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That all being said; it is very manageable. To get it on top my truck cap I simply sat the nose on the rear cap support and allowed the other end to rest on the ground. Walk back to the grounded end, lift and push forward. End of story. Not bad at all. The unload process was to pull the canoe back far enough off the canoe supports on the truck enough to rest the yoke on my neck and back myself up. I then rolled the boat off my neck, holding the yoke at each end, ducked down and she gently rolled onto my front thighs and then softly to the ground. Piece of cake. Nothing new there.
This boat will be easy to manage alone as I improve my handling processes. Let me say something here. If you've never used canoe wheels; you're missing out big time. I always said I'd never, ever go that direction but, I wasn't sure how difficult this boat would be to pick up, load and unload by myself so I bought a pair of wheels just in case. In reality; the Mistral is not a problem to handle alone but, I tried the wheels out and I'm very impressed. I attached the wheels to the canoe in five seconds, threw my stuff in the canoe, picked up the front of the canoe and pulled/rolled to the water. Amazingly simple! I sat the bow in the water and simply pushed the boat on in. Then I slid the wheels off the back of the boat and they folded flat. Those got laid on the floor behind me and under my seat totally out of the way. The wheels roll over some fairly rugged terrain also. Anyway; back to the Mistral.
With the Mistral sideways to the bank; I step in with the right foot while holding onto both gunwales. The primary stability is rock solid. I mean super solid! One could learn to get sloppy entering this canoe if he didn't take care. It's that solid! I use a 60" beaver tail paddle "Black Willow" and I weigh 195 lbs and am about 6' tall. My ballast consists of about 50lbs of cut logs I keep for just that purpose. By the way; the flotation bladders were extremely easy to blow up. One minute to inflate one bladder by mouth.
I'm off....My initial paddle strokes were two on the left side and two on the right side until I got the boat moving. Then back to the left side which is the side I favor. I kept the paddle as vertical as possible and applied a quick J stroke when the paddle reached my seat. This boat is very responsive to paddle correction. She went down the lake straight as an arrow. Occasionally I extended the paddle back behind on edge to allow a bit of rudder control but, that was infrequent. I'm not used to the boat. Glide is fantastic! My Esquif Champlain will glide forever and the Mistral shares the same quality. So far this canoe is a pleasure. It seems odd looking out over the bow from my position and seeing so much boat. By the way; I'm sitting in the front seat paddling reversed.
The Mistral reacts instantly to sweeps and pry's. I tried to scull to shore and found I was too rear of center. I had to drop to my knees and scull from the location of the yoke. She went right in to shore sideways. No big deal. These are my first impressions. This is my first launch in this canoe and so far I'm really impressed. One other mention: there is absolutely no oil canning whatsoever. This craft is solid! I don't consider myself the best canoe paddler out there but, I'm by no means the worse. I get by. This is a big wide boat and when I tell you it is a joy to paddle solo you can believe it. I'm not one who enjoys laboring with a paddle. That's one reason, and the main one, that I bought a Kevlar boat. This twin tex canoe is also very light weight when compared to many other brands in the same length.
I've just paddled back across the lake in a gentle wind with a few light gusts. The boat performed wonderfully. Occasionally a gust would linger in length on the bow and start to push the boat to the side. I switched paddling sides and all was well. A strong wind would be another story I'm sure.
The 3.5" rocker has my attention but then I didn't buy this boat to tool about on the lake for an hour after work. I bought it to load for lake camping. It will be loaded heavy and have a golden retriever and a black lab both weighing 80lbs each on top the pile of camping and hiking paraphernalia. When I camp, I camp as comfortably as I possibly can. Hence this battleship. I found it easy to drop to my knees quickly for the sculling maneuvers I had to do. I can add here that the quality of the canoe is wonderful. I can find no imperfections. I'm not an easy one to please either. I went over the canoe with a fine tooth comb. Fitment of the ash trim is perfect also. Maybe I just got lucky with this boat. I can usually find something. I find the Mistral very pleasing to the eye. Actually it's a knock out. There's something about that black boat outlined in ash trim that makes me smile and my eyes widen just a little.
In summary: the Mistral 17.5 has excellent glide, turns on a dime, is responsive to paddle correction and is easily paddled solo. Primary and secondary stability are outstanding. Not excellent but outstanding! There is no oil canning. I can't speak for durability at this point. The future will tell that tale.
61 pounds advertised
3.5" rocker fore & Aft
twin tex composition
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