For over 20 years, my main canoe has been an 18’ 4” Swift Quetico (which is no longer manufactured).  Having a growing family and a desire for big trips, it served me very, very well over the years.  Now that I find myself going on more solo trips, often with multiple portages, I wanted something better suited to my current needs.
Having had a good experience with Swift, both before and after sale, it was natural that I eventually ended up purchasing another Swift canoe.  I did look hard at several other worthy manufactures, but kept coming back to Swift; my personal experience carried a lot of weight for me.
I purchased the Prospector 14, Kevlar Fusion model, Ruby/Champagne two tone in colour with matching skid plates (which I consider important), Kayak foot braces (for occasional double blade paddling), a detachable cherry yoke, and lastly the cherry "outers" option.
While I added the cherry outers mostly for the ascetic appeal, I quickly found they make the sound of my occasional pry stokes off the gunnels very pleasing & muted; a great advantage for photographers trying to be quiet!
Note that I considered a 15’ model too, but ultimately decided I wanted a true solo boat; a "single seater" if you will.  Also, I rarely paddle any whitewater, so adding weight for materials that could take a serious pounding wasn't appealing to me; strong and lightweight was my objective.
This boat, at approximately 30 lbs, weighs  less than half of my Quetico (which is rated "Expedition Kevlar"); quite a delight, especially since most of the time when I carry the canoe, I typically have another ~40 to 50 lbs of gear on my back, plus an extra paddle, throw rope, bailer and PFD tied into the canoe.
After the weight, the next thing I noticed was a difference in tracking.  At only 14’, the Prospector doesn’t track the same way as the  18’+ Quetico; no surprise there.  The bow tends to move back and forth a bit more while paddling, but still maintains course.  On a trip, with my barrel and pack in the bow, probably about 60 lbs of gear, that back and forth vanishes entirely!  My loaded Prospector tracks just as well as my Quetico.  On a recent trip, this was especially nice, as some days I had more than 5 hours of sustained paddling.  Swift rates the optimal load range of the Prospector 14 at 150-400 lbs, with an industry capacity rating of 650 lbs.  Personally, I can’t imagine ever needing more than 250-275 lbs.
For complete specs, visit the Swift website.
Another advantage of the 14’ boat quickly became clear: some of the portages were challenging, with relatively sharp turns, downed trees and tight brush to push though.  My Prospector 14 was *so* much easier to carry though these portages!  No getting caught on tight turns, no problem manoeuvring around fallen trees, no strained muscles.  While the longer canoe is great with 2-3 people and tons of gear, it’s a pain to portage solo, pure and simple; not so with the Prospector 14.
One thing I was a bit concerned with early on was the placement of the carrying yoke vis-a-via the seat.  On my first few trips, the top of my backpack, a fantastic Osprey hiking masterpiece, kept pushing against the seat, driving the bow of the canoe down.  After experimenting with solutions, I read about and listened to an interview (with Cliff Jacobson) on why canoe packs are so much better for canoeing: in short, they sit lower on your back and don’t interfere with the canoe body (they’re also easier to put into, and take out of your canoe).  So, on my most recent trip, I used an old canoe-pack style backpack too see if it helped.  Voilà!  No issue whatsoever; I was able to carry my equipment on my back, and my canoe on my shoulders and the two worked together famously.  Surprise: having the right equipment makes all the difference!
After returning from almost a month of paddling in big lakes (Superior), small lakes (aptly named Boulder Lake in Quetico), and many between, I was almost afraid to wash my boat and see what kind of damage I had inflicted on it.  Especially since I had many “hard landings” on rocks, ledges, and once even had to “pull an Adam Shoalts” and drag my canoe though a semi-dry swap (that’s a story for another day).  So how did it look?  In a word, great!  Of course it has many small new “memories” scratched into the bottom, but they’re largely contained to the white (“Champagne”) coloured area, so they don’t stand out at all.  Most of the “abuse” was taken up by the skid plates (or pads), which is exactly what they’re there for.  Despite all the stones, boulders and bumps, my Prospector 14 is ready and raring for it’s next trip!
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a new solo boat, take a Prospector 14 for a paddle.  Bring along a pack or barrel to see how it handles with some weight too if you can.  Be sure to pick it up and carry it around a bit.  I believe you’ll be impressed, and personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the same one again!
Back to Top