chance at optimal performance.

          If you make the trip to Dave's shop and for some reason don't fall in love with the SRT then try a Peregrine. You'll either leave with your dream river boat or your dream lake boat.

          Sorry but my buddy in Ann Arbor sold the SRT so I can't help you out.


            Hi duNord,

            Still waiting for some rain to quench a mini drought so I haven't been able to get on the river with a tripping load. I did get it out yesterday on a lake. I met with a friend who had his young daughters for a weekend on the lake and paddled for a couple of hours with the SRT empty, and paddling hit and switch. I was very happy with the way it glides and the overall speed. My primary tripping boats are prospectors which are tubs so that's my main perspective. I had my Bell rockstar in black gold on the truck but didn't paddle it yesterday. So I still have some paddling to do to close out my review. The river has weekend releases but they haven't been enough yet but we're due in the next couple weekends. From you description we are almost dopplegangers, though I've never seen a Super Nova in person. I'm a Packers fan though!.

            I suspect that by the time you could test paddle an SRT and decide to buy it and get it built, you'd be closer to a deep freeze than we would be here in central PA. I usually go through Wisconsin on my way to Ely and points North. If I happen to head that way in Late May I could give you a shout and see where things stand.

            In the meantime, I did test pack the SRT with a loaded portage pack and 30L. barrel. There's definitely plenty of room. I also threw a 60L barrel in because another thread on 30L barrels has me convinced that 15-17 days is my limit for food in a 30L barrel. When I saw how well the 30 liter fit I tried a 60L and it fits fine and is flush with the gunwales. So as far as volume goes I have options with the SRT.

            Here are pics showing the pack and barrel loaded in the canoe:

            IMG_4917 by Barry Rains, on Flickr

            IMG_4911 by Barry Rains, on Flickr

            With all the extra room, I am considering adding some custom size float bags for back country trips in a way that I can shorten the bag cages to allow sliding the pack or barrel closer to the stems if necessary as the barrel weight changes or wind dictates. I have other boats for slower paced trips with a dog. The main purpose of this boat is week or more trips to the Noire, Coulonge, Dumoine, Petawawa R, Bloodvein, etc. and other similar northern rivers.

            My canoe can beat up your kayak.


              For best maneuverability and tracking when loaded, I recommend that most weight be put behind the seat. This will lighten the bow for turning draws and pries in the bow quarters while planting the asymmetrically swedeform pinched stern for traveling correction strokes. For travel on flat water I use a 48.5" ZRE carbon bent shaft on my knees 90% of the time. In wind, waves, twisty rivers or rapids I use a 57" ZRE carbon straight shaft.

              I don't have a picture, but for whitewater I use small nylon end bags. You can easily lash a bag cage through the slotted inwales, an option I HIGHLY recommend, and fasten the bottom of the cage with these small 1" ABS-base D-rings, which can also be used for lashing gear such as my canoe cart in the photo. You can see the stern D-ring in the picture in my first post above, which also describes the quick-release thigh straps I installed for whitewater and white caps.

              I also had Dave Curtis install a Wenonah foot bar for when I want to sit & switch paddle for a change of pace.

              Last edited by Glenn MacGrady; 09-24-2019, 01:24 AM.


                It sounds like the SRT is quite sensitive to trim.

                Harold Deal sent me some information on the SRT including a write-up by Paul Conklin on their crossing of Lake Ontario in SRTs. In the write-up, Paul Conklin states "I have learned much from Harold about how the SRT can be manipulated for advantage. Detractors will criticize its features as flaws attempting to pigeonhole its usage to a specific task.". What are these features/flaws of which he speaks?

                In my recent email exchanges with Harold, I mentioned how I used to own a Shaman (another Harold Deal designed boat). He inquired why I sold it and sent me an article on tips and tricks on how to paddle a Shaman. There are times (especially on wilderness trips) where I'd rather be enjoying my surroundings rather than thinking about how many degrees of lean I should use or how many inches fore or aft of center I should plant my paddle. Will I need to paddle with perfect Harold Deal'esque precision at all times in order to enjoy the SRT?

                Although now that I think about it, the SRT will likely have quirks and require a learning curve like all the other canoes I've ever owned, but over time the best strokes/leans, etc. for the specific craft will become second nature and I won't have to think about it so much.


                  I don't think the SRT is particularly more sensitive to trim than any 15' asymmetrical canoe, most of which probably travel better slightly bow light than bow heavy.

                  I have no idea what features/flaws Conk was talking about in his write-up here, but overall he praises the SRT both in writing and in person, though it's not his hull choice for his pond hopping and portaging trips. You could PM him here and ask him about the SRT. I consider the most "detrimental" feature for inexperienced paddlers to be the tender initial stability. This is due not only to the narrow waterline but also to the rounded bottom -- rounded more than the typical shallow arch hull of, say, a Yost canoe. However, paddlers with a lot of experience in narrow solo whitewater canoes should be amongst those least deterred by this feature, which enhances speed and the verticality of forward strokes.

                  Don't be confused by Harold Deal's complex discussion on how to paddle a Shaman for whitewater slalom and play, which Harold emailed to me many years ago. In that same email he says, "I never thought paddling the SRT was very complex to do a write-up . . . ." The unusual thing about the Shaman is that it turns differently than flatwater touring canoes and most whitewater canoes. Most canoes, especially symmetrical ones, turn around a point slightly forward of the paddler, resulting in a stern slide to effectuate the turn. The paddler can accentuate stern sliding turns in most such hulls -- making them easier and crisper -- by pitching body weight forward to lighten and lift the stern stem out of the water. This is taught in flat water freestyle technique. The asymmetrical Shaman, in contrast, is designed to make snappier turns by pivoting at a point slightly behind the paddler, so those turns can be enhanced by leaning the body backwards. In addition, Harold advocates heeling the hull to the outside of some turns in whitewater, rather than to the inside. None of this stuff necessarily applies to paddling the SRT, although one can certainly try the techniques and experiment with different fore-aft weight trims.

                  Here's the Hemlock video on the SRT, narrated and demonstrated by Harold Deal:


                    I try to avoid hull critiquing conversations on public forums, folks tend to like what they have, and I'm no different. I have heard people criticize the SRT for its depth, rounded bottom and end fullness, all features that I like about the hull. I don't doubt that its extra three inches of freeboard will catch wind, but its those same three inches that make me feel safe when the wind kicks up. The rounded bottom gives it the tender feel many are uncomfortable with, but that shape keeps my torso vertical in textured conditions. The fuller ends may look weird on a tripping canoe, but they keep you dry in turbulent water by extending the area of flare further towards the stems, this also contributes greatly to the canoe's rock solid secondary stability.

                    I am not a white water guy and get lost in the terminology of how this or that may effectuate something or other, all I can say is that the SRT maneuvers better in moving water than my lake tripping canoes. I've always thought the SRT would be better marketed as a Solo Lake & River Tripper, but SLRT does not flow off the tongue very well.

                    One additional thing I'd like to say about the SRT is how comfortable it is for me. My torso is longer than average but my inseam is only 28", I like the narrower canoes. Equipped with the rail suspended bucket seat I find it easy to go back and forth between kneeling and sitting. I kneel most of the time but find a little change up necessary to sustain long periods of paddling. It is duration and comfort in the SRT that make it the fastest canoe I paddle, fewer shore breaks and I have more time for navel gazing in camp.


                      Originally posted by duNord View Post
                      I have 30 years of of whitewater and wilderness tripping experience. Much of my tripping experience has been paddling tandem, but in recent years more and more of my tripping is solo as I'm finding that I have more free time than others I know (i.e. I never had kids).

                      I'm thinking of replacing my Bell Yellowstone Solo and NovaCraft Super Nova with a Hemlock SRT. This would be my first composite solo canoe and all my tandem canoes (with the exception of a prior home-built tandem cedar strip canoe) have been royalex as well. I've been in touch with Dave Curtis (builder) and Harold Deal (designer) about the durability of the SRT.

                      I'm interested in an SRT, but I'm hesitant to drop that kind of money without having a chance to test paddle one. I live in Madison, WI, so I'm 750 miles from Hemlock's location
                      I wanted to respond to a few concerns of duNord.

                      If you have that much experience, and you definitely want a dedicated solo canoe (rather than a tandem paddled solo) for tripping with loads that approach or exceed 300 pounds, and if you want that canoe to be dry and reasonably manueverable in whitewater and fast on flat water, I'm not aware of any solo canoe that does this better than the SRT.

                      In my canoeing experience over 60 years, including 20 years of class 3-4 whitewater open canoeing, and owning 15 canoes and kayaks made of various materials, I have no hesitation saying the Hemlock premium+ layup is more than sufficiently durable for tripping in class 2+ whitewater in the hands of an experienced paddler.

                      Of course, even if true, none of this means you personally will like the canoe. Some do, others don't. It's not a soft, marshmallowy feel like a lot of Yost hulls. It's "edgy" in the metaphoric sense, as a lot of John Winters' designs are.

                      And you should be hesitant about spending a lot of money on a boat you can't test paddle. That said, I've bought several boats without ever having paddled them, including my SRT. I believe in having several hulls so I can have what I consider the best hulls in different niches. After researching the niche and selecting the favorite among experts and reputation, even if I can't test paddle the hull, I just assume I'm good enough to learn how to paddle it well, and that that process will make me a better paddler. I believe that philosophy has served me well, and I ended up liking all the boats I've bought in different niches.

                      But maybe not right away. I bought my SRT used from Dave Curtis, customized it in various ways in his shop, and then went for my first paddle in it on Hemlock Lake. For the first hour I thought I had made a purchase mistake. Kneeling was fine, but I felt too unstable while sitting. I solved this problem by lowering the seat 1.5 inches from where Dave had it set. By my third day of day paddling, I was an SRT convert and on my way to being even a better paddler. My satisfaction grew even more when I took my first loaded trip in the canoe, which further increases the stability but never bogs down the SRT hull the way a load does on my carbon Bell Wildfire. It took me about 20 hours of seat time to be comfortable in my Dagger Encore back in 1990, but I did and still have it.

                      I like having both the Wildfire and SRT -- the former being more maneuverable and fun for freestyle day play. For that reason, you may want to keep the Yellowstone, at least for a while, even if you get an SRT.

                      I've also driven long distances to buy, try and pick up boats. About 2000 miles for my first sea kayak. Connecticut to California at age 59 to pick up a custom made Hawaiian outrigger canoe -- which I had never even seen in person, much less paddled -- a trip that turned into 10,000 miles of driving over eight weeks, in which I paddled that va'a all over the west coast, Canada, the Boundary Waters and the Adirondacks. Some of my boat buy trips are my most cherished memories.


                        Thanks Conk and Glenn.

                        I like tripping on WW rivers, so the ability to shed waves while carrying a load is part of what's attracting me to the SRT. The depth and fullness of the SRT are very desirable features as far as I'm concerned.

                        As far as the round bottom goes, I'm not too worried about that. My current solo river tripping boat is a Nova Craft Super Nova, which also has a round bottom. I bought my Super Nova from a friend that didn't like it because he thought it was too tippy. I also have another friend that recently sold his Super Nova because he also thought it was too tippy. The relative lack of primary stability of the Super Nova doesn't really bother me because the secondary stability is so good. Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that both of these friends are much taller than I am and carry their body weight much higher. I just don't like the 60+ lb weight of the Super Nova.

                        Glenn, I appreciate your comments regarding the durability of Hemlock's premium+ layup. That helps alleviate one of my main concerns with the SRT.


                          I ordered an SRT in late October and it was delivered two days ago (just ahead of the COVID-19) lockdown. I took it for a lap around my local lake yesterday. My initial impressions were favorable. I like the way it carves a turn when you heel it over. I was concerned about twitchiness when lightly loaded mentioned in many reviews, but the primary seemed on par with that of the Super Nova I'm used to paddling. I didn't test the limits of the secondary stability since the ice only recently went out and the air temperature was about 40 degrees, so I didn't want to risk going for a swim. As a bonus, I got to see numerous muskrats and ducks, a couple cranes, thousands of baby panfish, and a great blue heron rookery while out paddling.

                          I bought it primarily for solo river tripping. Hopefully I'll get to do that yet this summer, but for now it's back to extreme social distancing (i.e. just working around the house and going for walks in the local woods).


                            Congrats, duNord. A beautiful looking canoe.


                              Beautiful two tone!

                              I've had my SRT for nearly two years. Kevlar layup. I wanted a boat that was completely different from anything I owned previously. That is exactly what I found in the SRT. I use this for lakes almost exclusively.Mostly day trips so I've never had it loaded. I replaced the stock seat drops with a set of kneeling drops. I like my seat as high as I can get it. I also swapped the stock seat with a double contour for comfort. The confidence I have in this boat in all conditions is impressive. There is a definite learning curve,but once you get a feel for the hull and master your strokes the SRT is hard to beat. I use a 54 inch ZRE power curve 90 percent of the time and a 58 in ZRE ultra lite for windy conditions. The SRT is the perfect compliment to my Eagle.
                              Last edited by Sdrew22; 04-12-2020, 04:22 PM.