Spirit II vs Boundary Waters

Would like to get peoples thoughts on these two Wenonah canoes. I have narrowed my search down to these two.

Usage would be mostly New England flatwater, fishing, family paddling, camping, bi-annual BWCA (and similar), and fishing. Stability, tracking, and capacity are important, but wouldn’t mind a little bit of extra speed on the big lakes. Both seem to be very similar. BW has 1" rocker vs the 1.5" of the Spirit II. BW has 20" bow and stern where the Spirit II is 22" 19". I am also thinking of putting on a minnkota 50lb thrust when the family is around, and I can only afford the kevlar ultra-light :slight_smile: Another factor is that we pack light but there is (and will always be ) a dog, fishing gear, and camera equipment on board, that is why I kind of lean toward the BW, but it seems the Spirit II might handle the big lakes a bit better. The MN II I feel is a bit to dedicated for the big lakes so I tend to shy away from that one… The tough part is trying to test drive these two since there is very limited (if at all) availability in proximity to where I live (Beantown). So any thoughts?

Spirit II, Minnesota II
I have tripped in a Spirit II and it is a very capable flat water tripping boat. The Spirit II has been Wenonah’s all purpose tandem for many years, with enough rocker to give it a bit of maneuverability but pretty efficient for lake travel as well.

I have not paddled a Wenonah Boundary Waters and can only surmise what it would be like based on pictures and specs. My guess is speed-wise it would be very comparable to the Spirit II. The Boundary Waters is very slightly narrower at the water line, but it looks as if it carries its midships fullness further out toward the stems so it’s greater wetted area and prismatic coefficient are probably going to negate any speed advantage the lesser beam gives it. The windage of the two boats should be pretty close. I think the differential sheer height of the Spirit II makes sense for most usages since the bow is generally more likely to ship water than the stern (in most cases).

I would expect the Boundary Waters to be a bit harder tracking. It has straight sides as opposed to the mild midships tumblehome of the Spirit II. My guess is it would feel slightly more stable than the Spirit II with its greater volume.

The Minnesota II has been a very popular flat water tripping boat in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. It is definitely faster than the Spirit II and I’m sure it would be faster than the Boundary Waters as well. It is narrower than either and has considerably more arch in the hull cross section. It is also not as deep. It would probably seem a bit more tender to most folks than the other two but has good secondary stability. Some find the bow paddling station a bit cramped.

note seating differences
Spirit (composite) uses bucket seats with a very helpful sliding bow seat to adjust trim depending on paddler or conditions. On the other hand, you can’t paddle backwards from the bow to use as a solo. BW uses fixed hung web seats with no trim adjustment, but easier to use as a solo?

Tom, there are probably few Wenonah
canoes where the bow seat is far enough back to use for solo paddling. And I believe that is an asymmetrical canoe anyway, so sitting on the bow seat will leave the narrower part of the hull sunk down even deeper.

Having a similar canoe (Bluewater Chippewa), I would say that for solo paddling, one needs to be in the stern, but right up with thighs under the center thwart. That will mean each stroke will start along the bow which (obviously) is narrower than the midsection. That makes for less need for J stroke and more control over the bow.

Now, if we were talking about a Prospector, there would be more options with less penalty.

Spirit II vs Boundary Waters
Neither of these canoes paddles well backwards due to their assymetry, so the buckets seats of the composite Spirit II is not a drawback. Neither is a good solo since both are wide in the middle. I have soloed the Spirit for many miles from a drop-in seat and it can be done, but its nothing like paddling a true solo. The Boundary Waters has an edge in stability and cargo capacity since it is wider over more of its length and the bottom is flatter. The shearline is lower and flatter, rising just at the ends. I didn’t like it as well in open water, the Spirit is faster, and seems to handle waves better. The differences are slight. Either one will handle what you intend to do. If stability is #1, then the Boundary Water has the edge. If speed is #1 then the Spirit is the choice.

Not being able to paddle two canoes for comparison is normally bad; but these are so close you should be happy with either.

I have had a Spirit on my rack for 30 years and paddle every new Wenonah tandem for comparison. I also have a 17’ Jensen for speed work, but nothing has come along thatI would trade the Spirit for.


Do I flip a coin?
Thanks for the input… I do not intend to solo paddle the canoe so I am not to concerned with that aspect.

Yes Bill, I agree they seem to be very similar. The Spirit II probably is the better option for speed, where the Boundary Water leans towards stability. I just can’t seem to make my mind up…

… and right now it’s snowing outside, and all I want to do is paddle… :frowning:

Sliding seat
One other item that might swing the choice is a sliding bow seat. If the Boundary Water is not available with the sliding bow seat; take the Spirit.

The sliding bow seat is a blessing for short or light paddlers. In addition to moving them nearer the bow for better trim when the stern paddler is heavier; moving a short paddler closer to the bow moves them to where the canoe is narrower. Now the gunwales are closer to their shoulders and the paddle is held closer to their body and the shaft is more vertical. It promotes a better stroke and is less tiring. A fixed bow seat in a canoe that widens quickly from the bow makes the reach to the water tough for a short paddler and induces a sweep stroke instead of a straight ahead motion. It also forces the paddler to hold the paddle away from the body, which is tiring for the paddler.


… But in contrast to that,…
… some paddlers prefer to kneel as much as possible, in which case the standard seat would be a lot better (and of course it can be adjusted to fit, just not adjusted “on the go” for varying conditions). I don’t recall any comment by the OP about sitting versus kneeling. For sitting paddlers, the adjustable seat sounds like the optimal setup, and I’ve never heard anything but good things about the Spirit II as a general-purpose boat.

Spirit II
I vote Spirit II. That said, they are very similar.

Also, as to the MinII being for big lakes, I think I’d rather be in a Spirit if the waves really kicked up.

Why paddle them backwards?
It isn’t hard to put in a kneeling thwart or a pedestal in the proper place, close behind the yoke or center thwart.

Most of the more sophisticated canoe designs are asymmetrical. Yet this issue of needing a symmetrical hull so you can sit and paddle backwards on the front seat keeps coming up. Why? It’s a bad way to go solo paddling. Why make like a swedeform hull is a problem when the real problem is only a bad decision about seating?

Actually, sitting backwards on the front seat, symmetrical and asymmetrical hulls will both show mediocre paddling characteristics. And, because they are wide and not inclined to heel, both the Spirit II and the Boundary will be unrewarding solo craft.

I may be one of very few people on this board to have paddled a markedly asymmetrical hull in both swedeform and fishform orientation, using a foam triple saddle that allowed proper seating near the center of the boat. The canoe was the Mad River Synergy, a 15’ ww tandem. I found that the one orientation was about as good as the other, though quite different. With proper seating, the Spirit II will not show nearly as much difference between forward and backward paddling.

point taken re solo paddling!

– Last Updated: Mar-11-13 1:52 PM EST –

Comments above from g2d, plaidpaddler, guideboatguy, and others about use of these tandem canoes for solo paddling are well taken. I should have focussed instead on convenience and applications of the two seating options for tandem paddling. The very useful ability to adjust fore-aft position of the bow paddler while underway has already been mentioned, and I would concur. We have similar seating in our 16'6" Sundowner, and find it very helpful to adjust boat trim in response to wind, waves, and current, as well as the relative weights of different bow/stern paddlers. I think this will have a bigger impact on the OP's paddling speed and comfort for the applications described than will the relatively small differences of the two hull designs.