Need canoe advice -- long-ish trip

-- Last Updated: Nov-28-11 11:33 AM EST --

Dear PNetters, I'm a sea kayaker and not much of a canoeist at all. But my partner and I own an Old Town Osprey together -- a 14-foot, lightweight Royalex tub. Slow as molasses but we have enjoyed it. Yesterday I saw an ad on the local REI bulletin board for a used Wenonah 18-footer that looks like a Minnesota II, Kevlar, that plain skin stuff. Asking price $1800.
Now here's the thing: my partner and I want to paddle down a slow coastal-plain river next May -- about 130 miles -- camping all the way. I think we need a longer boat than our 14-footer or we'll never make decent time. I was looking at the Wenonah catalogue to get some idea of prices, and that got me thinking about other canoe models. I'm guessing that a 17-foot Spirit II would be a good boat for us for tripping (versatile too, see below). I also looked at the 16-foot Aurora. Of course, the 18-foot Minnesota II, if still available, is right here in town.

Questions for you guys:
1. I don't think the 18-footer is versatile -- am I right? No rocker at all. We might take one canoe-camping trip a year from here on out (if we enjoy the one we're planning). Other than that, we're day trippers on rocky, piedmont NC rivers. The two of us could realistically be described as old and slow and happy as clams just looking at stuff.
2. Also, do we really need Royalex or is Wenonah tuff-weave Kevlar OK for hitting a few rocks now and then? (We're easy on our equipment -- no crashing and bashing on purpose. But we do hit rocks now and then, and we might have to pull over logs sometime.) But the weight of Royalex vs. tuff-weave Kevlar is pretty significant. We could manage a 70-pound boat if that was the best choice, but it wouldn't be as much fun to put up on the car top as a 55-pounder. (Our Osprey weighs 54 pounds.)

I hope this is enough info for you all to give me some recommendations. Thanks, you've steered me right before! And just so you know, I could go up to $2000 but I'd rather spend less.
Ginger in NC

sure it is 18’?

– Last Updated: Nov-28-11 1:48 PM EST –

If the boat listed is 18' in length, it probably isn't a Minnesota II. The Minnesota II is 18'6" in length.

Wenonah did make a number of 18' tandems including an 18' Sundowner, a Jensen 18, and the Champlain. Before starting the debate over the pros and cons of various other models versus the listed "18 footer" it would probably be best to find out exactly what it is.

Wenonah built their boats with a number of very different construction methods (PVC core, center rib, cross rib, all cloth, etc) in addition to different materials so try to find out the construction method. If you can get a serial number Wenonah can probably provide you with the info, if the seller doesn't know.

As to whether or not you need Royalex to paddle rocky rivers, the answer is a qualified no. I would probably not want to take a Kevlar ultralight down a shallow, rocky stream, but all cloth Kevlar composite boats are actually quite tough, especially when the Kevlar is mixed with fiberglass and/or carbon fiber. You might want to steer clear of a foam core boat in that situation simply because the foam core is difficult to repair if fractured. Composite boats are actually considerably more abrasion resistant than Royalex boats, although getting them scratched up does seem to cause more pain to most folks.

Having said that, composites are stiffer, which makes them paddle more efficiently and allows them to have sleeker shapes, but also makes them more prone to cracking upon impact with rocks and other hard objects. It takes a pretty good bash to crack a good all cloth composite boat though, and they are generally easily repaired by anyone with even mediocre fiber glassing skills, like me.

About the Aurora

– Last Updated: Nov-28-11 2:04 PM EST –

Pete knows what he is talking about in the post above. Just want to add that the Aurora 16' is a great all-around canoe and would suit your stated needs, assuming we aren't talking about any extreme weight and assuming all class 1 or easy class 2. The Tuff-Weave version weighs about 55lbs and that layup is plenty strong for what you describe, from what I've seen. Check the list price - $1529.

Aurora for a weeklong river trip?
Steve, just to be clear, you’d take the Aurora on a weeklong river-camping trip? I didn’t know whether the extra foot of length on the Spirit II would make it faster and more efficient, but I thought it might.


Pblanc, the boat is described as Jensen-designed (but no specific model name), and the picture of the canoe shows a decal on it that, if I remember right, says “Jensen 46”. Or some other number. And it’s described as 18 feet long, and, you’re right of course, the catalog says the Minnesota II is 18 feet 6 inches.

OK, I’ll call the guy and ask all those questions you suggest. I’m glad to know some of the composites are tough enough that we could drag over logs or hit a rock or two. Thanks!


almost certainly a Jensen 18
Is it possible that the sticker said “Kevlar 49”?

A lot of early Kevlar boats had that “Kevlar 49” decal.

The Jensen 18 is a cool boat and I would love to have a Kevlar one. It is one of the fastest stock class (non-proboat) tandems made and was often used in (and won) downriver and flat water races in the tandem Standard (Citizen’s Racer) Class and is a very efficient day tripper. It is not real deep, however. About 12" amidships, 17" at the bow and 16 1/2" at the stern so depending on the weight of your tandem team and your load, you may or may not find the freeboard to your liking. It is definitely a straight-keeled, performance oriented type of canoe.

Price seems steep to me

It sounds like they want top dollar for a boat that is pretty old and not well suited to your usage. A lot of 16 footers are great for week long trips and better than an 18 footer not designed for tripping.

I agree, $1800 is higher than I would

ginger, “Wenonah tuff-weave Kevlar” refers to the empty set. tuff-weave is a cross woven cloth of polyester and glass, without Kevlar. I personally think tuff-weave is a better choice than Wenonah’s Kevlar flexcore. Wenonah errs by using Kevlar for outer layers, acceptable in Jensens and racing boats, but NOT as durable as using one or two layers of S-glass for the exterior. Kevlar is a strange fiber, and does not fill all roles successfully.

Tuff-weave succeeds because the vinylester resin makes an unusually strong bond with the polyester fibers. No resin makes “an unusually strong bond” with Kevlar, though the bond is good enough.

I don’t see why you need an
18 footer or 18.5 footer if this is an infrequent trip length.

For years we toiled in Quetico with a 15 foot Grumman. He was cramped in the rear and his back was killing him though so we upsized to a 15’10" canoe. That was enough for about a seven day trip. Then the body got weaker and we got an 18’5" Odyssey(deeper version of the MN II ) for over a week trips. It has the foam core and I wish it did not but we have had it for 21 years now on many types of trips from Wabakimi to Hudsons Bay to Lake Superior and down the Buffalo in Arkansas among others.

Its got the same waterline shape as the MNII and it is surprisingly maneuverable in moving water to class II.

While it is touted as having no rocker it does have some curve to the hull. Rocker is a drafting convention and not uniformly measured across manufacturers.

Personally I would just take the old Osprey if you can pack light. And use plenty of torso rotation and avoid paddling. Canoeing and kayaking have similar principles of biomechanics. Sometimes it is us that wears us out and the boat matters little. A sixteen foot boat has a theoretical hull speed of 5.36 knots.

A fourteen 5.01 knots. That’s about 1/2 mph difference. Will that matter to you?

Another thought is that an 18.5 footer is not necessarily faster. It is only if you have the horsepower to overcome the added skin friction.

Yes fat boats are slower than skinny boats of the same length.

What others have told you is true but do not expect miracles from a longer skinnier boat.

Yes, absolutely…
…I would do a week-long river camping trip in the Aurora. But just to clarify - I am an average-size adult with “normal” BMI, as is my wife - and we would be carrying about 150lbs of gear. And as I said - that would be limited (for us, anyway) to easier class 2 water.

The Spirit II may or may not be a little faster for you - but as Kayamedic said below, not so much that you are likely to notice. But it will catch a little more wind, due to its deeper hull. But if you figure on having more than average weight on board, you may be better off with the Spirit II.

OTOH - if you and your paddle partner are relatively light weight, and have lightweight camping gear, you may be happier in the Escapade - especially if your river is very flat and prone to windy conditions.

Also - I agree with Kayamedic that the OT Osprey ain’t a bad canoe. Unless you find yourself cramped for room or running out of freeboard with your camping gear, I probably wouldn’t be afraid to do such a trip in that boat. One of my previous canoes was a Wenonah Fisherman, which is fairly comparable to the Osprey (wider, actually). While it lacked the glide of longer and narrower boats I’ve had (notably the MR Malecite), that wasn’t much of an issue where current was working for us.

How’s your technique and do you have reasonably good paddles? If money is an issue, you may get more bang for your buck dealing with those two issues before buying a bigger canoe (or not).

Where in NC
are you located? We have a Jensen 18, a Minn2, and an 18 foot SCR in our greater fleet, and several shorter canoes. I have tripped with the Jensen and had no problems up in the adrondacks with manuevering or portaging. When you are running light in a Jensen designed boat the wind is a bigger factor then an old grumman: BUT they are so fun to paddle and enjoy the Glide.

If you get close to Charlotte look us up.


18 feet is nice -

– Last Updated: Nov-29-11 6:19 AM EST –

The way I see this if you are taking annual trips of a week in or more paddling tandem a 17 or 18 foot tripping canoe is a very nice thing to have. The extra length over a 16 foot boat gives you a LOT more capacity for food etc. Also, the boat will be faster and more seaworthy than a 16. A longer boat will be more comfortable and you can keep your gear below the gunwales. Also, I honestly don't see any downside to having a longer boat unless you can only have one boat and you want to paddle solo at times - but even then I have paddled a 17 solo on trips many times. Ultimately a 17 might be the sweet spot.

There are certain situations where royalex is probably the best way to go over composite. You won't find many composite boats in the arctic. The reason is that while composite is a lot more durable than you might think, a royalex boat is basically bomb proof - like a 4X4 Pickup Truck - and that is what you need and want when you are in rough and extremely remote conditions. You want to be able to drag the boat if you need to without destroying it. But as you get older it sure is nice to have a light boat and indeed they are much more durable than you might think.

Ideally I'd like to own a royalex tripping boat - maybe an old town tripper or one of the prospector boats which can be had used for around $600 - AND a composite tripping boat. But, if I could only have one boat - it would be a royalex boat. This is because most of the tripping I do does not involve a lot of portaging. If you are paddling a lot on flatwater with portages - I'd go with composite. If you are on moving water with portages a composite prospector type hull is a good compromise because it does have a bit of rocker. I've never been a big fan of the go fast and straight composite hulls that are intended primarily for flatwater mostly because I don't care so much about all out speed and I do care about turning ability. I tend to be in moving water a lot.

These decisions all involve compromise and sometimes is comes down to budget and also knowing the kind of water you are most likely to find yourself in. Also, the truth is you can do a week long trip in almost anything.

what?! no miracles?!
But I was hoping!

“Toiling” is what I do in the bow of our Osprey. It’s not comfortable up there.

Anyhow, you have a good point. If we just go 15 miles a day in the Osprey, so what? It’s paid for and we can certainly enjoy the river. :slight_smile:


the Roanoke River . . .
from Weldon down to the Albemarle Sound. I have never paddled a straight-keeled canoe (if that’s the right term), so it’s good to know that maybe the long straight ones CAN be turned!

No much sharp turning required on the wide Roanoke except perhaps back in the swamps to reach some of the camping platforms – last 40 miles or so. The river is mainly a slow float.

Thanks for the invitation. Sounds like you’ve got an enviable fleet there in Charlotte.


log raft?
You could paddle a log raft and have just as much fun! On the other hand I like my MNII on camping trips or day paddling. In flat or slow water turning is a non-issue especially if you have a good bow paddler .I believe it is more efficient, loaded, than any 16 or 17 foot canoe I have tripped in with the same load even at a slow pace. From what I have seen the people in a group camping trip that are in a MNII or Itasca’s ECT. are paddling a “comfortable” pace and the 17 foot Grumman’s, alumacrafts, Souris rivers, spirit II or what ever are “working” to keep up. Thats just what I have observed on the water.


Royalex is bomb proof?? Not.!
Anyone running Royalex in the remote arctic should have a full repair kit similar to what is used for a glass/Kevlar boat, plus the knowledge and experience to use it.

Go to and you’ll see discussion of Royalex repair issues all-the-time.

I have to agree with that
A lot of whitewater open boat creekers have abandoned Royalex canoes now that there are decent rotomolded polyethylene canoe alternatives like the Spanish Fly, Blackfly boats, Esquif L’Edge, or the Prelude. Some of these guys were wearing out boats in less than a season’s use.

I am in the process of repairing a fleet of 16 tandem Roylex canoes used by a local livery. These canoes have all been used on guided trips and never used on whitewater, only moving flat water and lakes. But the stems often get ground up onto concrete boat ramps when people board and exit.

The boats are all Bells and Wenonahs (good quality) and 6-8 years old. All have wear through the vinyl outer color layer at the stems (not a big deal) but 5 were worn through into the foam core at one or both ends, and 3-4 others were ground down to the point of being close. These boats probably get used around 60-70 days a year.

In fact, if I anticipated having to drag my canoe any distance on a wilderness trip it would tend to sway me toward a gel-coated composite boat.

For dragging, I’ve thought of cutting a
panel out of a plastic garbage can, and clipping it under the boat so that it takes all the grinding. It wouldn’t weigh much and could sit in the bottom of the boat when not in use.

There are certain places, like Skylift take out in Little River Canyon or some exit trails on the Chattooga, where being able to drag rather than carry would be a blessing, rather than a blessing out.


– Last Updated: Nov-29-11 7:41 PM EST –

Creek Boats are a completely different animal.

Do you folks actually use composite on arctic trips?

Not saying that Royalex isn’t top
choice. But it isn’t bombproof. Royalex is fine for the arctic wilderness, or for anyplace where there won’t be long portages.

If a lot of very long portages are required, a properly made composite boat may be better.

I don’t think people should be running class 2-3 rapids on arctic rivers unless they have the skill to make boat damage very, very unlikely. Even so, sometimes it will be necessary to portage the boat. One can’t say, “Oh, it’s a Royalex boat, let’s go for it.”