Nice paddle, but with a design flaw...I got this paddle hoping it would satisfy a blend of paddling styles. I solo paddle a Wenonah Heron canoe quite a bit. It's a wide (36" at the widest), stable boat, and so I often paddle it standing up in flat water. I love having the ability to stand up, stretch, and scout ahead to spot obstacles or wildlife, etc. Of course, if the wind picks up or there are obstacles, I return to sitting, paddling it like a kayak with a double-bladed paddle. But when I'm on the water hours at a time, it's great to be able to switch between standing and sitting. I'd been using an Adventure Tech (AT) Search Angler paddle that telescopes from 240-250cm, which has been great, but I wanted something with more of a symmetrical blade, and one that would take to steering strokes a little more smoothly while I paddle standing up (I do this paddle-board style, using only one blade and alternating sides, or poling in shallow water).
After careful consideration with my current paddle and reading reviews, I opted for the Navigator over the Navigator Angler, since both have more blade surface than the AT Search, and it seemed like 240cm was enough length in my canoe. I inaugurated my new Navigator on a 3-day trip on the Oswegatchie, a small river in the Adirondacks. I very quickly discovered two flaws with my new paddle/boat/style combination.
The first issue is one I'd consider a design flaw. The river has a fair bit of rocks, but also sandy and muddy banks and bottom. Some of the Bending Branches promotional videos showed paddlers using the Navigator Angler to push off rocks, and described using it standing up in the shallows while angling, so I assumed this paddle would be up to poling up shallow sections of a river. I quickly discovered, however, that the ferrule very easily unlocks when pushing off a soft surface like sand or mud. Any slight torque of the wrist and the paddle, which I had fully extended, would slide back to it's shortest length. Moreover, once loose, of course it's very difficult to paddle with the feathering angle changing and shifting as you apply force. Going upstream and around sharp bends and obstacles, having a paddle suddenly come loose and spin while you're pushing off a bank is extremely frustrating. At one point I pushed off in the mud and found I'd left half the paddle stuck in the mud, and had to maneuver back with the half I had left to retrieve the other half. Even being cognizant of the issue and trying very hard to never apply torque while pushing off, the ferrule still comes loose at times - it doesn't seem to take much torque in the proper direction to loosen the ferrule.
The second issue I have is certainly not a design flaw, but something to be aware of when buying this paddle without trying it. I had tested my AT paddle at 240cm and found it long enough to accommodate my wide boat when paddling sitting down, as you normally would a kayak. So, I assumed the Navigator, at 240cm fully extended, would be long enough. What I didn't account for is that my AT Search has much wider, shorted blades - the blades of the Navigator are longer and thinner, nice for a long day's paddling but resulting in a paddle shaft that's a bit shorter than a 240cm paddle with short, wide blades. In hindsight this should have been obvious, but it didn't occur to me at all. The result isn't a deal breaker, but the paddle's just a little bit shorter than I'd like it to be. You might not think 10cm (<4in) shaft length would matter, but it's definitely noticeable.
I also used this paddle with my sea kayak (fully collapsed to it's 225cm length). In open water, it paddles very nicely and my positive experience matched those of other reviewers, despite my above complaints. The paddle is light, and the blade shape is good for smooth paddling over a long day. Given it's marketed as a kayak paddle, I have to give it props as a nice one. The rock guard seems to hold up well against rocks, though the paddle already looks pretty scuffed after my river trip (within reason - it was a rocky river).
But the real reason for the 3-stars-only review is the ferrule. Whether in a kayak or canoe, I do lots of swamp and river paddling, and having a paddle that's unreliable when pushing off mud or sand due to the ferrule, especially when you're dealing with a current and strainers on a river, is a real issue in my opinion. This is especially disappointing since Bending Branches has promotional videos boasting about being able to push off with the Navigator Angler, which also features the same ferrule design. I have never had an issue with the ferrule on my AT Search coming loose no matter what I've pushed off (which is within reason - any paddle will break if you're being unreasonable). It's too bad, as otherwise this would probably be a 5-star paddle.