16' Prospectors Nova Craft vs. Wenonah

Those who have had experience with both could you compare them. I’m sure this has been covered some before but I only got so much from the threads I found. I’m planning on getting one in royalex.

I’d use the boat mostly tandem on rocky twisty rivers, but I’d solo it some Canadian style just for the fun of it. And it would see a little lake and bay use but not for covering great distances.

I may be able to test a wenonah, but doubt there is a Nova Craft within a day’s drive.

Thanks for any thoughts.

My impression is that the bow paddler
ought to try on the Wenonah for size. That bow station in the ones I have seen seem to not allow much knee spread. Hence the bow paddler might not be stable in moving water.

Of course you can move the seat back and twiddle with the thwart placement but if you are buying new that might not be on your "want to do " list.

As you can see from the specs both boats are different. The Wenonah is quite a bit leaner.

Yes, I can see some difference in the specs, but wonder how much when comaring apples to apples. Nova Craft list beam at 36" which I’m guessing is maximum rather than gunnel or waterline. The Wenonah is 37’ max. Does the Wenonah carry a finer end further back, hence the knee spread issue? The weight of the Wenonah seems right in between the two royalex weights for the Novacraft. In a thread somewhere I read that the Wenonah is faster (Maybe the brand name is good for an extra .5mph at cruising speed :-)).


You don’t buy any Prospector for
speed. Maneuverability is its plus. The Wenonah seems to have very fine ends…seems they have a hard time getting rid of their racing heritage.

I have only paddled a Wenonah briefly and found that tandem it was too tight in the bow…and I would be wet in rapids. The Nova Craft Prospector seems wider there and I regret that while I did day trips with friends who had one I did not swap boats…seems they didnt want my solo!

It would be instructive if someone had access to both and could compare hull shapes head on in cross section. Max width is a number that in itself is meaningless unless we know just where on the hull that measurement was taken.

I agree with that

– Last Updated: May-21-11 6:52 PM EST –

I tried to compare photos of both boats, to see if the Wenona version was noticeably narrower than the Nova Craft version within a few feet of each end, but it was hard to tell for sure. What really surprised me is that unlike most other Wenona canoes, there was not a straight-line taper from each end to the middle, so the widest point of their Prospector is not nearly as pronounced, or shall I say, not as "highly concentrated" within a tiny portion of the overall length as what they usually do. I guess I'm saying that the difference in profile of the two brands, as seen from above, is not as pronounced as I expected it to be, but that bow station does look kind of narrow. On the whole, I greatly distrust Wenona to provide the advertised amount of Rocker in their Royalex hulls. In every case I've seen so far, their Royalex hulls are a lot flatter along the keel line than composite versions of the same boat (well, I've seen this on models that are supposed to have rocker. It wouldn't matter on their rocker-less canoes), but I don't know if this is true for their Prospectors. For what it's worth, I remember a discussion here regarding Royalex versus composite versions of Nova Craft's Supernova, and those who had paddled both in side-by-side tests thought that both versions were extremely similar in hull shape. Based on that alone, I'd go with the Nova Craft if I wanted to be sure I was getting the intended hull shape, but that's more of a gut-feeling choice than a choice based on hard facts.

Point understood about speed not being a prospector’s calling card. Just fishing for some possible differences to help with the choice. I appreciate the thoughts.

I’ve tried both
I’ve tried both of these, as well as the Esquif. All are well made, and all are canoes I would own.

The Novacraft is hands down the “biggest”, meaning it has far fullness carried to the ends, and far more volume. On a wilderness trip with a heavy load, I would want the Novacraft. Handling is predictable, the bottom is strong enough, but being big and flattish, it isn’t exactly stiff. This is indeed a slow canoe.

The Wenonah is much finer. If I was soloing I would much prefer the Wenonah, and with lighter paddlers/load on a trip it would be a nice canoe too. I would also want the Wenonah if I was in flatwater more often than whitewater (and, to that end, I would want it in tuff-weave) I think the bow paddling station could be changed by moving the seat back, but even still there is less fullness in the ends, so if you are charging into a huge wave, you are more likely to get wet. Of course, if you are charging into thousands of little waves, you are more likely to keep up some speed. As we all know, compromise is the name of the game.

The Esquif felt really sporty to me. Also less volume, but more rocker and looser ends. There seemed to be a bit of flare, too. I think it would be a perfect moving water tripper for lighter loads/smaller folks. Of course, there is the Canyon too, which is a fabulous boat. Basically, the Esquif Prospector is better for moving water than the Wenonah, not as good on the flats, with not as much volume as the Novacraft.

I’ve paddled the composite versions of both boats and have owned a royalex Novacraft.

The Novacraft is more maneuverable. The Wenonah has better speed. Primary stability is fine on both, but probably a bit better on the Novacraft. Both have good secondary stability, but the Novacraft firms up when it nears the rail while the Wenonah does not. I’m pretty sure Novacraft’s royalex is stouter than Wenonah’s unless Wenonah uses heavier royalex on their Prospector than they do their other boats. The Wenonah is a better lake boat than the Novacraft. I hated soloing the royalex Novacraft Canadian style on lakes until I installed a kneeling thwart near the center of the boat, but even then I preferred the Wenonah for solo paddling.

if you were to run your hands from bottom up along the side of both…could you give us a description of the hull shape difference?

I am betting the Wenonah is gourd shape like a squash and the NovaCraft has its fullness further up.

That would give you better firm final stability for Canadian Style paddling. Every Wenonah I have paddled so far is tender when the rail approaches the water. Its pretty clear to me that the designers did not deem that to be a priority; and planned for their boats to be paddled flat.

That said the old Wenonah Odyssey is a wicked good Canadian Style solo boat. All due to the side shape. Curiously it also does forward FreeStyle moves acceptably.

I have a Nova Craft Prospector and rpd has a Bell Prospector. (All the Prospectors I’ve looked closely at are in royalex.) I paddled his a few years ago and from the little time I spent in it, it felt more like a lake canoe. It was as stable on heel as my Nova Craft version but I don’t think it turned quite as nicely, though it was no slouch compared to any other boats of that length that I’ve tried. (Well, maybe a Bob’s Special compares, now that I think of it…) I’ve not paddled with anyone with the Wenonah version and haven’t tried that one myself though I’ve looked it over and it sure looks more like the Bell version than the Nova Craft.

I think the Nova Craft has a more distinct “chine” than any other versions I’ve seen so far - a fairly rapid and distinct transition from a nearly flat (and expansive) bottom to straight vertical sides, like many white water open canoes. I can’t see or feel any tumblehome or flair on the Nova Craft sides at all. The others seem more rounded on the bottom and with perhaps a bit of curve to the sides.

From what I’ve observed the Nova Craft has more rocker than the Bell and, I would expect, the Wenonah.

The Nova Craft can be a real handful to solo in a wide open expanse in the wind. Perhaps the Bell or Wenonah would be better in that regard, though all are pretty large high volume deals and that can always be tricky in a wind especially with a light load.

The kneeling thwart on the Nova Craft is placed such that if you want to keep the bow down while soloing there needs to be a quite a lot of weight stowed in the bow. Otherwise the water meets the front of the boat at about the point of the front of the front seat.

I like my Nova Craft version a lot. Its amazingly dry and on rocky streams feels like you’re slaloming a Mac truck - with decent precision. Just got back from the North Fork of the White and there took it through some pretty large wave trains, probably close to three feet, maybe a bit more. It felt almost like a power boat banging and bouncing over the waves - and took not a single drop.

Hope all is well with you and that you’re not going to give up your Swift…

Best to you.

Lots to consider
Thanks for all the responses. Better do some more digesting on this.

PJC, Cheers to you! Alas, the Swift went a couple of years ago to a fellow with a cabin up near Ely. But I’ve paddled a nice boat or two since. Been doing more fishing the last couple of years. Hope you are well and keeping the hatchet sharp.

Can’t compare…
…the Wenonah, since the local dealer seems uninterested in stocking one. But I can tell you (fresh memory from yesterday) that you can sink the gun’l on the NC without losing control. So long as you don’t go right into the rough with the boat full of water.

Wild Card

– Last Updated: May-23-11 6:15 PM EST –

Rob, I've paddled the Bell, not the Novacraft. Nice boat. BUT, IMHO the Esquif Mistral is worth a look if you really want a Prospector. I liked the Mistral better than the Bell I had tried. Been paddling one for a year and a half now. Very comfortable stability, for a boat without a flat spot to be found anywhere on the hull! In comparing it to the Bell and Novacraft paddled by Pat I and Pat II, it seems a tad larger than the Bell and slightly smaller than the Novacraft. It has 3.5" rocker in each end, turns on a dime, but can track well enough with a good stroke unless pushed too hard. Push it faster than it wants to go and it will try to turn on you. It is playful and sporty while having very impressive stability. The twintex material is very tough and has stood up to abrasion and banging around on Ozark streams. I picked it up thinking I'd use it primarily when loaded for overnighters, but I tend to use it for day trips too because it's so doggone comfortable. I'll send you some pics, one with it next to Pat's Novacraft for comparison so watch your e-mail. WW

Thanks Terry. You’re a champ.

Prospector bow paddler
has much more room in that than in the Wenonah. I have been in both. The Wenonah bow was too small for me to be comfortable.