Escapade best layup and trim?

Having come close to buying a Bell for 75% solo and 25% tandem on open water I’m fed up with trying to buy from them again, no replies to e-mails, no dates for importing to the UK, time to move on.

So I’m now drawn to the newest version of the Wenonah Escapade. I’m thinking of a Kevlar Flexcore hull at 51 lbs. However, when I’ve seen photos of wenonah canoes with this layup it looks like a solid gel coated hull, and yet the couple of wenonahs I’ve seen, supposedly with kevlar flexcore hulls had a thin hull more like coloured kev ul. Is Kevlar flexcore a solid material like a fibreglass hull or can you easily flex it like the UL?

I’d really like wood gunwales, I know that will add about 5 lbs in weight but I keep coming back to wanting wood. So how best to fit it out? I’ve never paddled a canoe with a bucket seat only cane seats. So it’s cane or webbed. I think Wenonah supply a slightly curved seat, a good idea? So I guess I could have wood all round including cane seats hung from the gunwales with dowels, or I have wood gunwales and adjustable for and aft cane seats (can cane seats be curved too?) on the metal hangers that are riveted to the hull.

What I’d really like to do is go to the factory and have a look round,choose a setup, and that would be great. Buying in England the Escapade in Kevlar Flexcore with wood trim is £2,250 which is 3,825 US Dollars and I’m trying to make choices with nothing more than an out of date brochure and what I can find on the net.

Why don’t the canoe manufacturers take photos of each of their canoes in the different layups and trims and post them on their website, ideally with some video too of them on the water. I think lots of people are not living close to a retailer with a large stock of boats and it would take so little time and effort to help customers see what they’d be buying.

Any advice on the layup and best way to fit out the Escapade would be welcome.

shopping from UK
It sure sounds frustrating and it sure sounds like some manufacturers just don’t care about sales outside of the US.

I haven’t looked at the Wenonah lay-ups up close lately so hopefully you’ll get feedback from others on the kev flex-core lay-up. I believe that it will be stiffer on the bottom and wherever it has a core - than the rest of the hull, which may flex more than the bottom but I’d expect it to flex less than any ultralight kev lay-up. It would probably not be as uniformly hard and stiff as a fiberglass hull. I would avoid ultralight kev lay-ups if I were you…too much risk of being disappointed with a flexy hull (I sold an ultralight Swift Shearwater because of this).

I like webbed seats more than cane seats and many of my paddling partners agree. They seem more comfy…they conform to one’s derriere better. Bucket seats are comfy but they imply that you will never kneel…kneeling can be a nice option for boat control.

I think that everyone likes boats with all-wood trim…looks and feels good and sounds much more civilized if you bump it with your paddle (I have 7 canoes and all are wood trim except one; my 29 pound Souris River solo). The nice feature about aluminum trim is the light weight and the fact that it does not need maintenance and you don’t worry about scratching it when popping it on your roof. But overall the maintenance on wood trim is easy and therapeutic so - no worries. Your dilemma could be weight. One also wants a boat that one can lift and use easily…you want to avoid boats that are a hassle due to weight. So if you are quite strong and know you can handle the weight, go for wood. I am not sure if Wenonahs are always on their target weight…I know that Bells are usually over their listed weight by at least a few pounds (I own two, have owned two others, and have handled many).

Curved seats are more comfy than straight ones…they are nice. The seats that Swift uses and the seats on Dave Curtis’ new Eaglet (Hemlock Canoes) are the best I have experienced.

A sliding seat is a great option if your paddling partners will vary in weight, or if your normal/primary paddling partner is significantly lighter or heavier than you (otherwise the trim of the boat will be off and there isn’t much you can do about it unless you are carrying a heavy pack that you can move around). But the slider will add another couple of pounds.

I’m not sure of your intended usage (solo/tandem) and how much weight will be in your boat…but FYI the Swift Mattawa is a sweetheart both tandem and solo (a bit wide for solo but still extra very nice, and perfect for leaned over Canadian solo) and Dave Curtis’ new Eaglet is a fine but slightly smaller combi. Both are nice and stiff hulls (get Expedition Kev if you get the Swift). If you don’t mind some tippiness the Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17 is amazing both tandem and solo and their 16’6" boat would also be a great all around (and not so tippy) boat…again in Exp Kev.

When you say you’ll use it in open water, I hope you don’t plan to paddle to France!



Thanks for the advice
Thanks Tom for advice on choice of trim and seats. Three makes I’ve read good things about but never seen are Swift, Souris River and Clipper, I don’t think anyone is importing them into the UK.

I have seen the webbed seats with a slight curve and thought they looked right but am I right in thinking they’re not something you can order from wenonah as part fo the initial fit.

So Flexcore with wood gunwhales and curved webbed seats, maybe fit a kneeling thwart afterwards behind the yoke.

I don’t like the thought of mounting the seats on supports either side which are riveted into the hull, no chance then of altering seat height or angle so I guess seats would be hung from dowels.

I like the look of the height/angle adjustable web seat suspended from a plate either side, I guess this wouldn’t work with wooden gunwales.

Myself and a couple of friends paddled across to France last month, I used my Rx Bell Yellowstone Solo and they both solo paddled their Rx Prospectors, we can’t find anyone whose done this journey before in an entirely open canoe, raised some money for a children’s hospice charity. Theirs a blog on the open canoe website

So I’m not planning to solo paddle to France in a Wenonah Escapade, Belgium or Holland though…

Photos and video to help buyers
Hi Nermal,

Only just saw your reply and appreciate advice on layup and choice of trim.

I agree Wenonah’s website is one of the best, I wasn’t aiming at Wenonah in suggesting it would be really helpful if canoe makers posted photos of their canoes in different layups and trims, and ideally some video clips of them on the water.

In respect of Wenonah they already have a photo gallery on their site and are already posting owners photos of their canoes. They could easily add some photos of their own, as they’re making the canoes it’s not like it would take much time or effort and would help some people who live further away than you from the factory, which is almost everyone in the world. I’m pro Wenonah, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be choosing to buy from them.

I appreciate your suggestion to visit the local dealer and take their advice, buy from what they stock, in my case the local dealer has so very little, the most common canoe hereabouts are Old Town because they import them to a nearby port. Nothing wrong with a Rx Old Town but I’m after a composite this time.

The Kevlar flexcore sounds like a good layup for my use, wood trim, curved webbed seats hung from dowels would be good, I know someone had Wenonah fit the curved seats in his solo plus which must be similar in width bow and stern. Maybe a red gelcoat. Then fit a kneeling thwart aft of the yoke when I have the canoe so I can choose the best place.

The sea can be a bit lumpy from time to time so I find kneeling sometimes is best for maximum contact with the canoe.

Not sure about a foot brace for the stern paddler, seems a shame to introduce the metal and the rivets if otherwise all wood.

Am I on the right track? Anything I’ve missed? By the way what are Wenonah superseats?


Flex Core Layup
I purchased a like new Weenonah Prism solo canoe flex core lay up last spring and have paddled it about 400 miles this summer. It is a stiff hull more like a fiberglass hull than an ultra light kevlar layup. I am very pleased with its performance and the workmanship on this boat is excellent. My boat has aluminum trip and a sliding bucket seat which makes trimming a breeze. There is a squeeze clamp that makes changing the seat position very simple.

I could have saved about 10 pounds in the ultra light layup but since my boat was on the used market I didn’t have a choice of layups. I have another solo canoe in ultra light kevlar layup from another manufacturer that has a much more flexible hull. I believe for everything but portaging I prefer the flex core layup.

The kevlar flexcore does have gel coat. If it doesn’t have gel coat, it is the ultralight layup.

I’m not a big fan of wood trim because I store my boats outside and I sometimes get lazy about maintaining the wood. So, for me it is extra weight and a material that wouldn’t be maintained often enough and consequently will start looking bad pretty quickly. If you are good about doing the maintenance, you should be fine.

Curved vs. straight seats: You could always ask if they could accomodate you by using curved seats. The worst that could happen would be that they would say no.

Kneeling thwart. I think it is a great idea and they are easy to install. However, it would also be pretty simple to just order it with the boat and have the factory install it.

Kev UL with a gel coat v. kevl flexcore
I’ve been contacted by a paddler who bought the Kevlar Ultralight and took the no-cost option of having a coloured gel coat put on it. I understand from the Wenonah brochure this adds ‘5-8lbs’.

I’m thinking the Kev UL is 39lbs plus say 6 lbs for the colour gelcoat, would make 45lbs. Whereas Kevlar Flexcore is listed at 51 lbs.

I think my yellowstone solo is at about 51 lbs my aving added kevlar end plates and air bags, so I’m comfortable with that. However if I add wood trim and a kneeling thwart I can see the flexcore weight heading up towards 60lbs and I’d rather avoid that. So the Kev UL with a coloured gel coat seems worth considering, anyone have experience of this layup?

well . . .
I think I already posted that I’m not a big fan of wood trim, so my vote is for the kevlar flexcore with the basic aluminum trim. However, it is a vote I’ve lost many times before, and it sounds like you have your mind made up on the wood trim. Can’t blame me for trying LOL

To me, putting gel coat on an ultralight boat defeats the purpose of buying an ultralight layup. You get the light layup to save weight. If you put the weight you saved right back on by adding gelcoat, what was the point of saving the weight in the first place?

My perspective is that the choice of layup, finish, and trim is a question of cost vs. weight with a nod to aesthetics. If you are more concerned with cost than weight, you go with the tufweave. If you want to save a bit of weight, but don’t want to spend top dollar, you get the kevlar flexcore. If you are primarily concerned with saving weight and have some extra money to spend, you buy the kevlar ultralight or the graphite. That is the straight weight vs. cost approach, and I think the aluminum trim looks just fine and I don’t spend much time looking at the boat wondering if I should have purchased wood trim.

When people throw gelcoat and wood trim on the ultralight boats, they are defeating the whole purpose of going ultralight.

My solo Prism flexcore has a red gelcoat which is very attractive. When I bought the used canoe it only had one mark on it and it was very light. As previously stated I have paddled it over 400 miles this summer on lakes, swamps, and streams and when I took it off the truck after the last trip I was amazed how well the red gelcoat looked. I take care entering and exiting my boat, and when the creeks I canoe get to low I don’t paddle them. Wenonah’s gelcoat on my canoe seems quite good for not showing marks and scrapes.

I would never buy wood trim for it is heavier than aluminum and it needs constant maintenance. If sanding and resealing each winter doesn’t bother you then it may be OK but you are still gaining at least 5 pounds of weight.

If I was buying another new canoe I would probably still get the kevlar flexcore hull. It is definately stiffer than the ultra light and I believe I prefer paddling it just a little better than the laghter flexible hull.

boat options
I think that c2g nailed it…if you are at all worried about weight and also a bit worried about hull stiffness then you should definitely get the stronger lay-up and forget about the wood trim…it’s easy to love a boat with aluminum trim but hard to love a boat with a hull that’s too flexible - so you run a big risk of being disappointed. As far as a kneeling thwart you could have the factory put one in if you’re going to use the boat solo a lot but remember that there are also “drop in” temporary seats that can work just fine for your solo seat. I have a Navarro solo strap that I use in my Bell Northstar since the stock kneeling thwart is too far back and I like the ability to adjust the position (sort of like a sliding seat) and I also have a drop in seat made by a small outfit in Canada (I can find the name and phone number if you like) that works nicely for soloing a tandem. There are other drop in temporary seats too. You then save the weight of the thwart and keep the boat weight at 51 pounds. Sometimes drop in seats tend to make the hull flex since you’re pulling on the sides of the hull but I looked at the Wenonah website and it looks like it has a nice strong yoke and also a nice strong thwart behind the location for a kneeling seat/thwart so you should be just fine.

Just my opinion…

Ultralight is the stiffest layup
Flexcore is exactly what its name implies, a layup that will flex with impact. Not that the bow will cave in if you hit something head on, but that if you go over a log or rock, the bottom of the hull will flex upward and allow the canoe to slide over the object instead of teetering on top of it.

The Ultralight has been around for many years and was formerly called PVC Core Stiffened. It has foam ribs running from the bottom core up to the gunwales. The hull between the ribs is very thin, and can be flexed by pushing on it, but the hull itself is very rigid. Somewhere in my 35mm photo archives is a photo of three of us standing on the bottom of an inverted 16’6" Sundowner that was weighed at 32#. The bottom did not flex one quarter of an inch and the total weight of the three of us was over close to 500#. The hull was resting only on the end caps and one gunwale at the yoke. That same treatment of a flexcore would have flattened the hull considerably.

Don’t feel that an Ultralight layup needs to be babied. True the flexcore is tougher, but the Ultralight Wenonahs in my collection all have thousands of miles on them, hundreds of miles of races in shallow water. The bottoms have scrapes from stem to stern, but not one crack, and the kevlar has only been exposed at the bottom of the bows, where a simple epoxy repair covered the damage. The longest canoe, a Minnesota IV has passed over beaver dams where the bow has been 2 feet out of the water with the bow paddler suspended in air, and no damage. This is a 23 foot long canoe weighing 64# with footbraces and yoke installed.

On the subject of a yoke, if you are going to install a kneeling thwart in your Escapade, make sure to order the yoke as removable like in the solos. And don’t worry about rivets thru the hull if you order foot braces. The factory will laminate aluminum plates into the hull on the ribs. The footbrace gets riveted to those plates and the rivets do not pass thru the hull. Even in the older layups, like cross rib and center rib, having the seat rivets and footbrace rivets go thru the thinnest part of the hull is only a cosmetic issue. They do not leak, and none of my canoes has ever cracked at a rivet. Some of the rivets did loosen over 10+ years and were drilled out and replaced, but there was no stress damage to the hull at the rivet holes.

My oldest Wenonah is over 25 years old and is a Kevlar Cross Rib layup, which was replaced by the current Flex-core. It has had the hardest use of any of my canoes and none of the seat or footbrace hardware has ever come loose from the hull. The seats are both sliding kevlar buckets riveted thru the hull and they have endured 300# paddlers.

Get the hull you can carry comfortably and don’t worry about durability. Any water suited to the Escapade can be done in an Ultralight layup.


Thanks for sharing experience
I do appreciate everyone taking the time to share their knowledge and offering advice. Definitely has made me think about the best layup and trim for my use. Very fortunately for me a friend who I paddled to France with bought an UL Kevlar Escape yesterday to paddle in the Devizes to Westminster race next March. This Escape has the standard aluminium trim, should arrive next week, and I’m looking forward to having a paddle and taking some time to get a feel for the layup and trim.

I think Eric asked about type of paddling, well it’s much more open water than rocky rivers, this year we canoe wild camped through some of the big fjords in western Norway, a fair few paddles on the open sea, mostly though on estuaries and tidal rivers.

The Yellowstone Solo has been great but I want a bit more canoe under me and the ankles and knees are beginning to complain after kneeling for even a couple of hours, so I’m after an open water canoe that will have a low profile so as to be able to work up into a stronger wind, that has really good secondary, that feels as at home on waves as the Yellowstone Solo, some flare in the bow and tumblehome midships, the option to sit and use a footbrace or to kneel would be great.

I find in the Y Solo that I lose lots of stability shifting from kneeling to sitting. It would be useful to increase the average speed by even by half a mile per hour, will make a difference against wind or tide or on a longer run.

The Bell Northstar was my first choice, but I have a hunch that the 2009 Escapade may be even better. If I can find a canoe that I can comfortably be in for longer periods day after day then there are some longer trips that I’d like to make.

The 25% tandem is because my 5 year old son likes to paddle too and I’m happy to have some extra width over say a Magic or a Prism.

Red Escapade kevlar flex - got it!
Yes, I have a red Escapade flex, with contour seats,

of which the bow is adjustable, and with black gunnels.

It’s been on a rack all this year, through no fault of

its own. But, I won’t sell it.

I’ve had it about 4 years now, and I consider it to be

indestructible. It has a few light scratches, just to

show some maturity. I use it 80/20 solo/tandem. When

going solo, I have a box type seat just aft of the center

thwart, and my 80 lb. dog is just in front of that.

Paddling it with an Onno kayak paddle is probably the

finest paddling experience I have ever enjoyed.

It also works very fine in tandem use. If you get one,

you won’t be disappointed. Some discussion of aspects of Wenonah

technology can go on and on, but the bottom line is that their functionality is absolutely superb.

You ain’t solo with an 80 lb dog in the