canoe suggestions (a bit long)

I’m looking for some canoe purchase advice. First, a bit about my current situation and what I’m looking for. I have a 55# Sawyer Cruiser and a 75# Sawyer X-17. For years I took an annual remote river and/or lake trip in Ontario, for which we used my paddling partner’s 18’ Sundowner. Now, I’m taking BWCA trips with my wife and 3 kids. My wife and oldest child (13) paddle the Cruiser, and I take the other two in the X-17. I want to get a lighter canoe (45# or so) for my wife and/or son to carry, and I’d like to retire the X-17 and carry the Cruiser myself.

What I like and dislike about each of the three above canoes. The Cruiser, X-17, and Sundowner all slice through the water and are very efficient to paddle, and I don’t want to give that up. And all three canoes have bow sliders, which is really nice when you have a small bow paddler. The Cruiser is really a sweet canoe, but it doesn’t have as much capacity as I want for my second canoe. The Sundowner is great with a full load, but always felt a little squirrelly in following seas. The X-17 is rock solid in all conditions, though the bow paddling station is a bit wide. The Sundowner’s straight keel gives it the best tracking, but that’s something of a non-issue–I don’t have a problem handling a canoe. (I think the Sundowner’s straight keel contributes to its sometimes squirrelly feel. Ther are no hard edges on either Sawyer.)

So, I’d like to get a 45#, 17’-18’ canoe that paddles like the Cruiser but has a higher volume. I paddled my cousin’s Northwind, but only empty. That seemed like a smooth canoe, though the bow seemed a bit blunt. I know about “try before you buy” but I won’t get a chance to take a half dozen different hulls on multi-day canoe trips. Also, I’m in the used canoe market, so no special orders from the manufacturers. I live in Duluth and will likely have more We-no-nahs, Bells, and Souris River Canoes to choose from than anything else. I’m thinking of picking up a canoe when the local outfitters turn over their inventory. Finally, I’ve read the various reviews, but I’m looking for more specific and critical advice. Thanks.

It seems like my old goldenglass X-17 weighed 65 lbs? Hmmm.

If you like the X-17, the Composite Bells were designed by Dave Yost too. The Northwoods is a very seaworthy craft…nicer in some ways then the Northwind in my mind.

That said, I just met a guy here in Michigan paddling a Souris River 18’-6" model that he just loved. It was very stable in big waves and very efficient…hardly a bow wake while cruising at a good clip. He said he really liked it because he frequently takes newbies to the BWCA and it is comfortable enough to paddle with a novice paddler while it doesn’t seem to sacrifice much in performance. I know I was paddling about 4 mph along side them in my wildfire talking to him, and they were cruising quite easily without a bow wake. It looked pretty interesting to me…never having seen one. He picked it up at the end of a season from Red Rock Outfitters.

I really like DY boats so haven’t really cared for the wenonahs I’ve tried, but the souris looked nice enough to check them out.


canoe weights
The X-17 Goldenglass was advertised at 72#. I bought mine at a canoe auction in Madison in '91. It has wood trim and cane seats, etc. It weighs 75#. I think a lot of people would be unpleasantly surprised if they ever put their composite canoes on a scale. I remember some canoe reviews in Canoe Magazine years ago that would give the advertised weight and the actual weight. They were frequently quite different.

Go Longer
Its you and two kids who are going to get bigger. You paddle in pretty open water, so some additional length will not be an issue.

A Wenonah Minnesota II in the now labeled Ultra-light Kevlar will weigh less than your old Cruiser, run right with it and take a much bigger load. Or if you find a used one for sale, the Odyssey is a near twin to the Minnesota II, it just has much more flare in the bow area and tends to rise with waves more than the Minnesota II. Either one will far outdistance the mentioned Bell models and the Souris river. Have never had the “squirrelly” feeling you experienced in either the Minnesota II or Odyssey.

If you figure you must stay shorter, the Escape will give you the speed you are used to, anything else deep enough to handle 3 plus gear, will be much slower than the Cruiser.


Escape v. MNII v. Sundowner
I remember a Canoe Magazine review a while back that wan’t real favorable to the Escape. I believe the reviewer (Salins?) was disappointed by its get-up-and-go. Have you paddled the Escape? How do you think it compares with the MNII? And, how do you think both compare with the 18’ Sundowner–the We-no-nah I’ve spent the most time in. I’m not looking for top end speed, but I love the way a sleek canoe slices through the water–the feeling that every paddle stroke is yielding dividends. In three or four years, I’ll likely bring my solo in addition to the tandems to accommodate our 5, so I’m going to stay away from the MNIII, SR 18.5, etc. Finally, I don’t mind a rolly feeling, but I do fish out of empty canoes, so I want to avoid the extreme tenderness that I had in my We-no-nah C1W. Thanks.

The Escape is slower than the MN II. It is a close match to the 18’Sundowner. It feels very different when you sit in it for the first time if you are used to the Sundowner. The Escape is very deep, over an inch deeper than the MN II and deeper than the Sundowner. It feels like sitting in a bathtub. Glad you mentioned having a C1W, the Escape feels like that solo and the Sundowner is more like an Advantage.

I had just purchased a 17’Jensen when the Escape was introduced. The Escape is as fast as the Jensen and much better for tripping because it is so deep. Going back i would buy the Escape.

Your mention of the glide of the Sundowner is a common compliment to that hull. The 18’ Sundowner is a different boat from the 16.5 or 17’. It does have a magical way of going very far without a big effort. Its just so easy to cruise and stay there with little effort.

Why Salins did not feel the Escape was fast puzzles me. He does lean toward the Canadian Manufacturers and perhaps they feel like home to him. The Escape does take getting used to if your normal boat is a Prospector type or an Explorer. You can’t let it get off course very far in waves; getting back takes serious correction when the stern gets kicked out. But keep it tight to your heading and you can power thru the waves using its depth. You won’t have much adjusting to do if your normal hull is the 18’Sundowner.

Hope this helps you,


Hello Saga

– Last Updated: Sep-06-07 7:37 AM EST –

My guess is you will expect the performance of at least an X-17. Larger tripping boats that I am familiar with that I know that will outrun an X-17 are the Minnesota 2, Minnesota 3, and my SR Jensen Huron 18. You can add the Wenonah Jensen 18 to that list, if your load is light. Tripping boats that I believe will run with or slightly faster than an X-17 would the Bell Northwoods, Northwind, SR Quetico 18.5, and Wenonah Champlain. I have no experience with a Wenonah Escape. I have tripping experience in a SR Quetico 17 and believe it would not be enough of a performance boat and too flat bottomed for your taste. If your load is pushing 600 lbs or more, you really should try out a Minnesota 3 as well. It works just fine as a very long, fast, seaworthy, large capacity tandem. My suggestion is to head to Spring Creek Outfitters in Mountain Iron with your paddling partner and your gear load weight; load up all the Wenonahs you think you want to try out (Minnesota 2, Escape, Champlain?) and test drive on their mine pit lake they take you to. If you want to try Souris River boats, they are always available for test drives at Red Rock Lodge out of Ely. If you want to try out my tripping tandems - SR Jensen Huron 18 (no longer in production) and a Minnesota 3 - here in Duluth, drop me an email and we can set a time and place to get together.

Bill, I appreciate your input. The Escape sounds like it may be a little tender for fishing out of an empty canoe. The C1W and Sundowner were my first canoe purchases. They were both great hulls for their intended purposes. The C1W was crazy fast. Unfortunately, they both walked out of my back yard 17 years ago. I still miss them, though I did replace them shortly thereafter with an X-17 and a DY special–also two excellent hulls.

Thanks for the offer
Your Huron 18 sounds like an interesting canoe. I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m sorry to hear they are no longer in production. You’re right that I will expect the performance of the X-17, though, again, I’m not interested in top end speed. I’m looking for easy cruising and a rock solid feel in 2’ whitecaps with 450#-500#. I have some friends who are real big on their MNIII, but my Cruiser barely fits in my garage. The MNII or Northwoods would be at the limit of my space. I’ve never paddled the SR17, though they seem to be increasingly popular around here. It’s probably just my history with We-no-nahs and Sawyers, but the SRs look odd to me with their flat bottoms and straight sides. They look like a square. I’ve got to give the Northwind another look. The one time I was in one (empty) it seemed a little sluggish. I’d be surprised based on that brief experience if it ran with the X-17. By the way, do you have any experience with the SR Wilderness 18? The guy from Red Rock talks like the Q17 has made that hull obsolete.