Wenonah Jensen 18

Looking at tandem models for BWCAW day trips and overnight trips. I have been encouraged to look into the Jensen 18. I am light (160) as is my wife (115); my three kids are all skinny. We pack light to average weight.

I own a Souris River Quetico 16 that my wife and I have been using, but need to expand the fleet to accomodate the kids now.

I was going to just add a Quetico 17 and be done with it (I like the Q16), but figured I should at least explore some other options first. I like the thought of my wife being in a faster model, since I am a signficantly stronger paddler, but don’t want to put her in a model that will make her uncomfortable (my concern with Jensen 18). My wife and kids are intermediates.

I plan on paddling the Q16 with my 7-year-old, while my wife will paddle the new model with my 10- and 3-year-olds. I am not so interested in the larger 3-person models (have two solo models, too, that I plan to paddle as the kids get too large to fit in two tandems).

Three questions:

  1. Is there enough freeboard to feel comfortable on large lakes in medium to large waves?

  2. How do you rate initial and secondary stability?

  3. Is the speed advantage great enough to justify trade-offs in freeboard and stability (every canoe is about trade-offs)?

    I will have a chance to demo once the ice is out, but a demo only tells you so much; will appreciate others’ real-world experiences.


Or the Odyssey?
though We-no-nah won’t show it in a catalog, you can still get one made. Deeper w/more bow flair than a Min II or Jensen. Almost as fast as MinII but w/more carring capacity and will handle rougher H2o better. Been using one for years and wouldn’t give it up.

Love My Jensen 18
I took the scouts up to the Aderondacks, and ended up putting three scouts in a Penobscot, with all their packs and one scout in my Jensen 18. I wieghed 180, Alex the life scout wieghed 150 and we had 4 packs in the Jensen. We ran circles around the other canoes Even though they had very competent paddlers in the other boats. If the wind kicked up the water we were going to run for shore and wait it out. In tough, big water I would prefer either a Sundowner18 or a Minn2. Since they are not actively being produced you might consider the sundowner 18. I have had it out in really snotty water and never felt like I was in any danger.

Jensen 18
I think the Jensen 18 would be near ideal for the use you are describing. This particular hull has been used extensively and with great success in BWCA for decades.

For two men with a lot of gear perhaps it is true that a bigger. longer, deeper hull would be more appropriate. But with a 115 lb woman in the stern, and a 10 year old boy in the bow, as long as you don’t have a ton of gear, the 18’ Jensen will be just fine. Even with two adults and moderate gear it would be OK.

I have paddled the 18 Jensen extensively in very windy open water with big wind-driven waves. It was very seaworthy. I have also paddled that hull in swells so big that you would lose sight of the other canoe just 30 feet away, and with quartering winds at that. Did not ship any water, did not tend to bury the nose too much, and it held course with not much effort.

Keep in mind also that a smallish woman and a boy will have an easier time propelling and holding course in this boat than in a bigger, higher vollume boat. One last thought - Buy the lightest weight boat you can afford.

A deeper, stronger Jensen 18
For light-medium tripping (

A slightly deeper, stronger Jensen 18
For light-medium tripping (

Try something smaller
Long boats are always faster, big boats always more seaworthy, all things being the same, which they aren’t. Big, long, boats are also blessed with increased skin which causes increased drag.

For a small woman and a sub teen, try something shorter that has less drag.

Swifts’s Mattawa, Kipiwa and Algonquian can all be had with a stunning, lightweigth, foam and braided fabric rail system in mid 30 lb range.

Mad River Malecite and Bell’s NorthStar are also short class stars. The Bell, with significant tumblehome fits smaller people better than slab sided hulls. Wenonajh’s Jensen 17 was developed for just your situation.

Don’t listen to shorter boat for shorter person arguement. There are all kinds of rules governing canoe racing dictating hull length and widths because boat builders figured out longer is faster. A boat handles better if it is trimmed properly, so if you’re wife is going to paddle it, spend the extra money and get the stern sliding seat. I prefer the Jenson 18 over the Minn 2 anyday as it is fast. It’s one of the few “rec canoes” that the hull will pop in shallow water fairly easily.

But you are correct, loaded in rougher water, it will be a wetter ride than your Souris River. The Bell Northwind (17’6") or Northwoods (18’6") have more flair in the cheek of the boat creating a lifting affect in rough water. They are pretty dry boats for having relatively low freeboard. Also the tumblehome aids those with shorter reach, (wife/kids). Bells are slower than Wenonah, but I would say just as fast or faster than Souris River boats.

Jensen 18
You can’t go wrong with the Jensen 18. It will handle more weight then most people think. It is a fast canoe that handles very well in most all conditions.

As much as i love the 18’Jensen and the light weight of the described ‘crew’ is perfect for using this hull as a tripper, the added depth of the Escape gives it an edge in this situation. Since it is a scaled down Minnesota II it does not give away much to the Jensen. It slots in between the 17’Jensen and the 18’ on the speed scale. I have tripped with my 17’Jensen and have done some heavy water in it. I much prefer my old Spirit in the big water with a load. The Escape has the depth that the Jensen’s lack. The bow is narrow and will accomodate the smaller paddler. The hull is not so long as to be too much canoe for a light crew.

The tumblehome on the Bell tandems mentioned is not that big an advantage for the smaller paddlers since the hull is still straight sided at the paddling stations. the Yost bubble is mostly in the midsection.

Getting a stern sliding seat is a good recommendation, your mentioned paddlers give you some combinations that have significant weight differences. Tripping you can shift your packs to help the trim, but when you paddle empty the sliders will be really handy.


Other Jensen 18’s
I think the Wenonah Jensen 18 is a fine, fast cruiser and it handles and feels a lot like a MN 2 to me. I think it has excellent stability. And I think your concept of a fast Jensen 18 for 2 weaker paddlers is a good one. But I have to wonder that the 17" bow and 12.5" center probably is going to be a concern on bigger waters in waves. Jensen 18’s with a higher shear line do exist. My favorite tripper is a Jensen Huron 18 made by Souris River until 1999. This boat has a 19" bow and 13" center. It is a bit more tender than the Wenonah Jensen 18 because the hull on the SRJH is more rounded. But I suspect you could still order this boat. If you’er close to Duluth, email me sometime if interested in trying this one out. And clipper has a Jensen 18 also with 19" bow and 13" center, but I’ve never paddled one.

My opinion about the Jensen 18’
Although I like the 18’ Jensen very much, because this possibly is the easiest canoe to paddle fast, in my experience, I found the 18’ Jensen not practical for tripping, and prefer my Swift Kipawa for that purpose. Much dryer, less weatherhelm and so much easier to paddle in difficult situations, that I almost started to think I finally was becoming a better paddler :slight_smile:

Jensen whitewater X
If you were to special order a boat from wenonah consider the Jensen whitewater X at 18.5’. Deeper hull, dimensions close to a Jensen 18’. This seems to be a popular boat in some dwonriver races.