I've had a 1988 Crozier J200 for 2 years now. When I bought it, the first thing that I noticed about the boat is its superb build quality. Even for the late 80's, this boat is built light and strong! Crozier's vacuum bagging was top notch and led to a top quality boat. The fabric he used (at least during this time period) seems more substantial than Wenonah's Kevlar. It employs the diamond shaped core with side ribs design to stiffen the boat. Even in the areas between the ribs, the single layer fabric is very rigid and seems stronger than comparable Wenonah's.
After a couple years of paddling this boat, a few things stick out at me:
1. Its very (very very) hard tracking. Many would say like its on rails. Obviously you paddle a boat like this with sit and switch style and minimal to no corrective strokes. Once I'm up to cruising speed, I can get 3-8 strokes per side and maintain a straight course. Even from a dead stop, you can still get 3-4 strokes per side before you have to switch. During a race, I average 3-6 strokes per side probably. Anyways, the point I'm making is that it tracks very very straight. Even compared to other race boats like a J203, V1, or DIIIxx the J200 is still harder tracking. This is generally good for marathon style racing since you are traveling a long distance in a relatively straight line; there aren't a lot of small, twisty creeks in marathon canoe racing.
The only way to get the boat to turn is leaning it…aggressively. If I paddle carefully and keep the gunwale near the water and do stern draw strokes all the way through a 180* buoy turn, I bet I can do it as tight as a 2-3 boat radius. It certainly takes more to turn than a MNII or Jensen 18. Its actually fairly comparable to a V1 with a 'less than pro' bowman doing a crossbow or post, although you have to be fairly skilled in the J200 to keep it heeled through the turn to execute a tight turn. Even with the boat heeled over, the stern is fairly sticky. I wouldn't want to take it down a narrow or windy stream unless I added a rudder. (its sacrilege I know, but I intend to add a Starbor rudder system to the boat this year just so I can take it out when its very windy (like 15+ mph). I couldn't race with the rudder obviously, but it's a windy year in MN and I'm at home more than I would like because of the wind. This boat does pretty well in it due to its low profile and hard tracking, but paddling solo in a strong wind sucks anyway you look at it, so I think I'll add one later this year).
Heeling the boat brings up an interesting point: the stability curve. I need to divide this into 2 categories, the first being "Stock" from Crozier. The stock seat was 7" from floor to butt. With the original setup, initial stability was very poor. You could feel a seagull's wake underneath you. Seriously, you could feel a fish fart a half mile away. Secondary stability firmed up very quickly as with any 'winged' boat. The secondary stability was solid until you hit 'the cliff'. Once the wing reached maximum displacement (read 'point of final stability') the boat would fall out from under you like a trap door. I have a fast, instinctual brace that I've engrained into my muscle memory but even with bracing being like 2nd nature, I flipped this boat my fair share of times. It wasn't always fun.
Because 'The Stability Cliff' caused me to swamp in 2 consecutive races, I had had enough. I cut out the seat mount and lowered it 2.5" so that my butt was 4.5" off the floor. The old guys (who I respect greatly and normally take their word as God) told me that lowering the seat would make it feel like a bathtub or lead to a worse angle of attack on the paddle, but I think the benefits GREATLY outweigh any negatives. Lowering the seat did prompt me to whack the side of the boat with the paddle a couple times before I got used to the new height as the old guys suggested. Also, getting back in the boat with a Capistrano flip was a little trickier with the very low seat, but here's the payoff that makes it all worth it: the boat has SOLID primary and secondary stability, and 'The Cliff' turned into a moderate hill.
With the lowered seat, primary stability now feels like a MNII or Jensen 18. Its stable enough that I throw Rookies in it and just tell them to go at it. The secondary stability got equally better and I can get the gunwale to the water and hold it there only semi-precariously. Also, 'The Cliff' is no longer an instant drop off. Once you hit the point of final stability (read 'you are getting wet unless you brace') the boat no longer instantly falls out from underneath you. Don't get me wrong, you still have to act fast and have a solid, instinctual brace that you don't think about, but with the lower seat, you have a half second to realize you're in trouble and start to brace. More than once I've had water coming over the gunwale, about to swamp and saved it with an epic brace. If the seat were higher, I would have been swimming by the time I muttered some profanities to myself. This more gradual fall out is much appreciated and lets me be more aggressive finding the limit of heel.
To that end, the boat is now so stable that I had to add 3" neoprene foam on the sides of the paddling station because the boat became so stable that when leaning it hard, my butt would slip off the side of the seat, sending me to the low side of the boat putting my center of gravity wayyyy off center, and no amount of bracing will save you then. In 1989 (the year after my boat) Everett tucked the gunwales in at the paddling station from 20" to 17". In the skinnier boat, you might be able to get away without the foam, but in mine I had a good 2-3" on each side of me. With the foam now securely holding me in the center of the boat, I can heel the boat to the gunwale with relative security. With the high seat, I would cautiously paddle as fishing or ski boats passed and be ready to brace at a moment's notice. Now, I wait for ski boats to pass and ride their waves like a surfer. The other night a ski boat went down the whole lake right before it planed out leaving a huge 2' wake behind it. In addition to being fairly large (safely 18", probably getting closer to 2' when they got to shallower water) the waves were tightly packed. This meant that my bow and stern were buried in the wave and the center wings were almost dry at times. Normally this is a recipe for a swamp and recovery, but I rode the entire length of the lake like this with only 2 braces needed! It was SUPER fun! During that run, I recorded 9.7mph a couple different times. That's smokin'! With the stock seat height, there is no way (even with my current skills) I could have rode those waves. This large increase in stability translates directly to being able to better control the boat during a mass start. With the large and confused waves at the start of a race, controlling the boat (or just keeping it upright) can be tricky to say the least. The lower seat helps a lot because I can heel the boat more before approaching the point of final stability leading to better directional control and less bracing. Also, when you're worried about tipping, your power, form, and cadence suffer.
The only criticisms I have for the J200 are…The center thwart is basically on top of the seat when the seat is all the way back. I'm a medium-big guy (6'1" 190 lbs, athletic build) so I need the seat all the way back to get the boat trim. With the seat all the way back, the center thwart grinds into your back and impedes motion. Because of this, I unscrewed the thwart and moved it 4" rearward. Now I don't touch it and can even lean back a little during buoy turns or for stretching. Wenonah J boats are like this too and for the life of me I can't understand why they don't move the damn thwart back another 3-4"! Next, I think the boat is soooooo much more fun with the lower seat. It should have been around 5" off the floor from the factory, not 7". I encourage everyone everywhere to cut their seat down, even if you are happy with your J boat as is. It makes the boat much more fun and better paddling. You don't even know what you're missing (and if you don't like it, you can buy rail spacers for $12 from J&J Canoe to get the seat back to stock height) Last complaint: the foot brace system sucks. Its an easy fix, but the one that comes with the boat was junk. It was flimsy and nearly impossible to adjust. I bought a new sliding system from Wenonah for $35 and it works like a charm.
Overall, I will have a very hard time finding a solo boat I like more than my (slightly modified) J200. I paddled a Savage River DIIIxx briefly and think it handled a little better and was probably a little faster, but they don’t come up on the used market (ever). Since they are based on a newer design and are more comparable to a J203, its not really a fair comparison either.
In conclusion, I know it seems like I love gushing about Crozier boats, but they really deserve it. There is almost no information on the web about them. People in the racing world know how nice they are, but most don't. If you have the chance to own a Crozier, get it. You won't regret it.
PS: Everyone, everywhere, in any racing canoe, lower your seats an inch or 2! It makes such a big difference.
The craftsmanship is superb on all his boats. Another nice thing is that Everett will customize a boat any way you want it (lunch decks, outfitting, padding, seat height, seat placement, and probably more). I have paddled Wenonah V1's and Crozier V1's extensively. It's a tippy boat compared to most canoes, but when compared to many surf skis or narrow kayaks, they're actually quite stable. They have very low primary stability, but pretty good secondary. The boats are built to the 3x27 spec (USCA pro boat spec) at the waterline, but flare to 33" at the gunwale, so you gain stability all the way till you swamp. Also, with a spray deck, an experienced team can get the gunwale in the water at the mid point and not flip. You actually do a lot of leaning the boat since the keel line is dead flat and the boat does not like to turn without some lean.
All V1 designs suffer from a cramped bow paddling station. I have size 12 feet and cant get my feet next to each other even with the seat all the way back and the footbrace extended most of the way. In races less than an hour its no big deal. When you get around the 2 hour mark, it can become uncomfortable, but it helps if you're proactive and switch up your seating and footing position before they start to hurt. The stern station is more comfortable since you can spread your legs out more.
The V1 pops very nicely in shallow water and only takes a moderate effort to stay popped once you're up. It has a nice sharp bow entry which is nice for passing a wake, but in larger waves (like greater than ~10") it can mean a wet ride for the bow paddler. This can be overcome with a spray skirt Velcro'd to the sides of the boat. A bow spray skirt is pretty much necessary if you're going to do a race with a big water crossing, or any race that has some wind driven waves. The bow volume is so low that the boat doesn't even think about going over the waves, it cuts right through, which is good most of the time, just not when you start taking on water. The V1 also rides a wake nicely. I prefer a stern wake, but it rides a side wake just as well.
Overall, I love the V1 design and I think that Crozier is tied for 1st place in quality with Savage River. If you can get a Crozier, do it! They rarely come up for sale for a reason…you only sell yours to buy a new one.
I would actually give the V1 a 9.5 instead of 10, as I think the V1 Corbin design is sliiiiightly faster in the shallows and is easier to pop. Also, it has almost no discernible top speed 'wall'. If you put down more power, the V1 Corbin just keeps going faster. The V1 Corbin is an uncommon design, so you probably wont see one around very often. Its basically the same as a V1, but the bow is sharper and the stern gunwales are tucked in more for an easier reach for the stern paddler. That means the bow station is rather uncomfortable for a bigger guy, but its a super fun boat to paddle. Probably my favorite so far.
I'm very glad I went with the Ninja. This is the most comfortable PFD I've ever worn. The radical triangular shape is perfect for a canoe stroke. My top arm never rubs on the vest due to the triangular shape, and it sits lower on your chest than most other PFDs, which provides more clearance. The vest does not interfere with my stroke at all! In the past I normally just have a PFD in the boat to comply with DNR rules, but the Ninja is so comfortable I will actually wear this regularly. The build quality seems to be good (only had it 2 months as of now), the fit is superb, functionally it is the best canoeing PFD Ive ever tried on.
I was debating between the Ninja and the Stohlquist Rocker. I tried them on, and both are very comfortable. The Ninja seems to be better suited for canoes/open boats while the Rocker seems more geared towards Kayaks/skirted boats. The Ninja sits relatively close to your hips so it would most likely interfere with a seat back in a Kayak. The Ninja is more designed for canoes or boats that the seat does not come up your back more than a few inches.
Ninja is THE pfd to have for canoeing/open boats. I'm going to buy one for my better half. Overall I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a comfortable PFD. This is a must for any racer
The only (tiny) drawback is that there is very minimal storage (1 small front pocket; only enough space for a whistle, mirror, and car keys or a Cliff bar) but I don't carry much stuff in my vest so this wasn't an issue for me. It may be for some fisherman or kayakers. If you have a kayak, possibly look more towards the Rocker due to the fact that it sits higher up on your chest and will clear the seat/skirt.
On to the Jensen 17':
I love this boat. Although, I've discovered I love almost anything Gene Jensen designed. He generally designed boats that were performance/speed oriented. I mostly use my Jensen for day trips, casual paddling with my wife, and some training for races. My wife has relatively little paddling experience. It has a shallow arch bottom so the initial stability is medium-low (by most people's scale) but it firms up quickly as its leaned. I think it feels very stable but I have good balance. My wife has a low tolerance for the "tippy" feeling and she feels comfortable with the stability of this boat. The shallow arch rides over side waves very nicely. It does not roll with the wave very much. A couple times a ski boat went by us slowly with its 1.5-2.5' wave and we had no problems with it. Ive only had to brace it a couple times and it was more for my wife's peace of mind than necessary to stay dry. All summer I never came close to tipping unintentionally so don't be discouraged by the other reviews.
I don't mind unstable boats so I think the Jensen feels like a rock compared to a 3x27 pro boat, or my solo that has a round bottom and low primary stability. My wife likes a much more stable boat and has no issues with the Jensen on flat water. A couple times in 1-2.5' waves she has been uncomfortable but I know we were still far from a capsize. A little seat time will make you very comfortable in this boat for 97% of people.
I'm 190 lbs, she's ~160. The sliding bow seat makes it fairly easy to trim the boat. With just us in the boat it flies. Jensen's are known for speed. I like racing the Jensen 18' in stock class races. The 17' is just slightly slower and has slightly less carrying capacity. We do some day trips down local rivers and travel with a bunch of stuff (probably more than we need =). I bet we can get another 150lbs of cooler, grill, picnic table, hammock, water, and stuff in the boat on a good day. That puts us in at around 500 lbs total weight. With that much weight in the boat it slows down a little, but is still a fairly efficient cruiser.
The low bow and sides make this more of a day/weekend tripping canoe as opposed to a wilderness tripper although Ive heard of people taking Jensen 18's to the BWCA. Personally when I go up there I think I'll just rent a Kevlar MNII for more volume and a higher bow (and 45lbs instead of my 60lbs). For my uses I like the low profile of this canoe because it is affected less by wind and I think low profile boats are just generally easier to paddle and switch sides. I would probably feel different if I was commonly in big waves like on a coast but you're usually in a kayak/surf ski in that situation anyways.
I have a Tuff weave layup and have to say it earns its name. Although it puts the boat in at 60lbs it is extremely durable and stiff. Ill probably try to find a Jensen 18 in Kevlar UL but that's just because I want to race it and carry it solo easily.
So in conclusion: for athletic training, day trips, rec paddling, or short weekend trips this is a great boat. If I was crossing big, open water or carrying a very large load consistently, I might look more at a MNII or something like that.