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I picked up my Rapidfire in Nov. 06 and waited for a year of paddling experience before writing this review.
I first saw a Rapidfire in July 06 when Charlie brought one to the Adirondack Freestyle gathering. He set it on the beach at Star Lake, turned, and walked away to chat with his long time friends in the Freestyle community. I asked him if I could paddle it and he replied, "That’s what I brought it for" and turned back to his conversation with his old friends. I paddled about 15 minutes, was extremely impressed with the canoe and then brought it back for others to try. To my surprise no one else stepped up to paddle it. Guess the Freestylers were more interested in canoes that went in circles than harder tracking ones optimized to cover distances. Could it also have been issues with canoes propelled with a double blade paddle instead of a single blade? After waiting a while and seeing no other takers, I asked Charlie if I could take it for a paddle around the lake. Charlie looked over and said, "I’ll be here for another hour or two, go ahead" and turned to resume the conversation with his old friends.
Now Charlie is quite a salesman in the best sense of the term. He can quote the specs and attributes of his canoes off the top of his head, compare them with anything that has ever been built and generally doesn’t put down other makers or their craft to boost his. However, this superb salesman had nothing to do with selling me on this canoe -- as happens in the best of experiences, the canoe sold itself! I paddled around Star Lake in less than 45 minutes, unaffected by the moderate wind, small waves or boat wakes.
The canoe is very attractive, but I have owned many beautiful all wood and wood canvas canoes over the years so beauty alone wouldn’t do it for me. My lust for the Rapidfire was for how it paddled! I haven’t figured out how he did it, but Dave Yost appropriated my body for the designing of this canoe. At 6’1” and about 205 lbs this canoe fits me perfectly. I had paddled a Spitfire a year earlier and at my size and weight I thought it was nice but wasn’t overcome with the same boat desire - I’m probably closer to the appropriate size and weight for the Rapidfire than the Spitfire.
I drove up to Lake Placid in Fall 06 to demo the Rapidfire another time before deciding if I wanted to order it. The canoe talked to me again. Charlie was too busy building canoes to spend time blowing smoke in my ears, so again the canoe did all the sweet-talking. After returning home and thinking it over once more the checkbook came out.
The Rapidfire has (for me) a perfect balance between very good tracking and enough maneuverability. It is very fast for a 15’ canoe. I find their low (on the bottom) seat comfortable. The lowest seat does pitch me slightly back into the back band (very comfortable), which does reduce trunk rotation, making for a slightly less efficient stroke. Works for days when my back is a little tweaky and asking for support. I also ordered what is now their "mid height" seat. It slips over the attached low seat and gives a somewhat higher seat that also tilts me forward slightly. This moves me off the backbend, allowing more trunk rotation for a more efficient stroke. I use the mid seat when I want to go faster using trunk rotation. Placid is now making a third seat that is higher yet. I haven’t used it enough to have a final opinion, but I’m tilted even more forward with that seat. I have feeling that it might need to be placed slightly rearward of the location of my low seat. It was developed for Joe’s racing and his powerful stroke probably lifts the bow enough to balance the slightly greater forward weight shift this seat causes. Try all three bottom seat options or the hung seat with sidewall stiffening and pick the one that works best for you.
As in all open double paddle canoes, there is some paddle drip into the canoe. It can be slight, or if the wind is blowing wrong, considerable. I leave a sponge on the bottom in front of the seat and squeeze it out ever 20-30 minutes. I have purchased the Placid spray decks but haven’t yet used them enough to rate them.
Joe and Charlie are easy to work with as you order your canoe. Some buyers have ordered the canoe for kneeling with a hung seat, which it wasn’t designed for. For them additional strength is added to the mid section to allow a hung seat. I wanted to change the decks and thwarts using my own stripped maple and apple wood instead of their Diamond Wood. They worked with me on those substitutions. I now have a Rapidfire with the "Anniversary Special Limited Edition Trim Package". Just a pretentious way to say that I traded their unique looking rot-proof wood trim for my less rot resistant wood, all in the name of my sense of aesthetics.
If you want a very fast "sit on bottom" canoe, start your search with a Rapidfire. It’s a fine canoe, built by some fine folks.