Keewaydin 18.6 vs. Northwind 18 or Wenonah?

We are ready to purchase a new canoe and wondered if anyone here has had any experience with the Swift Keewaydin 18.6 compared to the Northstar Northwind 18 or Wenonah Minnesota II.
Where we live there are no dealers near us anymore. Many years ago we tested a Wenonah Minnesota II, Spirit II, Champlain and Itasca along with a Bell Northwoods. Unfortunately we only had a small pond to test the Minnesota II and a very small calm place on a river to test the Northwoods. The Champlain and Spirit II were stable but just didn’t have the feel or speed we were looking for. We ended up buying the Itasca and really liked it! It was very seaworthy in large waves and wind especially when loaded and yet was pretty fast and had a good glide. We had to sell it due to a temporary move. The reason we are thinking of other options now is to reduce the weight for portages.
We really don’t want to get a canoe with less speed/glide and don’t want to give up too much of the seaworthiness either.
Has anyone owned or paddled any of these canoes and if so what were your thoughts?
Speed, glide, initial and secondary stability, handling in rough water/wind and overall quality?
I have heard that the Keewaydin and Northwind are both Yost designs and looking at the specifications they appear to be very similar. Has anyone paddled both? Do they feel any different?
The closest Swift dealer to us is in Wisconsin and it looks like they carry Northstar and Wenonah as well but don’t have the Keewaydin 18.6 in stock. That would be a long drive for sure (we live in Montana) but we really want to test before buying and would have been willing to make the trip for a side by side comparison.
Just looking at the specs on paper and ordering feels like buying a vehicle without test driving. :grin:
Thanks in advance!

Not sure I can answer your questions, but sure you will get some help here.

Wanted to say welcome to the forum.

There are a fair number of canoe folks here and many more kayak folks.

I know what it is like looking for a paddleboat over the last couple years. Everyone seems to be out of everything and backlogs with like a year wait for some. It is very frustrating and all that has put a premium on used boats here.

Sometimes you have to go with what you know you have liked in the past. :canoe:

Thanks for the welcome! I have been subscribed to the newsletter for years but I guess I never joined the forum. :grinning:
Yes, it seems like everything is backorderd/backlogged, unavailable etc. We would have just ordered another Itasca but really want to save a few pounds this time around!
Thanks again for your reply!

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Wish I could help you, but you don’t see those boats around here (southern New England) very often. The closest that I have paddled is a Mad River TW Special (18’ 6" x 36"), and I know what you mean about speed and glide - that boat could move. They all look close on paper, and I’ll bet you would be happy with any of them. I like to paddle the bow, so to me it would be which is more comfortable up front - I’m sure they all are tight.

My flatwater tandem is a composite Spirit II - I love it, but it doesn’t have the speed that these boats do. Just based on the website pictures, I like the Northwind. Then again, its nice to have the tractor seats, so maybe the Minnesota II…

Hopefully someone will have more relevant experience.

Good luck and let us know what you decide.

You are talking about some great canoe designs for traveling with speed and carrying a load. I like all of them, but the MN II has too straight of a keel for me. Big, long tripping canoes needs some rocker in order to turn them in turbulent water.

It would be utopian to find someone who has paddled all three. Wenonah is hard to find in our area. NorthStar possible in NH and Swift in CT…

That said Montana is a hard place to find a dealer. We loved our Odyssey on the Missouri Breaks and made Coal Banks to Kipp in three easy days. Odyssey was an old modification of the MN II model.

The glide is not so great any more. Much of glide decrease is caused by abrasion .

We have a current rendition of the Northwind 18. It is a very seaworthy hull for two large people and gear for longer tours. Our combined weight is 500lb and it suits us for day trips and touring.
One thing I like about it, and what makes it so nice in rough waters, is flare the whole length of the hull. There really is no reason to pinch in the gunnels at the center of an 18 footer. You are unlikely to be paddling it solo. It seems almost effortless to paddle.

I have not paddled the Swift, but specs are about the same except for the gunnel width.

Thank you everyone for your replies!
eckilson- It’s funny about tractor seats. I’ve heard some people say they don’t like them. We had them in our Itasca and loved them.
When we finally decide which canoe, I will definitely let you all know. :grinning:

ppine- That was the one concern we had with the Minnesota II along with maybe more splashing in the canoe when waves get big?? Our Itasca even though it was 19 ft had about 1 1/2 in. of rocker which made turning easy.

kayamedic-Isn’t that the truth. We had a chance to paddle a couple of Swifts many years ago in B.C. but they have changed a lot since then.

sedges-That’s good to hear about the Northwind 18. Our gut feeling is that the Northwind and Keewaydin might be more seaworthy than the Minnesota II. Yes, the specs are so close to the Keewaydin 18.6. The price is less on the Northwind which is something we are considering but then again we plan to have this canoe for many years so we don’t mind making a one time investment for the right boat.

Thanks again everyone for your input. It all helps!

They have their place - my Spirit II has bucket seats with a foot brace in the back and a slider in the front. For lakes and putting on miles with a bent shaft paddle they are pretty tough to beat.

Erik in the bow, Bill in the stern

I kneel most of the time, so this boat doesn’t get out as much as some of my others. Still, its great to paddle in the right conditions.

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Not a huge fan of tractor seats as they make kneeling more uncomfortable and unwieldly. Our Odyssey is our Lake Superior boat. It has a high bow with a lot of bow flare to keep the lake where it belongs . However when the waves start rolling and we want to kneel with the tractor seat it is possible… barely. The sliders on the seat make a wide kneeling stance impossible.

I had an Odyssey but never liked it. They have a straight keel and almost no rocker. Not good for rivers at all.

The only one of those I’ve paddled is the NW18. I think its a really special boat. Fast and seaworthy and easily controlled by the paddler at either end. There was a thread in another forum where a guy couldn’t decide between MinnII and NW18 and he ended up with NW18 and was very happy with it. Sedges comment about it being effortless to paddle is kind of a big deal for an 18’9" tandem!

Hello Cummins,
I am a fan of larger canoes. My little canoe is a 17 footer, my next little one is 18.5, then 2 20 footers. (And dreaming of buying another 20’.)
I have paddled the Itasca, the Champlain, the 18’ Spirit, the Minn II Not the Northwind , or Keeywadin.
It depends, yeah, you’ve heard than before. I like rivers, so everything I tell you will be tainted by river water and current. I love the Champlain, but it is slow. Is SPEED the criteria. The Itasca paddles the same speed with half the effort of the Champlain. I hated the MinnII it would not turn once up to speed. For a lake, that may be a good thing. Not for a river.
The additional hats I would throw into your ring, Clipper Canoe 18’ MacKenzie. I have owned a 20’ MacKenzie for 6 years now. I SOLO with a 20’ through all of the Green River and most of the Colorado. (That includes cataract Canyon and the Grand Canyon and ALL of the reservoir lakes, several multiple times.) I love the 20’ , 3" of rocker, even the 42" width. the 18’ is at least an equal treat. The 20 turns as easily as any 17 footer, and at speed it tracks gorgeously. Fully loaded 700 to 800 total pounds boat man and all gear and water, I can maintain 3mph for 10 hours, 4 mph for an hour, 5 mph for 15 minutes, easy boat to get moving.
The one name not mentioned ,but common in Boundary Waters is Souri Quetico. I have friends who swear by their Souri’s Quetico

One thing NOT to do. Coal Bank Landing to Kipp in 3 days, that is not a victory, that is a crime against nature and humanity. The Breaks are supposed to be a hiking trip, you just take a canoe to get there. Annnnd it you reach the end of your 10 day sojourn, and you go, “Shit ! I have to do 40 miles tomorrow AM to meet the pickup !!!” You did the Breaks perfectly.

Also, consider putting in at the Elway Dam, Maria’s River, 80 miles upstream of Loma, a couple of noisy pumps, zero people, and Ma’s Restaurant at Loma. Do not miss.

Weight was never a question for me. My 20’s are tanks. I have hit rocks and bounced off that would have sunk ALL of the boats on that list. Custom layup by Clipper. Learn to always carry glass and resin on your trips. Carry a canoe? Nooo. I wave money in the air to find a truck or trailer to portage around major dams.

Have fun


Tha Marias isn’t what it used to be… must be the internet…

Hey Dick, My last time on the Maria’s was in 2014, fairly early in the year, early July?. The dam/reservoir was full and the river was running in the mid teens. It normally runs at half that 800cfs or so. I liked it. Hoodahs, one bridge, one barbed wire fence to run under, multiple rattlers, cows, crows, only one set of rapids, solid #I maybe a slight #II.

I can guess though. The Missouri between 2008 ( clear) and 2014 (pea soup green), I talked to the environment guys and their answer, on the QT was that every discharge permit was being approved. By now, if that continued, the Missouri would be a clogged weedy, soup mess. I hope Ma’s in Loma is still good. Simple good fare and great pies.
Great hikes and side exploration. Done it three times. Twice beginning in Fort Benton, once beginning at the base of the Elway dam on the Maria’s River.

mine is fine on rivers… We do tend to carve turns with an outside heel. Side rocker is considerable

Crime if not hiking? I was in need of three joint replacements. Your judgment is not needed. The Missouri was running very fast. And after also doing Canyonlands in the same trip out West I was not liking the cow shit and the goose poop and the never ending honking of geese breeding.

Also unbeknown to me at the time was a developing cancer

Souris River canoes are ok… but their construction is a little light on the fabric schedule. Got one of those too. Wilderness 18

That’s good to know. It sounds like a nice canoe. The closest one I have found to test is almost a 17 hour drive. :flushed: We wouldn’t mind if there were other options to test. There is a Northwind 17 at a dealer about 5 hrs from here but we like the glide of the longer boats. And the closest Swift to test…maybe at the factory in Ontario. :grin: :grin:

Almost 100% of our paddling is on Lakes with bent shaft paddles which could be the reason we didn’t mind the tractor seats. The only rivers we have done were the Caribou and Bowron rivers that connect the lakes on the circuit.

I could go on a trip with paddler.
Ft Benton to Kipp Bridge is the right Missouri R trip. The wild sheep did not even lift their heads when we paddled past. Camping at the Lewis and Clark sites and reading the journal at night. It was 151 miles.

The longer a canoe gets, the more important rocker is so you can turn it.