I purchased the Esquif Champlain a year ago from the Muskoka PaddleShack (Ontario) and feel I really should have tested a wider array of canoes first. The canoe came in overweight by 8 pounds (almost 9 lbs) and although Jay an employee of the PaddleShack assured me that this is par for the course in the canoe industry I have since learned otherwise.
The Champlain is too narrow, and compared to my friends Langford heavier even though the canoe actually lacks width length depth and the material that accompanies those measurements. I would strongly recommend a Langford over Esquif... maybe they should stick to plastic.I recently bought an Esquif Champlain from Lancaster County Marine in Akron, PA. The boat arrived here in east Tennessee in excellent condition after its shipment from Quebec. The Champlain is Kevlar and weighs only 42 pounds. 16 foot length and a 33 1/2 inch beam. The rocker is 2.5 inches, bow and stern. The Champlain is a tandem boat, but unlike other models with their standard 36 inch beam for a boat this length, the Champlain's 33 1/2 inch beam allows easy paddling from the bow seat, going stern first when solo; the beam doesn't get in the way and the feeling is natural, as though you were in the correct position. The fore and aft placement of the bow seat is perfect for this type of paddling.
The Champlain's trim is natural ash with a tung oil finish, the standard model (like mine) coming with curved frame woven cane seats and a beautifully crafted carrying yoke. The gunnels, bow and stern plates are slotted every few inches to allow tying of gear, or the attachment of a spray cover, if desired. The craftsmanship is excellent.
There is a lot to be said about paddling a canoe with classic beauty to its lines. The common remark from friends who see this boat for the first time is, invariably, "What a beautiful boat!"
Handling: I found the initial stability to be just what I expected in a boat with the shallow arc cross sectional hull shape and narrow beam. The boat is so light weight that inexperienced paddlers may be a bit unnerved by the initial stability causing it to rock about more than the standard, heavier, flat-bottomed, work horse boats. But, in stepping into the Champlain for the first time and pushing out into deeper water, I shook the boat violently, side to side, and heeled it to starboard and found the secondary stability to be excellent: it holds, nice and steady. I love the feather-light feel of the boat; the initial stability is that of a responsive boat. As an experienced paddler, I love that feel. A friend who has the same craft, loads it down and finds the hull design to stabilize the boat as though he were sitting on a couch. This boat will do well for day trips as well as extended expeditions carrying a load.
The 2.5 inch rocker and length give this boat excellent maneuverability..side slipping, sweep spins, rudders, draws, sculling, J or Canadian style straight line paddling...it responds excellently to them all. I find it to track extremely well, and was pleasantly surprised with that, considering the contour of the hull.
Esquif's use of an historic, tried and true profile has really paid off in the most modern kevlar material. Paddlers who have been stuck in boats made of heavy fiberglass, Royalex or similar materials will really love this boat. I give it a 10 of 10 rating. Outstanding.The Esquif Champlain in kevlar is an absolutely wonderful canoe. It light, fast and responds wonderfully to J Stroking. The 16' craft is easy to paddle solo sitting in the front facing rearward with ballast at opposite end. I fill a dry bag with about 30lb water and stuff it in the nose. Of course a boat loaded with gear will negate need for additional ballast.
This boat is top quality and blemish free. The kevelar is yellow in color. Ash trim was requested for my canoe but aluminum is available. Fit and finish are superb. The 1.5" rocker both ends is perfect for big water. Glide is exceptional and the canoe will turn on a dime and give change. Its light weight, 37lb, does make it sensitive to winds greater than gentle, but it is nothing of concern.
I am 63 years old and loading and unloading are issues of concern. I load and unload this canoe myself onto and off of my truck cap with ease. It is an effortless act. Empty; the boat feels tippy until one gets used to it. Ballast in the nose really firms it up. Secondary is great. I ordered mine with a center seat. I would not, however, do this again. I find it almost impossible to control this canoe from a center seated position. The paddle does not reach back far enough for corrective strokes to be highly effective. Distance across the gunnels is widest in the center and causes paddle contact with the boat.
In summary, there are more expensive canoes out there but I feel none better. I am wondering why the Esquif Champlain hasn't been included in canoe reviews. It's a superb canoe, yet a hard boat to find information about on the internet. I'd put it against many of the well known brands and prove it superior in many areas. And yes, I'd buy another one.