Submitted: 04-10-2008 by quietlake
I purchased my Spitfire a little over 6 months ago and have paddled it over a dozen times in that period. Often when I read these reviews I wonder what the reviewer is comparing the boat in question to. Before purchasing the Spitfire I had paddled large tandem canoes and kayaks, solo kayaks, and Native Craft’s Ultimate 12 – a sort of SOT hybrid.
My Spitfire has the cobra XLT gunwales and the higher contoured graphite seat and weighs in around 23 lbs. I paddle it with both a double paddle and a single stick. Recently I purchased a Wenonah Solo Plus and paddling the Solo Plus has given me new insight into the Spitfire.
The Spitfire is a light maneuverable pack canoe with elegant lines and a high-end feel. The workmanship is excellent, the gel coat finish is uniform, the lay-up is smooth and even, and the material is of the highest quality. It has good secondary stability but primary stability is not great. Getting in and out of the boat is a bit dicey, even after months of practice, but once you sit down, put your feet on the foot pegs, and lock your knees against the gunwales you feel a great sense of control and connection to the elements. You engage with the water and waves in an immediate way, as if the hull is an extension of your skin.
Tracking is typical of a boat this short and unless the trim is carefully adjusted the canoe weathercocks as soon as you stop paddling. I have paddled two short boats and find that both suffer from this problem. It isn’t until you reach 14 feet that tracking noticeably improves. Having said this, with a double blade the Spitfire is easy to keep on course and responds quickly to draws, pries, and sculls. Effective sculling is sometimes counter intuitive in this craft and I still need to work at improving my feel for how to direct the boat in this way.
My Spitfire is perfect for poking along shorelines and is so light I can carry it on my shoulder for several hundred yards without a second thought. For longer carries, I put a piece of foam on my shoulder and head off. The light weight means I can effortlessly move the canoe on and off my vehicle and over beaver dams and log jams. Dock entry and dry land entry and exits are challenging. I have paddling boots and I highly recommend a pair to give you the freedom to set the boat in 6 inches of water before climbing in.
The boat has good lines and design, but part of the trade off for small size and low weight is a fairly low top speed before the bow wake develops and you feel the drag that indicates a performance plateau. This is not a fast boat, but certainly the low mass makes acceleration from a standstill better than average.
If you fish, this boat is worth considering because unlike SOT kayaks, it is ridiculously light and easy to carry around and the performance is better on average than the SOT kayaks I have paddled. You are not going to stand up in this boat, however, so forget punting or fishing from a standing position. I have fished with both a fly rod and a spin caster from this sitting position and like the feel and control. It’s easy to move around a lake and easy to reach gear between my feet. I also like it for photography. I leave my camera on a tripod at the lowest height and set it between my knees. I find it easy to alternate between paddling and taking pictures.
The Spitfire is an excellent boat for recreational paddling, casual day and weekend tripping, fishing, and carrying to that obscure put-in you’ve had your eye on. It is perhaps the best all round pack canoe on the market and should win awards with the “go light” gang. It is not the obvious choice for long trips or white water. New paddlers will find it tippy at first, but after several hours on the water the return in immediate sensory appeal will compensate for the initial skittery sensations. The only competition for this boat would be one of the feather light boats that weigh in at less than twenty pounds. The extra strength and gel coat of this package is well worth the extra few pounds in my opinion.