Long time lurker, first time poster… thank you to all who contribute!
Now, I’m at a bit of a crossroad in life as it pertains to paddling. My only boat at this juncture is a ‘hybrid’ WS Commander 120. I bought it as a solo fishing platform, though it served as a great boat to introduce my oldest son to the water. Now it’s time to bring my middle son along as well - and the boat it just not up for this task.
Both boys are old enough to come along safely, but not quite ready to paddle with any effectiveness just yet… they’re still just eager little passengers. The oldest weighs around 40lbs and the younger weighs just a little less… I weigh 185. We live on a very calm and shallow river with easy access to small inland lakes and shallow river delta backwater flats.
I’m looking for a boat to grow with us for a bit, until we go with a two boat family setup (we’re a family of five, but my wife and the 1yo wont be joining us for a while) or get the kids their own yaks, or something of the like. (As I’d be selling the Commander, it’s also likely that I’d use the boat solo from time to time)
So far, I’m most intrigued by the Wenonah Solo Plus, as I’m afraid that a dedicated solo boat might not be useful for very long and a dedicated family boat might not be fun until I can get some help up front. Anybody have experience with this boat?
Any others to consider? Open to Kayak options, too.
In my thinking:
Stability is key, as the kids are… well, kids. Maneuverability is also important, as I’m steering it solo. Speed would be nice, but I’m not in a race - I’m spending time with my boys.
Thoughts on the right boat for the stated mission? Open to suggestions.
In the Wenonah line
I think the Aurora might suit your needs better. A bit wider for more stability for the kids and fishing. But not three seats. For that you’d need to go to the Spirit II which is close to the Aurora on paper, but longer and maybe too big for your needs.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
BUT I BOUGHT ONE SEVERAL WEEKS AGO FROM Oak Orchard…
I was headed down the Buffalo but the KKK out of Branson attacked our party threatening us with filling the canyon with gasoline fumes and sonic booms all night so we retreated to Oklahoma.
I have a Rendezvous and a Solo+…have you viewed the Rendezvous UTUBE Bridge video…max !
A Solo is designed same with heavy chine bulges for turning.
I’m 6’4"/170. That is too tall for the Rendezvous so the R is somewhat unstable. No I am not balanced enough for stable no hands bicycling.
I expect similar action from the Solo with chines giving a straight bottom hull excellent grade 2+ river maneuverability…pool and drop. That is jiggling the hull, shifting weight, changes course.
This run of Wenonah design was drawn by a legless midget.
Think fat hulls. You’ll know one when you see one. FAT !
Maybe I’ll write a review if I survive my bag cage installation.
Since the kids will be putting on some size over the next few years, it might be worth considering a tandem, say something in the 16’ range, with a center seat or a kneeling thwart added. That’s the setup we used when our kids were younger and it worked great.
I got one to take out
my grand kids. One at a time, though. It’s a nice hull to paddle, but stability is a bit tender. I’ve taken one good swim with my older grandson. Speed and maneuverability are very good. Tracking in a crosswind on open water, not so much, but I’m a kayaker and my skills in a canoe need work.
Solo + is ideal for you
your boys are small and can occupy the ends while you do most of the work from the middle. when they are a tad bigger they will be able to use it as a tandem with less restrictions than two adult paddlers in the same hull. The Aurora and Spirit II are a bit too much for you to control from the middle with the ends weighted with even two small boys. And both are a bit to wide in the middle for easy solo work. Yes they can be soloed; I’ve done the Spirit many times, but its not easy. In order of suitability for your purpose I would rate the Wenonah offerings in the following order. Solo+,Escapade,Adirondack, 17’Jensen,16’6"Echo/Sundowner,17’Sundowner. Some of these are not current production, but there are lots around used.And the center yoke or thwart can be replaced with a center seat in any of them.
Thank you all for the insight!!!
As an always kneeling, ww paddler,
I found it plenty stable, but too hard-tracking for my taste. For your purposes, however, I think it might be very good. The main issue may be where to locate the seats and how to distribute the two boys. I recommend that, in the beginning, you kneel for stability and control while the kids learn what is and is not allowable. You might wedge a foam pedestal under a thwart toward the center for kneeling and to add flotation. Its position could be adjusted fore or aft for trim.
Many more substantial solos…
Many more substantial solos would suit your purposes.
Almost all will work better than the much-advocated tandems… and for two reasons:
- Your own paddling station in the centre will be more effective… as the boat is designed for an adult in the middle!
- The children’s paddling stations towards the stems wil be better… as they ain’t the big-adult sized stations found on almost all tandems.
Adult tandems make no sense with kids: just a good way to put them off.
#1)Center seat is factory mounted for a solo paddler.
#2)Bow and Stern seats are narrow stations suited to small paddlers.
It is a compromise hull best used by a big solo paddler or two light tandem paddlers. Not a full hull like most short 15’ tandems that are too wide for all but extremely lanky solo paddlers; and too wide at the tandem stations for small paddlers.
A couple close hulls for this purpose would be the Mad River Malecite and the 16’ Old Town Penobscot with the center pulled in a bit when mounting a center seat.
I’d look for a 16’ Prospector canoe. Many mfrs. have a version of of the Prospector.
The Prospector is a highly versatile boat that paddles nicely solo. It’s stable and you can load it up with the kids and/or camping equipment.
Don’t do it!
If we want to haul kids around as baggage, putting them in a Prospector will work - the boat doesn’t care that they’re living, breathing baggage.
The only paddle stations in a Prospector which are narrow enough and well enough positioned to give a kid meaningful control are right up by the prow and behind the back seat.
Sadly, in a Prospector, the kid kneeling on the floor at the prow will not be able to reach over the high gunwale… and the kid perched high enough to get the gunwales out of the way will have **** connectivity with the boat and will be perched too high off the water to have any good connectivity with that, either.
Inspiring the next generation involves helping them discover the joy of using their bodies to connect with the water through boat and blade. That means getting them in a suitably sized craft.
This isn’t ideal as the adult would be better off 12" further back… but it shows a way better arrangement than is possible in ANY Prospector:
Here’s dearest daughter showing how it can work:
With two youngsters, get a bigger solo and stick one behind you: they control the stems (and direction) and you provide the power in the middle.
I don't think kids will have problems in a Prospector. The hull is so forgiving of weight and trim variations that they won't be restricted in their movements or position.
The real problem comes when you want to go solo. An unloaded Prospector can be more than a handful for a solo paddler when a breeze kicks up.
I haven't ever paddled a Solo Plus, but I suspect that it won't take long before your kids grow you out of it. You might buy a little more time with a Malecite, or even a Penobscot, and you're more likely to find one of those on the used market.
As a grandfather with 4 young granddaughters, I found myself in a similar position. I chose an Old Town Penobscot 16 primarily because of its symmetrical hull. With two or three granddaughters aboard I paddle with the stern at the front–this places a paddling granddaughter near the end of the canoe at a narrow paddling station. I occupy the bow seat, now in the stern, and with its more forward placement in the canoe it creates proper trim. I don’t paddle the Penobscot solo, although I have tried it on quiet ponds and it seems to work just fine.
The only downside that I have found to the Penobscot for this purpose is that its weight causes me some difficulty to load by myself on a higher SUV. One remedy has been to carry along a two-step ladder to give me more elevation as I boost it onto the roof rack. Someday the granddaughters will be able to help load as well as paddle–hopefully they’ll maintain their interest in paddling.
For a family canoe, I would also think about a tandem canoe in the 17 foot range, with a kneeling thwart or an extra seat in the center, as the boys are small now but they won't be getting any smaller ;-) Extra capacity is also helpful for camping gear if you might do some overnight/weekend trips later...
If you might be dragging the boat across rocks, logs or sand at times, don't overlook a plastic boat like an Old Town Penobscot - they are bulletproof.
Intrigue is why I still have an Escapade
It has been said that the Escapade is more suited when tandem use is the main, and the Solo + when solo is the main.
I switched out the bucket seats for curved cherry cane seats to enhance the intrigue.