Submitted: 03-20-2000 by Bob Branch
The Osprey is the Canadian version of a contemporary American Solo Tripper. The Canadian perspective is quite noticeable. This is a big volume solo canoe. Esthetically the cut shoulder works ok. The big radius (about 3 or 4 inches at the deck) bow does not. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Much of my background is in neat, trim, much smaller volume boats that are the American solo trippers.
But on the water the Osprey takes a back seat to no one. The boat accelerates very quickly, faster than any other solo tripper I have paddled. The top end speed is right up there with the longer American boats like the Sawyer Shockwave and Wenonah boats. When paddled leaned ala Canadian Style the boat turns very well. It glides well and responds nicely to a J-stroke method, especially with a bent shaft paddle. It does not firm up when leaned as some of David Yost's designs do but is very comfortable, especially with just a little time in the boat. Secondary stability is very good. It is not a tender feeling boat even for the novice. Paddled flat the boat tracks like it is on rails. Even though the boat has differential rocker it tracks considerably straighter than the zero rockered Sawyer Shockwave, easily being able to take 9 or ten hits on one side before switching to the other to correct.
The boat utilizes a sliding seat and apparently needs it. One of my paddling partners tripped with one all last year and even with his gear split in fore and aft bags, the boat required relocating the seat to come up with the proper lines. Most American solos are not this sensitive.
My biggest complaint is weight. Here Swift has really missed the mark. The boat even in kevlar is heavy. Any serious solo tripper should be less than 40 pounds. To be in the middle 40's is just not needed. Solo boats do not have the weight in the bow a tandem does and do not need to be built this heavily. Wood trim was ok. But again the big decks just are excess weight in a solo tripper. My entire club trips in solo boats (a tandem did show up for a trip two years ago) and virtually no one is paddling solo boats heavier than the high 30 pound range, and there has not been one single hull failure or any damage that has required repair on any solo boat in our club in the last 5 years. If you can live with the weight and like the esthetics, you'll be impressed with the way it paddles.