"Speed" of Souris River Canoes

-- Last Updated: Mar-27-10 10:37 PM EST --

Ok, I know there is a whole can of worms here, and I only want to peek in, not open it right up.

I'm thinking about getting a Souris River Wilderness 18. For lake-tripping I am confident this craft will work just fine. It doesn't matter to me how fast it goes because on a trip, I know it won't be slower than some of the other boats (and if a one-boat trip, it really doesn't matter). Even the "slow" Quetico would do. However, I like to enter a once-a-year low-key recreational type of race . . . and I'd sorta like to win once! So far, I have lost in a Wenonah Sundowner, but not by too much.

The point, then - how fast is a Wilderness 18 compared to an 18' Sundowner. How much slower would the Quetico 18.5 be?

Thanks for any experiences you can share with these boats. Also, for those of you that will say we should just paddle harder - yes - noted. Thanks again.

Souris River Canoes
The Quetico 18.5, as well as the Quetico 17 are pretty much flat bottomed canoes. They really suck water in the shallows. Although the 18.5 is definitely faster than the 17, it isn’t going to win a citizen race against a Minnesota 2 or a Jensen 18. The Souris River that you should watch for is the Jensen Huron 18. It is a Jensen hull below the waterline, with a 19" bow that gives it a little more hauling capacity as a tripper and slightly more seaworthyness than the Wenonah version of a Jensen 18. Plus the SR Jensen Huron has a much higher (visually more rounded) arched hull than the Wenonah Jensen 18 or a MN2. It has been my experience that my SR Jensen Huron 18 will keep pace with the Wenonahs, and with a strong paddle partner better them. Souris River stoped production of this model in 2000, however, they did build one a year ago to compete in the cross Quetico race last summer. On rare occasions I see a used one go up for sale. In fact last year’s race boat is for sale in the Twin Cities area at a premium price.

but I can compare a Wilderness 18 to an Odyssey (Wenonah) 18.5.

I own both. The Odyssey is far faster even though its a flat bottomish boat. Both have plenty of wetted surface but more importantly the Wilderness 18 has high shear at the stems. Particularly in the stern quartering wind, that symmetrical stern shear is going to make lots of work for the stern paddler as the boat wants strongly to broach.

The cut down stern stem on the Odyssey makes steering in stern quartering winds far more pleasurable.

I have only paddled the Wilderness 18 and the Tranquilty solo yet I found both SR boats to be slow. We are keeping the Wilderness 18 as 18.5 feet in a train is another more expensive baggage class.

longer is still faster
If the width and taper are the same, the longer boat will be faster. The belief that skin friction makes a long boat harder to paddle faster is something that has no proof in my racing experiences or tripping experience. I have tripped in both a 17’Spirit and a 23’ Minnesota IV paddled tandem. The MN-IV was easier to paddle at any speed. It was more work into a stiff wind. Perhaps the skin friction with a 20mph wind was a bigger concern that the water friction at 5-6mph.

Going from 17’ to 18.5’ only adds a band of hull below the water line that amounts to around 4 square feet if the increase is at full width in the center of the hull. That is rarely the case. Mostly the increase in length adds a thin strip from bow to the middle of the canoe. The increase in skin friction is more than offset by the more gradual taper of the hull and the decrease in energy needed to part the water.

The 18’ Jensen is noticeably faster than the 17’Jensen. The 18’Sundowner is about an even match for the 17’Jensen and a lot more seaworthy. Going from Wenonah to other makers the comparison gets more complicated, but the Jensen designs of the other makers are always their fastest hulls.

In our local recreation classes, where the hull length is limited at 17’ The 17Jensen is the boat to beat. Where 17’6" is the max, the Wenonah Escape is an altenative to the Jensen.

In stock classes with established length at 18’6" and a width to length ratio. The 18"Jensen and Minnesota II make up the most entries. The Grasse River Monarch and the Savage River Susquehanna have done well in recent years. And overall, the stock class boats post faster times than the rec class boats.

In marathon races the only time you are pushing the hull to its max are at the start and finish of the race and in passing other boats. Its the ease of paddling for long periods at a fast pace that makes a hull a winner. Its the canoe that goes the fastest at the energy level you can sustain for long periods that is the best choice.

The Souris River brand is one i have never seen on the podium at any race i have paddled.


If you’re interested in the Jensen 18
but want an inch deeper hull for tripping, Gene Jensen once told me that the Clipper 18 Jensen Stock is the same below the waterline as the Wenonah Jensen 18. I own the Clipper 18 Jensen Stock and think the Wenonah 18 is slightly faster, perhaps because it feels like it paddles lighter, at least to me.

Pay to play
I had a Jensen 18 and did like it, but I sold it because in a tripping canoe I just appreciate more rough-water performance and am willing to trade efficiency/speed for it. As such, most of my canoes are deeper and fuller than the Jensen designs.

I will look for an old fiberglass Jensen or something similar, because, as I said, it is only one race per year, and I’m not going to buy a new carbon/kevlar race boat for that (plus it would be a bit shameful to show up with such a thing when most just bring whatever they have at the cottage).

Thanks for everyone’s input so far.

Update . . .
I did get a Wilderness 18, and it is an interesting canoe. It is plenty stable, a durable lay-up, and quite light. It handles waves well, and tracks really predictably as well. A comfortable tripping canoe it is. It isn’t as fast as I would have thought, though, given it’s length/width/straight keel-line.

Compared to the Sundowner 18 Kevlar I paddled prior, the Souris isn’t as fast or as stiff, but is likely tougher and lighter, so preferable on a trip.