1984 Wabash Valley 15'6" History Lesson

I am looking to appeal to the knowledge of some of our veteran paddlers, since this one goes beyond my 20 years of experience.

I recently purchased a 1984 Wabash Valley 15’6" Kevlar Canoe, Serial # WVC005290384. The boats dimensions seem to be that of a Merlin. I am trying to learn more about the boat, I plan on restoring its gunnels, deck, and hull. I have some of its wood to match. The gentlemen I purchased it from picked it up from a buddy who planned to cut it up as he was clearing out an old barn and offered it to him for free. He said it came from the West Metro.

The hull has a few scraps and will need to have some new woodwork, but overall I think its restorable.

I believe WVC was an early joint venture between Ted Bell and another partner in Indiana before he moved to Zimmerman and opened Bell Canoe Works. If anyone has any information I’d love to hear about it.

You may get better response on other canoe forums.

I remember seeing one post that had a thorough discussion on the history of Wabash Valley (triggered by a boat similar to yours) but I can’t seem to find the thread easily. You might search the other forums.

Years ago I had a Bell Merlin that I think is similar if not identical to your boat. I do think your canoe is worth pampering to get it back into shape so you can use it.

Thanks TomL. I appreciate the tip. From what, the boat dimensions, and my limited knowledge it appears to be an early version of the merlin. Did your merlin bow have a rocker? The bow has what I am going to call a hard nose and the rear has some rounding, but no rocker.

I can only post one picture at a time. This is on the stern. Tells some history

Here’s the thread I was looking for. If I remember correctly my Merlin didn’t have any rocker…or if it did it was very small.

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That hull is a downriver WW solo canoe. the sticker you show below the HIN plate confirms someone paddled it in competition. It is way deeper than the later Merlin solo. Like most of the lightweight competition layups, most of the material was in the hull and not in the trim. The hulls only had inwales and were mosly spruce. Thwarts were ash, seats usually homemade frames glassed into the hull floor mounted with a bucket seat. I had one of Wabash Valleys tandems in the 90s and it was fast, but about 2 years behind what Gene Jensen was designing for Wenonah. It, like the older Wenonah WWC1, make good solo trippers because they are fast and deep. Good luck with it and leave that Nantahala sticker on it, will spark conversations when old Downriver veterans see your boat. Bill

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Plaidpaddler and TOML I truly appreciate the tips.

Plaidpaddler is correct I think. I cannot recall the model name but if I remember right that model was a tad bit tender compared to the Wenonah C1W. That being said seat time can fix that.

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I think you nailed it with your description of the boat. I am really impressed at your knowledge. Spruce huh, this will get interesting. Never imagined spruce for inwales. I am going to try and make it as original as possible. I will leave the Nantahala sticker on it. The thwarts on this boat were foam in the bow and stern, the decks were some sort of hardwood, and the seat appears to be cast from the tractor seats you’d see in a modern boat fastened to the bottom of the hull. Ideally I could use the boat for BWCA Solo trips, hopefully I can fish out of it, but if not worst case I can paddle it on my home water, the St. Croix River. Thanks a ton for the tips! Any idea what kind of spruce he used when building the boat? I see Lowe’s has 2x4x16 spruce but that seems too cheap for boat. I’m trying to resist the urge of using a hardwood.

Any suggestions on resins? I have done some fiberglass work on my Carolina Skiff dock boat and installed skid plates, but this will be my first resurface.

One more note. I can look again, but the canoe has very little rocker. The bow comes to a near point with nearly zero rocker and the stern has very limited.