Need advice on planned canoe purchase



My wife and I are planning to purchase a new canoe and I would like to impose upon the collective expertise and experience of this group to help us prepare a short list of boats to try out.

We have been doing wilderness canoe tripping together since the 60’s so have lots of experience canoeing but have only owned two boats during that time, a 75 lb Northland cedar/fiberglass when we were young and strong and for the past 10 years or so, a 16’ Nova Craft Royalite Tripper (60 lb). So our experience with different canoe designs is limited especially with the more modern lightweight materials. Now that we are in our mid-60s and canoe materials and construction techniques have advanced significantly, we would like to get a lighter canoe.

Our primary use for the new canoe is wilderness tripping from a few days to over a week almost exclusively flatwater. That includes some slow-moving rivers and both small and large lakes but no significant whitewater. Of course, that doesn’t mean the water is always flat and some of our most challenging moments have been on large lakes in significant wind and waves. So we are looking for a canoe that tracks well on big lakes and can make progress toward our destination even in a crosswind. And seaworthiness when things get rough is a high priority. However, we really enjoy narrow meandering waterways so some maneuverability is also needed. The kids are gone so it’s just the two of us with a fully loaded weight for a one week trip of less than 450 lb.

There’s also the issue of construction materials and methods. Epoxy resin vs Vinylester or expoxy-vinylester blend. Some comments indicate that the outer fabric layer should not be Kevlar but S-glass or carbon. Others have said that foam cores make repairs difficult but most designs have foam cores. Our main priority for construction ruggedness is not avoiding occasional maintenance but that the boat will be able to get us home and not suffer a catastrophic failure in the backcountry. I don’t have a good sense how significant those issues are and how to incorporate them into my decision process.

I have a fairly good understanding of the tradeoffs in hull shape, rocker, length, beam etc. but the only information I have right now is from the manufacturer’s marketing material. So here are the boats I have on my list right now and I welcome any comments, advice or additions. I live in Canada so I have limited my initial search to Canadian products but if there is a US product that is substantially better for my use than any Canadian product, I will have a look at it. Here is my current list (in no particular order):

Bluewater Saugeen 16/6 Golden Brawn 41lb
Bluewater Freedom Scout 16/6 Golden Brawn 40lb
Bluewater Prospector 16 Golden Brawn 40lb (0.5” rocker, unusual for Prospector design)
Souris River Quetico 17 Carbon Tec 42lb (Flat bottom may not be ideal)
Langford Prospector 17’4” Ultralight or Carbon 41/40lb (slight rocker)
Langford Northwind 17’10” Ultralight or Carbon 41/40lb
Swift Algonquin 16 Kevlar Fusion with Carbon trim 35lb
Swift Kipawa 16’6” Kevlar Fusion with Carbon trim 37lb
Swift Winisk 17’6” Kevlar Fusion with Carbon trim 39lb
H2O Canadian 16’6” Carbon Kevlar 43lb

Any and all comments and suggestions are welcome.


I'd add the Keewaydins on your list. Both the 16 and 17.

I have a 16 so I am bit biased to this boat.

The 16 can carry your load no problem and has very narrow paddling stations (excellent for people under 6' as my wife and I are). Tracking is good to fair depending on conditions. Crosswinds can make the boat sideslip a little. Speed is still fair in rough water and EXCELLENT in calm water. Stability, both initial and secondary are what you would expect from a tripper type canoe - I've yet to take a dip even with some crazy last minute corrections to avoid logs. Crosswaves can be a little challenging but I've found that with any canoe.

Mine is Kevlar Fusion with aluminum trim. You might want to try the carbon trim. The gunnels aren't as stiff as the aluminum which contributes to more flex. One reason I opted for the aluminum. The carbon is quiet though. You get a lot of crunchy noises from the aluminum/resin sliding at the interface. Didn't notice that when I tried the carbon trimmed boats.

I've also tried to be careful with mine but wound up whacking the stern on the ground a could times, scratching it on take off and hitting a few sunken logs. So far nothing but a couple scratches which I knew would come. It is pretty tough. I wouldn't want to hit a big, sharp rock at speed but the KF is tougher than people make it sound. I also looked at some pictures of the rentals at Algonquin and they look beat to heck, and still work. Just carry duct tape for emergency repair. I stay out of shallow, rocky, moving water just to be safe.

I did try the keewaydin 17 and there wasn't a huge difference. Everything you would expect from a foot longer hull. Tracked a little better and turned a little harder. Speed felt similar. The extra few pounds and cost was detrimental enough to make me go with the 16.

The keewaydin 16 isn't exactly a twitchy boat as it is. It responds to mild J strokes for tracking correction, usually not needed every stroke though. Turning from stern requires a strong J or a large sweep, and that will only push you a few degrees. A draw or pry will move you pretty well depending on your forward speed (at full tilt it even a full draw won't change your track that much). To really kick it loose the bow paddler should rudder. It can turn from either end but to make it turn quick requires working together. We were having fun dicing it through lilly pad patches yesterday. No penalty if you mess up ;)

That sums up the performance pretty well. I saw this after I bought mine and would say it is spot on.

I tried quite a few other boats before this one and it just stood out as doing everything well and being the most comfortable. Yost did an excellent job on this canoe. Don't overlook it!
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Feb 1, 2013
I've only tried three of your canoes listed, the Souris River Quetico and the Winisk and the Kipawa. I didn't like the Souris river boat, can't quite remember exactly why now, it was a few years back. The advantage of the Kipawa is that you can solo it if you want. The Winisk is a nice tandem, but too big for nice solo'ing. However, for the extra two pounds listed, i would take the Winisk over the Kip. One thing you will notice about those asymmetrical designs is that if you are paddling hard into big waves, you will want to slow down, because those narrow bows tend to slice right through the wave when you are "giv'n er", producing a wet ride. I'm thinking of looking a winisk in some light lay up in a few years.


I purchased a 16.7’ asym kev Alchemist Odyssey flat water tripper a few years ago. It’s not on your list, so I don’t want to muddy the waters. I just want to say that it responds very well on twisty streams as well as tracking across big lakes. It’s also roomy enough for extra gear for occasional back country glamping.
The flared hull keeps us dry in choppy conditions, but maybe that’s because we’re not “giv’n er”. Ha! As age goes, we’re also approaching our prime (think Merlot, not Beaujolais), so a lighter boat has been ideal. My big disappointment has been the lack of security I feel soloing this boat. When I’d go out in a prospector, she’d say “relax, here’s the sweet spot”. When I go out leaning my slim asym boat she whispers “come on in, the water’s fine.” Because I’m 5’5”, the lack of tumblehome compromises my reach from the solo position. In answer to this, I trim with packs and lean just a little. My lack of paddling experience and technique is likely more at play than boat design however. If I could, I’d buy a second boat. I’d choose something closer to a Swift Keewaydin or Propector. They might lead to a little more paddling, and a little less swimming.
Good luck with your shopping.
Sep 2, 2011
Raymond, ME
Have you considered the Hemlock Eagle.. It is made in the US near Rochester NY so its not a far drive. I would go give a looksee as you are relatively in the area.

Dave Curtis uses no foam panels for stiffeners. Foam is a way to stiffen a canoe on a budget. Placid and Hemlock use more layers of fabric and resin instead.

Have a look at the Hemlock website The boats are light and stiff...and yes a bit pricey..

I am curious why Nova Craft is not on your list.


If you can live with the extra weight I would take a look at the Eagle. I wish I had - I didn't know about Hemlock Canoes (when I bought my Swift) and they are 30 min from my house!
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