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Old 03-17-2009, 11:13 PM   #1
Stinkie Steve
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Bell Bucktail vs. Hornbeck

I am thinking about buying a pair of pack canoes and I've narrowed the search down to the Bucktail or the Hornbeck. I was wondering how folks think they compare, which one would be preferred, and why people would lean one way or the other. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 03-18-2009, 12:38 AM   #2
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Thanks for starting this thread. I too am in the middle of making a difficult canoe decision.

How did you narrow it down to these 2? I am also looking at the We-no-nah Wee-lassie and Placid boatworks Spitfire. Have you ruled them out? Why? What size Hornbeck are you looking at?

What are the most important canoe qualities for you? Is weight a factor?(21+pounds vs. 16 pounds). Speeed? Tracking? Stability? Seaworthiness? I'm sure if you answer this it will make it easier for the canoe experts here to recomend a canoe for you.

Some advice and reviews:

http://www.adkforum.com/showthread.p...light=hornbeck

http://www.paddling.net/Reviews/show....html?prod=988

http://www.paddling.net/Reviews/show...html?prod=2271

I'm sure there are more reviews out there if you search for them.

I'm sure my decision will be made when I test paddle them. The Bucktail can be test paddled at the paddlefest in Old Forge in May but I don't think I want to wait that long. The Hornbeck and Spitfire can be test paddled where they are manufactured. The Wee Lassie can be test paddled at the Boathouse in Schenectady.

I have a feeling I'm going to end up in that Spitfire but I really need to justify the extra $$$ first.
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Old 03-18-2009, 08:24 AM   #3
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Consider buying a boat built in the Adirondacks and support the local craft.
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Old 03-18-2009, 09:21 AM   #4
hydronaut
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Grasse River Boats

Anyone tried a boat from Grasse River?

http://grbnewmandesigns.com/
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Old 03-18-2009, 09:38 AM   #5
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Interesting that Grasse River and Wenonah are each using the rather distinctive name "Wee Lassie" to describe entirely different boats.
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Old 03-18-2009, 09:55 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Riosacandaga View Post
Consider buying a boat built in the Adirondacks and support the local craft.

Excellent advice, but the final consideration should be what is the best boat for your purpose. None of the builders mentioned are likely to purchase any of my services unless they are appropriate for their needs, even though I am local to two of them.

I really wanted to get a Placid RapidFire, but the boat felt too unstable to me. I'm not used to sitting on the bottom and haven't acquired the requisite hip mobility to feel relaxed in that boat. I did infinitely better in one of their WildFires, which I paddled from a familiar kneeling position.

None of the other boats mentioned here would be appropriate for my weight (pushing 260#), so it'd be hard for me personally to support any ADK maker unless I merely wanted to show the boat off on my roof rack.

My wife OTOH was very interested in a sit-on-bottom pack canoe, so I took her to both PBW and to Pete Hornbeck's to try boats.

Her impressions were:

-The Rapid was stable and fast with a great glide, but not as maneuverable as she'd like.

-The SpitFire was pure fun - fairly fast, stable, decent glide and turned on a dime without needing to lean the boat (she's a "Push Button" type of gal who has zero expectations of developing canoeing prowess, so leaning a canoe in order to turn better doesn't fit into her definition of fun).

-The Bucktail (PBW was selling Dave Yost's personal Bucktail at the time) felt tippier (could have been the seat height, I can't recall its position) and slower than the other two and not as easy or as much fun to paddle. It was very maneuverable but lacked a good glide. That means keep paddling or lose way.

-The Hornbeck "Lost Pond" was fun and stable... and light! Much cheaper as well. But she yawed badly with each stroke, probably, in part, because the wider paddling station makes it harder to get the paddle vertical. If I didn't point that out to her she might not have noticed it, but she tried a Spit after that and saw the difference in directional stability and paddling ease. The Lost Pond didn't have much of a glide, either.

-She never got to try out a Wenonah "Wee Lassie" as they were not out at the time.


Of the four boats she tried, she liked the SpitFire far the best. But ultimately, she went with another pack canoe by a local builder not mentioned here.


.
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Old 03-18-2009, 11:10 AM   #7
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My thoughts

I owned the Bucktail fiberglass for 5 years and have frequently paddled the Hornbeck 9 or 10 footer. This is my opinion. If my primary goal was taking the canoe into back country ponds for fishing or exploring, and there were frequent carries but limited distance to paddle, I might have preferred the Hornbeck vs my Bucktail for the lighter weight.

If your primary goal involves covering any distance and potentially having rougher whitecapped conditions, I would much prefer the Bucktail. In my opinion, the Bucktail is a much more efficient boat design for paddling and handling waves. It can be edged/leaned a bit to turn and is absolutely faster at 12 feet, versus the shorter Hornbecks. I felt that the Hornbecks were fine for just being out on the water, but rather sluggish given their wide and short design. I would much prefer the Bucktail on wider open and windy lakes and would be happy with the Horneck on small trout ponds. I have been in the Bucktail with rough conditions on Forked Lake, Lake Lila, and Blue Mountain Lake that I would not want to have been out in a short Hornbeck. No experience in longer Hornbecks.

In summary, I would like one more for the light-weight portaging advantage and the other for the more efficent and faster paddling design. As much as the desire to buy local, I would want the boat most comfy for handling surprise conditions of water and wind if doing wide open lakes.
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Old 03-18-2009, 12:49 PM   #8
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I am also looking actively for a solo canoe. As well as the previously mentioned canoes, I am also considering the Wenonah Vagabond, which gets good reviews on paddling.net. It is a bit longer than the pack boats, but appears to be quite versatile.

I am an experienced kayaker, so double paddling appeals to me, but I would like to learn paddle with a single blade. In making a choice I have to take in to consideration that I am only 5'4" so I don't want to take on too much boat.

Top contenders right now are the Wenonah Wee Lassie or one of the Hornbeck canoes. Do most of you with Hornbecks have the Kevlar or Carbon/Kevlar layups and what influenced your choices?

I will be paddling mostly lakes, possibly overnight or weekend camping and won't be doing long portages. Test paddling is a problem as I am many hours away in PA.

I have read all pertinent paddling threads on the forum and done much research. I fear I am suffering from analysis paralysis at this point and any input would be appreciated. Thanks
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Old 03-18-2009, 01:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnaire View Post
Top contenders right now are the Wenonah Wee Lassie or one of the Hornbeck canoes. Do most of you with Hornbecks have the Kevlar or Carbon/Kevlar layups and what influenced your choices?

I will be paddling mostly lakes, possibly overnight or weekend camping and won't be doing long portages. Test paddling is a problem as I am many hours away in PA.
As this thread continues... don't try to force fit any one boat to excel and perform well at multiple tasks. You know the saying that goes along with that. Selecting a "personal" canoe is a "personal" choice. Even when you decide you need it primarily for a particular purpose with best characteristics (bushwhack/long distance carries for pond hopping, long distance paddling, open water performance, stability, maneuverability, etc. etc.) there are compromises to be made. I over time finally broke into the bank and bought separate boats for separate prime functions and couldn't be happier with my choices.

I can't stress enough that before you spend upwards of $1-$2k or more, it pays off to try out a canoe even if you have to invest a weekend driving to it. You will learn much in a few minutes paddling at the manufacturer's pond, but if possible you should take it out for a few hours to learn how it feels under your butt and at the end of a paddle over time.

I MUCH prefer the elegance of single blade paddling over using a double blade. However, I don't know anyone who regularly single sticks a Hornbeck, including myself. It's just not ergonomically viable in that way. On the other hand, with my PlacidBoat, though also designed to be double-bladed, I would rather handle it with a nice slim thin blade straight wood paddle. I prefer a raised seat also, some people find this too "tippy" but I find the "tippiness" an attribute to assist me in maneuvering, though I have been known to use a double blade in rough conditions to better counter wave-induced yawing. But mostly I am attracted to the total pleasure of the feel and total control I only get with a well performing single blade between me and the water.

Regarding the yellow all-kevlar vs the kevlar/graphite layup in the Hornbeck, I chose the latter. One reason is on the spring day I visited Peter, he had this one and only gorgeous black boat in the showroom as the only black shiny canoe separate from many dozens of yellow kevlars hanging like sides of pork from the attic rafters of his shop. Turns out that was the first production black boat he had just finished making (sn 0001) and I couldn't resist.

It weighs only a pound less than the all-kevlar. But it is much stiffer... when paddling with a friend I noticed that going over beaver dams or logs that my bottom keeps its shape while his deforms and oilcans. But with his he can see the waves through the hull. You choose.

Regarding the Blackjack all-carbon Hornbeck, I think it may be too much of a good thing. I've seen a couple of them with the rolled gunwales cracked from stress. I think traditional wood is better. You get use to the weight.

That said, I use the Hornbeck when I know I will be pond-hopping, I reserve the Rapidfire for longer on-water distance trips when I want more speed. Both are used a lot. I've had both in some very rough big water and survived better than I thought I would... a fitted spray skirt is a life saver.
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Old 03-18-2009, 02:09 PM   #10
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I have two stripper canoes( wee lassie's) I bought off Gary Valentine, ( ranger at Raquette falls) I'm very happy with them, I haven't had them much on big water yet , I do know that Gary is going to have a boat or two at the falls this year for people to buy or try out.He does have one for sale now that he just finished. I do know a couple of people on the forum who have paddled them an liked them.
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Old 03-18-2009, 02:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
-The SpitFire was pure fun - fairly fast, stable, decent glide and turned on a dime without needing to lean the boat (she's a "Push Button" type of gal who has zero expectations of developing canoeing prowess, so leaning a canoe in order to turn better doesn't fit into her definition of fun).
She does have canoeing prowess...I watched her. Dont tell her but she does heel the boat on her cross draws. No fear there. Perhaps that is a tandem thing and she feels differently solo.

Also there is a solo canoe event in Pennsylvania the second weekend of June. It may be too late for buying decisions for some, but here is the link. There will be lots of boats to try out and campfire tales, a bbq and chance to meet lots of solo paddlers.

http://www.wpascr.org/ There has been chatter on other boards about this event..its pretty quiet on the event board. But it gives you good background.
Last year we had over 100 folks and all brought multiple boats.

I dont believe the Hornbecks will be there though. There may be some brought by owners but I dont think Peter is coming..There is still time...

I also want to point out the Nessmuk and Nessmuk XL from http://www.hemlockcanoe.com/ in Western New York.
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:57 AM   #12
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You should check out the Bell Merlin II. Its the same length as the Rapidfire although five pounds heavier. It has an canoe seat and is perfect for a single blade paddler. I tried the Merlin, spitfire, and bucktail at paddlefest last year and thought the merlin was the best one.
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Old 03-19-2009, 11:25 AM   #13
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How big can you go and still call it a pack canoe?

To me, the Merlin II is a long distance solo touring canoe, not a pack canoe. Even the slightly smaller RapidFire is stretching (excuse the pun) the definition. 15' is a lot more boat to be winding through a hiking path than a 10 1/2' Wee Lassie or Lost Pond, and a Merlin II weighs 34 pounds with wood gunwales, over twice what a similarly trimmed Lost Pond weighs and costs twice as much (must be pricing them by the pound). Thinking of carrying a boat that big up 3 miles of mountain trail just to paddle on a remote pond kinda defeats the purpose of a pack canoe in the first place.

I think 12' and 20 pounds is the limit on what could reasonably be called an Adirondack style pack canoe (I'll allow the extra couple of pounds in the SpitFire because of its bomb-proof construction). Beyond that you're into something else.
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Old 03-19-2009, 11:37 AM   #14
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How big can you go and still call it a pack canoe?

To me, the Merlin II is a long distance solo touring canoe, not a pack canoe. Even the slightly smaller RapidFire is stretching (excuse the pun) the definition. 15' is a lot more boat to be winding through a hiking path than a 10 1/2' Wee Lassie or Lost Pond, and a Merlin II weighs 34 pounds with wood gunwales, over twice what a similarly trimmed Lost Pond weighs and costs twice as much (must be pricing them by the pound). Thinking of carrying a boat that big up 3 miles of mountain trail just to paddle on a remote pond kinda defeats the purpose of a pack canoe in the first place.

I think 12' and 20 pounds is the limit on what could reasonably be called an Adirondack style pack canoe (I'll allow the extra couple of pounds in the SpitFire because of its bomb-proof construction). Beyond that you're into something else.
I totally agree... see my previous post on trying to do too many things with a canoe best designed to do only one.

The length problem was dramatically demonstrated by a friend who was bushwhacking with me while carrying his 15 foot canoe to some remote pond. He had a devil of a time winding between closely spaced trees, unable to turn without striking bow or stern on some ill-placed tree. Our progress slowed to a crawl and his exertion and frustration factors became significant. In comparison, my problems were orders of magnitude less while carrying a 10.5 foot Hornbeck. Most of the time I stood around waiting for him to find a way to catch up.
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Old 03-19-2009, 12:04 PM   #15
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I am used carrying around a 16ft coleman so The Merlin seems like a pack boat. It is certainly not in the class of the Hornbecks or Placid Spitfire but I think it would be a reasonable alternative to a Rapidfire.
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Old 03-19-2009, 12:43 PM   #16
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Another boat worth considering is the Vermont Canoe Tupper model. I bought one last summer and love it. Not a beginners boat as it feels very tippy but it is fast and holds alot of person and gear. It is not made in the Adirondacks but it was designed and is sold there. No one boat can do it all so it depends on what you want to do. Do not rule out the Hemlock Nesmuck either.
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Old 03-19-2009, 02:45 PM   #17
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Many Choices

I work with Adirondack Connections Guide service out of Tupper Lake and she has a fleet of Hornbeck boats- just about all models from 10' 5 thru 14'. Throughout the summer I get to paddle them all on various types of trips. I find that I lean toward the Low-Profile 12' boat. Seems to me to be the best of both worlds- I am 5' 9 and 190#. So don't rule out looking at the 12' low profile boat. I also find for myself that having foot braces aids in the performance of the boat.

It's a hard choice- and paddling season is here.

Charlie
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Old 03-19-2009, 03:26 PM   #18
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In the market this spring as well.

Purely from research I have had my heart set on the Hornbeck 10.5 Kevlar. Considered the Spitfire but the price is just out of my range. I figure for the intended use, which in all honesty is mostly casual with occasional back country hops, the advantages of the more expensive boat are not as needed.

My one concern about the 10.5 is the lack of foot pedals. I will be taking it for a spin this summer before purchase, but I do wonder how I will make out without them. I'm not a big fan of kayaks that lack them. Does anyone know if they can be added to the Hornbeck?
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Old 03-19-2009, 03:43 PM   #19
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In the market this spring as well.

Purely from research I have had my heart set on the Hornbeck 10.5 Kevlar. Considered the Spitfire but the price is just out of my range. I figure for the intended use, which in all honesty is mostly casual with occasional back country hops, the advantages of the more expensive boat are not as needed.

My one concern about the 10.5 is the lack of foot pedals. I will be taking it for a spin this summer before purchase, but I do wonder how I will make out without them. I'm not a big fan of kayaks that lack them. Does anyone know if they can be added to the Hornbeck?
Peter will sell you a set and install them on your Hornbeck if you like. I consider foot braces absolutely necessary in the Rapidfire for anything resembling efficient power paddling and control (they come pre-installed when you buy the boat).

But since my Hornbeck spends as much time over my head as under my butt I haven't bothered to install them. When I do paddle the Hornbeck it is usually quietly cruising around a small remote pond rather than cranking hard on the paddle for power and speed. And though probably a useful addition, I sit so much lower in the Hornbeck and for the way I use it I see less value than when I am paddling the RapidFire. During long Hornbeck paddles I often change my leg position to one or the other or both crossed for variety and to get the blood flowing (can't do that in a kayak) and thus am less concerned with foot braces.
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Old 03-19-2009, 04:36 PM   #20
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For me the foot braces are a necessity in my 10.5 BlackJack. Before I had them I was uncomfortable sitting for long periods and constantly trying different cusions for my back. After getting the braces I don't notice any back discomfort at all.

I would agree with Wldrns earlier statement regarding the all carbon fiber boats being more brittle than the kevlar or kevlar/carbon boats. I have cracked my gunwales twice. Once because I was a fool and another time when I was bushwacking, pulling the boat behind me and got it wedged between two trees. Ok both times it was because I was a fool....
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