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Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Sun May 28, 2017 5:55 pm
by Ezwicky
Hi all, I have posted this to a couple of other forums in the hopes of getting a wide scope of opinions. I hope that isn't frowned upon here.

I am a relative novice, but not a total beginner, to canoeing. We had an OT Penobscot 16 in the '90s, then eventually sold it. We only did calm water with it, having little kids. I did a lot of paddling on the Cowpasture in Bath County VA when I was a kid, and we have taken a lot of easy outfitter-style day trips on the Brandywine in PA, in both canoes and kayaks.

Now we're back in our old neighborhood in Richmond, and I got an Esquif Presage for my wife and me to do tandem canoeing. We wanted as close to an all-rounder as we could get, with a focus on camping float trips , but also capable of shorter mild WW day trips.

I bought it a month ago but it's been so rainy that the James River has been too high for floating (for me anyway), but yesterday I took it out solo, with some friends on the South-Anna, a much smaller river than the James. The river was pretty high and there were some rapids that scared me a bit, but I managed just fine. However I went swimming twice.... both times not from the rapids but from tree branches along the bank that I hit sideways. First time the canoe dumped me out but did not capsize. Second time the canoe capsized and filled up with water. I was able to swim it to a quiet eddy and tip it over to dump it out, and get back in. Lost my cooler though.

However I learned from yesterday's experience that I want to get a smaller canoe for such trips. My wife will not be interested in such rapids, and I think a smaller boat will be more maneuverable for me to paddle solo. I would have been a lot more confident yesterday with a more agile canoe. The Presage (15' 11") felt too big.

Since the only place close to Richmond is Appomattox River Canoe in Farmville, I am looking through their options, and since I want a Royalex boat (or T-Formex today), I am pretty much locked in to Esquif. Not that this is a problem, one of my friends has a Pocket Canyon and loves it, and I already bought the Presage for tandem with my wife.

So with Esquif in mind, I have pretty much two options for solo canoeing on the kind of trip we took yesterday. The Pocket Canyon and the Vertige. The former is 14' 6" with two seats, the latter is 12' 10" with a pedestal and is strictly for solo. My friend with the Pocket Canyon always paddles it solo, and does flattish float trips as well as class III, so I am pretty sure I could grow into it. But we already have the Presage for tandem and my wife will never be interested in anything above class I or mild class II, and we are even thinking about a SOT kayak for her. So I might end up with a "real" solo canoe for me and a kayak for her at some point. So tandem is not a "must-have" for my next canoe, in other words, since we already have one. But I'm not ruling out the Pocket Canyon.

If the Vertige would be suitable for weekend-long camping float trips as well as up to class III, I'm thinking it might work for me as a solo canoe. The only thing that gives me pause is the lack of a typical "seat", since it has the saddle and thigh straps. Does this ever become monotonous or uncomfortable? With the Pocket Canyon, I would be able to switch from kneeling to sitting every once in a while. With the Vertige, or similar "WW solo" canoe, , I would be locked into the saddle position all the time, which might be uncomfortable during the course of a float / camping trip.

So I want to ask advice from the group on these two boats. I should also mention that I am not interested in "creek boats" or "play boats", just a craft that is small, tough and maneuverable up to Class II rapids.

I realize that was a lot of words, and I thank you all in advance for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to your advice!


Eric Zwicky
Richmond VA

Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 1:02 am
by Paddle Power
I have seen Vertige outfitted with a traditional bench style canoe seat and thigh stripes etc.

If you are hitting branches and believe you need a smaller more manoeuvreable canoe you should also consider improving your moving water canoe skills by taking a course.

Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 1:29 am
by Ezwicky
Thanks Brian. I believe you are totally correct with advice to take a canoe course. I agree my skills are lacking for sure. In the meantime I also think a smaller canoe might be better for me in solo. Will continue to weight the Vertige against the Pocket Canyon.



Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:56 am
by johns
not directly responsive, but I have 2 old, battered, ugly, but patched and watertight solo whitewater boats needing new homes - viper 11 and whitesell whirlwind. whirlwind in particular might be a good boat as a test for what you seem to be interested in - about the same length as vertige, round hull, relatively light, stable and forgiving for whitewater boat. both now have perception saddles which have a seat when you need to stretch your knees. about $250 each depending on exactly what goes with them. Have mohawk paddles to include if needed. Staunton area, so not impossible distance.. give me a call if interested. 5403376340. John

Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:47 pm
by MaxKarpov
I use an Old Town Penobscot 16ft canoe as a tandem and solo river tripping boat. More than capable in Class II. It is as close to an all-around boat as I have found. Fast, efficient, and the symmetrical hull design let's you paddle tandem, or turn it around and paddle from the bow seat facing the stern to be more centered as a solo boat. I will be moving the bow seat back 6" or so to provide more room in the front as a tandem boat and to be more centered for solo trips.

I've paddled it in small class II creeks and a source to sea trip on the Mississippi.

Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:47 pm
by Jordo54
I’m using a Wenonah prospector 16 for a solo river tripping boat. It’s been fine to control in class 2. Plenty of space for gear. Since it’s a tandem i paddle from the bow seat facing aft. Works really well!

Re: Solo canoe capable of camping but also up to class II

Posted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 6:20 pm
by dwilson
I've not paddled either of the Esquif's. That being said I think the Pocket Canyon would be preferred if you want to have a tandem/solo canoe. From what I can tell the Pocket Canyon and Canyon are based on a Prospector and reshaped to give it more whitewater capability. I have often paddled Prospector style canoes solo down class III rivers (it's a great do-all canoe), so the Pocket Canyon would probably excel there. The Vertige is to small to trip as a tandem (Vertige X would be better), it's very much made to run whitewater. Most river trips aren't continuous enough to warrant it, especially class II rivers. If you paddle a majority on swift rivers then the Pocket Canyon looks great, if your time is split more evenly with flat water then a Prospector may be a bit better.