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Submitted: 05-09-2011 by Yanoer
My fiberglass Vagabond is a 1985 and I've had it for a little over a year. I didn't paddle it much last year, but have paddled it several times this spring - I've got 7 other solo canoes, as well as kayaks, so some get neglected for a while.
My Vagabond weighs about 40 lbs with an added aluminum foot brace, cane seat and wood gunwales & thwarts. The Vagabond specs are listed as 14'8" long, 25.5" at gunwales, 27.5" max beam and 25.5" waterline width. Depths: 15.5" bow, 11.5" center, 14.0" stern. Efficient load capacity 125 lbs to 250 lbs. They don't list rocker in the old catalog page that's preserved in the Hemlock Canoe "Photo Album" link, but I recall that it's got differential rocker and it's plenty sufficient to be nicely maneuverable for someone my size - 5'6" and 160 lbs - whether sitting or kneeling, but especially nimble when kneeling. Just a bit of a heel or J-lean renders quick and smooth turns. The flare and shouldered tumblehome yield a relatively comforting secondary stability when heeled. The low shear line allows pleasant paddling in winds that might deter one from paddling other canoes with higher shear line. I haven't had it out on any rivers yet, but am looking forward to it. It's got enough forward flare that I expect it should be a pretty dry ride up through class 1 on central IL rivers.
Regarding construction, it' put together well, with nice attention to detail, but is a bit flexy in the hull bottom while on the water as well when on my roof rack going down the highway. My rack load bars are only 36" apart, which leaves about 5.5' of bow and stern unsupported and the bow will squirm side to side a little at highway speed on a windy day or in the turbulence of a semi tractor trailer. This Vagabond is the boat that I've chosen to keep on my car for paddling after work this spring because it's still pleasant enough to paddle even when the wind is kicking up to 15 to 20 mph and it's often pretty windy here in central IL.
I eagerly await the 25 lb reincarnation of the Vagabond in it's infused carbon construction by Colden Canoe sometime in the spring of 2012. It will be the 1st Vagabond made in around 20 years. It will be stiffer than the original and will be nearly maintenance free because of the composite gunwales, rather than wood gunwales. I feel quite fortunate to have been able to acquire this 26 year old creation of David Yost's design and Dave Curtis's very skilled and attentive construction.
The relatively modern variations of the Curtis Vagabond are the Placid Boat Works Rapidfire, which is a sit on the bottom boat pack style boat paddled usually with a kayak paddle, and the Hemlock Kestrel, which is currently make by Dave Curtis and is readily paddled either sitting or kneeling. The Vagabond is one of the few touring solo canoes ever made that's narrow enough for smaller paddlers to have reasonably easy reach to the water to allow a nice vertical paddle stroke, which both encourages straighter tracking and more comfort for the paddler.
If you're a smaller paddler and get a chance to try a Curtis Vagabond, please treat yourself to it.
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