Help! I Need canoe-buying advice quick!

Hey everyone, need your advice:

Wife and I are looking for a Kevlar canoe and I found one on Craigslist for $700. It’s a 1984 Wenonah 18.5’ Jensen. Looks to be in fine shape for being 36 years old, but I have a few concerns:

There is a patch about the diameter of a soda can, he said the previous owner had put the patch on. I wish I could share pictures of all this but I can’t Bec I’m new. He sent me pictures of the internal side of where the patch is and it doesn’t show any evidence of the damage nor the repair on the exterior.

He says he’s owned it for 22 years and he hasn’t stored it inside but he’s kept it under a tarp.

I grew up with a Coleman canoe and I’ve done a couple boundary waters trips in rented Kevlar canoes, so I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to Kevlar canoes. Any thoughts/ advice is most appreciated!

I’ve got a kevlar Wenonah fisherman, but I have never had to repair it. However, a kevlar boat is basically a fiberglass build with a different fabric and possibly a different resin. So if he repaired the gelcoat properly on the outside and the damage is not in a likely impact spot, I would probably go for it. If it is in a likely impact spot, you can always reinforce it. Sorry if this wasn’t helpful, but I’m sitting here waiting for replies on my first post as well, so I thought I’d give you a response out of newbie unity and courtesy.

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If kept out of the sun, there should be no problem with the kevlar. They are easy to repair if need be as well. I can’t speak for sure of that particular boat off the top of my head, but it very likely doesn’t have a gel coat, which Wenonah did to keep weight down. Those Jensens are nice boats, but a lot of people think they are a little tippy for casual use. It was designed as a rec class race boat, and so it’s fast. The downside, as I mentioned, is stability. If you have some experience, which is sounds like you do, you should be okay. Usually just a little seat time is all it takes to get used to it.

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I’m always amused when people are concerned about the durability of patches on canoes. 45 years ago I took a weekend trip with friends using their new fiberglass canoe (we had driven up to Ontario a few weeks before to buy it from a shop outside of Toronto that made them). On this first outing we hit a fast shallow section of the river and they hit a submerged rock and bashed a chunk out of the keel under the bow that was serious enough to cause a leak. The only materials we had to patch it were chewing gum (one of the paddlers had recently quit smoking and had several packages of Wrigley’s spearmint) and some wide day-glo orange self adhesive ripstop repair tape that I always carried with my tent. We packed the gouge with well-masticated gum and covered it with the tape, figuring that they could peel it off and do a “proper” repair when they got home. Five years later they were still paddling that canoe with that bright orange patch on the keel (and the fossilized gum wad stuffed in the hole)!


if it is in good shape, it will be fast. Very fast. This is not an ideal tripping canoe because it does not have much freeboard. But it’s fast.

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It’s best for going straight so if you plan to paddle rivers with strong current you may find it difficult to turn. It is not made for whitewater…it’s a fast lake boat that would also be fine on slow moving rivers. It would be great for the Boundary Waters. They made several lay-ups so it might be lightweight or it might not…but if you can handle a Coleman you should be fine. One small patch is no problem. It could have some discoloration if the tarp was touching the boat but the most important thing is that it wasn’t exposed to direct sunlight for 20 years. It’s probably a fine boat but look it over carefully and if you find anything weird like water damage to the fabric be prepared to walk away from it. Hopefully it’s not too far away.

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Short answer, if the patch looks good I would snatch it up quickly. That is a great price on a boat you will enjoy.

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What do you mean by freeboard? Sorry you’re dealing with a inexperience here :slightly_smiling_face:

I will search the internet to see some examples of water damage to fabric. Thank you for your help!

Haha that’s an awesome story! Thankfully it looks as though no gum was hurt in the making of the patch :wink:

Freeboard is basically how much of the canoe is sticking out of the water when it’s loaded. The lowest portion of the gunwales is usually at the center. The Jensen has very low sides, with means very little freeboard. With just two of you paddling, it usually isn’t a problem. However, load it up for a week and your margin of error gets a little lower. A good wave from the side might put a little (or a lot) of water in the boat. A good cover can definitely help some.

Got it, thanks for the explanation and for your insight.

Just give it a good inspection inside and out. Water damage would look like discoloration and might leave a soft spot. You’ll know if you’re seeing something strange. It’s a cool boat, hope you get it.

Jensen designed boats are always fast. It may have little rocker which means it will track straight but be hard to turn on rivers.

A boat that is 36 years old can have a lot of weakness due to UV light exposure. Storing it outside is never what I want to hear even if it is under a tarp. Tarps blow off. They get holes. They leave exposed areas. Carefully inspect a boat like this. Even kevlar boats can fail. Take the boat out in bright light. Press on the hull carefully with your fingertips to look for areas of weakness.

I had a Sawyer once that was an early kevlar boat. I have mentioned this before. One day it literally started to break in two while I was paddling it. Glad it did not happen on an overnight trip.

The distance from the gunwale to the water.

a Wenonah measuring 18’6" and with a Jensen Sticker from 1984 may be a race canoe. The HIN plate has the serial number and the model number. There are WW series canoes from that era designed for downriver racing that make very good tripping canoes, the WWII became civilized as the Minnesota II and the Odyssey. The later WWX and WWXX are radical and I would not try to trip in one. There are also 18’6" flatwater Jensen designed racing canoes from this era that can be used by most paddlers, but they are not good canoes with a load in rough water. If the model is a USCA cruiser or Proboat do not buy it unless you paddle it first. You may love it or it may scare the daylights out of you. The prices for old racers fall quickly as they get obsoleted by newer designs and are too unstable for recreational use. They are fast, very fast when compared to any plastic or royalex canoes and fiberglass or Kevlar canoes not made specifically as racing canoes Post the model name off the rating plate and we can tell what it is. Bill.

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