Savage River Works’ Otegan should be considered by the experienced canoeist who is searching for the ultimate lightweight solo flatwater cruiser. In speed, maneuverability, and ease of effort, this boat significantly outperforms top-of-the-line solos from the major makers – and at a competitive price.
It’s a slightly de-tuned sit-and-switch race boat, 16'2" of carbon fiber, Kevlar and structural foam. For 59-year-old me, the Otegan’s beauty is not in racing but in conservation of effort. Whether tracking, going fast, turning, or maneuvering, it responds to the slightest paddle pressure with a delicacy and precision that still thrill me after 3 years of ownership.
Unless one wishes to go at top speed, it’s not necessary to sit-and-switch. The extreme tumblehome and narrow beam allow one’s paddle to travel very near the keel line. This greatly reduces the effort needed for directional correction, so that it’s perfectly comfortable to paddle steadily on one side and cruise at pleasing speed – especially with a bent-shaft paddle – especially with the craft's immediate response to a slight J or C touch. I only sit-and-switch to deal with strong winds or to travel upstream against current.
Otegan’s downriver-racer heritage means that it is not suited for heavy water or weather conditions. Surprisingly, however, it will carry a payload. Three hundred pounds of me + gear for 5 days in Algonquin didn’t seem to affect its performance – just made it a little more stable. The canoe’s performance in difficult conditions can be extended somewhat by carrying a two-piece kayak paddle. 115 cm seems about right. “Kayaking” the Otegan moves us (yep, twin Otegans in this family!) handily upstream against current, into headwinds, through waves up to a foot – or just back home in a hurry.
Initial stability is very twitchy. It’s stable when under way; but unless one has a very fine sense of balance, entering the boat requires care, and developing a technique of weighting it very slightly off-center to engage its secondary stability.
John Diller’s Savage River Works is in rural western Maryland. To test-paddle an Otegan, it’s necessary to go to his shop or to arrange with him to bring one along if he comes to a race near you. He builds to order, and delivery depends on his work load. Mine came in 8 weeks; Marilyn’s took 16 weeks. Workmanship is excellent; our wood trims are lovely. And it only weighs 21 pounds.