Submitted: 06-07-1999 by MD
This canoe is a compromise, like any canoe. It is shaped as much as possible like the famous Old Town Tripper but made out of crosslinked polyethelene instead of Royalex. They made it shorter (16'9" instead of 17'2") to try to keep weight down but it is still very heavy (85lbs instead of 80lbs). It would not make a good tripping canoe for around here because of the portages. That polyethylene is extremely durable and abrasion resistant though (moreso even than Royalex) and this size and shape is a good general purpose one. I bought mine used from an outfitter where it was abused for five long seasons until it was so badly scratched on the bottom that they didn't feel they could rent it out any more. It cost me less than $350 and I don't worry about scratching it or drilling holes in it. I use it mostly for a solo whitewater playboat and, filled with two truck tubes and two full air bags held in by parachute cord laced through the holes I drilled in the gunwales it does a fine job with this. Of course the thing starts out weighing 85lbs and with the truck tires, bags, a small plywood deck on the front, and 50 feet of rescue rope shock corded to the back deck it weighs more like 110lbs but I rarely carry it. I take it off the roof of the car, throw it on the ground, and drag it where it needs to go. It handles shallow rocky rapids easily because it is big with a wide flat bottom that doesn't draw much water and slips easily over obstructions. It also turns reasonably quickly and is easy to draw sideways across the current. It is a little wide paddling from the middle and long arms help, but I installed a cane seat a little behind the front seat and paddle backwards sitting there or kneeling right up against the center thwart, depending on how rough things get and how important it is to be balalnced flat (draws less over shallows). With this canoe and two $18 Mohawk plastic/aluminum paddles, I have had a tremendous amount of fun (23 day trips last year and 6 so far this year on class 2,3, and 4 rapids on the Sandy, Swift, Webb, Androscoggin, Sheepscot, Kenduskeag, Kennebec, and Dead Rivers. I just went on the Kennebec River today (Harris Station to The Forks) where there are some huge waves (favorite for rafting trips) and I got a lot of funny looks and concerned questions from kayakers and catayakers (sp?). I'm sure one of those banana shaped solo whitewater boats would have been easier in the big waves, but it worked. By shifting the bags around and installing a snap-in seat I have gone on day trips with two people and even three people (I am recently married with a ten year old stepdaughter). I obviously couldn't do this with a specialized solo whitewater boat.
The bottom line is that this is an incredibly durable, inexpensive canoe which can serve a variety of functions. Any problems I have had have more to do with my limitations as a paddler than the canoe. I keep trying out faster, lighter, easier paddling canoes (Old Town Penobscot 16 and 17, Winona Sundowner Royalex 17) and eyeing a little solo whitewater canoe (Dagger w/bags) that was a trade-in at a local canoe store and nobody seems to want but so far, this canoe is performing well enough that I can't justify buying anything else so far.