Wenonah Sundowner vs Aurora

Have any of you ever paddled the 16’ Aurora or the 17’ Sundowner? I am hoping to purchase a canoe this winter to be ready to get on the water in early spring. I want to stick with a Wenonah and have pretty much narrowed my selection down to these two canoes. (in Royalex) We will primarily be canoing on flatwater or easy moving rivers (class I & II). Day trips only. I’m sure either one will be a BIG improvement over the 17’ aluminum TANK we just sold!!! Thanks in advance for any thoughts…Kim

I had an Aurora for a couple of years. It is a good general purpose canoe, with better paddling characteristics than most 16 footers. I’m not familiar at all with sundowner really, but think it is more of a lake cruiser. The Aurora will probably do rivers better (easier turning more bouyancy in the ends and greater depth) but still be fine on lakes and the Sundowner will pobably be faster and better tracking on lakes. Maybe someone who has paddled both will respond.

how about the Spirit II?
I have not paddled the 17 Sundowner, but I have paddled the Aurora. After paddling the Royalex Aurora and Spirit II back-to-back, I bought the Spirit II. It does everything the Aurora does, at same $, with only a small increase in weight, and has better speed and more volume. If you are sure you don’t need the volume, the Aurora is a fine canoe. If you want more speed, either the Sundowner or Spirit would be the ticket.

the Aurora is a smaller version of the Spirit II, a more curvy, rockered boat than the Sundowner series.

Sundowner is faster and straighter tracking, better suited to lakes and calm water. Aurora would be more fun in current and rougher conditions.


Thanks for the input…
…now all I need to do is make up my mind. I wish I had the opportunity to paddle them back to back. That would make it a lot easier!!!

planning a trip
to Portland, Oregon in the near future?? :wink:

testing boats, A vs B, in the environment that you plan on using them is HIGHLY recommended.


Aurora & Sundowner
Those are two very different boats! I have found the Sundowner to be more of a day cruiser, go fast and straight on flatwater (lake). I find it kind of “twitchy”. The Aurora is more general purpose.

Personally, I don’t care for either. I really thought I’d like the Aurora until I paddled it. I know it is touted as a 16’ Spirit II, but I don’t think so. I found the Aurora to be almost too boyant. For me, It bobbed and rolled.

For a 16’ wenonah canoe I like the Adirondack much, much better. For a 17’ I like the Spirit II. And although you didn’t ask, I like the 15’ Heron, which is suppose to be the 15’ version of the Spirit II.

the freeboard on the Adirondack concerns me. For an unloaded spin in calm water it’s OK but it doesn’t take much to get this boat loaded, especially in a bit of chop.



I Like the Adirondack Too
I’ve had it in rough stuff in the BWCAW with two paddlers and a weeks worth of gear and it handled well, but we were experienced paddlers. I think the Spirit would be a good choice also. Never paddled the Aurora, but not crazy about the Sundowner, even for lakes. KenE took the words right out of my mouth, “Twitchy,” is the word I’d also use to describe the Sundowner. If doing larger rivers like the Wisconsin, I’d choose a Spirit, smaller rivers like our Ozark streams would be suited to the Adirondack. WW

I would beg to disagree with your concerns about the freeboard on the Aderondack. A year ago a sailboat got blown over in front of my friends house on laake Norman NC. The people in the sailboat didn’t have PFDs or any other thing. Thke boat sank straight down and rested on the keel with Just the tip of the mast sticking out of the water. The water was cold,choppy and it was gusty as all get out. ( small craft advisories etc.) The 5 people on the boat could just hang on to the mast, the conditions had doomed them for the stupidity of going out that day. RAndy and I grabbed our PFDs and extra and went out and started taking the most exhausted ones back We made three trips out in that malstrom in his Aderondack . We pulled the kids in in a nasty chop/ wind and got them to shore where Randies wife warmed them up. We were going back for rest when Lake rescue came out and saved us the risk. The point is the Aderondack is a surprisingly good general purpose hull. to be able to negotiate the conditions . This has been my experience with it, not an opinion just the fact.

Good Reports
My impression was more along the lines of Flatpicks. I just paddled an Adirondack once on a test paddle back to back with the Aurora. I liked the Adirondack’s paddling characteristics better and had a hard time deciding between the two. I chose the Aurora because I wanted the extra payload capacity for those few camping trips where companions bring way too much gear. I paddle some very small twisty streams so I chose the Aurora over the Spirit II for the slight improvement in manuvering in tight quarters.

Wenonah suggests that the Adirondack is more of a daytrip or weekend camping boat and that is the way it looked to me in comparison to the Aurora.

Nevertheless, Baldpaddler and Wildernessweb’s reports of experience in real serious paddling situations suggest the Adirondack performs well even at the upper limit of its intended use. Since the person who started this thread said they’d be doing daytrips the Adirondack might be plenty of boat, depending on the weight of the human cargo. When I read her original post the Adirondack and Spirit II were the first two boats that came to mind.

I didn’t say it was a bad boat. On the contrary, I think it is a great boat. I just, personally, like more freeboard and weight capacity. I pay for it in weight, windage, etc. and we were comparing to Aurora and Spirit II. Compared with a Jensen the Ado ROCKS in the rough conditions department! =:-0)

I’m just more of an SUV paddle type. :wink:


If You Want To See A Couple of…

– Last Updated: Jan-12-04 8:03 PM EST –

...Adirondacks with a load, I've got some pics on my Webshots. Look under BWCAW #2, several pics towards the end. That said, I WOULD NOT discount Flatpick's expertise, as he paddles a heck of a lot more rough water than I! I've SEEN that big water on the Columbia, I'm sure he paddles in stuff that would keep me landside. BTW, the thing I like about the Adirondack is the lower bow and stern catch less wind than some of the other Wenonah hulls. Here's the link. WW http://community.webshots.com/user/ozarkkayakman

I have the Sundowner in kevlar. It is fast. I don’t know if they still claim it, but Wenonah’s web page states that in royalex, it is the fastest royalex canoe made. I find it stable although stability diminishes as it is overloaded such as three adults fishing at anchor, yet stable when tripping and packed low. It likes to go straight, and resists turning which is good or bad depending on usage. The Sundowner has high freeboard which is good for rough conditions but readily catches wind.

Haven’t canoed the other one you mention.

one other canoe to consider
if you do a lot of river work is the Old Town Appalachian. It was the runner-up in a group of 6 that I test paddled back-to-back before I bought a Royalex Spirit II. I gave the Spirit the nod because a) I prefer a longer canoe and more volume, and b) because there are more flats than rapids where I paddle, and the Spirit was the easier boat to paddle on still water. That said, if the bias were towards moving water, the Appalachian is a sweet canoe.

Wow…so many ways to look at the choices. You have given me much to think about. I hope I make the right choice. Too bad Portland Oregon is soooo far from Northwest Ohio. Trying them out back to back would make the decision much easier but your very descriptive experiences of the various boats has helped a great deal.

My husband (who does not share my love of paddling) can’t understand why I am spending so much time and energy on deciding which canoe to order. I have read and re-read my Wenonah catalog so much I about have it memorized! Every canoe just “feels” and “responds” so differently, it is scary to think of spending all that money and then not liking it when you get it in the water.

Thanks again for taking the time share your thoughts ~ Kim

Short Sundowner
My wife and I have a 16’6" Sundowner in Tufweave with a foam core. This model is no longer available, but the current 17’ Sundowner is similar with respect to depth, lack of rocker, tumblehome, and slimness of the hull. We use it mostly for day trips or shorter, although we have taken it for 5-7 day tours in the Adirondacks and Algonquin Park. Tracks very well; hard turns in twisty streams/rivers will require coordinated effort from bow and stern paddlers. Tends to pound in large waves or chop. The slimness of the canoe makes it easy paddling (and very sleek-looking), but it takes some time and practice to get comfortable in it(earlier comment described it as “twitchy” – good description of unloaded primary stability). Added camping gear when touring improves stability, without much sacrifice in paddling ease. Some people who have tried it have capsized; my wife and I have not (although we’ve come close).

I haven’t paddled one, but looking at the desin and Wenonah’s description, I think the Aurora would be a more forgiving, stable design; easier to turn, drier, but perhaps more affected by wind. It might also be slower paddling, but this might not be noticeable if you will primarily paddle at a gentle cruise. The extra potential speed from the Sundowner might be worth compromising for the increased stability and maneuverability of the Aurora.