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Name: TomL

Most Recent Reviews

I enjoyed reading Cliff Jacobson's thoughtful review. I'm not qualified to disagree with Cliff so I'll just share my experiences. I'm a little over six feet with long arms and around 180 and usually have a 55 pound dog so around 250 normal load. I use short straight shaft paddles like a straight Zav and do hit and switch for cruising power and often go for long upstream paddles on rivers with current from 1 to 4 mph. I've owned quite a few solos.

I basically agree with everything positive that Cliff said about the Phoenix. It's super comfy and stable and friendly with capable and predictable handling. Very nice capacity and very dry and safe feeling. The overall performance envelope is extremely similar to a Hemlock SRT in my view. It's versatile and one could argue worth getting just for the IXP lay-up.

I bought a Phoenix hoping it would be a "better Wildfire" for my uses, hopefully more efficient since it is longer with less rocker, while still retaining plenty of maneuverability since a Wildfire could give up some maneuverability and still turn on a dime.

I tend to push my boats and I think one can push a Phoenix faster than a Wildfire in a sprint. But it takes about ten times more muscle and you could not maintain it. Those full ends that make it buoyant in waves also push back on you if you drive the boat harder. If you drive a Wildfire really hard you eventually run out of rpm (but it's still easy) but if you drive a Phoenix really hard it will burn you up. My composite Yellowstone is for sure a notch more efficient for upstream paddling than a Wildfire or Phoenix. Phoenix would not be my choice for paddling with others in tandems.

I had a similar discussion with Dave Curtis about the SRT. He was saying that it would basically perform "mid pack" with other solos at normal cruise speeds of 3-4 mph and I said I think he's spot on at 3 mph but that 4 mph is a different story and after some more good discussion he agreed. I had a similar feeling for the Curtis Dragonfly.

For downriver paddling the Phoenix and SRT could be two of the best available and both are incredibly versatile too. They are also great fun to just play around with on quiet water. I sold my Phoenix and my SRT because for upstream and flatwater paddling I'd rather take out something else.

Mine was fiberglass with ash and mahogany trim. I used this boat almost exclusively before I paddled with a dog. This is a fast and efficient low volume solo. Rumor is that it may be Blackhawk's best hull. I'm 180 pounds and probably near the upper limit for the boat; it's easy to lean until water comes in...shallow boat! But it cruises great, accelerates as well as any solo, and it also turns on a dime. And it's extremely well made - and beautiful - like most Blackhawks. Super hot solo...just kind of small.

Mine was kevlar with ash trim. I can't believe how strong this boat was for 41-42 pounds - especially since its big enough to carry 400 pounds! The boat is so deep that it makes you feel extra safe all the time. It's also so deep that my dog cannot lie down and rest her chin on the rail like all my other - bad dog boat unless your dog is big (tall). Wonderfully narrow in the middle so you really can do efficient vertical paddle strokes. The boat is quick to respond to any lean so it feels tippy to beginners, but the secondary stability is unbelievable...very solid and very predictable...this boat will never scare you when you lean it. The craftsmanship of the boat is as good as any I've ever seen and better than most. I think it really is made for downriver work even though it has a fine reputation as an all around boat. For flatwater cruising the speed is about the same as a Wildfire...but the stroke takes just a touch more effort.

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.

I really love my Peregrine. Mine is kevlar with ash trim and 34 pounds - and strong. Great dog boat...a bit more room than the Merlin II. A bit faster and more efficient than a Merlin II. The Peregrine has "longer legs" than other solos and just goes farther on each stroke - more easily. The Peregrine is really a lake boat (and great fun for lake paddles on either calm or windy days...great boat for driving across a windy lake), but also works fine for my kind of easy river work. It turns cooperates and is always stable but it does not spin freely like a Wildfire. On calm water you can lean it to the rail and spin it within its own length...but more slowly than a Wildfire. My Bell Merlin II gets the most use of all my boats but the Peregrine is the one that beats the Merlin at its own game....seductively fast and efficient - and versatile.

Mine was fiberglass with ash and mahogany trim...with an especially nice contoured seat with a mahogany leading edge. Nice details! Compared to the Blackhawk Zephyr the Ariel is not as quick nor as's more of a gentleman's boat - considerably more comfortable and roomy than a Zephyr. This boat is super efficient at low to medium speeds like most Blackhawks, but if you push it real hard it runs into a wall and refuses to go faster. I liked mine with the extra weight of the seems to like a load. The rear end can be a bit sticky for freestyle but it still works very well. It's a bit narrow and therefore a bit tippy for its length. The overall cruising efficiency is better than a Wildfire and about the same - or a touch better - than an Osprey or Shearwater. It's not quite as efficient as a Merlin II. Super well made boat...never squeaked and never loosens up. Excellent craftsmanship. Mine was a bit heavy...high 40's for sure.

I think it's a discontinued model...I got mine in Madison around 5-7 years ago at Carl's. The boat was intended to be my one hot rod solo that didn't have to turn well. It fits that need well. This boat has zero rocker and it just hums along. 29 pounds, 1 sheet of kevlar with some big ribs in the floor, and black aluminum trim. Seems plenty sturdy and it's fun to see the waterline through the hull. Nice boat to use since I've had some back problems since it's light to grab and load and also easy to push through the water. It's a low volume boat but can still take the dog. It turns OK...needs some room, but is always predictable and will not scare you (unlike some other straight line missiles). It's a great boat for windy days on a ignores wind and just drives through waves. When the waves get big enough then you get wet and nervous...because it really does drive right through waves...the bow does not rise. Overall I'd give it a 10 as a hot rod (I'm perfectly happy with it and have no intention of selling it)...I just generally prefer a boat that can also be freestyled a bit. I also consider this my secret kayak since it's perfect for doublebladed use and I've already had a real kayaker tell me that it's fast for a kayak...and there's room for the dog.

This was my first solo canoe and I loved it. Mine was fiberglass and 39 pounds...and the lay-up was a bit too weak and it deformed a bit under the pressure of straps. It didn't affect the boat's performance. This is a relatively high volume, super predictable solo. Just a pleasure to paddle...efficient at low to medium speeds like most Blackhawks. If you push it hard it will push back...due to the shallow V-design and also due to the volume of the Shadow 14. This boat is just dreamy on a quiet pond; the handling is superb...the boat has a great feel. The capacity was big enough that I could take my wife in this boat for short paddles...over 300 pounds total with no problem. Many other solos may be a bit hotter...but none are sweeter.

This is Blackhawk's larger Combi, made primarily for tandem use but also usable for solo. Mine was fiberglass with ash trim and somewhere in the low 50 pound range. Mine had a beautiful contoured ash and mahogany kneeling thwart. This is a hot tandem...a bit narrower than most so also a bit more lively (tippy), and it's also a lower volume tandem so it's happiest with lighter tandem loads...maybe 450 or less. But for medium sized paddlers that are willing to kneel this is a sweetheart of a, efficient, effortless, and turns on a dime. Really well made with great artistic details like most Blackhawks. Performs well even against more modern hulls. If you don't want to kneel or if your load is bigger you might be better off in a Morningstar or Northstar.

Unique little boat. This is Blackhawk's smaller Combi, made primarily for solo use with occasional tandem use. Paddled extensively with a buddy that had one and eventually had to have my own. Mine was fiberglass with ash and mahogany trim...and weighed too much....had to be well over 55 pounds. But - solid for sure. Like all my Blackhawks - no squeaks and super tight. This boat is a mellow solo with surprising solo capability and it may be one of my all time favorites for that perfect quiet day on a quiet pond. The boat can freestyle beautifully and the larger size seems to add stability for freestyle. Great fun. For smaller tandem teams the boat is a hot rod...I can imagine two women using this boat as the perfect tandem. Really cool boat - but not for everyone.