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Name: Leonard

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I first became aware of the Merrimac line of canoes last year. They seemed to combine the appearance of a wood and canvas canoe with the practicality of composite construction but I wanted to paddle one first! My local canoe shop in central Iowa wasn't really interested in stocking a canoe I wasn't ready to promise I'd buy. Finally I drove to Madision, WI and padddled one at Carl's Paddlin (a great canoe shop). It is a Prospector and it's great! So far I have only paddled it solo and it handles like a dream. It's reasonably fast, turns well and balances pretty good when solo when I sit in the bow seat (facing the stern). Both initial and final stability are good. I did manage to capsize the canoe but I had to work at it. And the canoe is just so pretty!

I get compliments regularly. I just heel it over 15 degrees or so and feel like Bill Mason, who said once that if he could have only one canoe it would be a Chestnut Prospector. The Merrimac Prospector is a real close second. The only flaw is the hull shows the pattern of the ribs in the Kevlar covering. This is because the wood and canvas canoes were sheathed in cedar and then covered with canvas. This canoe has the ribs but due to the strength of fiberglass or Kevlar there is no sheathing between the ribs and the Kevlar. Hence the rib pattern shows through. It's a small thing though. All in all I love the canoe.

I have three original Duluth Packs, one #4 and two #3. They're great. Everything about them is well-made and heavy duty. I expect these packs will still be going strong twenty years from now. The only drawback is they're not waterproof. On the other hand it's a lot easier to carry a load in them than in my waterproof Seal Bags. Among other things the Duluth Packs have tump lines which certainly make packing easier.

These packs have been around since roughly when Christ was a kid and I fully expect they will be here for the next hundred years as well.

The Black Bart paddle is a bent shaft graphite paddle. The blade is 8 1/2" wide. It weighs 11 ounces. It is to die for! I tried one at a canoe show, loved it, and bought a second one as a spare for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips. If this paddle has a down side I haven't found it yet, with the possible exception of the price ($200). On the other hand, good laminated wood bent shaft paddles are pushing $100 today so it's not TOO high!

Update: 7-22-99. Though the paddles are sold through We-No-Nah dealers they are manufactured by: Black Bart Paddle Co. and when one of my paddles broke and this company was very courteous about repair (under warranty). I'm still a fan.

I went shopping for a solo canoe suitable for BWCAW tripping and after looking for a couple of years settled on the Prism in ultralight kevlar. I do not like the tractor seats so I ordered the canoe with cane and wood seats and wood gunwales.

In general the canoe is well made. The wood trim is reasonably well done but not perfect. In general I don't think the We-no-nah canoes are quite as well finished as the Bell canoes but they are satisfactory. On the other hand I wanted a canoe without rocker and Bell doesn't make one.

I took the canoe to the BWCAW in late September. When crossing Brule Lake I was in 2 to 2 1/2 foot waves. At first I was somewhat nervous about this but the canoe handled the waves without any problems at all. I took no water over the bow. The canoe weight is cataloged at 34 pounds and We-no-nah states the wood gunwales will add about 2 pounds. Weighing the canoe on an accurate (balance beam) scale it weighs 35 pounds. Its a dream to portage and a dream to paddle both with steering strokes and with switch side techniques. It does not turn readily (due to its 16'6" length and lack of rocker) unless well heeled over. On the other hand I bought it for the BWCAW not as a white water boat. Due to its light weight I was very careful to tie in to a tree every night, something I never felt necessary with my Grumman canoe!

All in all I have been very satisfied with this canoe.