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Submitted: 05-13-2008 by datongdave

I did something that I swore that I would never do. I bought a boat sight unseen, without ever paddling it. My criteria was as follows: A tandem 16 footer that could paddled solo. I wanted something that would be capable as much as a day tripper on quiet water as a tripper on moving water. Though rocker is not a standardized measurement, my minimum requirement was at least 2"

After much consideration, research and my personal experience with Esquif, I purchased the Mistral. Though I had considered a MR Explorer, OT Appy Novacraft Prospector and Wenonah Prospector, the Esquif sold me for the sole reason that it was an advertised 51 lbs.

Upon picking up the boat on Monday, I was struck by the lines; prospector-esque but a modern interpretation. Its sharp in the twin-tex lay up and a bit "mean" looking. It is unique looking enough that I was pulled over by two paddlers on the highway wanting to know what the hell that black fiber boat was (don't see too many composite boats in NE).

Though the boat is listed as 16'2", I found it be closer to 15'11" with my own measurements. It is advertised at 51 lbs, but upon my weighing, it came in at 53 lbs.

It has standard outfitting: Esquif Truss Hangers (the best and strongest in the industry, in my opinion), vinyl gunnels and the most comfortable yoke I have ever used. I would swear it was custom built to my shoulders but a lot could do with how light the boat is.

There has been a lot posted about the rigidity of the hull in Twin-Tex. The hull is stiff and the bottom in reinforced with a balsa wood core to prevent oilcanning and to increase floatation. After paddling the boat, I would probably add another thwart behind the bow seat if I wasn't going to paddling tandem from time to time with my wife.

Paddling was a dream. Though a bit switchy upon entering the boat we did the Tom Foster, "boat boogie wiggle" to get a better sense of secondary and final stability. We had the gunnel complete submerged, taking in water and we did not go over. Impressive, but what you'd expect from Esquif or really any shallow arch hull.

Tandem Paddling: we had heard a lot about the glide and effiency of twin-tex in the water. I was very skeptical, but after paddling it I'm a believer. Glide was fantastic, sliding over rocks much easier than royalex

Despite 3.5" of rocker, tracking was a breeze with a j-stroke. there was no need for major correction strokes. There was no feeling of it being sluggish in the water and is much faster than the "pig on the flats" threshold.

This boat can turn well. Carves nicely, eddys and peel outs were crisp with a good boat lean.

Solo paddling: Again, I had heard good things about paddling this boat solo, either from the bow seat or canadian style. I tried both today and came away impressed.

The boat has fairly high volume and definitely caught wind but it would manageable with a load. I wish that it had the option of wood gunnels.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the canoe in its maiden voyage and will continue post updates as I learn its nuances and personality a bit more.

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