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Tested it in Kevlar UltraLite. Very light, ridiculously stable both initial and while moving. Very good maneuverability - the easiest canoe to turn I tested. A little tricky to keep tracking straight though. Definitely lacking in speed.
Overall would be an AWESOME twisty river boat. Super light for portage, cut around trees and switchbacks with ease, and carry a lot of gear. Never feel like you are going to go in the water when you stop.
On one expedition, I used it alone and loaded with 400 pounds of gear and my own 6'4", 220 pounds. I was comfortable and she handled beautifully across a windy, choppy lake. On the return, I was actually headed into an oncoming storm and the boat was steady and reliable. At no time was I concerned about swamping.
When paddling alone, I reverse the boat and sit on the aft seat for better distribution of weight. When my 15 year old son and I are together, he sits fore and I sit aft. We have taken on cross currents and head on tides to raging success! The boat has always been reliable and Iíd buy another one in a heartbeat.
We typically paddle a large narrow lake on the Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt) with a modest amount of powerboat traffic, and have some smaller rivers (almost creeks) that feed and out of it that we like to explore. I usually go out with my wife, a 25 lbs dog and a mix of gear depending on what were up to that trip. Typically, our total weight is about 425 lbs.
After a number of paddling trips in a variety of conditions and weight in the Aurora here is my take on this boat. If youíre over 5'8" or so, this is not your boat. Iím 5'8" and weight 160 lbs and the boat is comfortable, but not spacious. Weíve owned a bigger boat and the width and size was a bit large for us to paddle comfortably, especially if paddling solo, but the Aurora is very easy to paddle solo for my size. The Aurora at 64 lbs is no problem for my 5'2" wife and myself to load and unload from the top of my Jeep.
The boat tracks fairly well for a 16-foot boat, but seems to track even better with a bit of weight in it. Iíve read that the boat is trim sensitive. I have found that not to be the case, but we typically load with a slightly weight forward trim while in tandem. I like to sit in the front and weigh the most of both of us, so it trims out just right for most head wind conditions. If you are out solo in this boat, I did notice that weight forward helped the tracking. The boat is as fast as any Iíve tried in the same class. The Old Town Penobscot 16 felt very similar, but had a tad bit more legroom in the bow. The Penobscot did not seem to be as fast and did not seem to track as well with my weight in the front, so we went with the Aurora. Quite honestly, they both seemed almost identical in build, performance and price, but the Aurora seems to have a better fit and finish. Honestly, I donít think you could go wrong with either boat.
The seaworthiness of the Aurora became evident on one of our trips. We had a large powerboat shoot around a bend in the lake that was pushing a lot of water while turning. The easy maneuvering of the Aurora allowed us to sweep into a quartered position and into the wake easily. The taller bow took the wake like a champ, even with about 500 lbs in it and trimmed a bit weight forward; the boat also road the up and down swell with excellent stability. I donít know if we would have been able to swing a slower handling boat around as quickly with enough time to develop decent forward momentum as we did.
The bottom line for the Aurora in my opinion: if youíre smaller in stature and arenít looking for massive payload and like a respectfully swift, seaworthy, responsive boat, you wonít be disappointed. If youíre tall or just have long legs, Iíd look at the Spirit II.
This boat performs as it was designed and the manufacturer's description is accurate. We highly recommend the Aurora.
Now keep in mind that this boat is intended to be versatile. It's meant to handle both light rapids and some open water stretches as well as haul some gear. As such, it cannot excel at anything in particular, although if I had to say what this boat's strength is, it would be river tripping.
I outfitted mine with some bow/stern flotation, a thwart bag for the stern and an under-seat bag for the bow. I plan on adding some gear lashing points for amidships this winter. So far, most of my paddling in this boat has been on flatwater since most rivers were too low by late summer.
This boat has very deep ends that catch the wind easily, so you have to work harder to keep it going straight. With practice, though, it's not so bad. It does glide pretty well for what it is and my wife (who is rather small) and I can actually pick up a fair bit of speed in it.
On the limited moving water use this boat has received, the deep ends helped to keep spray in the river where it belonged. A well used paddle can nearly turn this boat on a dime, so it's nicely maneuverable, at least when lightly loaded. It's a little lively at first, but put this boat on a lean and you find a nice sweet, solid spot. I'm very confident in the boat's stability, although my wife might beg to differ when I'm testing the boat's limits.
I've not yet loaded this boat with its limit of gear or people yet. I've only paddled it with a limited amount of equipment (less than 300lb worth of paddlers plus some food and drinks for lunch). I would suspect that the boat will settle down when loaded. I'm not concerned with pushing the limits on a camping trip. I'm a backpacker with a lot of lightweight gear. I can pack gear and food for two people plus a dog for a week for less than 80lb, so even when I go cushy for a canoe trip, I won't be pushing the capacity limits of this boat.
As long as you keep in mind that this boat is intended to be a versatile canoe and as such will be full of compromises, this canoe performs its intended purpose very well. Nothing is perfect, so I can't in good conscience give it a 10, but I'm more than satisfied with this boat. And if I had the money, I might actually have paid full price for a new one even.
This boat's ability to heel over and be paddled solo, Canadian style is what surprised me the most. It really does turn on a dime if you're kneeling behind center.
I would recommend this boat for someone who is looking for a do-it-all canoe. It's very stable in chop even with heavy loads, has lots of capacity for gear, and can be paddled solo if you want a big boat that maneuvers well. Kind of an SUV among canoes.
My Aurora is Royalex and weighs 64 pounds. It's very rugged but if you want to go for light weight it's available in Kevlar as well. All in all this is a very utilitarian, comfortable canoe.
I am so far very impressed with the versatility of the boat; good tripper good for small whitewater. A very good compromise. I am going to buy a solo play boat soon and my aurora will do everything else I need to do.
Our first few excursions were on lakes and slow-moving streams to allow us to get a feel for the Aurora's handling, and also to get used to the alligators that were on the river banks as well as in the water! Stability was excellent; the canoe could be tilted quite a bit to the side without capsizing. The most stringent test of maneuverability came on Juniper Run, which is arguably the best half-day canoe trip in all of Florida. This water is supplied by Juniper Springs, located in the recreation area of the same name in Ocala National Forest. At the beginning, the stream is shallow and so narrow that there isn't room to turn the boat around. The creek twists and turns, widening slightly and gradually becoming deeper as springs along the way contribute to the water flow. The surroundings are absolutely pristine, The only sounds to be heard come from the birds and water droplets falling from the paddle as it is brought forward for the next stroke. The current is fast enough to do most of the work until the last section of the run is reached. Here, the stream is wide, shallow and slow. The Aurora performed beautifully on this 4-hour trip. We were able to pivot quickly to negotiate the fast turns. When we reached the slow portion of the stream, the Aurora had sufficient glide to make our progress easier, even though grasses brushed the underside of the canoe in some places. What was really a surprise, as well as fun to see, was looking through the boat and seeing the shadows of these grasses.
The Estero River, near Fort Myers, provided a different challenge. Canoes and kayaks share the river with powerboats, most of whom were considerate, slowing down to minimize their wake as they approached us. A few pretended that we weren't there, and went tearing through at top speed. We turned into their wake as they went by and bounced quite a bit, but did not take on any water. When we reached Estero Bay, we felt confident enough to venture into the open water to explore some of the small islands.
One of our last canoe trips was on the Myakka River, a meandering, slow-moving stream whose banks are favorite resting spots for alligators. Admittance to this section of Myakka River State Park (near Sarasota) is limited, and a permit is needed. We took advantage of the stability of the Aurora to shoot video clips of alligators and wading birds. We were also thankful that we could load the canoe with all our equipment and still have room for ourselves!
In summary, we feel the Aurora is an excellent all-around boat, and perfect for the kind of canoeing we like to do, particularly in Florida's beautiful, exciting rivers and our own New Jersey winding, prestine rivers. Besides, the uncoated Kevlar material looks really cool with the sun shining through it, and we loved all the compliments we kept receiving from other canoeists. It was also great not to suffer any pain while loading the boat onto our car roof because it's so light and easy to lift.
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