Help w/ Selecting a Composite Tandem

-- Last Updated: May-04-14 4:39 PM EST --

Hi folks. After years of lurking in the shadows, reading reviews, banter, etc., I've decided to come forward and ask for some help.

I've spent the better part of my tandem paddling life in a 17' OT Penobscot (Royalex). It's mostly used for light tripping and some downriver racing. We've managed to be pretty competitive in the boat, especially against other plastic craft, but it's time to step up.

The ideal boat will be efficient, but still employ some maneuverability. My paddling partner and I race the MaCKRO circuit in Maine. The majority of these races are CL1-2, and I'd likely still run the Penobscot in races with heavier water. In terms of recommendations, think Kenduskeag...long stretches of moving water, some mild whitewater.

I'm currently living "out West", and have some solid options nearby on used boats. Right now, I'm looking at an older Sundowner 18, a Jensen 17, an Escape, and a Minnesota II. Of those canoes, which do you think makes sense for stepping into a composite boat? Again, I'd like a decently fast "all arounder", with the ability to finish closer to the front of the pack on race day.

Of the boats listed, I've spent some time in a 17' Jensen. I'm impressed with speed, but have discerned that it could be a bit of a wet boat for the waters I enjoy?

Thanks for any insight/advice you are willing to lend.

P.S. I'm not married to the idea of a Wenonah, that's just what I've found since I started looking. And by the way, these boats are currently available, so a quick reply would be GREATLY appreciated.

My wife and I have two jensen 17’s

– Last Updated: May-05-14 5:54 AM EST –

that we race. Both of them are Kevlar ultralight. One is our oldest which we call our beater boat, and the other which is in mint condition we race on Lakes and flat rivers.
We don't hesitate using the beater boat in class I-II rivers, and any repair work is a snap, as it is on any ultralight Kevlar boat.
You didn't say what weight you and your partner are, but if you are fairly light weight, I highly recommend the Jensen 17. If you are both heavier, Get a Jensen 18 or a Savage River Susquehanna which is 18"-6"
We have a bunch of canoes and if I had to get rid of all but one, I would keep the Jensen.
To me it is a do all canoe

jack L

Thanks Jack.
Thanks for the reply, Jack. I certainly should have mentioned that I’m 185# and my partner is between 165 and 170.

We’re both fairly experienced paddlers, so a boat with less initial stability is not out of the question…I’m just trying to avoid buying a “one trick pony” for racing only.

Ideally, as I mentioned, I’d like to invest in a composite that the girlfriend and I can do some camping in too.

With your combined weight
the Jensen 17 might be too small for you.

I am 156 and she is 112.

If you can find a Jensen 18, that would be the ideal boat for you, (in my estimation)

jack L

The Escape is equal to the 17 Jensen for speed and is deeper. Better for rough water and downriver work; and better for taking the camp gear. Do the races you want to run have max length restrictions. It its 18’6" the Minnesota II is the ticket, again its about as fast as the 18’Jensen and is deeper. If you could find one, the Wenonah Odyssey is the ticket for downriver work + camping. It is the downriver offshoot of the Whitewater II, where the Minnesota II is the lake tripper version.

If you are limited to 17’6" then the Escape is the choice. The Jensens are quick and capable hulls, they just don’t have the depth i like in waves. I’ve paddled every one you mentioned on trips and in races. Own a 17’Jensen, 18’Sundowner, and a 17’Spirit. Have done well in river races with the Spirit in C-2 Rec class. Its slower than the Jensen on calm wate, but we can paddle it hard in rough water that you would be bracing in the Jensen and its faster thru tight turns.

Have camped with the Jensen and Gearwoman and i were 350# combined at the time. The 18’Sundowner gets used more now for trips. We’ve never raced it; C-2 stock class is too competitive and the Sundowner won’t keep up with the longer MN-II or the 18’Jensen.


One more to consider…
I appreciate the feedback so far. After some additional digging, I’ve found one more hull to throw in the mix. I’m not too familiar with the “WWX” but there is one marginally close to my location. It sounds like a rework of the WWII, prior to the XX?

How does this hull compare to the others in discussion? Speed? Handling? Seaworthiness?

Again, any help is appreciated.

Speed- It will be faster than those mentioned above.

Handling-Straight ahead preferred.

Stability- Needs experienced paddlers.

You are correct that it followed the WWII and preceded the radical WWXX. Hull shape pretty much splits the difference between the WWII and WWXX. I could paddle it with a familiar partner, but probably not be able to power it to race speed and stay upright in any kind of current or waves. If you have the skill, it has the speed.


Long story short, I tracked down a Jensen 18 for a good price. I went to buy it this past weekend and literally “met” it on the highway. I finished driving to the owner’s address (hoping I was wrong about seeing the boat, since he’s 4.5 hours away), and the guy said he “wasn’t sure I was coming, so he let it go”. I was there an hour before I said I would be. Ouch.

Since then, an Odyssey has turned up within driving distance from me. How does that compare to the Jensen 18? Speed? Handling? Stability? Are the higher sides going to catch too much wind for tripping? It’s the same dimensions below the waterline as the MNII, correct?

If you can find one…Bluewater’s
Tripper 17…fast and has a little rocker too.

It’s going to either be used or from a shop that grabbed it during the bake sale…


– Last Updated: May-20-14 5:18 PM EST –

I have an Odyssey and paddle and race a Jensen 18 regularly. The 18 is a faster boat. This is mostly due to the high bow volume of the Odyssey. The bow is flared and has a lot of volume. When you're trying to pass a wake it makes it harder to get over. Also, the higher sides on the bow of the Odyssey make it a little harder for hit and switch paddling.

Overall, I love the odyssey though. It is very comfortable in the bow, which many Jensen designed boats are not (they tend to be skinny up front which can make for cramped legs/feet after a couple hours if you're going to be doing extended paddling). Also, the stern station is great because the stern height is relatively low (15" i want to say) and you have an easy reach to the water.

If you want to camp or trip, the Odyssey definitely has more volume and carrying capacity. Also, because of its large bow, it will be much drier in rough water or whitewater.

Overall, I am still looking for a Ultralight Jensen 18 and will sell my odyssey when I find it. I like the Odyssey a lot, but I do more day tripping and racing than wilderness tripping where the odyssey would really shine. You cant go wrong with either really.

Edit: also, I've never paddled the Savage River Susquehana, but I've loved every Savage River boat Ive paddled, so I'd look at one of those too.