The idea of photographing among middle Potomac River islands and channels led me to my Royalex Lite Bob. Helpful sales staff had a genuine enthusiasm for the boat. Its impressive versatility is the thing. Here was my first canoe and only my second time ever in a canoe. Still, after 5 self-taught practice sessions on the slow moving and adjacent C&O Canal, I felt confident enough to try the river: at my chosen spot the max was Class I.
Over the summer the boat showed itself to be everything claimed by the sellers: good turning, good tracking and fairly fast, stable but lively, great solo, confidence inspiring and capacious. I emphasize that the Bob flatters. Consider my inexperience and self-taught course. Within a short time and starting from zero, I was able to paddle a straight line from one side and to turn with assurance. Before the end of the summer I was paddling in open water for 5 hours as well as cutting around in tiny snag choked channels with a determined current.
This canoe, as a tool, could at times excuse itself from my consciousness while I worked on photography. On the other hand, its easy handling and its go-anywhere capability enhanced my intimacy with that surprising 7 mile stretch of river, half land and half water, between Great Falls and Seneca Creek.I have the Royalex Lite version of the Bob Special and it is the best canoe I have owned, and I've owned quite a few. At 52 pounds it is light for a Royalex tandem canoe.
So far I have only used this boat as a solo but it excels in that role. It turns on a dime when paddled heeled over (I have added a kneeling thwart) and it is quite fast too. It is very stable and if you don't care to kneel it paddles extremely well from the bow seat facing backwards if you add ballast up front. I weigh 210 and I use a 20 liter dry bag filled with water. It is also fast when paddled this way.
I took this boat out fishing on a small lake yesterday in moderate wind and I was pleasantly surprised at how straight it tracked and how little effect on me the wind had. At the same time it turned easily.
With all the room this offers to a solo paddler it is perfect for fishing but it could be used for tripping for a two or three week trip for one.
I have never like small, skinny canoes but the Bob Special is wide and stable without being heavy, and it paddles like a dream. I like a canoe that I can get up and move around in when I need to for accessing gear, stretching my legs, etc. and I can do that in this boat.
I will add a review later regarding its tandem capabilities but as a solo boat, I don't think you could do better. As a solo canoe then, I have to give it a 10.I have owned my glass Bob for four seasons now, and am generally happy with it. If you're looking for a do-all solo/tandem tripping canoe, this design is superb. Unlike other designs that focus one area (speed, capacity, tracking, manueverability) this boat is more than adequate at all of them. With it's large beam and tumblehome, it feels bigger than it is, more solid. But it still handles well in small twisty creeks. It definitely likes to be trimmed bow heavy, even with a sliding bow seat, an extra 20lbs. up front improves handling noticeably. With the big beam, capacity is outstanding for a 15' canoe, I can take everything I need for a solo ten day trip, and I pack a lot of gear. I paddled an Osprey this summer and after the Bob I felt claustrophobic. It's also a very dry boat, never had any problems shipping water and I'm not queasy about paddling in big seas. It can sometimes feel tublike in a headwind though, especially lightly loaded.
The design is great, however the manufacturing is not. My boat was four months late, and even then I had to reject two hulls because of manufacturing defects. I've talked to other owners of Bob's and this used to be common to glass/kevlar boats, however I don't know if this is still the situation. Royalex hulls seem to be fine. Try to pick up your boat at the factory, and inspect the hull THOROUGHLY before accepting it. Don't have it delivered to your home, there could be problems and extra costs returning it. Once again, for a high capacity tripping solo/tandem 15', this can be an excellent boat.We've been paddling a Royalex Bob Special for a couple of months, and have been quite pleased with it. Most of the time it is used as a tandem, with occasional use solo, and all of the usage has been on lakes. The boat has pretty good speed, decent primary stability, and excellent secondary stability. The boat tracks well, although not as strongly as a pure cruiser. Maneuverability is excellent. With the combination of speed, decent tracking, and maneuverability, it is a really fun boat to paddle.
I noticed the same thing about paddling solo as was mentioned in the previous review, which is that the bow rides high when you
paddle solo from the bow seat. Putting a little bit of weight in the bow (I use a gallon jug filled with water) and kneeling behind the carrying yoke cured the problem. I usually paddle solo with the boat heeled to one side, and it works really well when paddled like that.
It's a fun and versatile boat, and one that should meet quite a range of needs.