I replaced my Old Town Tripper (which I sadly had to part with some months ago) with a new high tech boat from the Canadian manufacturer Swift Canoe & Kayak. I bought the boat from their US reps., Quality Composites in Janesville, WI. (http://www.qualitycomposites.com/). These guys from Janesville are first rate. Extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Not retailers... boat builders. I felt very comfortable with them... much more than I did with Swift corporate in Canada... but more on that later.
The boat is a John Winters design... asymmetrical Royalex with a high bow and low stern. The purpose is to handle whitewater waves while tracking well on flatwater. It is also asymmetrically rockered... 4.25" bow, 2.5" stern... again... whitewater maneuverability coupled with good flatwater tracking... a seemingly inconsistent pair. Does it work?
After some creeking to get used to the boat... narrow channels and fast water w/ tight turns and lots of strainers, we took the boat down 90 miles of the Namekagon/St. Croix riverway. We loaded the boat with tons of expedition gear... we felt stupid for taking so much! Nevertheless we had lots of freeboard and the boat was surprisingly quick. She handled very responsively in the 3 mph current. We met a couple of lightly loaded 17 and a half footers along the way and had no trouble keeping up with them.
During the first three days of the trip we had to fight wind. Big winds. On day 2 we had tunneling winds over 40 mph with sustained winds of 25-30 mph. The river kicked up waves higher than the haystacks we encountered on the rapids near the Kettle River. Some of the waves were actually breakers curling over top with a crashing sound. We quartered into them and rode over them with no problem.
I used an angled power stroke to correct for the slight weathervaning in the high winds. The boat responded perfectly. The highly flared bow shed rough water and we didn't take on a drop. That low stern kept us in a straight line with minimal correction. I was really surprised.
The rapids on this riverway are not very threatening. Mostly easy stuff... a couple of ledges (we hung up on one)... but a lot of water moving pretty fast through Wisconsin rocks... so if you screw up bad things can happen. To test her we ran the right side of the St. Croix where the Kettle River joins it. This is a very quick section with fairly long sections of Class 1-2 water
The Dumoine was a delight to paddle in fast water. I could immediately tell that this boat would handle a lot rougher water than I was testing her on. She turned very fast and shed rocks with ease. That rocker really allows her to turn well. I took the Dumoine out unloaded to where the Snake River joins the St. Croix. The junction is a jet with some very very fast water flowing into the St. Croix at a 90 degree angle. It was a good place to test the canoe's ability to peel out of an eddy with a pronounced eddy line. A cross-draw and a little lean and the Dumoine shot across the eddy line and peeled out into the Snake's jet-like current. Perfect.
The Dumoine has many little features you will love... curved seats, big thick grab bars... excellent gunwales... well crafted hull. Ours had a nice kneeling thwart... and there came my one complaint... not about the boat... but about the company.
I e-mailed Swift to request a smaller spacer on the kneeling thwart because it was too low for my feet constituting an entrapment hazard. I wanted to get some spacers that were about 3/4" long instead of 3 1/2" long. They quoted me a price of about $20 US. I said OK even though I thought that was pretty steep for two little pieces of wood. Later I got a curt phone call on my answering machine saying that they would not fill my order and for me to cut my own existing spacers. I had earlier told them that I didn't have tools, the skill, nor the desire to cut my own spacers. They dropped me like a hot potato with a phone message over a safety issue on factory installed equipment. This is inexcusable. Mr. Bill Swift ought to fire some folks and get his company into the 20th century.
In today's world, you NEVER ignore a customer-initiated safety request that is genuine and demonstrable. That is the formula for killing a customer and getting a company killing lawsuit from the dead paddler's family.
The Dumoine is a superior boat made by a company with a confused sense of service to the customer. They talk a good service game but didn't produce for me.
*** UPDATE 8/99 ***
Inspired by a comment I received from a paddling.net reader/reviewer, I sent an e-mail to the Swift company President asking him to read the Dumoine review. I was very quickly contacted by a representative from Swift. He expressed Swift's concern about the problem I encountered. He apologized and reiterated Swift's commitment to superior service and quality. I felt he was sincere and genuinely convinced that service is important to Swift.
He arranged to have the spacers cut for me and sent along a Swift T-shirt to boot. I wanted to pay for them but he insisted that Swift absorb the cost. The spacers were well cut and included hardware as well... a nice but unexpected touch.
I noted that the spacers had a compound angle cut on the bottom and a bevel on the top. If I had cut them myself, I would have missed the subtle top bevel. It pays to let the manufacturer do this kind of work. They know their product much better than a novice does.
Anyway, Swift did give me satisfaction thanks to a little boost from paddling.net and its readers!
****End of update******