Sporty handling characteristics. Impressive tripping capabilities. Sensational styling. These virtues begin to define the SRT. This is a superior solo canoe for river tripping. Close to home or far away, use your imagination. Navigate tight winding streams with graceful precision. Explore intimate backwaters at your leisure. Exercise the freedom to choose your destinations. Like to expand your adventures? The SRT is amazingly versatile. Every segment of the hull interacts for optimum overall performance. Its asymmetrical form responds extremely well in a variety of conditions typically encountered by avid river travelers. A noticeable advantage in rough water is the depth and fullness of the hull above the waterline. Generous flare from bow to stern combined with a shallow arch mid-section and soft chines provide smooth, predictable handling. Secondary stability and firmness are outstanding when leaned to carve turns or deflect waves. Recessed shoulders reduce the beam and also allow more freeboard at the gunwales when heeled. Reliability in moderate to intermediate whitewater is excellent when combined with experience and good judgement. A slender hull width and efficient waterline shape lets you cruise with surprising quickness on both moving water and lake regions. The stern is designed with moderate rocker and a distinct hollow vee shape to stay on track. Fullness in the mid-section is carried behind center allowing ample capacity to distribute tripping gear. Additional rocker forward makes the bow more playful than the stern providing excellent maneuverability.
Designed by whitewater champion and wilderness tripper Harold Deal, the SRT can be confidently run through class 3 whitewater. The bow is full and flared to lift over waves. The hull is 14" deep to carry heavy loads and keep out water. The rocker is differential: 2.5" in the bow and 1.5" in the stern. These specs do not allow you to free spin the boat or dissect a rapid like a whitewater play boat. However, a skilled paddler using current differentials can execute all the key whitewater moves, spin on eddy lines, ferry easily and surf waves smoothly.
The biggest surprise to me was the SRT's great speed and ease of paddling on flatwater. It's as fast as any kneeling canoe I'm currently aware of. The speed comes from the narrow 26" waterline, the sleek length/width ratio of 6.7, and the low drag bottom shape, which is more rounded than the common shallow arch or elliptical bottom. The differential rocker, pinched stern, straight sides, and recessed Deal shoulder allow for easy and efficient correction strokes. While the deep hull will catch a little more wind on a lake than a shallower one, the positive tradeoff is that the depth and bow fullness defy the accompanying wind waves and give strong actual and psychological security in the maelstrom.
Paddled empty, the SRT will not turn on flatwater like the hulls that win freestyle exhibitions. However, when laden to about 250 pounds the SRT will begin to outperform those shallower hulls, as their water lines and rocker lines bog down. And the SRT can carry twice that load on a multi-week wilderness trip.
What's the negative? The same attributes that give the SRT its great speed and efficiency render the hull initially tender. The initial tenderness may be discomfiting at first to less experienced paddlers. Don't let this deter you want the SRT's performance. The feeling of initial instability will dissipate with experience, especially when kneeling. The straight sides cause the secondary stability to kick in very quickly and the deep hull makes the final stability extremely solid.
My SRT has the Deal-Hemlock touring bucket seat, which I like better than a cane seat. It has a sloped front lip for kneel paddling, and also allows for comfortable sit 'n switch paddling. I installed a Wenonah foot brace for seated paddling, neoprene knee pads, and thigh straps for whitewater. It's easy to lace float bags into the ends though the beautiful slotted wood gunwales. Dave Curtis' hand laminated craftsmanship is unsurpassed.
I wouldn’t ordinarily give anything a 10 but the Hemlock SRT earns it, because it does the solo combo trick better than any other canoe I know. It's a very fast flatwater boat on a lake. It's a highly capable whitewater performer. It will carry as much of a load on a wilderness trip as anything in its class. And it's fun on twisty streams and slaloming through a swamp. If I take only one of my 15 canoes and kayaks on the road to unknown waters, the SRT is the boat that now gets the call.
It also does quite well on lakes. I've paddled it nearly empty (just a camp chair and lunch in the bow for trim) into a 20 mph head wind and 2 foot rollers, and was able to keep up nicely with the kayaks, although the high sides do catch the wind a bit. Loaded down with gear, the SRT charges into the wind with ease, deflecting waves to the side and staying very dry. It is a dream to paddle on flat windless lakes while loaded with gear...it wanders a bit unloaded. It is VERY trim sensitive...if the wind switches around on you, be prepared to redistribute gear to adjust your trim. A sliding seat like a Swift Osprey has would be a good addition to this boat if you paddle it empty a lot.
The reinforced construction in the floor gave me peace of mind transporting it on a Canadian Boat Walker portage cart, loaded with gear...no flexing in the floor at all.
Finally, the boat can even be poled! It takes some getting used to, very twitchy, but one you get used to the degree of heeling you can do with the boat without any step-outs, it becomes a fun boat in the shallows.
Although I really like the SRT and respect it, I'd personally go for a Swift Shearwater as a large capacity versatile solo canoe...or a Wildfire if I was leaning towards mostly river use.
For its intended use...downriver tripping with big loads, I'd guess that the SRT cannot be beat.