Bell vs. Wenonah Tandem Canoes?

I am currently looking at the Bell Yellowstone or the Chestnut Prospector and also the Wenonah Spirit II or the Aurora for use on everything from a lake to a class I or II river…maybe III. My wife is a 5 footer and a small lady and I am 5’7" at 165-170lbs. One day we plan on having a kid or two and we would like to take two 30-50lb moderately well trained dogs with us some. Opinions welcomed and wanted… Thanks ahead of time!

Bell vs. Wenonah Tandem Canoes?

you have two classes of boats here
Yellowstone and Prospector for rivers and the other Wenonahs for all round recreational use.

What you dont mention is if you are doing overnight trips.

The Prospector is a deep boat and most heavily rockered. Its high stems are tend to catch the wind. If you can keep on course easily its a versatile design. If your strokes are not spot on it may wander badly. Yellowstone has a slightly skegged stern and should be easier to go straight with so so strokes.

Class 3 with two dogs and a wife is perhaps not the greatest idea. That is the upper limit for open boats and additional float bags are required.

Spirit II
We have a Spirit II and it is a very stable and seaworthy boat that should work for your useage expectations (don’t know about the class III stuff though). It’s a nice paddling canoe.


sounds like you want a 17 footer
With you, the wife, kids and dogs, you’ll need that much length to be comfortable.

Our first family boat was a Spirit II. It was a great all rounder. Pretty fast and efficient, turned and handled easily, plenty of room.

The downside is a narrow bow station (that’s were some of the speed comes from). But, with your wife being small, that probably won’t matter. The narrow bow station even helps a little when you turn it around to paddle it solo. But, the narrow bow without much flare means that it is a wet ride in class II. A Prospector would be a better class II boat, but would probably not be as efficient to paddle on flatter water. But, if I were you I’d limit my choices to 17 footers and forget the 16s altogether.

Good luck and have fun, cause it really is.

Agree with above…
…or you could set your sites on more immediate goals of getting out on the water with just your wife (sans future kids, dogs and kitchen sink). You might want to consider just getting any of a number of 16 foot tandem canoes from the used market and learn with that. Having gained some experience you could then move on to another boat later that would fit your changing capacity and water type (lake/river/creek) needs as time goes by.

Bottom line there really is no such thing as one canoe that does everything. Compromise is a fine art when choosing canoes.

Buying a 2 adult + 2 kids + 2 dogs boat now doesn’t make sense. Look for a versitile 16-17’ canoe that you’ll enjoy now. A boat that’s too big will be harder to handle in wind.

As for which canoe, that’ll depend somewhat on the amount of time you spend on rivers vs. lakes.

If you’re looking at composites, the Bell Northstar is a nice small tandem. In Royalex, the Northwind or Morningstar are possibilities. The Old Town Penobscot 16 is a fine boat that’s fairly easy to find used.

Class III in a canoe means a dedicated river boat with full float bags – not something you’d want to paddle on a lake.

mostly rivers
We will probably stay mostly on rivers although the closest ones don’t have much current and the anytime during the summer one can get up to a class II almost III in places…we usually go up there and rent…I just want our own…

Thanks for all the info so far…learning tons!

Sounds like Royalex
would be the way to go – much more forgiving of encounters with rocks!

The river-oriented canoes will tend to have more rocker and be more maneuverable than lake-oriented models, but will be a bit slower on the flats. Some may have higher sides and higher ends – good for shedding waves, but will catch more wind in the open.

It’s all a tradeoff.

What have you been renting, and what did you like/dislike about it?

For primarily river work, the Wenonah Cascade would be their best choice.

rented canoe?
Not sure what they have on the Spring River but we used Old Town Discovery somethings on the Little Red a few weeks back. I just want a good canoe that will do whatever we need good from slow moving to class II rivers. Prolly no lakes but I can’t say we definitley won’t either.

is the only one of the boats you list that I have a little time in, and it is a very nice all around tandem.

You might want to add the OT Penobscot to your short list. It comes in both 16 and 17 and would fit your needs nicely.

Thanks for all the help guys and gals! I think this descision is gonna take a while!

The OT Discoverys paddle OK and are nearly indestructable, but are very heavy and tend to warp a bit over time.

OT Royalex.(or similar plastic) boats…

– Last Updated: Jul-17-09 1:49 PM EST –

Fwiw....both Discovery and Penobscot can do both....and with paddlers kneeling...can do light ww VERY nicely, but as'll lost lots of efficiency in flatwater you can see in the'll gain a lot of weight on the portage(s)...and OT's figures, when it comes to weight, often seem to be on the light side..

OT Appalachian
I think the Old Town Appalachian would fit your bill quite nicely, except for the class 3 parts, unless you get it outfitted for whitewater.