Submitted: 12-18-2003 by arkay
I ordered my Swift Shearwater with the Expedition Kevlar hull and the following options: cherry rails and trim, sliding seat, factory installed adjustable foot-brace. I had mine built without the standard skid plates. With no dealers in my area of the USA I special ordered mine directly from Swift in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I purchased the John Winterís designed Shearwater for use on large rivers/lakes as a solo tripper on canoe camping trips.
Iíve paddled this canoe in mild whitewater (Class II) and it excels in standing waves, riding high and dry. It handles any lake chop I care to be out in with ease. In river current this big solo canoe actually maneuvers much like a smaller boat, with its raked stems it has a waterline quite a bit shorter than its overall length would suggest. The bow also has a fair amount of flair and is full-quartered which I feel helps with wave deflection and stability in quick water. With itís differential rocker the stern sticks a bit making it a bit hard to spin and causing some stern gurgle in tight turns Ė but that feature also aids tracking on flatwater Ė a trade-off.
I highly recommend the sliding seat, which helps establish trim and is also very handy for transferring weight forward when paddling into strong winds. Swiftís webbed seat frames are unique; they feature angled/curved rails and styles that are well designed, comfortable and attractive. The simple sliding seat mechanism is another exclusive to Swift; it is infinitely adjustable anywhere along its long range and locks securely in place with locks on either side. The seat locks are unfortunately placed on the rear rail which makes them hard to reach while in the boat, but itís a small matter to move the locks to a more logical position at the front of the seat. The adjustable foot-brace is simple and easy to adjust with one hand.
This boat handles well either kneeling or sitting depending on conditions and user preferences. This is not a particularly fast boat, yet I feel it is quick enough for my purposes most of the time. For a canoe with rather highly rockered bow and large volume it has a reasonably good glide and has quick acceleration from a dead stop. Itís easy to keep it up to an efficient cruising speed. The Shearwater has surprisingly good maneuverability while paddled flat yet it tracks straight with minimal corrective effort. The Shearwater has both high initial and secondary stability Ė itís simply rock solid. I have had beginning canoeists in this boat and they were quite comfortable - more experienced paddlers enjoy its playfulness. Along the sides at amidships this hull has a somewhat straight flare from the chines up to the shoulder of the angled tumblehome. These flared sides seem to give this design a little resistance to being paddled heeled over hard on the straight. On the other hand it is easy to edge for turns and it side-slips easily as well.
To sum up the performance of this boat: This is a stable high volume yet is very nimble for a larger solo canoe Ė itís a pleasure to paddle.
I cannot say doing business with Swift was as pleasurable. Based on the numerous problems I had during the ten months it took me to get this canoe I must say that Swiftís customer service was extremely poor (with an exception noted below) and the company seems highly disorganized. Swift quality control is very uneven Ė sometimes great - sometimes dismally bad. Swift did provide me with a loaner Shearwater to use while I waited for them to build an acceptable canoe after I was forced to reject one they built me that had numerous glaring defects. In the end I received a beautiful well crafted boat, but along the way Swift taxed my patience more than any other canoe company Iíve ever dealt with. I can not recommend buying a canoe directly from Swift based on the experiences I had. If you want a canoe from this company I would suggest that you buy through a dealer and let them deal with Swift. If you get a good one these are very fine canoes with great hull designs, but Swift quality is unpredictable Ė be sure to inspect thoroughly and expect to wait a long, long time.
A more positive note: I was not able to develop much of a sense of trust with anybody at Swift except with an outstanding young employee named Jay Mothersill. Jay made sure I had a loaner Shearwater while they attempted to build one to acceptable standards. He also sent detailed notes to the factory to make sure the second boat they built me was built right. If you must buy directly from Swift I highly recommend that you deal only with Jay. Had it not been for him I would have cancelled my order.
My rating for the boat itself is based solely on the design and the boatís performance, not on the companyís patience taxing business practices.