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Submitted: 04-23-2002 by arline
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We were anxious to try out our newly purchased 16-foot, 37 pound tandem Aurora canoe (made by We-no-nah) a Kevlar ultra-lite, without the added gel coat. This is the lightest weight material We-no-nah uses and it made car-topping it a lot easier on our backs than our venerable 30-year-old Grumman aluminum 70 pound 15-footer. Once we loaded it onto our car roof and packed the car, we drove 1200 miles to Florida's west coast to begin our winter vacation and paddle. Despite high winds and driving speeds, the boat handled everything well and seemed aerodynamic.

Our first few excursions were on lakes and slow-moving streams to allow us to get a feel for the Aurora's handling, and also to get used to the alligators that were on the river banks as well as in the water! Stability was excellent; the canoe could be tilted quite a bit to the side without capsizing. The most stringent test of maneuverability came on Juniper Run, which is arguably the best half-day canoe trip in all of Florida. This water is supplied by Juniper Springs, located in the recreation area of the same name in Ocala National Forest. At the beginning, the stream is shallow and so narrow that there isn't room to turn the boat around. The creek twists and turns, widening slightly and gradually becoming deeper as springs along the way contribute to the water flow. The surroundings are absolutely pristine, The only sounds to be heard come from the birds and water droplets falling from the paddle as it is brought forward for the next stroke. The current is fast enough to do most of the work until the last section of the run is reached. Here, the stream is wide, shallow and slow. The Aurora performed beautifully on this 4-hour trip. We were able to pivot quickly to negotiate the fast turns. When we reached the slow portion of the stream, the Aurora had sufficient glide to make our progress easier, even though grasses brushed the underside of the canoe in some places. What was really a surprise, as well as fun to see, was looking through the boat and seeing the shadows of these grasses.

The Estero River, near Fort Myers, provided a different challenge. Canoes and kayaks share the river with powerboats, most of whom were considerate, slowing down to minimize their wake as they approached us. A few pretended that we weren't there, and went tearing through at top speed. We turned into their wake as they went by and bounced quite a bit, but did not take on any water. When we reached Estero Bay, we felt confident enough to venture into the open water to explore some of the small islands.

One of our last canoe trips was on the Myakka River, a meandering, slow-moving stream whose banks are favorite resting spots for alligators. Admittance to this section of Myakka River State Park (near Sarasota) is limited, and a permit is needed. We took advantage of the stability of the Aurora to shoot video clips of alligators and wading birds. We were also thankful that we could load the canoe with all our equipment and still have room for ourselves!

In summary, we feel the Aurora is an excellent all-around boat, and perfect for the kind of canoeing we like to do, particularly in Florida's beautiful, exciting rivers and our own New Jersey winding, prestine rivers. Besides, the uncoated Kevlar material looks really cool with the sun shining through it, and we loved all the compliments we kept receiving from other canoeists. It was also great not to suffer any pain while loading the boat onto our car roof because it's so light and easy to lift.

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