Hi Jim. The Northwest Passage Solo from the Northwest Canoe Company
(free plans for all their designs) is a very sweet boat. It's skinny and low volume so, as you might imagine it's kind of 'sporty' to paddle. I wouldn't call it a good first boat but if you're on your game it is sooooo much fun to paddle. It has enough rocker to turn really well but it also tracks great if you tell it what to do. I love it for windy days because it's so low profile. Blowing or not blowing, it's all the same. Except for waves. I wouldn't want to be out in the middle of a big lake if the wind came up. The Passage is low and would swamp pretty easily. I mostly paddle it on the flat water stretches of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque and it excels on that flat, sometimes windy, moving water with winding channels.
The sabots really aren't that much work. (Caveat: I say that as a guy with a fully tooled up shop) Remember, the wood is soft and easy to shape. The advantage of using them is that they eliminate fussing with all the strips coming together at the ends of the boat. They also add some strength in those spots. Folks do it both ways and their boats seem to work. Try one technique on each end of your boat and see which you like better.
After I built the Solo, my girlfriend got all hot to build a boat so we built her a Mattawa (a John Winters design) It's a small tandem design that we modified a little. To make it easy to paddle solo we added a chined tumblehome to the design. It's also a sweet boat. I wrote an article about building that one too. Check it out on my Furniture Blog
if you're interested.