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Submitted: 08-30-2010 by hoof

My wife and I have put a lot of hours and miles on a 16' fiberglass canoe (70+ lbs.) and an 18' tandem polyethylene kayak (92 lbs.) over the past 15 years. Kayak for longer trips on bigger flatwater and canoe for meandering streams and pond hopping. We knew something had to give when we failed to jump on rare favorable paddling weather because of the hassle involved in horsing either boat out of barn or shed, loading, unloading, carrying down steep, stony bridge drop ins, etc. We enjoy being on the water too much to let this happen much longer.

Criteria for replacement boat:

  • Needed to be designed as a tandem (so there is plenty of boat performance for the weight of 2 people plus occasional gear)
  • Needed to be very lightweight (so you really feel like getting it out and using)
  • Needed to be designed for double paddling (we'd been spoiled by the kayak and the feeling of added stability due to our weight below waterline)
The list got short quickly as we determined we were going carbon fiber to meet the weight and "want to get out there" criterion. There are a lot of really nice traditional canoes available in carbon fiber. Often they will set them up (at extra expense) for double paddling. The gunwales are still the same width and the "shear" is the same as in the traditional set up. That knocks out the functional double paddling criterion as you end up needing a lot of paddle length to clear the gunwales and reach water.

We moved on to the very short list of pack canoes designed with narrower gunwales, plenty of beam at waterline, less freeboard (shear) and some rocker for silkier handling. An exhaustive search yielded a 14', 15' and 17' from 3 different builders. Prices were high, but in-line with each other. Weight differences also negligible when compared with what we were moving away from. The 17' "Ohneka" from Placid Boatworks was an easy choice. Better performance and carrying capacity in the longer boat.

We made a two day trip to Lake Placid to try the boat out. Joe (the owner) observed trim while we were out in the demo and determined where the adjustable seats and footpegs would need to be for 108 lbs. in the bow and 178 lbs. in the stern. I've never been that far forward in the stern and it really made a difference. Even though the seats have a sliding mechanism for adjusting, they are still custom set for the middle of the range needed for the likely occupants.

Sold the canoe and kayak on Craigslist, got what we felt was fair, gave Joe the go ahead and picked the new boat up in a week and a half. Finally got it out for a serious spin 5 days later when the weather improved. It handled on land as expected. Final weight 43.5 lbs., will enjoy that aspect for many years to come. Once on the water for a sustained paddle we were really pleasantly surprised. Dropped into our seats without the ballet (canoe) or clumsy drop (into kayak cockpit). Steered briskly and easily through the channel leading to the lake. Once out in open water we were really moving in spite of heading into on-and-off puffy winds. In a nutshell; faster and more maneuverable than the canoe and at least as stable-feeling as the kayak. Little or no water on board coming off the paddles. We would have been happy with matching the best features of the trusty canoe and comfortable kayak. What we ended up with was better than matching those features.

Sorry about the review length and sounding too much like a salesman. This was the right boat for our situation and would highly recommend it to others whose preference is for 2 in a boat.

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