18' Sundowner??

-- Last Updated: Jun-28-16 11:38 AM EST --

So, I have been paddling a 15'10 clipper ranger for the last few years, and looking to upgrade to something bigger (18'-20'). I love clipper canoes, but rarely find them for sale used, and not sure I want to shell out $2k for a new one.

Anyway, I found an 18' Wenonah Sundowner on good ol' craigslist for a decent price and I am considering that instead of the Sea Clipper that I would buy instead. I have read a lot of posts that seem to indicate that the Sundowners are 1)less stable than others, but not 'unstable' 2)Fast and sometimes hard to maneuver 3)overall great boats for intermediate-advanced paddlers.

I paddle (and usually fish) in a lot of varied environments ranging from calm flat lakes to large not-so-flat lakes to Oregon coast bays and all of the larger rivers in Oregon with a few smaller, faster rivers mixed in (but no whitewater type stuff). I almost always have 1-2 other people with me and 1-2 dogs and gear.

I would love to hear what you guys think about the sundowner for these conditions!

Also, from this picture, can anyone confirm that this is an 18' sundowner, and maybe take a guess at the age of the canoe? It is supposed to be Tuffweave, and looks like a newer style layup. Ideas?

Thanks everyone! paddling.net rocks!


Should be fine
Sundowner 17 and 18 are completely different boats. I have no idea why they share a name. Keep that in mind when reading reviews.

I’ve owned and enjoyed both. The 17 is lower volume, lower sides, and “tippier”. The 18 is higher volume and intended more for multi-day trips with gear in places like the Boundary Waters. Some people would still call it “tippy” depending on what they’re used to paddling but I had no issues with it. I think it’s a similar design to the Wenonah Minn. II.

Not really much rocker so it tracks pretty straight. This can be good or bad depending on your paddling style and locations.


I like mine
I picked up a Sundowner 18 earlier this year, and have been pleased with it so far. Stability has been good in 1-2’ waves, and with a 4 year old shifting around in the middle. It will easily accommodate 2-3 people + your dogs and gear. It doesn’t turn on a dime, but I haven’t found it difficult to maneuver at all, and have even paddled it solo a couple of times.

Can’t tell you the age of that one in the pic, but ask the seller for the serial number. The last 2 digits will indicate the year it was built.

Wenonah Odysey
It’s been a slow year for used canoes in Portland hasn’t it? Unless you want a Coleman, Pelican, or other low end heavy poly model. Or aluminum. Then you’re all set.

I know of a guy (don’t know him personally) who is planning on listing an 18ft. Wenonah Odysey. He gave me first crack at it, but that’s more boat than I need. Let me know if you’re interested in that and I can get you his contact info.

Good canoe
if the price is right, you can always resell it if it doesn’t work out. Ask the owner to give you serial number off of it. It should start with an SD#######96, the first two letters indicating the model, and the last 2 digits being the year it was made. I have a Sundowner 18 and it is a little shakey without any weight, but with gear it’s pretty solid. It will take a little getting used to. The rounder hull shape makes it a little more stable in rough water. The canoe is fast, and tracks really straight. The photo certainly shows a Wenonah something, but I can’t tell the model. The inside is a little confusing looking to me since they seem to have painted or gelcoated part of the inside. The foam core part looks like a Kevlar boat with the ribs going up the side. I think the Tuff-weave boats don’t have the ribs, but who knows, things change. On a tuff-weave boat the inside, where the foam core is, is painted as opposed to being kevlar fabric in a kevlar boat.

We rented the 18’ for years in the Adirondacks and loved it. They have no rocker so they are not too agile. The only complaint I had was that it is a beast if you are solo, especially if there is any wind. It will hold a lot of gear and passengers so it should fit your needs.

foam-core layup

– Last Updated: Jun-29-16 1:21 PM EST –

I agree with Dogbrain. This canoe looks a lot like my Sundowner. Like mine, it has a foam-core layup which included cross-ribs, and a tan paint/coating on the foam core in the bottom of the canoe. I agree with Dogbrain that this was not used in the Kevlar builds. That and the interior color of the canoe sides between the ribs seems consistent with a TufWeave build. The canoe in the picture has been upgraded with wood gunwales, thwarts, and wood-frame woven seats (vs standard aluminum gunwales & thwarts and bucket seats.). I see the front seat is mounted on a slider -- very helpful for trimming the canoe. But I can't be sure from the picture what the length or even the actual model is. Nice boat, nonetheless.

It will have 3 letters to start
MFP being the code for Wenonah. The first three letters always go with the manufacturer, not the specific model.

Good Info!
Thanks everyone for being so helpful!

The seller is out of town until Friday, so he can’t read the serial number to me yet, but I’m meeting him that evening to check out the boat. I will probably take it home. Like it was mentioned, if it doesn’t work out I can always resell it without taking a loss.

The seller claims that it is a TuffWeave build. Looking through some older pictures, it looks like they made a TufWeave light (or something like that, I can’t seem to find the post again… I’ll post it if I do). The light version had ribs like a kevlar canoe, but it was tufweave material, and lighter than a standard tufweave layup.

I am still a little concerned about the lack of rocker, but I guess I won’t know until I try it! I like more rounded hulls and all the features this canoe has. I use it a lot in some rough waves fishing, and do that often solo, but I throw an 80lb bag of sand in the front for ballast, haha.

I’ll keep you all posted and let you know what I think!

I don’t think the lack of rocker will be an issue on 90 percent of what you plan to use it for. It may be on the smaller and faster waters, but you say that is an occasional use. If you need to negotiate rock gardens or a narrow, twisty river you will have issues because the Sundown wants to track straight. But on lakes and larger rivers it is a really nice boat.

Sundowner layups
The 18’ Sundowner was in the Wenonah Catalog for a long long time and was made in almost every layup that Wenonah used. You could get it in Cross-Rib, Center-Rib and Core-Stiffened (now Ultra-light) in both Kevlar and fiberglass (later in Tuffweave). The glass hulls had painted interiors in a sand color, Kevlar was natural color. Glass hulls got gel-coat, Kevlar skin-coat. I have seen racing hulls in Core Stiffened glass hull without the interior paint or gelcoat and they are spooky.You can see right thru the hull except where the core and Kevlar reinforcing strips go. A core-stiffened glass hull shouid weigh around 52-55#. Mine with a front slider and custom yoke is #52. The other telling sign of an earlier hull is the seat construction. Glass hulls will have composite seats. White painted fiberglass in glass hulls and natural Kevlar in Kevlar hulls. Any hull with injection molded plastic seats will e from the Tuffweave era if the seats are original.

Its a great, well rounded canoe. Not quite as fast as the 18’Jensen,but more stable and seaworthy. Deeper too with more capacity for trips. Not quite as beginner friendly as the Champlain or Spirit, but with an hour or so of seat time, people relax and don’t feel its a “tippy” hull.


Good review
Last time I A/B tested the Sundowner 17/18 I was a lot lighter and the 18 felt like it needed more weight in it so I got the 17.

Thanks Bill!
Thanks Bill, that is some great info! So this boat looks like a ‘core stiffened’ aka ‘ultra light’ TufWeave layup (with the sand colored ribs). Does that indicate that this boat will be lighter, yet less sturdy than a cross rib? I don’t hit rocks/logs often, but it does happen occasionally. I like the idea of a 52# canoe, but I wonder how well TufWeave will stand up to abuse in an ultralight.

I believe I am buying the canoe regardless, I will jut have to refrain from bashing it into stuff if it is likely to be on the weaker side.

Sundowner experience.
I have two 18’Sundowners in my fleet. One is Core-stiffened fiberglass, date code 1987. It has been on Adirondack canoe trips, in races, and loaned to friends. It had another life before I got it about 8 years ago. I have another one in Kevlar Cross-rib. Weights are almost identical. The Kevlar hull has wood trim. The glass boat has aluminum. They paddle the same. The core-stiffened hull is very solid, no flex in any direction when paddled with a load. Its gone over beaver dams fully loaded, with no stress. The cross-rib Kevlar Spirit I have has survived a lot of abuse and has had two ribs separate from the hull. Both were glassed back into place with no cracking of the hull. Cross-rib might take more abuse than core-stiffened, but for almost all paddling aside from high centering on sharp rocks it will be fine, and easier to load. I have 4 core-stiffened hulls, 4 cross-rib hulls and one flex-core. None oilcan, none leak, and all have hit something in the water more than once.



First Impressions
So, I went and picked up the Sundowner 18 on Friday. It is a tufweave ultralight built in '92. THe wood trim looks great and I love the cane seats. Just got a chance to take it out fishing yesterday!

The boat is super light for a non-kevlar canoe. I can very easily flip it up to my shoulders and load it on my truck. I imagine it would carry just fine on a portage.

I paddled around a small lake solo for about a minute before I realized that this was far too little weight for the canoe. I went back to the truck and got a 50lb bag of sand and threw that in front. It helped quite a bit, but I still got blown all over the lake by a mild breeze. Fishing was difficult because I had to keep paddling constantly to keep from blowing away. Paddling upwind was nearly impossible… more sand is coming with me next time, or some human ballast… I mean a friend, to weight down the front.

The stability of this canoe is awesome. Like others have noted in reviews, it has little initial stability, but lots of secondary stability, and it is very predictable. I can’t want to get this out on the river where I might need it!

It tracks very straight when moving fast, and is somewhat maneuverable when moving slowly. I’ll have to play with this on the river to see if it is maneuverable enough, its hard to say so far.

I’m not sure an ultralight hull is going to suit me long term. On the first outing, I already bounced off a few submerges logs. I never realized how much stuff I hit when canoeing until I really tried to avoid it!

Overall, I’m happy with the purchase! I will use it this summer and see how I feel in a few months!

Thanks everyone for the valuable advice! You guys rock!

Those boats are used
by portage maintenance crews. In the boreal forests of Canada.

They can withstand the occasional bounce off log and rock.

They don’t do well in moving water like class 3 when hitting rocks as the foam core cracks.

But I have a boat from 1992 that hit a rock at high speed on the Albany river in Northern Ontario. As that area is roadless for hundreds of miles…we paddled out.

And the boat is still in use.

The 18 is really a lake boat. Be careful about expecting it to be easily moved around in rapids.

when you paddle solo, move to the center of the boat to trim it.