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These Curtis canoes have my favorite shape of float tanks - flat on top so the blade of the spare paddle can rest on it with the handle on the front thwart. This makes that space usable, rather than wasted, as with curved tanks. No deck plates, so no water can get trapped and rot the ends of the gunwales.
I'm 5'6" and 160 lbs and have owned and sold Sawyers Loon, Summersong and the 13'4" solo, kevlar Bell Wildfire, Carbonlite 2000 Mad River Slipper, kevlar Ultralight Wenonah's Voyager, Advantage and Whisper and still own Bell's black gold & white gold Flashfires, royalex and black gold Yellowstone Solos, black gold Merlin II, kevlar Bucktail and kevl ar ultra light Magic, Mad River Monarch, Grumman G-129 Solo and royalex Wenonah Sandpiper and the Curtis Lady Bug just may be my favorite of the bunch for both single blading and double blading - a great all purpose canoe, but I wouldn't use it for whitewater, since I don't have good whitewater skills.
I single blade it with ZRE Medium bent paddles of whichever length is appropriate for whether I'm sitting or kneeling or on a lake or on a river. I also use a ZRE Medium straight shaft with it. The Lady bug is a joy both sitting and kneeling the way I have it set up. Very efficient and maneuver's great heeled to the inside or outside of turns.
This little canoe screams with my 225cm Epic Relaxed Tour kayak paddle - my lap times on our local city pond are very similar to my faster sea kayaks. It's crazy to me how quick this boat is. It will easily keep pace with kayaks of similar length.
The 29" max beam width and 26" gunwale width make this canoe a good size for smaller to medium size paddlers with moderate loads or simply paddling for the joy of it without any load. The relatively low shear of 16.5" bow and 15" stern help reduce the effects of wind on the boat. The 1-3/8" symmetrical rocker helps it track well when level and turn quickly when heeled over a bit. It's a pleasure on twisty streams & rivers.
If there's one thing I'd change about this Lady Bug, it would be to have the infused carbon/kevlar gunwales that are available on many of the modern high end canoes, rather than the wood gunwales, since I often leave a canoe on my car for weeks at a time, whether it be rain or shine and don't like maintaining the wood gunwales.
The Lady Bug has been out of production for several years, but the manufacturer's write up and specs can be found in the "Photo Album" at the Hemlock Canoe website. The current production solo canoe that the Lady Bug is likely most similar to is the Flashfire, which was originally produced by Bell, then Placid and now by Colden Canoe. Colden also possesses the mold for the Lady Bug, but hasn't made any, yet.
I hope this review was helpful. There isn't much information available about this canoe, so I thought I'd contribute a little.
My Vagabond weighs about 40 lbs with an added aluminum foot brace, cane seat and wood gunwales & thwarts. The Vagabond specs are listed as 14'8" long, 25.5" at gunwales, 27.5" max beam and 25.5" waterline width. Depths: 15.5" bow, 11.5" center, 14.0" stern. Efficient load capacity 125 lbs to 250 lbs. They don't list rocker in the old catalog page that's preserved in the Hemlock Canoe "Photo Album" link, but I recall that it's got differential rocker and it's plenty sufficient to be nicely maneuverable for someone my size - 5'6" and 160 lbs - whether sitting or kneeling, but especially nimble when kneeling. Just a bit of a heel or J-lean renders quick and smooth turns. The flare and shouldered tumblehome yield a relatively comforting secondary stability when heeled. The low shear line allows pleasant paddling in winds that might deter one from paddling other canoes with higher shear line. I haven't had it out on any rivers yet, but am looking forward to it. It's got enough forward flare that I expect it should be a pretty dry ride up through class 1 on central IL rivers.
Regarding construction, it' put together well, with nice attention to detail, but is a bit flexy in the hull bottom while on the water as well when on my roof rack going down the highway. My rack load bars are only 36" apart, which leaves about 5.5' of bow and stern unsupported and the bow will squirm side to side a little at highway speed on a windy day or in the turbulence of a semi tractor trailer. This Vagabond is the boat that I've chosen to keep on my car for paddling after work this spring because it's still pleasant enough to paddle even when the wind is kicking up to 15 to 20 mph and it's often pretty windy here in central IL.
I eagerly await the 25 lb reincarnation of the Vagabond in it's infused carbon construction by Colden Canoe sometime in the spring of 2012. It will be the 1st Vagabond made in around 20 years. It will be stiffer than the original and will be nearly maintenance free because of the composite gunwales, rather than wood gunwales. I feel quite fortunate to have been able to acquire this 26 year old creation of David Yost's design and Dave Curtis's very skilled and attentive construction.
The relatively modern variations of the Curtis Vagabond are the Placid Boat Works Rapidfire, which is a sit on the bottom boat pack style boat paddled usually with a kayak paddle, and the Hemlock Kestrel, which is currently make by Dave Curtis and is readily paddled either sitting or kneeling. The Vagabond is one of the few touring solo canoes ever made that's narrow enough for smaller paddlers to have reasonably easy reach to the water to allow a nice vertical paddle stroke, which both encourages straighter tracking and more comfort for the paddler.
If you're a smaller paddler and get a chance to try a Curtis Vagabond, please treat yourself to it.
I removed the front seat, installed a foot brace at the back set of holes for the front position of the front seat. I sit on two 3.5" thick square boat float cushions placed with the back edge just on the front edge of the back seat. This is where I get the best response with the 48" bent shaft Zaveral paddle. The Vagabond responds quite nicely to control strokes with this trim. Single blading from the back seat also works, but the bow is a little too light without some ballast toward the front and I usually paddle with no added load. The Vagabond responds very, very nicely to control strokes from the position just in front of the rear seat.
Kneeling with knees on back seat and butt on rear of cockpit trim also works, but ballast is needed up front to improve trim.
I shortened a portage yoke to fit between the screw holes for the front seat and place it in the back two holes of the seat mount, secured with two of the seat bolts, to portage the boat with decent balance. I move the yoke forward one set of holes while paddling to secure the spare paddle shaft and whatever else needs secured.
The Vagabond is relatively unaffected by wind when compared with undecked canoes. The downward slope from cockpit to stems allows the car hood & trunk lid to open farther than with standard canoes, when it's on the rack.
It's an ugly, spartan boat, but don't discount it's handling capabilities without experimenting with trim first. Trim makes a big difference with the Vagabond.
I'm 5'6", 155 lbs and have 14 other canoes & kayaks.
The Marathon is the bent shaft version of the older Grey Owl Freestyle straight shaft. It has two veneer layers over a very thin solid wood layer and a thin resin rim around the tip for protection. There is NOT any fiberglass on the faces of the blade. The blade is 22" x 8 3/8". It is very pretty to look at.
The GO Marathon is at least twice the weight of my ZRE Medium, which is 10oz, but the swing weight is pretty light for a wood paddle and actually feels pretty good paddling the Sawyer Loon around when either poking around trees standing in the water in the lake fingers, or powering down the center of the lake with the rudder down.
The thin blade allows for very quiet and low resistance in-water recovery, but shouldn't be used in shallow water - especially if there are rocks.
The only quality issue that I found with the Marathon, as well as the Freestyle, is rough areas on the shaft just below the grip from when the paddles were hanging after being dipped in the varnish. I'll sand it smooth if it bothers me enough. It's more of an issue on the straight shaft Freestyle when doing the Indian stroke with palm rolls than it is with the bent shaft Marathon.
I like the feel of the paddle in the water and plan to use it often when in a boat that has a low enough seat and when in water that's deep enough. I often paddle along shallow lake shorelines and don't want to abuse the relatively delicate, thin bladed Marathon.
Grey Owl doesn't make these paddles anymore.
Boat, 1996 Sawyer Loon that weighs about 57 lbs. I don't know which construction it is. I bought it used about three years ago. I don't paddle it a lot because I have difficulty with the weight and don't need the capabilities of the Loon for the small lakes that I paddle most of the time, but when I need a canoe for larger lakes with wind and waves, I take the Loon, because it handles those conditions better than any other canoe I've ever paddled, which include Wenonah Advantage and Whisper, Blackhawk Zephyr, royalex Bell Yellowstone, Curtis Ladybug and Sawyer Summersong.
I've been paddling the Loon with the seat on the lower of the two heights, which is about 6" off the bottom and it is extremely stable, but still easy to edge for turning when not using the rudder. I only day paddle, no camping or tripping and don't have over 20 lbs of gear in the boat.
When double blading it, I never use the rudder, because it just doesn't feel right. I might drop the rudder if conditions were bad enough and I was either tired or not looking for a challenge.
When single blading (bent shaft), I sometimes use the rudder and sometimes don't, depending on my mood and conditions. Without the rudder, the Loon is quite maneuverable, especially at slow speeds. It responds very well to leaned turns and sweep strokes and is very fun in situations requiring quick turns, as long as there's room for the over 17' long boat. I'll usually use in-water recovery when paddling relatively slow. Dropping the Feathercraft aluminum rudder allows paddling on one side as long as you can endure it while focusing on pure forward stroke and getting into a great rhythm. The rudder foot controls are the sliding type, not gas pedal type. It's the same rudder blade as on my Sawyer Summersong solo canoe and composite Aquaterra Sea Lion kayak.
The excellent initial and secondary stability make it a great boat for birding and I would also expect it to be great for fishing, but I don't fish these days. It's very confidence inspiring in the wind and waves - I never feel like I'm going to go over.
It seems to be pretty efficient, but I don't have any cruising speed data, because I misplaced my GPS. I find the sliding tractor style seats of the Sawyer canoes to be very comfortable for multiple hours at a time. More comfortable than any other I've tried.
I did have some structural issues with this Loon. The cockpit rim was too flexy for my preference - it flexed when I would pick the boat up by one side of the rim and made carrying the boat more awkward. I remedied that situation by installing a 1"x2" thwart between the two rear seat support brackets using some aluminum "L" brackets and the coaming feels very solid now. The other coaming problem was that it wasn't epoxied all the way around when attached to the deck and some of the rivet heads had pulled through the coaming, which also contributed to the flexy and weak feel of the cockpit rim. I remedied this by drilling out the rivets that had pulled through and resecuring with two-part marine epoxy from the hardware store and relacing the rivets. Other than the shoddy coaming attachment, the rest of the construction quality and the gel coat seem to be first rate.
This Loon also came with a one piece cover that snapped on to the deck and also has shock cord that secures under the rim. It had a dual zipper opening from the top front of the tunnel to about two feet in front of the tunnel. The zipper does leak. I don't know the manufacturer. The cover fits so tight, that I have to wet it to relax it before putting it on. There is adjustable shock cord around the top of the tunnel.
If the Loon weighed 45 lbs or less, instead of 57 lbs, I would use it much more than I do, because I love paddling it. I wish there was a 15', 40 lb junior version of this boat.
Superior Canoes currently has the molds for the Loon and several other Sawyer canoes, but hasn't made any Loons yet, but is building the other solo canoes, with the exception of the Starlight, for which the mold no longer exists.
If you want a cruising canoe for rough conditions, tripping or poking around in dead tree studded inlets, consider the Sawyer Loon.
WARNING: Do not confuse the Black Jack with the less expensive and heavier Wenonah Black Lite paddle! The Black Lite is 15 oz and I suspect that it may be a relabled ZRE Black Rec paddle, though I haven't actually seen a Black Lite. I do own a ZRE Black Reck and it's much different feeling to me than the ZRE Medium.
Note that the Black Jack is 11oz and the blade width appear to be available only in 8 5/8" wide. I bought mine slightly used last fall and have used it four or five times and like it very much.
The paddle that's so nice, I bought it twice! I liked…
I liked the used one that I bought so much, that I bought a new one on ebay for about half price a week later (today), and I'm pretty frugal.
Last week I received a well-used 230cm AT Xception SL Tour with the 45 degree feather to use with my solo canoes from a guy who switched to a shorter paddle for his kayaks. The paddle is about two years old and has a few minor chips along the blade edges and the back of both blades are significantly scuffed from using the paddle to brace the boat while entering and exiting. I'm glad that the seller chose to sell the paddle because I really like it so far.
The only problem I've had with it so far is depressing the ferrule release button to separate the paddle. It's a little stiff at times.
I was very leary about liking the bent shaft because I don't like the bent shaft on my 220cm Werner Kalliste, but I actually do like the feel of this AT bent shaft, so far. I've used it with my hands in the center of the bends as well as with my hands on the outer half of the bends and like it both ways, depending on what I'm trying to accomplish.
This paddle is very flexy! The first time I used it, the rebound of the flex at the end of the stroke reminded me of the same type of rebound with my Bending Branches Infusion Plus with fiberglass shaft. It really flexes and seems to be easy on the joints. I'd previously been using an Epic Relaxed Tour full carbon paddle set to 225cm and 60 degree feather for my solo canoes (when I chose to use a double blade instead of a single blade) and was pretty satisfied with it, but kept reading about how great these 230cm AT Xception SL Tour paddles are with the solo canoes, so I took the plunge when the used one became available in the p.net classifieds. After three outings in my Sawyer Starlight solo canoe in the last week, I agree it is a great paddle for high angle solo canoe paddling. It is WET when using a high angle stroke and water does drip on my head, shoulders, legs and feet, but the paddle's stroke feels very good and I'm learning to accept the wetness.
This paddle appears to be as easy on my joints as the Epic Relaxed Tour and drips about the same amount. I don't know if it's because the AT is longer than the Epic by 5cm, or if it's because of the design and build characteristics, but have come to prefer using the 230cm SL Tour over the Relaxed Tour for the Starlight in the three short (about an hour each) outings in the last week. I suspect that I'll also prefer the SL Tour for my Sawyer Loon decked canoe as well.
On my wife's kitchen scale, this AT Xception SL Tour weighed in at 25.5 oz and the Epic Relaxed Tour weighed in at 22 oz. That little bit of additional weight doesn't seem to bother me.
The paddle seems to feel good in my hands, but it's been cold since I received it, so I've been using my Glacier Glove Kenai All-Purpose neoprene gloves on all three outings and haven't used it bare handed yet.
I'm so pleased with this 230cm SL Tour for the solo canoes that I may try to acquire a 215cm or 210cm for use with my kayaks. I still use a ZRE bent shaft canoe paddle most of the time with most of my canoes, but this 230cm SL Tour is now my preferred double blade for when I choose to double blade the Starlight.
I realize that three outings isn't much usage on which to form a review, but I'll update the review if my opinion changes. I did use the paddle in some pretty strong winds and the upper blade does catch quite a bit in the wind because it's feather is only 45 degrees and I'd prefer the adjustable feather version of the paddle so I could set it to 60 degrees or greater, but this paddle was less than half price of a new variable feather paddle, so I'll just have to suffer with it on those windy days or switch to low angle strokes in those situations.
I chose the SL Tour rather than the SL Tour OS (over sized), because I'm not real strong - prefer blades with less loading than the larger blades that most people use. That's also why I chose the Epic Relaxed Tour rather than the Epic Active Tour.
Highly recommended if you'd like a straight shaft paddle as light as your carbon bent or about half the weight of your wooden straight shaft. I've been using a Zaveral Medium bent for a couple years now and it greatly enhanced my pleasure of paddling, even if my skills are somewhat lacking.
I bought this set at the 2006 Canoecopia in Madison, WI and have been using it since about last March. I've only had it off the rack a few times since then.
The rubber padded gunwale brackets work great for holding the canoe in place and completely eliminated side to side slippage as well as forward or backward slippage on the rack load bars. These brackets made loading and hauling the canoes much more safe, secure and easy than my previous self made brackets. The brackets can be easily installed or uninstalled while the rack load bars are still on the car.
The brackets also work great as load stops for lumbar and other similar items on the Thule load bars.
The brackets also work great for transporting large cockpit kayaks, such as the Phoenix Poke Boat, upside down on sedans like my 97 Bonneville by placing the brackets up against the cockpit coaming just as with the gunwales on canoes.
The brackets also work well for transporting sea kayaks, such as my Aquaterra Sea Lion, right side up by placing the brackets on either side of those common shallow v shaped foam kayak carrying roof top blocks when the blocks are on the Thule load bars. Before I had the canoe brackets, the foam blocks tended to slip sideways on the load bars a little. No slipping now.
The 15' load straps that come with the 579 XT are the best load straps I've used in respect to their ability to retain constant tension regardless of changes in wetness or temperature. Unlike many straps I've used, the Thule straps don't lengthen when getting wet or cooling down and don't tighten when drying out or getting warmer. These are very nice characteristics when transporting the boat through changing temperatures or alternating wet and dry conditions. I no longer have to stop and tighten my straps when I drive through a rain shower - that was a hassle. I only wish that they came in some other sizes than 15', such as 12' and 9'.
As for the Quick Draw bown and stern tie downs, I haven't actually put them to the test because I'm satisfied with the other load straps that I've been using for the bow and stern tie downs. I may experiment a little more with them next season. Also, initial set up of these tie downs requires tying the nylon line on to the steel S hooks and I don't tie good nots yet.
All in all, I highly recommend these brackets for folks who transport their canoes or large cockpit kayaks on Thule load bars as well as those that use the v shaped foam kayak carriers on Thule load bars.
I paddled it in two sessions for a total of about 45 minutes to an hour (I also test paddled a Dagger Sojourn solo canoe and a Wenonah Sandpiper solo canoe).
I'm 5'6" and about 150 lbs with size 8.5 shoes and the cockpit on the Nighthawk 16 fit me GREAT! I didn't make any adjustments. The keyhole shape allows for easy entry and exit. The boat can also be shoulder carried on both shoulders by sticking your head through the narrow part of the keyhole (facing the stern) and resting the sides of the keyhole on your shoulders. The thigh braces and footpegs were especially pleasing. The thigh braces make a lot of contact and seemed to be placed perfect for me. The foot pegs are nice and big and positioned well for me and didn't feel any pressure points and they felt solid. The seat and back band felt great too. I was amazed how well this boat fit me and how comfortable it felt. I wasn't in it very long today, but it felt like I would be comfortable in it for several hours.
Test Paddle on a small lake with flat water and light breeze: Speed: I was pleased with it's accelleration and cruising speed even though I didn't have any other kayaks there to compare it to. I was using a 220cm Bending Branches Spirt carbon paddle with Day blade and it seemed to be a nice match for the Nighthawk 16. My expectation is that it would be fast enough to allow me to keep up well enough with my paddling partners who paddle 16 and 17' kayaks. Surprisingly, when I got out of the Nighthawk and into my Lotus BJX 16'6" solo canoe, I was able to move it along almost as fast as the Nighthawk, but the Nighthawk is much more maneuverable and secure feeling. Handling: The initial stability may seem a little twitchy to some paddlers, but it felt fine to me (about the same as my Phoenix Isere) and the secondary stability seemed very solid and I was able to carve turns quite nicely with it on edge. I found it to have a very nice combination of tracking and stability. In the conditions that I was paddling, the boat didn't need the skeg and I liked paddling it better without it deployed. The skeg deployed smoothly and the slider was easy to reach and operate.
I really like the fit and handling of this boat.
Outfitting: I didn't have much time to pay attention to the fit and finish and outfitting other than the cockpit and footbraces. The hatch covers on this model aren't flush, so you'll probably get spray in the face when waves come over the bow. The footpegs adjust very easily while in the boat and feel very solid and comfortable. The backband felt great. The hard molded seat seemed contoured nicely seemed like it would be just fine as is or with a thin foam pad. The clear plastic bulkheads are a nice touch and let a lot more light into the storage area. I didn't think there was a kayak out there that would fit me this well right off the shelf.
The Nighthawk fits me much better than my Phoenix Isere and Old Town Castine and my friend's Prijon Kodiak and Barracuda and I think I prefer it's handling to those boats as well.
I am really tempted to buy one of these now, but I'm going to test paddle some other models first for comparison. Also, I'd have to sell three or four other boats to afford it.