Submitted: 07-20-2010 by steve_in_idaho
For a canoe that has been around as long as the Malecite has, I'm surprised there aren't more reviews here. Maybe that's because this boat is already so well known and loved.
We bought a used fiberglass Malecite last year - a '97 model, I believe. Ours has the third (solo) seat option and "eggplant" color finish. For a couple our size (165lbs and 120lbs) it seems the perfect fit for light cruising. My wife and I had only been seriously paddling canoes for a little more than two years when we got the Malecite, and we immediately found it to be very easy to manage and confidence-inspiring, in spite of it's apparent (from the reviews here) reputation of "tippiness".
This boat tracks easily, yet it also turns easily when paddled tandem. I find it to track well, once you get it moving, when used as a solo too - and although it takes a little more effort and some edging to do so, it turns well enough when paddled solo so long as you don't have to make quick maneuvers. At 35" wide and 65lbs, it is definitely best used as a tandem, but it makes a passable solo if you are fairly limber and not in a hurry.
I have also poled the Malecite upstream on class one streams. It is very easy to stand in and goes against the current with ease compared to my royalex Nova craft Prospector. But it is not as easy to turn nor as dry as the NC Prospector, nor is it quite as steady when edged to the gunn'l to spin it around. But if the water is relatively flat, not very twisty, and not too shallow and boney - the Malecite is a much nicer upstream ride than the Prospector, or even our Old Town Penobscot.
I like that the Malecite has a low profile - especially when I'm fishing on a breezy lake - and I find the shallow profile to be much less of a problem than one would expect, even when the wind kicks up fast rollers of a foot or so or when taking on big boat wakes. I like it's efficiency and glide (it easily beats our Penobscot), although I am aware that similar boats of newer design may be a little faster. I like the classic lines and wood features (ours has wood seat frames, gunn'ls, and decks).
Everyone who's paddled it likes the stability - even those who weren't used to canoes.
The fiberglass lay-up with gel-coat finish seems tougher than I expected. While there are plenty of surface scratches on the bottom after 13 years of use, the gel-coat does not seem to chip or gouge easily. The seats are hung on truss-style hangers and since the hull is fairly shallow, there isn't much drop to them. I would say that this adds to the strength and stiffness of the boat - which there seems to be plenty of. All the woodwork and fasteners seem to be holding up very well, with routine yearly maintenance of the finish.
The floor does "oil can" slightly when paddled tandem on moderately choppy water. I don't know if it's enough to have any significant effect on efficiency, and it is very slight - but noticeable. I suspect that is due to the flattish areas in the shallow "vee" hull. The hull doesn't flex at all at the keel line - only in a small part of the flat areas on either side.
It would be interesting to compare the Malecite side-by-side to, say, a Bell Northstar. I suspect the Bell might be more efficient and maybe more maneuverable. But I doubt the difference could be great. We have clocked our tandem speed by GPS on a flat windless lake and find it pretty easy to maintain about 4.5 mph with a light load, even with our sloppy technique.
At ~65lbs, this Malecite isn't overly heavy and certainly not too much weight for me to deal with for the foreseeable future - even when loading/unloading it by myself. But as I approach retirement age, it would be better if this boat weighed about 20lbs less. And that is the only reason I would seek to replace it with something else. While I might go for something like a Black-Gold Northstar - if I found another used Malecite in kevlar, I wouldn't hesitate to grab it and probably hang onto it until we wear it out.
In short - while maybe no longer the cutting edge in canoe design, the Malecite is one sweet ride that isn't likely to get boring. It's a great all-around design for anyone not looking to haul a big load or to tackle more than class 1 water (although I'm sure that more advanced paddlers could take it far beyond that).