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Submitted: 09-10-2005 by SeriousSummer
The Northern Light is a 15'3" long fiberglass, solo canoe formerly produced by Old Town. I purchased the Northern Light and a Wenonah Vagabond, both used, in April 2005 for my wife and me after trying out my friend's solo boat on a Buffalo River trip the year before. I'd always paddled in tandems, but the solo boats seemed like a lot of fun, and you don't have to find someone else to go with you for a paddle (FWIW, I think having your own boat is a big reason for the growing popularity of kayaks). I'm sort of an intermediate paddler. Most years I take a week long trip and do some paddling on the backwaters of a local impoundment.
I've been paddling the Northern Light about twice per week for the last four months now, usually for about an hour on a local lake and its backwaters. All I can really compare it to is the Vagabond and tandem boats.
The Northern Light is my boat while the Vagabond is my wife's boat. I'm fairly heavy (225 pounds), but neither boat seems bothered by that much weight. The Northern Light floats so high unloaded that I think it actually might feel more stable with a heavier load. Other than that, they have some noticeable differences.
The Vagabond is flatter on the bottom and feels much more stable at first. The Northern Light is rounded on the bottom and felt a little tippy until I got used to it. Once I got past that, I've really come to like paddling the Northern Light. It has wonderful glide and tracks easily even without switching. I usually use a bent shaft paddle and only switch for an occasional break. Its weight is reasonable (52 pounds), the boat seems very dry with 17" heights on its symmetrical flared bow and stern and I don't have any trouble reaching the water from its 30" width (moderate tumblehome) and 14" depth at the center. I've never tipped it over, although I once managed to fall out of the boat while it remained upright (I guess that means it has better secondary stability than I do).
The glide and tracking make it very much a pleasure to paddle on flat water. The entry lines are much cleaner than those on the Vagabond and the Northern Light feels a little faster to me.
You probably won't run into many Northern Lights, but if you find one than I think it's an excellent solo boat for a larger paddler who is more than a beginner but less than an expert, at least for flat water and rivers without serious rapids.
I only wish it was still made, but in kevlar (and 15 pounds lighter), then it would be close to a perfect flatwater, solo touring boat for me.