I canoe rivers with a combination of flatwater and Class I to II with occasional easy IIIs. I go with teenage son. Like fishing and camping on the river. I am looking at getting a Royalex Mad River Explorer (16 foot), or a Royalex Wenonah Spirit II. Both are 2001 models and in good shape. Anyone have a suggestion on which would be better?
I’d choose the Spirit II except for those class IIIs. The Spirit II tends to let a lot of water over the bow and onto the bow paddler due to its sharp entry and lack of flare. We called it the Spirit II “lap dance.”
I think the Spirit II is a little faster and even tuns a little better than the Explorer. But, the Explorer is dryer and more comfortable for the bow paddler to kneel. The Spirit II is pretty narrow up there for a good kneeling stance. If your son is a big kid and you’re doing whitewater, I’d choose the Explorer (between the choices offered).
If you are interested in solo paddling, or canoe poling, the Explorer is symmetrical, which is nice.
The Wenonah is very likely better on smooth water, and faster.
I suspect you can’t go wrong with either of these versatile designs.
I only know the Spirit II by it’s reputation as a good efficient lake cruiser.
The Explorer is not an efficient quiet water boat. It will make you work for the miles.
It is a very capable river tripper and with enough weight in it (about 300 lbs minimum IMO) a great boat for when the lake gets rough. Mine has kept me out of the drink in some fairly challenging conditions.
It is not a whitewater playboat. That V bottom does not let it turn as nicely as similar arch bottomed boats do(Prospectors et al.). But so long as it’s not too technical and you can plan ahead just a bit the Explorer is a boat that will take good care of you.