Submitted: 06-18-2010 by DeadHead
In February 2010 I ordered a Swift Shearwater in kevlar with carbon rails, a sliding seat, and a bar foot brace (instead of the kayak style foot braces). I chose Killarney green gel coat. It arrived in April in perfect shape, and the shipping weight was 34 lbs. The canoe is so light you can pick it up with one hand and carry it like a suitcase.
Construction and attention to detail deserves a 10 rating. It's stunningly beautiful and not a flaw anywhere. It has cherry thwarts, bow & stern caps, and seat frame.
My first outing was in Biscayne Bay, very lightly loaded, and with a moderate easterly breeze. I used a carbon fiber Epic 2-bladed paddle and a bent shaft Voyageur canoe paddle. Both moved the boat effortlessly, and it tracked perfectly straight into a quartering wind. It's plenty stable enough to stand in and has very good initial and secondary stability too. I'd say it had better stability than the Wenonah Prism that I test paddled when I was shopping for a solo canoe.
My second outing three weeks later was a fully loaded 10-day, 129-mile solo excursion in Everglades National Park, paddling along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, on tidal rivers, and in open backcountry bays. The canoe had some initial difficulty tracking, and kept wanting to turn into the wind. I attribute this to it being loaded incorrectly and, once I readjusted the load, placing more weight toward the stern, this alleviated the problem considerably. As days went on it tracked even better because I was lightening the load by eliminating the weight of water and food each day.
Fully loaded the Shearwater was still capable of reaching 5.8 mph on my GPS, and it maintained 3.3 mph without much effort at all, mostly using a 2-bladed paddle.
I'm giving my Shearwater a 9 rating, rather than a 10, solely because the washers on all of the stainless hardware began to rust after being exposed to saltwater. This was a minor fix but I had to act quickly before the rust discolored the carbon rails. Perhaps not too many Shearwaters are used in saltwater, or it may not be something any Canadian canoe manufacturer thinks about. Keep this in mind if you paddle one in saltwater.
Overall, this canoe is superb and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a fast, stable, solo canoe for day tripping or excursions up to ten days. You could probably get two weeks worth of gear in a Shearwater if you paddled in freshwater. I brought 12 gallons of water on my 10-day trip, which is 100 lbs of water. Paddling in freshwater would allow you to sterilize the water for drinking, and use it for cooking, thereby saving considerable weight.