Canoe Purchase Advice


I am in a bit of quandry in trying to select a canoe for my needs. I have about 5 years experience with canoes on small lakes and rivers, but havent been out on the water for over 10 years. Now I want to bring my family along, but also want to be able to go solo and do some fly fishing. My 2 kids are 7 & 10, and I expect they will want to ride along for a couple of years before they are really able to handle something on thier own.

Expected percentages of time for use:

(2) adults + (2) kids = 25%

(1) adult + (2) kids = 50%

(1) adult = 25%

I have done a little bit of downslecting, but am in need of a little guidance.

At this point my most likely options are the Wenonah Spirit II (17’) or Clipper Tripper (17’6"). From my read of posted reviews either of these should serve my needs. Downsides; Spirit II suffers from oil canning, and the Tripper would be a bit tough to handle solo.


Does the oil canning problem with the Spirit disapper with the Kevlar layup?

Can I load the front end of the Tripper so that it is manageable solo?

Did I overlook another model/manufacturer that would be better suited for my needs?

Thanks very much in advance for your help.


For your family … get the Spirit II
If you were planning a long expedition, I’d say get the composite Tripper for it’s efficiency and serious all-around seaworthiness. But for your more everyday family uses, the Spirit II makes sense. I’d recommend getting the Ivory colored Royalex to keep the temperature of the hull lower during transport in hot sun. It’s also highly visible for safety.

For solo, I’d outfit it for rowing. Just place Old Town’s accessory oar sockets over Wenonah’s vinyl/aluminum gunwales … perfect fit, very strong, looks like it’s factory installed. Small bean bag seat, Cannon spoon blade oars (spring creek) and you’re good to go. Many other configurations of seating are easily thought of and arranged. And the whole canoe is strong, voluminous, quiet and aesthetically pleasing in use. Very decently seaworthy too … if used smartly (i.e. low centered load and good judgement)

Hehe … just my two cents. Good luck !

Bell Northwind

Spirit II
Looks like you’ve been giving some thought to this. Good for you. Of the two mentioned, I’d go with the Spirit II. The tripper is too much boat. Actually, the Spirit II is great for the 2 adults and 2 kids part. It is also fine for the one adult and two kids particularly since the kids are already 10 and 7. They’ll be in the adult category in no time.

Where the Spirit II will be iffy is the solo part. Still, I’ve always believed that you use what you have. I have soloed before in an Old Town Camper and a Sears chopper gun fiberglass. You’ll figure it out. Over time, if you really get into soloing, you’ll be in the market for either a true solo or a crossover canoe, but I bet you keep the Spirit II as your tandem.

As for oil-canning, my personal opinion is that its effects are over rated. Does it take away paddling efficiency? Sure, but for recreational pleasure paddling does it matter? The effect is negligible anyway. Oil canning is mostly associated with royalex canoes, so Kevlar it is not usually an issue.

The short of it is, I’d go with the Spirit II. The kevlar is preferred but if cost is an issue I wouldn’t hesitate to get the royalex.

$$$ If you want to spend the money . . .
I would look at the Souris river line. They are very stable, yet light and durable. The downside is cost, as they don’t come cheap. A Quetico model sounds like it would meet your needs.

Clipper’s sea-tripper is also a nice boat, though not the best for solo.

Between those you suggested, I think I am in agreement with the Spirit.

Good luck

Go with the Spirit II in Kevlar UL
You will have paddling companionship at times, but with the ages of your sons, you will be carrying the canoe solo. The Ultralight Kevlar is the lightest and stiffest layup. It is more expensive, but the difference is less than 4 trips to a chiropractor and less than most options on a car that you would add without even thinking about it. And a Kevlar UL Spirit II does not depreciate. 20 year old Spirits sell used for what they cost new. And chances are you will never sell it. It is too good of a hull, it will do everything within reason and do more things better than any other hull i know of. This is from 24 years of owning a Spirit and thousands of miles of tripping, camping, fishing, and racing.

It can be paddled solo, not as well as a true solo boat, but as easily as any 17’ family tandem. You just go easy and position yourself behind the yoke. I have paddled many miles fishing in mine solo. And across a very windy Canadian lake to ferry a stranded paddler off an island. Her husband could not get off the island with both of them and their gear in a Mad River Malecite, kept swamping in the waves. So when people claim that its too much boat for a solo paddler in a wind, I tend to chuckle inside. The Spirit is not that much different in size from a Prospector and no one thought Bill Mason was nuts to paddle his solo everywhere.

You won’t make much time paddling solo, but once your out there, its a great platform to fish from. You can do things from a tandem that would capsize a true solo, like reaching way over the side to unhook or land a big fish.

The Tripper is a different profile and can be soloed, but the Spirit is more forgiving with your family.

The flexing of the Royalex hull is not a problem as long as you aren’t in a race, with your family or gear weighting the bottom you won’t see any oilcanning. But unless you are going to really scrape and bang into rocks and sharp stones, there is no advantage to the Royalex over the Tuffweave or Kevlar. And the Kevlar UL hull comes standard with the sliding front seat, which is a great thing with small bow paddlers. You can put the small ones way up front where the hull is very narrow and they can easily reach the water for efficient paddling. Holding a paddle near their sides is much less tiring than reaching way out to the side holding its weight.

My rambling 3 cents worth,


You won’t be sorry
with the Spirit II. I have one in Kevlar – bucket seats with a bow slider. I often paddle with my 11-year-old daughter and she likes the sliding seat. As plaidpaddler said, moving the seat forward makes it much easier for her to get the paddle out over the rails. It also helps to trim the boat, but we still ride pretty heavy in the stern. (Yup - I could stand to lose a few pounds.)

I also agree with ericnyre. If your kids are like mine, they won’t be happy sitting in the middle for long. When my 13-year-old son comes along, we bring a kayak. Kids alternate between the kayak and the bow of the canoe. If they both get tired, they both get in the canoe, and we tow the kayak.

When I paddle the Spirit II solo, I knee just behind the center thwart – it paddles fine. I thought about installing a center seat, but decided to get a dedicated solo boat instead. But if I could only keep one, I would have to keep the Spirit II.