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Submitted: 09-28-2007 by Canalligators
I was new to canoe touring when I bought my Kipawa two years ago. I have the basic Boy Scout/Canoeing Merit Badge background - i.e. I knew the strokes and could handle a boat in flat water competently. My boating experience was with the usual Grummans and kin, with limited distance and portaging experience.
I was interested in an alternative to my usual bicycle touring. My intent was to find a tandem so I could take company along for day paddles, but with cargo capacity and the ability to handle rough water if it occurred. I found a year old demo/rental Kipawa in fiberglass. It had a star crack, which the dealer fixed nicely.
This boat does have good secondary stability, but I learned early on not to get complacent about it handling rough water (wind chop situation). We didn't melt, but I also found out that ziplocks are not adequate protection for your camera in full immersion.
Two adult men with a weekend worth of gear only reduces the freeboard about an inch! It handles very nicely with two in the boat. My total experience with rapids is five sets at class-I-or-less. I was able to control it fairly well but I'm still learning the tricks. Speaking of rapids, this is my last fiberglass boat. Scratched plastic I can deal with, but I'm concerned that if I hit a rock it will be duct tape time. Like with a good touring bicycle, I'll carry a little extra weight for more reliability.
I can't compare the speed of this boat with other contemporary designs. I will say that it's faster than the recreational canoes I've used before, and it cruises nicely with a good bow paddler. It takes about 10 strokes to get it up to speed.
I've learned to handle this boat solo, but it's not an ideal situation. I DO NOT kneel, even on its comfortable kneeling thwart. It doesn't take long for my middle aged cyclist's knees to start hurting, and cycling is still my first love so I'm taking no chances on the health of my knees. I only go solo on calmer days, sit in the stern and do sit & switch. (The angled seats and asymmetric hull preclude using it backwards from the bow seat.)
I have spent time on my technique, always feathering the paddle and cutting far under the boat to minimize the need for hard J action (I have very long arms). A solo boat is in my near future, probably a touring kayak. I may put a third seat in the Kipawa as well, for solo use or when bringing grandchildren along. The woven seats are very comfortable. I spent 3+ hours on the seat during a day paddle, and didn't notice until afterwards that I was getting a little sore. (An off-boat break and stretch probably would have helped.)
The fit & finish of this boat are generally good. The gel coat in the corners, where the float compartments meet the hull, are crazing a bit, but that's probably typical for fiberglass. The thwarts and gunwales are well made and securely fastened. Being a glass boat (53#) with a very comfortable portaging yolk, it is carryable short distances. My day-to-day put in requires a short solo carry.
In all, the boat meets my needs and I'm satisfied with it.
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