On April 21st, 2009 I drove down to the local YRC Worldwide Freight Terminal to pick up my new Clipper Sea 1 Canoe. This was the climax of many months of research on which decked canoe was right for me. I must admit I had never seen a Sea 1 in person until I unwrapped my big package on the YRC dock. As you can imagine I was very apprehensive at that moment as I cut away the many layers of cardboard, foam and plastic that protected my new canoe for shipping. As I gazed upon my $3,000 plus purchase, I knew I had chosen a boat that would get the job done for me.
A little background is needed at this point. I am 51 years old and have been paddling something since I was 10 years old. I raced Sea Kayaks for several years and have owned many different canoes and kayaks. I was paddling a Wenonah Advantage and a Wenonah Prism as my solo canoes last year. These are great canoes but I had a few situations that convinced me I wanted a decked canoe. Keep in mind I am not an Expedition Paddler. I have never been to the Boundary Waters. I like to take very long day paddles of 10 to 40 miles. I love to take photos of wildlife and videos of my trips.
I live in Streamwood, IL, which is a NW suburb of Chicago. My closest paddling destination is the Fox River. In NE, IL the Fox is a series of many low head dams creating some narrow lakes through the suburbs of Chicago. The Windy City has a reputation of high winds. This can be a problem in a traditional canoe. A 20 mph wind could be 30 mph as itís funneled through the canyon of the Fox. Also the upper Fox River has one lock on it which connects a long unobstructed stretch (20+ miles) of the river with an area called The Chain OíLakes which is a favorite destination for power boaters in the area. This long stretch of river is lined with homes. Almost every home has a boat parked on the river. Many of these boats would be more at home in Lake Michigan than a narrow river. The wakes from these gargantuan boats are very dangerous, to say the least. The weather here can change in an instant. We can have bright sun one minute and then hurricane force winds and rain the next. Finally, I enjoy winter paddling.
So letís talk about how the Clipper Sea 1 deals with these situations. Weight: I have not weighed my Sea 1 yet but I bet itís very close to the 55 pound advertised spec. I load it on and off of my tall Pontiac Aztek with ease. In gripping the lip of the cockpit just in front of the seat, I can lift the Sea 1 over my head easily. I have a Yakima old style kayak saddle set that works nicely to carry the boat upright. Upright is important because the Sea 1 is not designed to be carried upside down like a regular canoe. I did order the optional yoke that makes the Sea 1 easy to portage. The yoke mounts when needed with a single bolt and thumb screw on either end just in front of the seat. I have not used it yet but I plan to find a way to do some bigger trips and know it will come in handy.
I chose the Sea 1 over the Superior Expedition, the Bell Rob Roy, or the Kruger Sea Wind for several reasons. One is the deck is only 12 inches tall (the Superior is 14 inches) so the wind has little affect on an empty boat. I mostly day paddle so I carry very little weight with me. Iíve never run into a situation where I had to get off the water because of winds, even winds up to 30 mph. Also the hull design of the Sea 1 has almost no rocker and the stern really bites hard. The seat can be slid forward or back depending on the direction of the wind. (The Kruger, Bell and the Superior seats will not slide forward or back.) These design characteristic make the Sea 1 track like itís on a rail. For those times Iím running upstream in rapids, hopping eddies or the wind is too much to handle or a big following sea condition, the Sea 1 has a Feathercraft Rudder. I also use the rudder when Iím shooting photos or video. I have used Feathercraft rudders for years on my Seda Glider and Impulse kayaks. The Feathercraft design allows you to pull the rudder down unlike the Kruger or the Superior. (They use gravity so if the rudder sticks you have to get out of the boat to put it down. The Rob Roy has no rudder.)
I paddle with the rudder down very little. The Sea 1 doesnít need it because of its superb tracking. Plus the rudderís drag slows me down about .5 mph. The Sea 1ís bow has a lot of flare to it above the waterline making it a very dry ride when pushing through wind driven waves and large boat wakes. Itís much fuller than the Kruger Sea Wind in the bow.
I ordered the optional side deck rigging which was a good choice. The deck bow and side deck rigging holds the spare paddle firmly in place so it doesn't wash out of its place when driving through waves. It works perfectly to hold the handle of the spare paddle securely with a bungee cord on a simple hook. If you dropped a paddle and need the spare in a hurry this rigging design could be a lifesaver.
The Sea 1 is very fast design! At the waterline, with me (200 lbs.) the Sea 1 is only 23" or 24" wide. Not bad for a hull that is 28" wide total. This speed is important to me because of all the boat docks along the Fox River shore. On an upstream paddle I can't get out of the current by paddling next to the shore. (almost all of my paddles are upstream and back)
On May 17th, 2009 I raced the Clipper Sea 1 in the annual Des Plaines Marathon. (http://www.canoemarathon.com/) The race is 18.5 miles long with 2 portages around low-head dams on the Des Plaines River in the North Suburbs of Chicago, IL. I went through all the photos after the race to see what kind of boats were in my class, and who beat me and who I beat. After reviewing the results I'm feeling pretty good! I even beat a few boats I shouldn't have beat. I do not run a fast paddling cadence. My cadence is around 40-45 strokes per minute which is slow compared to the average marathon racer which paddles at 50-60 strokes per minute rate.
The optional spray skirt does its job well. The Sea 1 has no cockpit rim lip so the spray skirt is held in place by 41 snaps. Don't let the number of snaps fool you. I don't use the spray skirt every time I paddle. The 42 snaps lock on very quickly. The spray skirt is in 2 pieces and is connected by a wide strip of Velcro on either side of me to each other. This split allows for easy entering and exiting of the canoe and gives you an option to tuck the ends behind and in front of you for comfort. The skirt covers me up to my armpits if needed. It is held in place by shoulder straps, 2 bungee cords sown into the chest and back of the skirt at the edge to close it up firmly. The spray skirt keeps me just as warm and dry as a kayak spray skirt but it's a lot easier to load and unload gear than kayak hatches. Keep in mind the cockpit is 9.5 feet long and 22 inches wide at its widest point. There is a bulkhead just behind the seat. This bulkhead holds up the front edge of the spray skirt to keep any water from pooling on the skirt. It also keeps any water under your feet from running back into the rear of the canoe keeping your gear dryer.
I like to winter paddle when the ice lines the shore. The Sea 1 has a bow like a kayak that is tapered allowing you to slide up onto the ice with ease. The Kruger Sea Wind has a canoe like bow that is very vertical. I believe it's not designed to slide as easily up onto the ice. To me this was a big deal. I have many times started out on a winter paddle where the shore was clear of ice only to return hours later and have the shifting ice blown or washed into shore leaving me no choice but to muscle the boat up and onto the ice to reach the shore. For winter paddling I feel this difference could also be a lifesaver at the right time. At the least the tapered bow will save the finish on it from hard impacts.
I mostly do day paddles. This doesn't mean I leave everything home when I paddle. Like yesterday I spent 8 hours in the Sea 1 without setting foot on shore. I was able to do this because I can reach everything I need without getting out of the boat. You can't do that in a kayak. I have a milk crate in front of me with binoculars, 2 extra water jars, handy wipes, sun lotion, and a folding lounge chair. Under me I have my cell phone in a waterproof case, a GPS, a big sponge, a pee bottle, and a throw rope. Behind me in the rear of the canoe I have a soft sided cooler with my Jimmy John's sub sandwich and a dry-bag with my wallet and glasses, a rain jacket, the spray skirt and an extra water bottle. I ordered the optional wilderness lash kit which comes with 4 tie-downs bonded to the bottom of the hull and 2 nylon straps crisscrossing the rear of the Sea 1. This is a great design to keep gear secure.
The seat is adjustable by sliding it forward and back. There is no lock, nor does it need one for most situations, I believe. The seat travel is about 12 inches. This makes the boat easier to get in and out of as well as allowing you to move around more to reach your gear while underway. The seat also can be adjusted up and down. I leave my seat adjusted to the middle position which is about 8 inches off the lowest point in the floor. The seat can be dropped down to the bottom set of mounting holes. (about 1.75" down). This might be good if you were in extreme conditions or if you wanted to just use a kayak paddle instead. The top set of mounting holes for the seat are about 1.75 inches higher. I have never used these but I can see if you were loaded with lots of gear and on flat water the upper position would be ideal. One thing about changing the seat height, you'll need a couple of tools to do this so it's best to adjust this before you leave on your trip.
The cockpit shape tapers in where your knees are. This feature allows you to brace just like a kayak. However, in order to do this comfortably you'll need to mount the seat in the lowest position. I can brace under the deck in the middle seat height position but I wouldn't want to stay in that position all day. I do very little knee bracing under the deck. Instead I just use the sides of the cockpit rim to brace. I plan on adding some padding both on the side of the rim and under the deck to increase my comfort when I get the time.
I don't want you to think I don't like the Kruger Sea Wind, the Superior Expedition or the Bell Rob Roy. In fact, the opposite is true. If my primary paddling destination was different, I would have chosen the decked canoe that most closely matched up to the conditions I would most often be exposed to. All 3 boats have taken the canoe to a level few people can comprehend. In fact, because these canoes are so state of the art, I can't understand how dealers sell so many kayaks. Why would anyone want to sit so low to the floor of their paddle craft if they didn't have to? Also the versatility of a single blade canoe paddle allows you to mix up the muscle group youíre using so you can paddle much more comfortably for a longer period of time. The weight of a canoe paddle isn't half the weight of a kayak paddle but its close. If you calculate strokes per mile by the weight of the paddle you'll be lifting hundreds of pounds less in a day using a canoe paddle over a kayak paddle. This means when it's time to get out of the boat at the end of the day you're less exhausted.
I want to say a word about my experience in purchasing from Clipper Canoes. Clipper has maybe one dealer in the USA. Clipper is located in Canada. I thought this was going to be a problem but in fact it was an advantage. I watched the exchange rate and had them bill me on the day the Dollar was the strongest, I felt, saving me hundreds of dollars.
I was a little afraid of the shipping part. I know from experience that boats often get damaged during shipping. However, packing job done by Clipper's staff was almost bombproof! They were so meticulous I would never be concerned about shipping.
Clipper Sea 1s are not a mass-produced boat. Each one is laid up by hand and made to order. Mine took about a month from the time I ordered until I had it in my garage. I ordered before the season started. If you order during the season be prepared to wait a little longer. There could be a waiting list.
The workmanship was fantastic. The finish was a beautiful red Gel-Coat with some sort of fleck in it. Just yesterday I saw a guy jumping and waving me down from shore. I paddled over to see what the problem was. He flagged me down to tell me he'd seen me paddling by his house before and wanted to tell me how beautiful my boat looked.
The customer service was outstanding. I had lots of questions and the sales staff was very understanding and answered them all patiently. Clipper even made several suggestions that I'm glad they did.
If you have not considered a decked canoe or even heard of such a thing I would reconsider. After hundreds of miles paddling it I'm glad I chose the Clipper Sea 1.
You can watch some of my adventures on Youtube.com by typing "paddlingfan1" in the Youtube Search Bar.