Durability of Wenonah Graphite Ultra-

light canoes?

Canoedancing’s recent classified ad for his graphite ultra-light Wenonah Vagabond had me lusting for a lighter solo canoe and was wondering about the durability of this Wenonah construction. I would have bought his Vagabond in a heartbeat if I’d had the money available. I’ve paddled a royalex Vagabond and liked the way it handled.

A graphite-ultralite Wenonah Advantage is also an attractive proposition.

Any feedback related to the durability of this Wenonah construction would be appreciated.

I searched the Archives and didn’t find any related info.


If I were going to portage such a boat
frequently, while carrying a pack at the same time, I guess the super-lightness of a carbon layup (presumably with some Kevlar inside to hold the pieces together after a mishap) would be worthwhile. The stiffness would be great too.

But, not knowing much about Wenonah’s other layups, I think that by the time you get close to 40 pounds carried with a portage yoke, that is easy enough for weekending and carrying to and from a car.

Notice that Millbrook claims 42 pounds for a 16+, 31" wide, 14" deep AC/DC, in S-glass outside, Kevlar inside. Very durable layup. I don’t think Kaz has ever bothered with carbon, as he seems to have very light boats with S-glass. An AC/DC is not a Vagabond, but at my size, I don’t think I would notice a lot of difference.

do you know what the rocker is on AC DC?
It’s listed as “minimal.” But compared to his other boats, Kaz’s “minimal” may be nicely appreciable.

It’s the least durable layup in the line
as far as impact strength goes, but IF light weight is your primary goal with little chance of impacts or groundings… cool. It is the stiffest layup, and is for the most part inflexable, hence its most often used application being in their (Wenonah) marathon racing hulls. I do believe the graphite layup is more prone to UV degredation also. I’d love to see Wenonah do a similar graphite/kevlar layup as does Bell in their Black/gold line. Wenonah/Current Designs once had a Caribu-S made up that way for the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake one year, it was a stunning stealth looking beauty w/yellow seam tape. Way cool.

I may order a boat from Kaz soon, and
will ask him. My impression is that it has low rocker, distributed fairly evenly along the length of the boat.

Remember that he also has a “Patriot” mold, essentially a solo version of the AC/DC.

My Rapidfire weighs 30 lbs. It is

– Last Updated: Feb-24-08 2:14 PM EST –

a kick to simply pick up a boat and take off. It is carbon fiber.


I hate to mention that, with a slight change in the Carbon/Kevlar lamination schedule and a newer infusion resin we’ve got them down another pound, and down to 25# with CobraSox XLT rails and thwarts.

Sweet weight, Charlie!
One question though : With the Cobra Sox system, can a clamp-on yoke be used or are you limited to the strap-around fabric yokes?

Just curious - not planning on trading my Magic soon.


A whole pound! wow! i better order anoth

cobrasox clamp
The angle required to infuse the integral rail precludes a clamp on yoke without adding an inner, plexuses in lip.

On the other hand, at 25#, the portage strap works just fine, and most of us just use dual rail pads; one for the shoulder and another to protect the hip.

Wenonah Carbon Graphite
The lay up is very light and very fragile. I know many people with the black Wenonahs, and every one of their boats (if they have any miles/time on them at all) has multiple patches. I find that Wenonah’s kevlar ultralight is much superior in the real world. As for other carbon layups, Bell’s Black Gold is certainly very, very good, but I’m an even biggger fan of Nova Craft’s Blue Steel. It is easy to scratch, but otherwise pretty close to bomb proof. However, while stronger, neither Blue Steel or Black Gold offers the ultimate lightness of the Wenonah carbon layup. Pick your poison.

What does Wenonah use for the outside
layer of their Kevlar ultralights? E-glass? S-glass? I have never been able to get clear on that from their site. They also never seem to say straight out what resin they use, though I assume it is vinylester.

Depends on fabric
Vinylester is the only ester you should use with Kevlar. Polyester is fine for glass work. Wenonah doesn’t use any glass in their ultra-light boats (except the fiberglass mat used for the flotation tanks which are excluded in the carbon boats). They’re called skin boats because the skin is the resin holding the cloth together.

I have paddled my Carbon Advantage through some pretty narly stuff. The only times I’ve ever put holes in it is when it’s not in the water. The skill of the paddler plays a bigger part in a boat’s durability than the layup.

Would I recommend this layup to anyone who isn’t comfortable with repairs? No. This layup is light and it is stiff, but it is fragile. Those who choose this layup should understand that compromise.

Can you leave the strap on the boat
during car top transport? Or do you have to remove it?

Thanks Stickman, mckenna road & nermal
for the on target feedback.

Actually, at 29 lbs, the kevlar ultra-light would be plenty light enough. My lightest canoes (Sawyer Starlight and Blackhawk Zephyr are both 44 lbs, so 29 lbs would be a great improvement - about the same as my Phoenix Poke Boat and Phoenix Isere - which means that one handed carries from the car to the water and visa versa are an option. Now I just need to find a used one at about 1/2 price. I’m tired of picking up the heavier boats and moving them around the garage - I can’t get some of them over my head until I get them out of the garage.

Thanks again for the feedback.

Actually, vinylester is stronger than
polyester resin, and much less likely to develop hydrolyis blisters from minute amounts of water getting into the laminate. A few years ago I cut up a Mad River Compatriot, made in '73 with polyester, that had developed blisters all over.

I don’t think I would buy a polyester boat, unless the builder could prove to me that their resin was equal to vinylester. I have never seen anyone make such a claim, but given that Wenonah plays their cards close to the vest, they might have a superpolyester.

resin and skin coat
When I was at Bell, we used a CoRez VE. The rep claimed he sold VE to Wenonah too.

There is probably a very thin FG layer, say 2 or 4 oz to hold enough resin for the skin coat.

Its vinylester on all the composite layups as far as i know. They told me it had the best properties for being compatible with their core material and cloth.

My old solo Mocassin is a skin coat kevlar that has been left outside for too many years uncovered and the resin is cracking and separating from the cloth in spots. There is no glass on the outside, the kevlar is right under the resin. I called to find out what resin to use for my repairs and was told the original was vinylester. 10 years of UV exposure and not any protection, so i am not disappointed with the canoe, more mad at myself for not using a cover.


that video is great
i loved the canoeing show video from your website. great production, and it really shows just how modern your methods are. it looks so simple and clean compared to a lot of manufacturing methods.

will carbon take a better shape
i’ve read somewhere that carbon takes a better shape than fiberglass. is that true, and what about carbon versus kevlar?