Wenonah Jensen 17 or 18?

I am looking for a lightweight tandem canoe that I can take on short camping trips, as well as do some low-level canoe races with. Since I frequently paddle alone, I want a canoe that I can paddle solo. Am looking at the Wenonah Jensen 17’ and 18’. Any opinions on the relative differences in paddling solo between the two?

soloing a tandem
I haven’t paddled either Jensen, so I can’t directly answer. But I used to paddle a Mad River Malecite (16’6" tandem with a center seat) as a solo, so I have some input that might help, depending on how much you know already.

When you are paddling from the center, with the boat heeled over to the side, a fair amount of the ends are free of the water, and they act like a sail. The Malecite was fun on calm lakes, but when the wind came up, she was hard to control. I’d guess the Jensen wouldn’t have quite as much trouble because it has a straighter keel line, so the ends wouldn’t rise as much.

You didn’t say how experienced you are with soloing in a tandem. Knowing the little I know, I recommend getting a shorter boat that is more tailored to being paddled solo, and accept that it will be a bit overloaded when paddled tandem. Some names I recommend: Old Town Penobscot 16, Mad River Malecite, Placid Boatworks StarFire. The first two are tandems that paddle nicely as solos in calm conditions. The last is a large solo that is big enough to be a light-duty tandem. There are other crossover boats that I can’t think of offhand.

– Mark

How big are you?
I set up a center seat in my Jensen 18 and went out… It was a lot of fun as long as the wind stayed calm. Of course taking out an 18 1/2 foot racing solo is also fun as long as the wind stays calm…

If you are going to race get the 18 footer and be resigned to avoiding windy days when you are soloing.

Jensen 18 or 17 for solo?
I had a Wenonah Jensen 18 for many years, and it is still my favorite cruiser,… fast and seaworthy. It has no equal in my book when paddled tandem, and even solo…provided you paddle from the center in a kneeling position, you can turn it ok if you paddle Bill Mason (Canadian) style. But it isn’t gonna win any “water ballet” competitions. I sold it (to my son!) only because I was mostly padding solo. Got a Malecite with three seats which works fine for me PLUS a kevlar Wenonah Advantage, which has all the speed I need to keep up with tandems.

I haven’t paddled one, but Wenonah used to say that the similar Jensen 17 is a much better bet for tandem/solo use, and they even fitted some with three seats for this purpose. Cutting a foot from the length is bound to make it more agile I think. Why dont you contact Wenonah and get their current opinion on this?


17’ Jensen…
I had a 17’ Jensen that was an '86 model. I loved it. My boys grew up, so I sold it and paddle solo canoes. I added a center seat and it was ok solo, but the wind would blow it around. Some “citizen races” limit canoes to 17 feet, so make sure the races you enter allow longer boats if you buy the 18 footer. Here are some photos:


Pat 2

18 jensen too long for soloeing
I guess you can solo anything. But an 18ft boat with no rocker makes it harder. Between the two I’d pick the 17 Jensen. But for a good all-around solo boat with decent speed mixed with reasonable manueverability I’d prefer a 16ft penobscot. Alot easier to handle.

17’ Jensen is the better solo
but the 18’ is the faster of the two and better suited to tripping.

I have a lot of time in the 17 Jensen, both camping and racing. In the 17’class it is the one to beat for C-2 recreational class. And with anything but novice paddlers it works well for weekend canoe trips. It is not very deep and if the weather is bad and the waves high, it is not the one i take from my rack. Wenonah makes the Spirit for that job.

If you want to paddle solo the 17’ is better, the extra length of the 18’ does not translate into better speed as a solo, just harder to handle in wind and currrent.

Check your local canoe race classes to see where you fall with each of the canoes, the 18 Jensen rarely falls into the recreational class and if it puts you into a stock or cruiser class the competition is much harder.

Some C-2 rec classes have a minimum weight that is often set just above the weight of the Kevlar Jensens to put them into Stock or Cruiser class regardless of length. My own 17 Jensen is a PVC core tuffweave model just to make the 55# minimum in the local races here.

Another Wenonah to consider is the 16’6" Escapade. It is easier to solo than the Jensens and is capable as a weekend tripper. If your solo time will be more than your race time, I recommend you try it. If your race time will be more than your solo time, go with the 17 Jensen. And if your solo time is just messing around on a pond, don’t rule out the 18’Jensen, it is the race boat of choice.

Since money is no object, buy both Jensens, a Minnesota II for tripping and a Voyager for solo work.



– Last Updated: Aug-21-06 9:49 PM EST –

to turn it (solo) when in a wind....??? You need to practice this a bit now & then....(ala your WW roll...). I have to admit, it's been almost a decade since I soloed the J17.
I think you want to move up & paddle bow_heavy..and lean it.