Wenonah Jensen 18 - What have I done?

For a couple years now I’ve been looking on and off for a used canoe online. I borrowed a Wenonah once to paddle the Au Sable in Michigan and always remembered that trip as a highlight of that time in my life.

5 years ago I moved to Oregon but just started a family. I have a 55 lb dog. My dad recently retired. So I have been looking a little more seriously, wanting to do short fishing trips with my dad in lazier rivers and mountain reservoirs. Maybe 2-3 night camping trips on some of the islands in the Columbia and Willamette rivers. I weight about 200 lbs and my dad weighs about 250. Wife is about a buck twenty five. Baby won’t be coming with us for a couple years.

Yesterday I came across what I believe is a 96 Wenonah Jensen 18 in great shape. I couldn’t help myself and impulse bought it for $500. It’s sitting in my garage now. I’m reading that this is a racing boat with somewhat lower sides. Did I make a mistake for my intended use? If so, I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem reselling it.

These days a Jensen 18’ is more Performance Touring rather than for (most) racing. A good fast canoe but not competitive (paddler for paddler) with the current USCA Comp Cruisers or 3X37 Pro Boats. I had a Jensen 18 for many years and really enjoyed it. That said, for you and your load, I don’t know. I’m thinking that the biggest load that I had in it was around 420 - 440 lb - two paddlers & 80 - 90 lbs camping gear. That’s less that you & your father. Put the dog & gear in & you are probably over 600 lbs. You & your wife would probably be fine. The dog depends on the dog & somewhat on your balance.

I’d say give it a try but 1) keep your weight centered & your hips loose and 2) be prepared. When you & your wife go out she should paddle stern or you should add weight to the bow if she is up there. I have friends who will fill a good size folding water jug to help trim the canoe.

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Thanks for the response. I think the camping would be solely with my wife so more gear and dog with her. With my dad it would most likely be day fishing only.

I agree with Rival51. The Jensen 18 is a sleek and relatively low tandem cruiser that was pretty competitive in the USCA Citizen’s Class years back, but not a full-on marathon race boat. It is a great design and you are correct in that you will have no trouble selling it if it does not work out for you.

As to whether it is a good boat for your needs, try it and see, but be prepared to get wet initially. It is a relatively low canoe with only 12" depth at center, which can be good for fishing, but also means it won’t take a whole lot to dip a gunwale beneath the surface, especially when loaded down. Make sure that you and your tandem partner avoid sudden movements.

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I’ve paddled the J17 and 18 for years. They are the best day cruising boat around. As others have said, the relatively low profile means it can be wet going into big waves (big for a lake, like 12" or so). So you’ll have to watch out for larger conditions more than absolute weight. I think it would be more likely for big waves to overwhelm the bow than for the team weight to sink it too low.

Anyways, low-medium volume aside, the boat is wonderful to paddle. Sleek yet stable. Damn fast in the right hands (I could average over 6mph on a 6 mile race course, coming in at 52-55 minutes on good days).

It has a slightly rounded bottom, so the initial stability is not as high as a flat bottom boat, but I would suggest you just get used to it. Basically all medium to high performance hulls are somewhat rounded because in most cases they’re better. The overall stability is fine. It is not a pro boat by any means (27" waterline on the Pro vs 32" on the J18).

When its warmer go capsize a few times in shallow water and get used to its feel and limits. A nice trick if you want more stability is (assuming you have the adjustible seats on the aluminum tubes) - from the factory the tubes are on top of the mounting tabs. If you remove the screws/rivets and re-attach the tubes to the bottom side of the mounts, you lower the COG by about 1". This doesnt sound like much, but adds noticeable stability, and only costs $10 in screws and takes an hour.

$500 is a great price if its in decent condition or better. Its probably worth more than that in the spring if you decide its not the boat for you

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Fantastic, and thanks for the seat tube remounting trick! This gives me hope that maybe I didn’t make such a big mistake, especially as I’m not looking to do anything too crazy with it. I guess I’ll just have to go out there and get a feel for it myself and capsize a bit, like you said. Thanks again.

Enjoy your new canoe. My memory on the J18 is that it was quite stable - at least I don’t remember ever any concerns about stability. I did have a couple of OBEs from it. Once (with no whitewater experience yet) on an unplanned eddy line crossing on the Pine in high water and once in downtown Lansing the one time I raced it. My partner for the day wasn’t a canoeist by had been a bicycle racer. I told him that we would want to lean the boat to help it turn not thinking about what that would mean to a bike racer. Out to practice, went to turn just north of the Michigan Ave. bridge & yep, it was a quick lean to a quick swim. Oh well, it was a hot morning.

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