O ver the years the Paddling Magazine team has tested and reviewed a dozen or more Nova Craft canoes . Most recently we’ve been beating up the whitewater tripping Prospector 16 in TuffStuff . I race a Nova Craft Ocoee. My kids learned to paddle the 12-foot Teddy and I stole it for my spring walleye trips—set up with a solo seat it’s known also as the Trapper.

Nova Craft Fox 14 Specs
LENGTH: 14′
WIDTH: 32″
DEPTH: 13″
ROCKER: Minimal
CAPACITY: 550 lbs
WEIGHT: TuffStuff, 43 lbs
PRICE: $2,499 CDN

Way back in ‘99 we included the Supernova in a whitewater solo canoe shootout. One of the boats we’ve never written about is a Nova Craft solo cruiser. The style of canoe you’d single-handedly pull from the rack when venturing into the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. You must be wondering, why not? I blame Bill Mason.

Where I’m from a solo tripping canoe is a 15- or 16- foot symmetrically shaped tandem canoe spun around backwards. Just like in Mason’s 1977 Path of the Paddle instructional film series. We are products of our training and old habits die hard. But there is another reason.

Until this spring when Nova Craft introduced The Fox 14, there hadn’t been a solo lakewater cruiser in their catalog.

You may have just seen the new Fox 14 included alongside solo tripping gear in the last issue of Canoeroots. We enjoyed it so much it’s getting a proper review here, about 47 years past due.

Tim Miller, Nova Craft’s founder and owner, exhibits at Rutabaga’s annual Canoecopia Show every spring. The show is held in Madison, Wisconsin drawing 20,000 avid paddlers, paddlers who escape to places like the uninterrupted 90-mile stretch of the Wisconsin River and into the Boundary Waters.

“Five or six years ago we started getting so many requests at the show for a 14-foot solo canoe that we drove home and set to work on the design,” remembers Miller. “Shortly afterward we got notice that Royalex was going out of production. Our focus shifted to creating alternative materials and reconfiguring our shop to ramp up composite canoe production.”

Project Fox 14 was put away and left in hibernation until now. This new 14-foot solo canoe came to us in Nova Craft’s dependable TuffStuff—the durable composite material created while the Fox was asleep. Our tester weighs a respectable 43 pounds and so far, according to Miller, TuffStuff has been the most popular selling layup. Customers are intrigued by the durability and reasonable weight. The Fox, like most of Nova Craft’s line, is also available in fiberglass, Blue Steel, aramid and Aramid Lite.

If it were me, I’d suck up the couple hundred bucks and go with the Aramid Lite to save seven pounds. The Fox isn’t a whitewater boat and the Aramid Lite is plenty durable for my backcountry adventures. While I have my credit card out, I’d upgrade from aluminum to ash gunwales. Not because it is any lighter; Nova Craft just does such a pretty job with their wood trim. It takes a canoe made of space-age materials and makes the touch points softer, quieter and more authentic. I blame Bill Mason for this tendency also.

So how do you come up with a new solo canoe design? If you’re Miller, you look around at what’s already working.

traditional braided canoe seat
One may prefer to use a kayak paddle but kneeling on the ash and laced traditional canoe seat works just fine too. You’ll need to install a removable yoke for backcountry adventures. | Photo: Timothy J Baklinski

The Nova Craft Cronje 17′ is an old Chestnut Canoe Company design and a popular touring canoe for those looking to carry heavy loads for long distances.

Its symmetrical low-profile hull design gives it a fair advantage against blustery winds. So when you have 47 years experience building canoes and you cut three feet out of the Cronje you get something that looks like the new Fox 14. A generous 32-inch beam and impressive weight carrying capacity of 550 pound that allows the packing of enough gear for a fortnight of solo adventures.

On one of my recent fitness kicks I ordered a solo training canoe. Sixteen and a half feet long, 29.5 inches wide, complete with a tractor seat and foot pegs. This is not the Fox 14.

On Nova Craft’s website, you’ll find the Fox in their recreational lineup. I don’t think that’s right either. Yes, you are going to find a great number of these turned over on cottage docks waiting for early morning misty paddles. That’s fine, the Fox won’t spill your coffee. Some people may even paddle the Fox like a pack canoe with a kayak paddle. For me though, the Fox should be classified alongside the Cronje as a cruiser or solo lakewater tripper.

With very little rocker, the Fox 14 scoots right along. Tilt it over a little and it turns beautifully. I didn’t miss the extra two feet of my tandem Prospector—two feet that for the most part wasn’t in the water anyway.

If you’re not launching from docks or floating lazy uninterrupted rivers and you want to be free to wander anywhere you’ll have to order, like I did, a yoke and hardware.

One more thing, apparently the Fox 14 is available in nine different color options but I’d go with red. You know whom to blame.

3 COMMENTS

  1. ..as if ther is only Nova Craft! Didn’t you notice the many other solo designs out there? Bell, Colden, We-no-nah, they all have lake well performing lake cruising canoes in their line. If the Fox is THE perfect lake cruiser, well I would really like to know what a Prism, a Keewaidin, a Wildfire shall be in your view?

  2. Nova Craft builds some terrific canoes. And I compliment them on doing a true solo canoe. I’ve put a lot of miles on solo canoes during my time–starting with three hand-built woodstrip models, two of which (the Old Town/ and Bell “CJ Solo” and Mad River “Slipper”) became popular factory solo canoes. I currently own an old Bell “Flashfire”, two Yellowstone solo’s, and a new Northstar Phoenix. . All of these canoes have a gunnel width of well under 28 inches. If the Fox 14 is really 32 inches wide at the rails, then that boat is not for me. 32 inches is simply too wide for long distance comfort and efficient touring. Paddle a narrow (under 28 inches) solo canoe and you’ll never opt for a wider boat.

  3. I might add that one simply does not need or want a 550 pound carrying capacity in a pure-bred solo cruising canoe. To carry that much weight gracefully, the boat must be deep and wide–seldom a pleasure to paddle alone. If you need to haul 550 pounds alone on a canoe trip, best paddle a small tandem canoe or a specialized solo like the Kruger Sea Wind.. A solo canoe carries half the load of a tandem one so a 550 pound pound capacity suggests a very big hull. Indeed, the venerable Old Town Tripper will haul about 1000 pounds; comparably, a one person canoe that will carry half that weight must obviously be pretty big. Typical carrying capacities for pure-bred solo cruising canoes are more like 350 pounds, which is sufficient for everything except long trips on mean water.. Add one 180 pound paddler + say, 80 pounds of gear for a two week trip and you”ll be well below the 350 pound max load of most pure-bred solos.. Better to have a narrow, lively canoe than a bulky load carrier that will be a handful in wind and awkward when switching paddle sides (yes, most everyone who paddles pure-bred solo canoes uses bent-shaft paddles these days, so wide gunnels are a bogeyman.. When wind, waves and dicey rapids rule the day, we add a nylon spray cover to our little boats.. That, plus good paddling technique makes pure-bred solo canoes like the Northstar Yellowstone Solo and Phoenix capable in rapids to low Class III.

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