Old fiberglass canoe

Hey everyone, sorry to start out with a probably common question, but I have a couple of less specific ones as well. First off, I’m looking to buy my first canoe. I’m on a pretty tight budget, mainly because my wife and I are also into trail running, backpacking and cycling. All of that gear means we can’t have the very best of everything (or anything!).

Anyway, I’m going Friday to look at an old Wenonah that the CL poster calls a “Deluxe 18 Ft.” He also claims it is fiberglass. I’m not sure if he knows what he is talking about or not. I didn’t see where they made any glass canoes, and I don’t know enough about the older ones to know if they did.

Assuming it is, what sort of stuff should I look for to see if it is in decent enough shape? The price is right, so I’ll buy it if it is ok. How much does sun damage glass canoes? I’ve got a couple of more questions, but my wife is glaring at me so I’ll ask them later!


Probably a Tuf-weave boat
Wenonah has a proprietary blend of fiberglass and polyester that they call Tuf-Weave. Many or most folks refer to these as fiberglass canoes. Tuf-weave canoes are very durable though not as light as aramid/‘glass composites.

I do not recall any Wenonah model called a Deluxe but Wenonah has had a slew of models over the years, many of which are out of production.

Two of their more popular 18’ tandems were the 18’ Sundowner and the 18’ Jensen.

If you could post a picture or the HIN number someone here could perhaps identify it, or call Wenonah with the HIN.

If the boat is gel-coated sun exposure may have faded it and perhaps oxidized it a bit. Often that can be improved by wet sanding and/or buffing with a polishing compound. The gel coat protects the epoxy from photodegredation pretty well though.

I’m mainly concerned about structural integrity and leakage. The guy had no pictures and very little description in the ad. I’m not really concerned about cosmetics because the price is really good. The only other boats I see that cheap are aluminum. I’m not sure he has the title, either. How hard is it to get a title, anyway? I’m guessing it can be a real pain in the butt. Anyway thanks for the help so far.

Canoe Titles
No canoe I have ever purchased, new or used, came with a title. Some states have required the owner to produce a bill of sale of some type when applying for a registration and some states will allow you to apply for a title for a fee.

Pennsylvania requires a sticker on canoes launched from facilities administered by the Fish and Boat Commission. Otherwise, canoes do not need to be registered, unless things have changed since I live there. You do need to have the HIN and basic info regarding the boat to buy the sticker.

Maybe these links would be helpful:



Old Wenonahs
Wenonah made lots of fiberglass canoes in the l970’s and early 1980’s before they started using “Tuffweave”.

Every Wenonah I have ever seen has a Hull Identification Number. It is usually a small metal tag located just under the gunwale on the right side of the stern. Some of the very early canoes had the number engraved into the hull or aluminum gunwale at that location. All the HIN numbers for Wenonah start with MFP for Minnesota Fiberglass Products. The number will give the model code and serial number. Measure it from front to back down the center line from the extreme ends of the hull. The early models had recurved ends, the more modern hulls have straight or angled stems.

For a good hull the bottom should not have any waves, it should be a continuous smooth surface from end to end and side to side. The outside of the hull should be smooth with little or no cloth texture showing. The gunwales should be a smooth curve from end to end. No kinks or bends. Depending on the layup there may be some flex in the bottom of the hull if pressed on with force.

The model and serial number and a photo of the inside and side profile of the hull will make identification easier. Some of the early hulls had simple names, but they are still good paddling hulls. Some were more racing oriented, but all were designed to cover a lot of big water efficiently.

Good luck,


condition issues
does the boat have wood gunnels - if so, check for dry rot and any breaks/damage

look at the stems - the bottom ends of teh boat, and see if they show a lot of wear - some wear and scratches isn’t a big deal, but if the gelcoat (outer shiny layer) is worn thru and cloth is showing thru and worn it would need some repair work - not a big deal (fiberglass is easy to work with), but it would influence the price for me

thwarts and seats - may be rotted at the bolt holes (the ends of the thwarts normally aren’t varnished, so water can get at the wood). give a good push down on them near the ends and see if they give or break - you don’t need to jump up and down on them - it shouldn’t be too hard to tell if they are weak

look for cracks in the hull - you will likely see a lot of “spiderweb” cracks in the gelcaot - very thin looking lines - not a big deal on those, as it is socmetic not functional

“ribs” - cross braces on the inside bottom of the boat - look for cracks where the hull starts to curve up the side

a good deal on a canoe ususally is sold fairly quickly - a really good deal “evaporates” as soon as the sun hits it.

condition is usually related to how careful a boat has been stored - indoors, out of the sun is best, and would indicate that the owner took care of the boat in other ways

have you ever seen an old Wenonah
… with a raised reinforcement (keel ??) down the center on the “inside” ??

Hull stffener
The fore aft internal stiffener is simmilar to my Tuff Weave Advantage. Its not an exterior keel. under $300, in decent shape, buy it.

That’s called a "keelson"
And I have never seen a Wenonah that had one. Then again, there are lots of Wenonah models I’ve never seen.

Center Rib Lay-up
Wenonah made the center-rib lay-up for many years. Weight and price were similar to cross-rib.In the solos there was just the internal rib running down the center of the floor. On the tandem canoes there were several spring loaded shock absorbers mounted vertically between the rib and the thwarts.

It was their preferred rough water lay-up. There was no foam core in the bottom, just multiple layers of cloth and the center rib. The whole bottom could flex upward at the chines under impact, then the shocks would push it back into shape. I had an old Solitude in the center-rib glass lay-up and it survived a fall from a pickup at 40mph when a home made rack failed. Chipped the gelcoat down to the cloth, but not a crack in the hull. Not a light lay-up, but Wenonah’s toughest glass layup at the time.


center rib

I recently saw a Wenonah Spirit advertised with these curious Colemanesque vertical metal struts I had never seen on a Wenonah. It must be the center rib layup!


Thats It
great photos of a rare Spirit II in Center Rib Lay-up with wood gunwales. The tube thru the bow was dealer or owner installed. Its a good way to attach a painter or to locate a rope for lining a canoe down shallows. Photos really show how the shocks mount from the thwarts to the interior center rib.


somebody’s going to …

– Last Updated: Aug-05-13 10:10 PM EST –

..... (buy it that is) I'm doing my level best to not buy another canoe at the moment but it's tempting !!

I was saying any Wenonah for $300 or less is a score. My advantage is cosmetically challenged and I am going to try to get $400.

I was speaking of another Wenonah …
… at the same time I was thinking of what you said about $300. , so less than that would be a fine bargin .

was an eBay16’ Wenonah …

– Last Updated: Aug-07-13 11:09 PM EST –

...... an early design , tandem , white , recurve stems , center rib (fore/aft) stiffner , looked to be factory straight (even the aluminum gunnels) , w/o any repairs , alterations or noteworthy damage ... seller had good pics. , York , PA.

Was watching it for fun , just ended , sold to the only bidder for $189. ... buyer did well , should be real happy !!