Submitted: 07-23-2009 by Benjamin Irey
Well, here I am, shopping for a new canoe and end up commenting on my 16'6" Royalex Northwind I have had for 8 years.
There are many canoes built to "do it all" and they all aim at that goal from a slightly different angle. The Royalex Northwind is relatively light for a royalex boat, making it much more manageable. If you look around, there are several high quality 16'6" fiberglass or kevlar boats that approach this royalex boat in weight. I have found the make-up relatively stiff, never noticing any oil canning, unless I'm rolling over a big rock!
I have used this boat on 5-10 day prairie streams and found it a bit tight for glutinous touring (this includes carrying 10 days of water, musical instruments, dutch ovens, etc) just give a slight nod to traveling light, and it'll go fine for up to ten days tandem. On one semi-gluttonous trip, I paddled it with a buddy, the pair weighing in @ around 450, on a river with several class II rapids and days worth of technical rock gardens. I found it easy enough to maneuver buts found it takes on water fairly easily, you'd want it w/ at least 8" inches of freeboard in waves, we probably had 6".
I frequently use it to paddle upstream solo on a fairly swift river outside my front door as a way of avoiding getting air conditioning during the summer and getting a little exercise. I have found it is more efficient to paddle solo than tandem in this way. I'd say it performs admirably at this task, tracking well and moving upstream as fast as you'd expect.
I've also paddled this boat loaded, solo, down a river with about 40 mile an hour headwinds and standing wind waves three feet tall. I could do it, but I'd occasionally get pushed sideways. I was surprised how well it handled in these horrible conditions. As an aside, I've recently learned if you are in a stiff headwind and having a hard time keeping the boat straight, get in the front of the boat and keep paddling, you'll act as the flag pole and the boat will fall out in line behind you like a flag in the wind. Looks a little funny, but keeps you moving in the right direction.
I've recently outfitted this boat with float bags (end and center) for doing up to class III whitewater. Also, I changed to kneeling seat drops and a full yoke for portaging. This boat is outfitted to handle an incredibly wide range of conditions in both solo and tandem. I look around and only think of getting a dedicated solo whitewater tripping boat to broaden my ability on the water. If I did it again though, I'd get a black gold version, just for the ease of portage and the pure beauty.