Friends in Arkansas speak highly of the Two Brothers canoes. And since they are literally built by two brothers, you can specify how yours is rigged. You do need to keep in mind the total weights you might expect to carry and use weight capacities as a general guide, as well as the type water you expect to encounter. I have an Old Town Guide 16 and it suits my needs, has sufficient freeboard for the weights I carry, is easily propelled and maneuvered by myself alone, handles twisty creeks well enough, though certainly not as well as a purpose built creek boat. It is a plastic canoe and slides over the rocks I encounter, has a keel for tracking and pronounced chines. I did have to replace the factory molded seats with custom cane and ash seats in order to do as you suggest, paddle solo from the bow seat with the canoe reversed. It wasn't expensive and took little time. My total costs are still well within your suggested budget.
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