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Hello from southwest Pennsylvania

Joined
Sep 24, 2023
Messages
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Location
SW Pennsylvania
Hi! One of my (too numerous, my wife would say) hobbies is paddling, primarily lakes. We have a few state parks near us, and in fact keep our two solo paddle craft at one of them most of the summer. We also spend a few weeks every year in Michigan’s eastern UP, paddling bays off of Lake Huron. I like to drag camera equipment with me and make some wildlife photos while we explore. We have a cruising sailboat that lives in Erie, and an inflatable kayak like thing that we keep there for paddling off of it.

I’m a big guy and got into paddling one year while we were vacationing near Lake George, NY. I had decided that I wanted to get a properly sized boat for my huge self, after a couple of outings in substandard craft where I had a blast but the boats certainly did not. The folks at Lake George Kayak spent nearly an entire day with me, trying on different kayaks and helping me to find a boat that would be appropriate. The last boat they had me try was a Native Ultimate 14.5 (this was 2011 and was the OG version that only came as a solo). That was The One! I later learned that this is kind of like a pack boat, but at the time all I knew is that I felt supported and stable and could take myself and cameras and lunch and not feel like I was going to swim.

I took it back to the cabin we were renting and my wife took it out on the little pond there. She loved it. The next day I was back and buying the only other one they had for her, their demo model.

We have put a lot of miles on those over the years. They track well and are reasonably fast. With fairly low freeboard and mostly flat sides, though, they aren’t great when waves start to kick up or we get waked by a powerboat.

My wife is happy to keep paddling hers. I wanted to expand my skills and learn more, and felt like I needed something more capable to do that. The Natives are super stable and like to sit flat, and that’s about it. I went looking for something more advanced.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many canoe shops around here, and the kayak shops mostly brushed me off. I’m down over 140 pounds from where I was a few years ago, all from changing up the kinds of things I eat and getting in 4-6 miles of walking daily, in addition to biking, paddling, hiking, and whatever other outdoor activity I add. I’m still a big guy, though, and still 50 pounds from where I want to be (which will still have my doctor telling me I’m fat, but whatever), and frustratingly kind of stuck in my progress. Not many shops around here wanted to talk to me.

In the course of my research, I found the Northwind Solo. Me plus gear would be getting close to the upper end of its comfortable load range. I reached out to Northstar, as well as a Northstar dealer in western NY. I was surprised to get a quick response from Dan at Northstar, with some suggestions that clearly indicated that he had read my email and parsed all of my concerns. He also suggested that I call the shop and talk to Bear (with whom I had just become familiar from researching the Northstars.

I was a little surprised to call and Bear answered, and proceeded to answer every question and concern I had, really helped me to consider kayak vs canoe and helped me make my choice there, and then helped to talk through a spec on a build.

I was floored. Really. The dealer I had contacted also reached out in the meantime, and was also super supportive. I never ever thought I’d be ordering a custom build of a canoe, but here I am, having ordered a Northstar Polaris set up as a dedicated solo.

It is going to be such a long wait for spring this year!

I then found this place and learned more stuff, and got even more excited about the possibilities. I was already rebuilding my backpack camping gear to prepare for some extended bike trips, and realize most of that will translate well to canoe camping.

I’ve also learned about the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous, about which I had previously known nothing, and now it is on my calendar for next year!

I’m excited to learn more and expand my skillset. Thanks for all of the great info here!
 
woytek……
Welcome to the campsite, hold out your cup, let us fill it up with whatever we’re brewing.
Sounds to me that you are on the correct path to enjoyment. Most anything you need answers to, I’m confident that someone on this forum will gladly fill you in, with others chiming in as needed.
…….Birchy
 
I’m excited to learn more and expand my skillset. Thanks for all of the great info here!

Woytek, welcome to site membership! That was quite a powerful introductory post.

Feel free to ask any questions and to post messages, photos and videos, and to start threads, in our many forums. Please read Welcome to CanoeTripping and Site Rules! Thank you for adding your location and an avatar. How to use many other of the site's technical features is explained in Features: Help and How-To Running Thread. We look forward to your participation in our canoe community.
 
there is a very active paddling community club in western PA, particularly around Bradford. i have paddled on the Allegheny Reservoir with them, preparing for the Yukon River races.
 
there is a very active paddling community club in western PA, particularly around Bradford. i have paddled on the Allegheny Reservoir with them, preparing for the Yukon River races.

You know, I spent a lot of time around Kinzua as a kid, when we lived a little further north. Somehow, it didn’t even occur to me as a paddling destination. I’m adding the area to my research list for some trips with the new boat! Thanks!
 
woytek, welcome. I am in Mercer County PA and have a fleet of solo canoe for myself and my 5 daughters. Sounds like you’re right on the money for your next boat. I am in several paddling clubs and we would be happy for you to join us sometime. This Sunday the club is paddling the youghiogheny river. Not sure if I’m going to make it. Email me if you’re interested in paddling sometime or I will definitely see you at the WPASCR. dustinnoel@hotmail.com
 
woytek, welcome. I am in Mercer County PA and have a fleet of solo canoe for myself and my 5 daughters.

Awesome! I’ll be dropping you a line. My schedule isn’t always conducive for club activities, but I’d love to learn more and get a little more connected.

My wife is the oldest of five sisters. I understand from my father-in-law that they automatically bestow sainthood once the last one is out of the house! :)
 
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