A new canoe brand has been born... Enigma Canoes. A range of quality canoes manufactured right here in the UK, with models to suit everyone from the solo explorer to family day-trippers and expedition paddlers. We have been very excited about the release of these canoes so at the first chance we just had to get one out on the water.
I was given the opportunity to take a demo RTI 13 home for a couple of days in the middle of November. The RTI 13 is the smallest craft in the Enigma range and is designed for solo paddling trips. Luckily the weather was excellent and conditions were almost perfect for putting this canoe through its paces out on the Lower Tryweryn and Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake).
Wow this canoe is lightweight! Constructed from triple layer polyethylene, I am used to 2 person lifts of these great big lumps of plastic. But with its short 13ft length and solo boat outfitting, I found it easy to lift onto the van roof, carry to/from the water and portage around weirs. I was so surprised I jumped on the bathroom scales and measured this boats weight at just less than 22kg - somewhat lighter than many white-water or touring kayaks of a shorter length. Just what is needed when you only have the one pair of hands to move the craft about.
The RTI looks like a very traditional open boat, with the classic bow and stern re-curvature and sleek lines. The RTI has a relatively narrow beam (compared with other solo triple layer boats) meaning it should track well and cover distances with ease. It is set up as an out-and-out solo boat with 1x wood-web seat and a stiffening thwart. With no room for a central carrying yoke, the RTI can be carried on the shoulder, and lifted above head height using the thwart and seat in a ‘bench press style’. Without the need for a second seat or yoke, this also keeps the overall boats weight down.
The RTI comes under the Enigma Canoes brand of open boats and is manufactured wholly in the UK by one of the leading canoe manufacturers who have decades of experience rotationally moulding canoes. Such experience is reflected in the quality and build construction of the RTI. With it’s tough and durable triple layer polyethylene hull, the Enigma Canoes stand up to the rigours of regular paddling trips.
As expected it tracked exceptionally well in a straight line for such a short boat. With minimal rocker, I kept the boat on edge and with Sally the faithful collie on board we set off from the Lower Tryweryn take-out, up the Dee and onto Bala Lake. The RTI made nice progress and despite the usual westerly headwind we soon found ourselves past the sailing club and cruising along the Southern shore enjoying the scenery and local birdlife.
Upon reaching Llangower, the wind picked up and I decided to turn for home. The RTI despite having a narrow beam does have a nice secondary stability even with a fidgety dog moving around the boat. The traditional knelt paddling stance is best adopted for this craft to get the best out of it. With the low draught (13” at the midpoint) the boat performed exceptionally well with a cross wind.
In choppier conditions, and in white-water, the low sides would mean that the RTI would take on more water than a boat with deeper sides such as a Prospector. If it were my boat, I would add airbags and a kneeling mat to make it more versatile.
After the success on Bala Lake we decided to have a play on the Lower Tryweryn from the Mill down to the road bridge, to see how the RTI performed on some easy moving water.
Of course the RTI will never be in the same league as the ultra short white-water OC1 class of boats, but for smaller rapids and slow moving rivers the RTI paddled very well. Way more manoeuvrable than the longer tandem canoes, the RTI was perfect for picking its way down the shallower sections and breaking in and out of the smaller eddies.
What a superb little canoe. For someone only wanting to paddle solo, have the ability to car-top the canoe by themselves and also to have a durable open boat that can takes knocks and scrapes the RTI should be high on the list of potential canoes to take a closer look at. Being 6ft 2” and 90kgs I thought I might be a little on the tall side for such a small boat, but it behaved very well for me. And thanks to its small dimensions it would also suit lighter and junior paddlers.
And finally the name - RTI? If you were keen on soft-rock back in year 1993, then you may well remember this classic!!!