Review by Darren Bush
Photos by Aaron Black-Schmidt
It's strange that the folks at Chestnut Canoe Company named a canoe after a second-rate South African General from the Boer Wars. Then again, it's not that strange. I believe William Chestnut (yep, that's his real name) threw a dart at a dictionary to name some of his boats. Bizarre appellation notwithstanding, the Cronje is a really fine canoe.
Our Cronje was a translucent, ultralight, and made from Aramid cloth (generic Kevlar). Kevlar is just like Kleenex— it's what everyone calls everything that's light, yellow, and bulletproof. The core is made from Corecell, which has excellent strength, and Nova Craft is now using a rubber modified vinylester resin, which has better elongation properties (flexibility) than previous resins. It makes for a tough boat.
The construction of the Cronje is top-notch. It is built using infusion, where the amount of resin is precisely controlled and introduced to the mold under a vacuum, so it saturates the cloth with no excess or lack of resin. It makes for a strong and light canoe.
The seats of the Cronje are fixed, so trim adjustments are made by placing your gear strategically to distribute weight. It's a little inconvenient, but you get used to kicking a pack with your foot to slide it forward. The seats themselves are unique to Nova Craft, made from heavy duty ash frames strung with boot lacing. That makes them tough, quick-drying, and easily field repairable.
If you want to paddle it unloaded, the Cronje will require some skill, as it has a rounder bottom than the other canoes we tested. That roundness makes for a quick and efficient hull, and all who paddled it enjoyed it. Loaded down, the Cronje settles down and is plenty stable for beginners. Seats are high enough to make kneeling easy, and those of us who are kneelers appreciated the ability to squeeze feet under the seat.
A lower shear line drops the capacity just slightly, especially compared to the iconic Prospectors, but that's a good thing when the wind comes up. The Cronje handled winds of 25 mph, gusting to 35 mph, with aplomb.
The Cronje was the best boat of the bunch for padding solo. If you want to go fishing after setting up camp, the symmetrical hull means it paddles the same forward or backward, so just sit in the front seat facing the center of the canoe. If you wanted to go solo with a boat load and your 90-pound Labrador, it'd do quite nicely.
This is a canoe that a beginner could paddle, if said paddler is willing to take a little time to get used to a little less initial stability. The good news is that it would be very hard if not impossible to grow out of this beauty. The Cronje is built in several constructions, from the ultralight, which we tested, to the newer Tuff Stuff, a mixture of basalt and innegra fibers. If you want a little more traditional look, wood gunwales are available.
Length: 17′ | Width: 35″ | Weight: 47lbs. | Depth: 13″ | Price: $2,699.00
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|Wenonah Spirit II||Nova Craft Cronje||Northstar Northwind 17||Swift Keewaydin 17||Souris River Quetico 17|