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Submitted: 08-20-2004 by ezwater
The Chippewa is just under 17 feet long, 34.5 inches wide, and weighs about 48 pounds in "Nylon/Kevlar" with aluminum gunwales. It has no rocker through the midsection, but marked rise at both ends. In cross section it has a flattish shallow arch with a relatively sharp transition to high slab sides; it is 16 inches deep at the center. The foam core bottom has about the right degree of stiffness. There is no gelcoat, just a pigmented epoxy layer on the outside. The quality of the vacuum-bagged, heat-cured epoxy layup is outstanding.
The rear seat comes unusually far back, and the boat was very far from trimming properly with our weight combination (220 and 145 pounds). I thought of installing a sliding seat, but because we anticipated using the boat in river waves, I instead moved the rear seat forward almost a foot. The boat then was in good trim, paddled faster, and did not plunge as deeply into waves with the paddlers farther from the ends.
Paddled tandem, it is a little faster than an Old Town Tripper, a little slower than a Wenonah Spirit II. It pulls up to speed easily and tracks well, but is certainly not a boat for bent paddles and sit-and-switch. There is, of course, no keel on the boat, and even loaded with about 400 pounds of paddlers and gear, it will blow sideways with annoying readiness when hit from the side by a strong wind. This tendency to side-slip becomes a strong asset on rivers. The Chippewa will not spin like a Tripper, but it is easy to turn in class 1-2 river maneuvers. We have found the boat to perform well on lakes and even better when threading swampy creeks where its course is very easy to adjust. It has fairly firm initial stability, transitioning quickly to good final stability.
I have paddled our Chippewa solo on flatwater and easy whitewater, using either a Nashwaak Solostrap or a foam pedestal seat shoved under the center thwart. The flattish shallow arch is not ideal for leaning the boat for solo paddling, but it can be done. Of course the boat blows around easily with only one person aboard. It does not spin easily enough for serious whitewater work, but it is easy to keep the edges from grabbing, and the flattish hull behaves well in routine ferrying, whether angled conservatively or at an acute angle to the current. I have not tried using our Chippewa for poling, but it promises to be a very good poling boat, better than our Tripper was by virtue of its much lighter weight.
The Chippewa is an excellent all-purpose tandem for people who aren't in a hurry, sometimes carry a lot of gear, and who must have a modicum of maneuverability. It is about equally suitable for lakes and for rivers. The hull is very durable in spite of its lightness. If one is concerned about distorting loads, the boat should be ordered with ash gunwales at the cost of about five pounds over aluminum.
Bluewater is now a semi-independent part of Scott/Mid-Canada Fiberglass. If you go to the Bluewater website, you will not see the Chippewa, although it is consistently listed as available in the Canoe and Kayak annual Buyers Guide. The Chippewa differs from other modern Bluewater canoes (Scout, Freedom, Freedom Tripper) in that it is not a product of resident designer Steve Killing, who tends to favor shallow V rather than shallow arch designs. The Chippwa looks a bit as if it was designed by a committee, but its all-around performance suggests it was a smart committee indeed.
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