1983 Wenonah Jensen 18'...should I buy?

I have a Old Town Penobscot 16 in the 3 layer poly hull. Its fine and all but is 76 lbs…

I could get a 1983 Jensen 18’ in tuf weave hull that has been restored to near new condition. The guy just replaced the gunwales and seats, added a custom center seat that uses the yolk as the front brace, and refinished the hull. He said he had a buddy at an auto body shop sand the hull and paint it with automotive paint.

So, Im curious how tuf-weave hold up after 30 years? is it/will it be brittle? Is the paint going to be a pain in the neck? he made it sound like a bonus because you can touch it up but im skeptical. Has wenonah changed the construction over the last 30 years? Other thoughts?

I’d trade him my canoe+$400-500. Is it worth it? My ideal canoe is a spirit II in tuf weave I think…

I will be mostly going down slow rivers and small-medium lakes but would like to be able to take it up to the BWCA next year.


I used to own a Winnona Sundowner, which was almost a copy of the Jenson 18. Lovely fast boat, state of the art in it’s day. Great for touring as well as day trips. The automotive paint is probably a two part urethane like Imron. I built a wooden kayak and had it painted with Awlgrip, a similar paint designed for boats as opposed to cars. The two part urethanes are in many ways tougher than gelcoat, but in my experience, I’d rather have gelcoat. It could be that the substrate of my boat was too soft though; I filled the weave of the cloth with microballoons and mixed the stuff as light as I could and still spread it. If you treat the boat with respect, it’ll prob be fine though.

Brittleness is not an issue. But

– Last Updated: Mar-30-12 1:52 PM EST –

if the boat was used hard, then there will be some loss of strength in the laminate. Probably not enough to matter to you.

If the inside of the boat is not painted (and there's no particular reason why it should be), then you can judge whether the boat has been hammered a lot by noting whitening of areas of the cloth. The commonest area of damage in a boat used on rivers with ledges would be toward the stern, where the hull smacks the ledge on the way over.

I don't see any particular advantage of a Jensen 18 over a Penobscot unless you're in a hurry. And if the Jensen is Tuffweave, it may not be much lighter than your Penobscot, though I would expect the Jensen to be around 60 pounds in that layup. Someone else may have the exact figure.

18 Jensen
This is a classic hull and there is nothing outdated with the design or the 1983 construction. Wenonah did not call it TuffWeave in 1983, but their fiberglass construction was offered in at least three layups in the 18 Jensen. All fiberglass layups had kevlar as reinforcements in high wear areas. The stems, and the keel line. In the core stiffened layup (identical to todays Ultra-Light Kevlar layup), without Gelcoat you could see right thru the hull alongside the core area, and see the yellow of the kevlar reinforcements at the stems. The cross-rib layup had as the name says, ribs running across the bottom of the hull at spaced intervals from just below the front seat to just in front of the stern seat. These ribs were much higher than the thickness of the core in the core-stiffened hulls. This layup had more flexibility than the core stiffened, weighed a bit more and cost a bit less. There were also center-rib layups and extra-stiffened layups offered in tandem canoes, but i do not remember which were offered on the 18 Jensen.

Check the interior for cracks in the foam ribs and the covering over the ribs. In the core-stiffened hulls, the ribs run from the core up side of the hull to just below the gunwales. If they are intact and there is no obvious repair material glassed over them, the canoe probably had good care.

I have a 1983 Spirit in cross rib layup that has spent most of its life on an outside rack or on top of the truck. It has thousands of paddling miles on it and the hull is still solid. Its had repairs from impact damage, but no problems with deterioration of the layup.

The price seems a bit steep for a glass hull. There are several 18’ Sundowners advertised on the classified board here on Paddling.net. Compare those prices with what your seller wants for the 18 Jensen.

They are two different canoes. The Jensen is faster; 18 Jensens still win Stock Class races. The Sundowner is deeper and a better rough water boat and tripping canoe. I have a lot of time in both hulls on trips and in races. Except for racing and exercise, I prefer the Sundowner. Either will run away and hide from your Old Town. Jensen vs Sundowner in a race are close enough that the paddlers can make the difference. On a trip the Sundowner with a load will handle water where the Jensen will require careful paddling and some bracing and bailing.

Hope this helps,


Paddling.net classifieds

I just checked the classifieds and the 18 Sundowners are gone. Good boats don’t stay listed for long.

There is the 17’Spirit II in the midwest for a good price with some accessories.

There are two 17’ Sundowners.

Keep checking.


Careful there
If you go from the Penobscot to a Spirit II you may find it a bit wigglier but not a big step. It will be faster and dryer. However, in my humble opinion, you should definitely paddle an 18 foot Jensen before you get too excited about its light wieght. While it is much speedier than the Old Town, it is much less stable, very hard to turn, and not a boat for rough water with a load in the boat. It was designed for racing and acts like it.

How much does it weigh?
If one of your primary considerations is to get a lighter boat you should find out if this one is really that much lighter.

I have a 1990 Wenonah catalog and price list that shows that the 18’ Jensen Fiberglass with cross-rib construction and standard equipment weighed 66lbs (56lbs with PVC core). Painting an 18’ hull is going to add at least several pounds of weight (I doubt that all of the gel coat was sanded off) and a “custom center seat” at least a couple more. You could find that this boat is nearly as heavy as yours.

There is no question that the hull is vastly more efficient than what you have. For a tandem boat, it is not real deep, which can be good on windy days, but makes it less seaworthy in any kind of waves, especially if loaded. This boat did have great success as a Citizen’s Racer but it is much more friendly than Jensen Marathon boats or Pro-Boats. I think it would make a fine tandem tripping boat for placid water like the BWCAW.

I have heard of some using the 17’ Jensen as a solo. The 18’ seems awfully long and a trifle wide to use that way, but I would certainly rather paddle it solo than the boat you have.

I wouldn’t worry about the age of the boat if it does not show evidence of significant damage.

The Jensen is a very fast boat. I would say it is not for “beginers” or for someone who does not want to “think” while paddling. We would take 2 weeks of gear and an older child with no problem. I will say we only used it on lakes, no rivers or open water. Being 18’ with no rocker would probably no be a great choice for streams and small rivers.