Placid Boat Works Spitfire
(L: 12'; W: 27.5"; 18 LBS., $3,150, PlacidBoatWorks.com)
The Spitfire is a unique boat, and a very pleasant one. It clearly has an Adirondack heritage (it's the only boat tested that is actually built in the Adirondacks), but other than the pedigree, there's little about this boat that resembles the wood lapstrake Wee Lassie.
The hull shape is distinctly modern, with a shouldered tumblehome that allows the paddler to reach the water easily. It also allowed me to hook a knee underneath it and use it almost like a kayak knee brace, which meant it was comfortable to edge for quick turns. A nice touch.
Aesthetically, the Spitfire is a lovely boat. The translucent tinted gel coat gives it a deep finish, and the addition of a cream-colored gelcoat patch on the bottom gives the boat a rich, two-toned look. It will also help hide scratches where you're most likely to have them. One small quibble is the logo. To my eye, it's too large and blocky. I'd prefer something more discrete.
The boat we tested has gunwales that are integrated into the hull during the build process, which saves considerable weight and adds strength. Placid uses a weave of carbon fiber and aramid fibers that is strong, but to my eye a little visually jarring. I'd probably give up a little weight savings (and save some money) and go with the optional wood gunwales, but that's a personal preference.
The seating system is unique. There is a molded pedestal bucket seat affixed to the bottom of the hull that is low and canted back just slightly, leaning you against a comfortable backrest. If you want to sit a little higher, a taller pedestal nests over the first one seamlessly, raising your center of gravity somewhat but allowing a single bladed paddle to be used easily. I thought it very creative and comfortable.
The Harmony foot braces are glued in with a Plexus adhesive that is well-tested in the marine industry, so there are no holes through the hull. Also a nice touch.
All these features don't come cheap. Because it comes fully loaded, the Spitfire was the most expensive boat we tested.