Wenonah Argosy vs Wilderness

Looking for real world comparisons on these two boats.

Looking at an RX Argosy and a tuffweave Wilderness. I know, not exactly apples to apples, but the different layups brings the weights under 45# which is where I set my limit for a solo boat.

Main use will be multi night river tripping, secondary use some ADK trips, and possibly a BWCAW trip.

I know the Argosy would be better for the river and the wilderness for the lakes, but which one will do what it wasn’t designed for better?

The wilderness does have some rocker, and is deeper than the Argosy. And by simple math the Argosy has a higher length to width ratio. Probably would be offset by the better layup of the wilderness.

Thanks for any feedback.

The math is not so simple
Wenonah does not specify waterline lengths. The Argosy is a sub 14 foot boat. Those stem layouts are extreme. They do not count for hull speed.

Its a small boat. It does OK on week long trips if you pack light.

Now for your rivers…if there much close navigating to be done the Wilderness will probably need to be heeled to free the ends. And Wenonahs typical hull shape requires care in that…the max width is low down, so there is loss of secondary when heeled fairly quickly. I don’t think Wenonahs were designed to be heeled.

You haven’t mentioned what the boat will have to float; you, gear, dog? in lbs.

The Wilderness has no perceivable rocker, despite the catalog. It will frustrate on rivers.

Other hulls in the river/lake category include Colden’s DragonFly Nomad and WildFire, Hemlock’s SRT, Merrimack’s Baboosic and Swift’s Kee 15 and Osprey.

Argosy experience
I just returned from a 4/day river paddle trip in my Argosy. Actually I made four daytrips and camped shuttled back to retrieve the boat and gear each day. I did numerous class II and a couple III rapids. I was lightly packed and when the Argosy is not loaded, it can handle class II and occasional III because the stems are barely in the water and therefore it maneuvers very good. I ran the Green, Tuck, and Little Tennessee in NC and the Tyger in SC. I know that with over 250lbs the boat is far less manueverable but tracks well with the stems well submerged. In other words I would NOT make a multi-day gear-loaded river voyage where class II+ or higher rapids are expected to be run. I do LOVE this canoe though for what it does for me. Great for daytrip river/rapid running OR multiday easy river or lake travel.

I weigh in at 162# and around another 40-45# for gear.

I am familiar with the SRT. No doubt that would be my first choice, as I have done many river miles and a few boundary waters miles in mine when I had one. But that boat is gone and I’m not in a position to spend $3k on a boat. Hoping to keep the cost under $1300. Even a used SRT would be more than that.

Also I am looking for something more durable as it seems as careful as I try to be I always seem to end up with minor damage that I cringe over. The Tuffweave sounds like a tougher option? But I’ve never owned one so that may be a market ploy like the listed rocker on the wilderness?

It sounds like the Argosy is a worthy tool for river travel, what would it be like in the Boundary waters?

Thanks, Mike

More on heeling problems
I mentioned this on another thread recently. Many canoes don’t need to be “heeled to the rail” to free the stems, because they stems lift “enough” with just moderate leaning of the boat. Unlike these OTHER boats, Wenonahs have their maximum width concentrated within a very small portion of the overall length, and heeling them only buries the midsection, and of course when that happens, the stems don’t lift, or at least they don’t lift enough. Don’t expect either of these boats to do as most other canoes do, and become much more maneuverable when leaned a moderate amount. They won’t.

Rocker is not a market ploy

– Last Updated: Oct-21-12 10:37 PM EST –

as there is no standardized measurement of rocker. The best one can do is confine comparisons within a single brand to sort boats out as to degree of rocker.

The Argosy will work as a lake boat with 200 lbs of burden. The chief difficulty you will have to solve is finding or building a good detachable yoke that does not move.

Mine slid around so bad on an ADK trip I got mad and drilled holes in the gunwale and installed round head bolts so the yoke I use could not slide.

She is still a wet ride..Archimedes points out that volume of displaced water does matter and larger may be better in the boat is not sunk so deep. Also the low bubble encourages broadside waves to ride up the boat into your lap rather than be deflected downward as in a shouldered tumblehome boat.

Some of my friend use Argosys in Canada for two week long trips. But sort of minimalist.

If it were me I would buy the boat I would use the most often where I normally paddle. Its easy to rent a Wilderness for the BWCA trip.

Weak opinion
Weak because I have only been in each boat for short period of time, never with a load.

I don’t really care for either boat, but I dislike the Wilderness less. The Wilderness can hold more gear and I like bigger solo boats. The Wilderness probably tracks more firmly, but that’s sort of irrelevant to me.

The Argosy, on these canoe boards, seems to be either loved or hated. My impression is that it was made to be more of a river boat, but I wouldn’t trust its hull shape in real rapids – pinched bow and low tumblehome – and it might bog down with a heavier load more so than the Wilderness, and hence might not be all that much more maneuverable on a river.

On many slow or blackwater rivers you don’t really need to maneuver that much by heeled turning. Real WW is a different story, but I wouldn’t consider either hull for that.

I’ve owned a Prism, a Voyager, and a Wilderness and all of them responded well to a moderate lean. They wouldn’t spin on a dime, but they weren’t supposed to. I found it very simple to edge the boats a bit to carve turn, and my experience has been that they can be heeled enough to make them noticeably more maneuverable, although it took a deliberate effort unlike some other boats that heel pretty effortlessly.

Ahh, I re-checked your post and you said don’t expect them to become MUCH more maneuverable. Maybe we agree after all. I think perhaps I’m haggling over definitions.

Reading the reviews this guy thinks the Argosy is a good Freestyle boat and likes to be heeled? I guess everyone has their own opinion.

*** As a dedicated solo canoeist - I have a Wenonah Prism, a Bell Wildfire, a Bell Yellowstone Solo, and a Mad River Independence - I was curious about the Argosy. I recently test-paddled one and to my surprise found a very lively boat - actually, a little too much so for my liking. Initial stability is moderate to low, much like the Yellowstone Solo; but unlike the YS, secondary stability is excellent, even with the Prism-type tumblehome. And its responsiveness to paddler input is extremely high. I paddled the Tuf-Weave layup and it seemed plenty rigid, with none of the oil-canning another reviewer mentioned.

I quickly learned that it must be leaned to track with any degree of ease, and like my other solo boats, the more it’s leaned the easier it is to track. Using both Canadian strokes (in-water recovery) and a combination of C-, J- and pitch strokes, I managed to overcome the excessive bow rocker (2-1/4").

After finally getting it to go straight, I did some freestyle moves like box strokes, gimbles, posts, axles, and sideslips, as well as paddling backwards. Aside from being overly responsive to weight shifts, it seemed very agile, almost “squirrely.” I also found that its fairly tall ends make it quite sensitive to wind.

What bothered me about the Argosy is its stability. It goes from extremely tippy to extremely stable with a very noticeable lack of transition between the two. It was easy to find the limit of secondary stability because the boat fairly bounces back, but there is no “sweet spot” as in the Wildfire and Independence. Those two boats will hold a lean angle precisely as asked; the Argosy is very unstable until leaned to nearly its limit. This makes for an unpredictable boat that is ill-suited to being paddled flat and is rather uncooperative with only a moderate angle of heel.

Wenonah’s write-up is accurate, except I can’t recommend the Argosy for rivers wider than about 30 feet or where wind is likely to be an issue. It reminded me most of a Bell Wildfire but with less initial stability. In my view, Wenonah should market the Argosy as a freestyle solo because it’s unsuited to any other purpose.***

Written by a FreeStyler I have never met

– Last Updated: Oct-22-12 9:39 PM EST –

at any of our four symposia a year. And I have been teaching at them for a long time. Granted I did not attend this years new Wisconsin event. However I can tell you I have never seen a student bring an Argosy in fifteen years.(perhaps I should be more accurate in that the Argosy has not been present that long. I think seven years is more accurate)

Lets break it down:

Flare in a hull has superb secondary stability. But it makes for a too wide paddling station. So shouldered tumblehome is what FS ers want in a boat that is heeled. Its a bit of a compromise as a vertical paddle plant is not as easy as with a boat with a narrower gunwale station (like most Wenonahs), but FS judges have decreed the boat be held at the rail and flare or shouldered tumblehome is best. Wenonah with its racing background addresses the vertical paddle plant more. Its easier to do that with the wide part of the hull low. Wenonahs were never intended to be heeled. You can if you are very cognizant and careful and balanced but that isn't their design intent.

" I quickly learned that it must be leaned to track with any degree of ease" tells me lots. This person has never learned to paddle the boat straight. Ergo this person has read a book but jumped a few chapters. And you do not "lean" a boat. You heel it.

"Using both Canadian strokes (in-water recovery) and a combination of C-, J- and pitch strokes, I managed to overcome the excessive bow rocker (2-1/4" A Canadian Stroke does not have an inwater recovery. The Indian does. Bow rocker has NOTHING to do with tracking. That is a function of paddler skill and STERN rocker.

Now after dissecting my sushi with delight, the Argosy does go through abrupt transitions. Its wobbly when empty and you are sitting high. So fix the seat. Lower it. Heel it a little and it firms up. Not much now. Heel it more and you will see a quick reduction in stability long before you get to the rail.

And the reviewer has the Yellowstone Solo and the Argosy all mixed up." but unlike the YS, secondary stability is excellent"

Golly we have all sorts of new to FS paddlers heel their YS(Yellowstone solos are common) close to the rail without anyone having to fish them out.

Thanks for pointing out that review!

I remember my friend paddling his Argosy down 10 mile long 1 mile wide Lake Kondiaronk. Its wider than 30 feet. And my hubby leaving me and the dog with a Swift Raven (bigger than Argo and MUCH heavier) while he paddled back to the car to go to work..in an Argosy ..with a mile open water across Lower Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks.

From a non-kneeler…
Original post didn’t say what kind of rivers. In any river that’s class 1 or which has only occasional class 2, I would always opt for the boat that tracks better. I can make a decent tracking canoe maneuver well a lot easier than making a highly maneuverable boat track well. On the Ozark streams I usually paddle, I’d opt for the Wilderness strongly over the Argosy, and it would seem to me to be the better boat for lake paddling, and hold more gear easier.

I know kneeling and leaning and heeling is cool and all that, but unless you’re competition paddling or just want to play around with your boat, I don’t see a lot of advantages in doing so, other than kneeling in heavier whitewater to put your center of gravity lower. Seems to me that you’re not going to be doing a lot of stuff that requires leaning and heeling if you’re on a multi-day river trip with a loaded boat.

I own a Vagabond, along with a couple of old Oscoda Codas. I can make any of those boats do anything I want it to in rivers up to Class 2…mostly without heeling and leaning.

Tracking Verse Yaw
Course keeping. tracking is often misunderstood. The best computed indication of course keeping in block co-efficient; the block composed of a hull’s waterline length, it’s waterline width and draft, all in the same units. The less of that block the hull fills, the better it will track. To simplify we can just the length to width ratio since draft is pretty similar; USCA racers have a L/W ratio of 7. Most solo canoes have numbers between 6 and 7 so can be expected to track pretty well.

The issue in solo course keeping is paddler induced yaw. To 1. Not paddle with a vertical shaft, 2. Stroke along the curved rail rather than parallel to the keel line, 3. Carry the blades to or behind the body, results in misdirection. Sweeping forces turn the hull offside, away from the paddleblade, by pulling the stern towards the blade.

To reduce that Yaw designers often minimize stern rocker, but it isn’t to make the hull track better, it’s to reduce the effects of poor paddle technique. Note the profusion of newer canoe designs with differential rocker.

Bow rocker is inconsequential; we need do something very different to pull or push the bow off course. Bow rocker enhances turning and increases forward speed.

Hence, the best step towards better tracking is likely to be a paddling lesson.

But, back to OP’s boat search. Armed with burden data, I’d try to locate a good used composite Argosy, Nomad, Osprey or YellowStone Solo. Rubber performs too poorly to bother with, Baboosic, DragonFly and WildFire have too much stern rocker for this first step. Kee 16, Nomad and SRT are too rare to be available used and withing price constraints. Happy hunting!

I have paddled an Argosy some. Not my favorite boat, but it would probably suit your purposes pretty well. I haven’t paddled a Wilderness at all, but I’m pretty certain I would go with the Argosy if it came down to a choice between those two.

I do agree with those who feel that the review of the Argosy you posted is pretty much BS and should be disregarded.

Wenonah’s proprietary Tuff-Weave layup is fiberglass and polyester cloth. It is quite tough but not as light as their aramid boats. Most people who have owned Wenonah Tuff-Weave boats have been quite satisfied with them.

I don’t share Charlie’s aversion to Royalex but I agree that for tripping in the BWCWA or ADKs a composite boat would be preferable for the weight savings. I don’t think that the weight of a Royalex Yellowstone solo (or Wildfire) would be that onerous and I would certainly consider one if it came your way.

In addition to the boats mentioned, I would be on the lookout for a Bell Merlin II or Hemlock Peregrine if one appeared. I bought a very nice Merlin II in white gold layup for $900 a few years back.

Interesting conversation, I love it
Intended river - West branch Susquehanna, from Cherry Tree to the Susquehanna.

Freestyle - I’ve attended 4 classes in Ohio and at Paul Smiths years ago. I have a cedar strip Red River Canoe “Élan” that I built purpose for freestyle. When I showed up one year with my SRT that got some looks. You may remember me?

I am a decent paddler but am surely no Harold Deal. But I do ok.

My wife has a Hemlock Kestrel that Is a pure delight to paddle, and I have used it on a few ADK trips and a few down river races empty, but wouldn’t consider it the best option for river tripping.

Kneeling in Argosy MUCH
Conversation came up about kneeling and if you have an aversion to doing so!? If you are thinking of an Argosy AND whitewater,…kneeling is a CERTAINTY! I just assumed it was known but regardless I don’t mind doing so since I have the knee pads and flotation in my Argosy. Furthermore the pronounced tumblehome WILL put you in the drink if you take a wave of any significance broadside. The pleasure of paddling a Wenonah with the tumblehome does have its drawbacks! Interested in knowing who pBlanc was referring to about a BS review of the Argosy! HMMM

SOLD your SRT! - Rivers - Tribalism
Windwalker, you sold your SRT? I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but your review of SRT was a significant influence on my decision to investigate that superb hull. Every year I appreciate its sophistication and versatility more and more, and I now paddle almost nothing else on any kind of water.

Rivers are not rivers are not rivers. That section of the Susquehanna, at least from some pictures and descriptions, seems to me to be what I would call a big, slow river – fairly wide and mostly smooth water or class 1. On such a river I would prefer, if forced, a high capacity lake canoe. Turning is not a high priority move on such rivers. Angled vectoring and accelerating are more important, as are slipping and back-watering.

High capacity, depth and longer length may in part be subjective preferences for me, but I also think they are practical solo hull attributes. You can carry more. You can carry it below the gunwale line. You will have more freeboard in waves.

On a twisty river with 90 degree turns like the NJ Pine Barrens, Adirondack meanders, or fractal Florida spring runs like Juniper or Rock Creak, I would prefer a more turnable hull than a lake boat. Going straight up fast spring run rivers I would prefer a fast and hard tracking lake hull or outrigger.

The magical SRT can of course handle all of these aqueous venues.

For what I understand of your intended use, I’d get a fast-ish lake canoe with sufficient capacity and depth to suit your preferences.

On other tangents, I was not aware that a paddler had to attend a so-called (and perhaps no-longer-called) Freestyle Symposium in order to know how to do basic canoe moves such as post and axle turns. I think Yuleeman did them elegantly 10,000 years ago. Nor was I aware that a WW paddler had to attend a WW Symposium in order to know how to do an eddy turn or ferry.

I think “lean” is a very common noun and verb to describe … uh … leaning a canoe. Many FW and WW authors use terms like “J-lean”, “bell buoy lean” or “lower body lean”. “Heel” is term derived from sailing, but some people (including me) like to use it to describe canoe leans also.

I certainly think the Canadian Stroke uses an in-water return, because it derives its corrective efficacy from the loaded forward slice on the recovery. The paddle need not remain in-water all the way to the bow, however. Once the corrective force is sufficient the paddler has option to finish the stroke as a form of Indian Stroke, Florida Stroke, or the multiply-ambiguous Northwoods stroke. (Disclaimer: I learned nothing in this paragraph from any symposium.)

Finally, I think the presence of bow rocker or not can affect waterline length, and waterline length can affect what is commonly called tracking or turnability. So do other things. The question is whether it matters in the particular hull you may like for other reasons.

Which review?

– Last Updated: Oct-23-12 3:38 PM EST –

I was referring to the Argosy review, submitted by birren and quoted by windwalker earlier in this thread.

What in it do I consider to be BS?

1. The Argosy is unsuited to any purpose other than freestyle

2. The Argosy must be leaned to track with any degree of ease.

3. The Argosy is very unstable until leaned nearly to its limit.

4. The Argosy has better secondary stability than the Bell Yellowstone solo.

I neither love nor hate the Argosy. If it were the only boat I could own I would probably be very fond of it.

The things I don't like about it?

For a 14 1/2' OAL boat with a waterline beam of 27" it has relatively little carrying capacity because the rails are relatively close together in front of the front thwart.

The low, rounded tumblehome leads to an abrupt decrease in secondary stability when leaned beyond the wide part of the "bubble".

For what is marketed as a nimble river boat, the small amount of stern rocker (1") makes the stern rather sticky when executing eddy turns. I am not saying you can't heel and turn it, but there are similar sized boats in which you can do it much easier, and those boats do not give up any straight ahead hull efficiency to the Argosy.

Totally agree
I totally agree with your critique of the review and I still feel if one were to have one solo canoe for all possible purposes,…(some whitewater, some lake, some cruising and some canoe-camping) the Argosy is hard to beat!

The Canadian Stroke does not have a
full inwater recovery. Just a little corner grab with an upward slice.

Of course its not essential for anyone to attend any Canoeing Symposium to learn to do axles and box strokes and posts but to brag that they can do it to the rail in the Wenonah suggests that they have had very extensive balance drill and instruction.

I stand corrected. I did see an Argosy this year at Midwest Freestyle and it fit the paddlers aims perfectly . All they wanted to do was get from A to B efficiently and move the boat a little …not heel to the rail. Everyone has their own goals and it is fine.

I would stick with rubber on some PA rivers. The Argosy can do the Susquehanna but its actually kind of fun on western PA rivers like Mahoning and Crooked Creek.

Incidentally Western PA seems to have a concentration of Curtis Dragon Fly boats.