Submitted: 11-03-2004 by derf
As with many of the reviews on this site, I am writing about a boat I now own. Therefore, I am not altogether unbiased.
Having solo paddled a Wenonnah Solo Plus for years, it was time to reshuffle the fleet. The kids are gone, we have another tandem boat, why not get a true solo? I knew of Hemlock Boatworks, so I read through the Website carefully to learn about the current model line. As I only weigh 145 lbs, I was interested in his Kestrel, rather than the Peregrine which is built for larger, heavier paddlers.
I live fairly near Dave Curtis' operation so I went over to the park one Thursday night where he brings his boats for trial. I paddled a premium plus layup Kestrel that night, but bought the less expensive Kevlar hybrid which weighs 32.5 lbs. The boat is beautiful, with ash trim, walnut decks (scuppered to ensure the water drains) and a fine gelcoat finish. A layer of E-glass lies beneath the gelcoat, with well fitted Kevlar lining the interior. It is set up for kneeling, with a web seat set high enough for legs to go under.
Paddling was a revelation! I had never even tried heeling over one of my Wenonah boats, but that first night I found I could lean a Kestrel to the rail and spin it. It sat rock solid. While it is well rockered for manuverability, the boat can move! The first time out on my local flatwater creek, I went farther than usual, partly because the boat went faster, mostly because it was such joy to paddle.
Dave does not have a distributor network. If you don't live near the NY Finger Lakes, it will not be easy to try one of his canoes. What he does have is a well designed boat, beautifully built. I am very happy with my choice.