Something better than a Penobscot

Ok. I haven’t really mastered all the paddle strokes, but I can get from the put in to the take out. Now I’m thinking of getting another canoe. I really like the Penobscot that I have but none of my friends have a canoe so I’m thinking of getting another one then using the Penob as a loaner so I can con someone else into going and helping shuttle me instead of having to rely on the DW or waiting until the in-laws show up so we can go paddle. The Penobscot does pretty much everything I ask of it, but I’d like to be a little faster, quicker.

I paddle flat water, moving water, shallow water, whatever (even a pond), except CL III and up.



Solo or tandem? (NM)

My son (9) goes with me most all of the time. Some times my daughter (12), and some times it’s all of us; me, the wife and both kids. The Penoscot is only 16’, but we can all fit. I’m not sure if I’d want to go to 17, but have thought about it as that’s the length of the Spirit II.



The Spirit II is a great all-around boat. In the Wenonah line, you also might want to consider the Escapade if most of your paddling is flat/mild water.

The Bell Northstar is a nice fast tandem, or the Northwind if you want a bit more stability.

my $.02
There are plenty of faster tandem hulls than the 16 Penobscot but very few that are more versatile. (I own & much enjoy one) Plan on giving up something to get the increased flatwater speed you’re looking for. Generally the longer, straighter,(less rocker), narrower & lighter the hull; the faster the potential top end speed. Also expect to pay lots more $$$. I’d recommend you check out some of the Wenonah hulls in Kevlar or Carbon Fiber like perhaps the Jensen 18. (also own & enjoy one) Look for a sliding bow seat to accomodate your wt. differences & consider a hull alot (not just slightly) different than your Penobscot to gain a significant rather than marginal speed increase. Again, you’ll give up versatility to gain that speed advantage. Get some carbon bent shafts to really make it fly !

go longer
Your family fits the 16’ Penobscot now, but kids get bigger. Glen L has the right idea to go different than what you already have. The 18’ Jensen is about as fast as you can go without going to a racing hull. To handle rougher water and still be fast, my recommendation would be the Escape at 17’6" over either Jensen or the shorter Escapade. I own a Spirit with lots of miles and there are few places a Penobscot is better, but the Escape is fast, is deep enough to use for tripping (which the Jensen’s are not), is seaworthy enough for downriver work and big lakes, and not too long for tighter streams.

If you didn’t have the Penobscot, I would recomend the Spirit II as the best choice, but since you do, a Kevlar Core-stiffened Escape is my pick. It comes standard with a sliding seat; highly recommended with different sized bow paddlers.


Nothng better that the Penobscot
I have had 16’ Penobscot for a few years, and had thoughts as you have, sold it and was sorry in doing so. My advice is to install a sliding seat in place of the bow seat and also install kayak foot pedals for solo paddling using a double 250 cm paddle. when you solo you sit in the bow seat in reverse facing the stern, install the kayak foot pedals and you will be surprise how much more you will love your Penobscott. Trust me I have done it and I also rowed the Penobscott using a Evertt Industries canoe attachment for rowing, the Penobscott is so versatile and can be used paddling Class 2 & 3 water…Keep the Penobscot…my opinion.

After looking at others

– Last Updated: Oct-19-06 12:17 AM EST –

I think if I want to keep my Penobscot as a loaner and get me another canoe, I'd just as well get a new Penobscot. I do like the black one that Ozark Canoe has, pretty sharp looking in black. May just do that as I really like the Penobscot and it does everything I want to do.
I'm still thinking of making a sail for it and trying it out on a nearby lake. Or maybe I'll win the Bell Yellowstone.


Which is faster Northstar or Northwind?
Which is faster, Northstar or Northwind? I guess Northstar turn easier but Northwind will haul more gear but how about their speed?


A few
I think any of the following versatile boats would be an upgrade over the Penobscot:

Mad River Explorer 16RX

Mad River Macelite

Nova Craft Prospector 16

We No Nah - Spirit II

I have the Explorer 16 and its a very good all around boat. THough its a tandem I paddle it solo frequently and it handles well.

That said, if I had to do it all over I think I might go with the Nova Prospector.

Northstar is faster than Northwind, at least with a light load…never paddled a Northwind fully loaded. Northwind more of a family boat; Northstar more sporty yet still plenty stable. Northstar is the magic boat.

You can’t go wrong with a composite Northstar. I used to have a Penobscot; nice and fun boat…not particularly stable due to shallow vee design. Northstar is quicker, faster, more effortless, more stable, and will turn on a dime (can spin boat within it’s own length). I have 6 solos and 1 tandem…used to have more solos but have never felt the need for another tandem. Northstar is just magic under all conditions (very happy on rivers, very happy on lakes). If you want something a bit hotter and more exotic the Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17 is an amazing boat…less stable than the Northstar but a touch faster - and the Tripper is actually a good solo boat…much better than Northstar or Penobscot. I sold mine but would get another in a minute.

just my two cents

Cruising speed of Northstar
How fast is cruising speed of Northstar? 5 mph?


I don’t know; I’ve never clocked the Northstar with a GPS.

I know that 4 mph is a pretty solid cruising speed for a “sport” solo boat (a boat that turns…not a racer) and I know that a Northstar with two decent paddlers would walk away from a good paddler in a hot sport solo. So - maybe 4.5-5.0.

Pretty fast
I think Northstar is pretty fast then. My MR Explorer can keep 3,5 mph cruising speed all day.


Cruising speed
With better than 1000 miles of paddling against every legal C-2 Recreational Canoe, I can give you an idea of how fast most recreational tandems are in competition.

The Northstar is faster than the Mad River Explorer, but not by enough to cover the difference between a good set of paddlers and a pair on a bad day. Its longer brother the Northwind is faster and is competitive where the recreational class allows 17’6" hulls. When the limit is 17’ even, the Northstar is really outclassed by the 17’ Jensen and 17 Sundowner.

Long distance pace in the 17’ Jensen averages 6 mph for Vitamin Ray & myself, races at 10 miles or less we can go a bit hotter, maybe 6.5

Cruising pace on a trip really depends on the paddlers and the water. 6 mph is no challenge downstream in an open river with current. Across a windswept lake with waves, 4 mph can be a hard push. Some canoes lend themselves to fast paddling with a load, others wallow and feel like they have an anchor down.

Gearwoman and I have gone past plenty of North series canoes on trips in the old Spirit, but she is a strong paddler and its hard to say how much is the hull and how much is the paddler. The Spirit is noticeably slower than the Sundowner and Jensen and makes a better comparison to other recreational canoes. We can maintain a 5 mph pace with a load on open water even into a wind, so long as the waves are under a foot. 4 mph would be very relaxed, but to others it might seem fast.

The important thing is how much effort you must put in to get the speed you want. Cruising speed on a trip usually turns out to be whatever speed you can maintain without straining. Cruising speed in a race is the point where the hull needs a lot more effort to go just a bit faster; the speed vs effort chart is not a straight line. During the finish line sprint you go all out and the speed nears the paddling maximum for that hull, but few paddlers can maintain that effort for mile after mile.


Northwind vs. Wenonah Escape
How about speed of Bell Northwind vs. Wenonah Escape?

I’m planning to buy fast family canoe during next few years for 2 adults and one child. Purpose is to use canoe for flat water tripping.

Typically I don’t haul muct gear so 18.6 canoe is too big for us. I also appreciate good handling characteristics in canoe.


Escape by a mile
The Escape will edge out the 17 Jensen with even paddlers, the Northwind falls far behind.

The only Bell to place on the podium in the 90 miler made it to 3rd place in the C-2 Rec. Mixed Masters class when there were only three boats in the class. They finished hours after the 2nd place team.

Several Northwinds have entered and finished, but way down in the pack of men’s teams. Raymondo and I beat one in the Spirit in 1999, they had big trouble going fast on rough water.

If the Escape had existed when i bought the 17’Jensen i probably would have bought the Escape, its as fast and its deeper and more seaworthy.


Escape’s another great hull
In racing circles it’s considered the fastest Recreational hull & results bare this out. I paddled one w/ a partner on an extended Temagami trip & it performed excellently in all conditions. Two experienced paddlers should have no problem maintaining 5+ mph all day in one, even loaded. My wife & I easily average >4mph on camping trips in our Penobscot.(using carbon bentshafts)

Has the design of the MR Explorer changed ? Realize Royalex is lighter now but I paddled a late 70’s vintage Explorer recently & it couldn’t get out of it’s own way (or stay anywhere near a Penobscot on same trip)

Explorer RX is a tub
Agree with Glen L. that the Penobscot easily outruns the Royalex Explorer. Going from the Penobscot or a Royalex Sundowner to a Royalex Explorer feels like your partner stopped paddling. It does turn well, but that’s its only good trait and it sure doesn’t offset the extra work to paddle it.

On a whitewater trip it probably rates higher. The full bow would give it better buoyancy than the Penobscot and its turning ability would count more. But that would be on serious whitewater, and I don’t paddle there.