I have owned a Hellman prospector in ultralight kevlar layup for 25 years. I have used it on many trips, on lakes of all sizes, rivers to class 3 plus, and on the open ocean on the West coast of Vancouver Island, as well as on the inside coast north, through many tidal rapids. I added a sail rig, based on the Solway Dory expedition bermudan, 3 seasons ago. I have had it in 8 foot waves, strong winds, and routine 6 foot ocean swell. It takes some experience and practice to appreciate. It can be relatively slow if you trim it badly, and won't handle to its potential until you know how to load it. Once you know it, it is very capable, quite fast, and manouverable. The hull is extremely seaworthy, and handles large waves if you do your part. It is sensitive to trim and I find it handles better with a load. It likes to be trimmed level. The kevlar is extremely tough, and although it has been bashed around a lot, it only shows scratches. A well made canoe. It has a good amount of rocker, which aids in handling, including big waves and quick turns, but still tracks well if trimmed properly. As a sailing hull it is an excellent shape, and handles the sailing load better than larger boats with more freeboard but less rocker. Sailing on flat water, it does not need a lot of rudder, if trimmed well. It can pack a months worth of gear and supplies. I have fitted mine with extra attachment points for float bags and packs, and small pintles for the sailing rigs rudder. When it is not wearing the sail rig, all that is visible are the 2 small pintles at the stern and the mast foot. It is the most capable and adaptable canoe I have used, and I have used many. This is a canoe worth the effort to rig for sail, and to confidently keep. I recommend ordering kevlar layup for durability, the a carved yoke, which makes it a very comfortable carry, and the sliding bow seat for quick trim adjustments to adapt to conditions. In ultralight layup, with the small bits of extra attached hardware for the sail rig, and the yoke and front sliding seat, mine weighs 52 pounds.
This is a modified Prospector - symmetrical, shallow arch hull, fine entry, epoxy kevlar layup. The epoxy layup takes a hell of a blow and bounces back without cracking, remarkable. Mine, in ultralight layup (a custom version they don't advertise but will custom build for you) only weighs about 45lbs. By the way, I think this is built on the same form as Souris River uses. The epoxy Kevlar layup and and design are essentially identical.
Another reviewer complained about seats riveted through hull. I too don't like this, but I have to say they work and there never seem to be any problems with them.
This is a very fast and lively hull. With the narrow beam and shallow arch it will feel initially "tippy" to inexperienced paddlers. After 5 minutes you will feel comfortable and realize how seaworthy the design is. The hull is very very seaworthy, and amazingly fast. It is great for river, ocean or lake use and to my mind is the ultimate tripper.
I think this is the best all around canoe on the market and would buy another in a heartbeat. Also, Bob Hellman is a great guy to deal with and will customize your personal canoe as you want. All in all, when I shop around, I can't find a better deal or a better canoe.
For quick day trip we have taken this canoe on rivers up to grade II and it has handled the rapids and quick maneuvers needed with ease. The Duralite layup has held up well over the rocks and barnacles we have pulled our canoe over. Yes, we have scratches but nothing that we've had to repair.
This is a good all-around boat from day trips to multi-day tripping, it can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
The main problems are loose and poorly space rivets on the gunnels (one is actually loose because the rivets only clipped the top of the composite). The seats are actually riveted to the hull rather than hung which, in my opinion, is a joke. The rivets on the stern seat are a bit loose and I can see that they will eventually wear through or pull out. Also, for close to $2000 price tag it doesn't have a comfortable carrying yoke - just a shaped board. But the biggest problem is that it's just plain SLOW. For such a long canoe (17'6") it really drags. Paddling it feels like pushing a bus.
Overall I'd say it's an adequate canoe, but there are better boats you can buy for your dollar. I don't recommend the Hellman Prospector for touring.
It handles well loaded or empty. It is really tough. Has sustained some severe blows and the only damage is missing paint. At 17 1/2 feet it is big enough for most trips and at 55lbs. is not too heavy. I have paddled this boat in extreme wind and it ate it up. Controlled and responsive not a wind vane. If you want a good all-round tripping boat to handle river and lake travel this boat fits the bill.
Its narrower bow does help it cut through water a bit faster then other Prospectors, but it also gives the bow paddler a better bath when going through rapids and heavy chop.
The workmanship of the hull was great, my only nitpick though was in the craftsmanship of the wood decks. They were planted on in what looks like an afterthought. Overall a very good build though.
I have done lots of tripping both on flat and bumpy water with it. Other then the aforementioned narrow bow, it does great on river travel, and is very responsive. On flat water it is OK, quite good for a Prospector design. I did however retire it from flat water in for a much faster Swift Winisk, and now use it for all my river travel.
On the negative side, it is longer and narrower than some prospectors, so I don't think it would run as dry through the huge waves (I bought a Slocan instead). It would be great for mixed water tripping, as the capacity is good, the speed is good, and the weight/toughness are perfect for portaging and whitewater mixed in equal proportions.
Please take the 8 and this review for what it is - an impression based on 30 minutes of test driving solo and with a couple partners. I wouldn't buy this one, just because I would rather own both the Slocan and the Scout. If you want one good tripper, though, consider this.