Looks like I have finally narrowed down the search (okay, at least to the brands…)
We need a family type canoe, we do have experience, but only do canals, small waterways, medium sized rivers that may have a boat or two now & then.
Old town camper 16, Old town Charles River RX 163,
Wenonah Spirit II 17’, or Wenonah Aurora 16’.
All seem to fit our needs. I understand most of the canoeing terms but I guess if I can’t try all FOUR out before a purchase, I may have to get whichever one IS available to sample. Where I live
(far south Florida) almost everyone is into kayaks, but we like to canoe as we travel alot around the state camping and love to take our dog.
Any suggestions or pros/cons to these models?
We are looking at Kevlar which all would weigh between 59-64 lbs.
Looks like I have finally narrowed down the search (okay, at least to the brands…)
OT vs. Wenonah
I would go with an Old Town. I have a royalex Penobscot 16 that I like a lot, so does my dog. My group rented a royalex Spirit 17 one time for a week in Quetico; I didn’t like in nearly as much as my Pen’ 16. The Camper model is very similar to the Penobscot.
I believe all the models that you’re looking at are royalex, not kevlar. My Pen’ 16 weighs 58lbs., I think the Camper is 59lbs.
If you go with Old Town, …
… I’d suggest you make sure you know you are getting a Royalex hull, rather than polylink or whatever other names their plastic-hull materials are known by. Old Town plastic boats are notorious for becoming severely warped out of shape as time goes by. Royalex won’t normally warp that way. In case you are new at this, Royalex is a multi-layer material (I think it consists of at least three layers), while plastic hulls consist of the same material throughout the whole thickness of the hull. Plastic Old Town boats typically (always?) weigh more than the target weight range that you listed, though.
Just to clarify…
Old Town’s proprietary polylink is not solid plastic all the way through, it’s a foam core sandwiched between other layers, kinda like royalex, though polylink is heavier and a whole lot less durable than royalex.
That’s good to know
In that case, just looking at the deeper scratches on a use boat, if there are any that cut down to the core material, won’t necessarily tell you which hull material you have. You’d have to be familiar enough with the materials to know what you are seeing.
Old Town’s sandwich is NOT less durable
than Royalex, but it is heavier and VERY unrepairable.
I also question the report tnat the Penobscot was a better boat than the Spirit II. I don’t think so, and Paddler Magazine cerainly did not think so in a review of both those boats and several others.
Wenonah has it ALL OVER Old Town for general purpose canoe designs. Only the Tripper stands out amongst the OT designs.
in favor of Wenonah…
Rule out the Camper. It’s got a flat bottom that oilcans like crazy and doesn’t track a line at all. The Charles River has the same issues, unfortunately. Both are aesthetically more pleasing than the Aurora/Spirit group, but you buy a boat to paddle more than look at, so efficiency should be the primary consideration.
Between the Aurora and the Spirit, it’s the difference between a good tandem for day paddling and weekend camping (the Aurora) and a boat that can handle more load (the Spirit). The lines of the two boats are more or less the same, as the Aurora was designed to be a smaller version of the Spirit. The Royalex sheets that Wenonah uses are a little different from Old Town’s 'Oltanar" Royalex sheets, in that the Wenonah boats have additional layers of ABS layered into the bow and stern, which makes them stiffer and gives them better durability in those two high-wear areas.
Since the Wenonahs are usually the same price or even a little cheaper than Old Town, IMHO they’re a much better value all the way around.
When we were…
looking for a canoe, we narrowed it down to the OT Penobscot 17 or the Wenonah Spirit II. Went with the Spirit II and haven’t regretted it. Compared to the rentals we used to paddle, it blew my mind how well it handled and how much faster it was. Check the classifieds here on PNet. You can find some great boats for great prices (unless you want to buy new which is ok too) Happy Canoe hunting…(and buying)
I initially looked at the Camper and Charles river. But decided I wanted the 17’. I had read the same thing about the Camper here on PNet. My biggest concern was stability with all of my family on board and was thinking flat bottom boat but decided against it. The Spirit II has great stability. Can’t wait for spring to get here…
Only the Wenonahs are in Kevlar
The Camper is strictly Royalex, the Charles River is built in Royalex or plastic and the price and weight show the difference.
Either of the Wenonahs are available in either Royalex, Tuffweave, or Kevlar. And Kevlar is available in either Flex-Core and Ultra-light. Expect real weights of around 40# for either the Aurora or Spirit in Ultra-light Kevlar.
For paddling efficiency the Spirit II wins hands down. The Aurora will easily outdistance the two Old Town designs, but finish behind the Spirit.
g2d wrote: "Old Town's sandwich is NOT less durable
than Royalex, but it is heavier and VERY unrepairable."
Allow me to re-phrase my statement as I think I may have a different experience than you. The polylink outer skin is less durable that the royalex outer skin. Take a polylink boat and scrape it on some rocks, take a royalex boat and scape it on the same rocks. What you will find is: the gouges in the polylink outer skin will be considerably deeper than the royalex, because of it's softness.
Polylink can be repaired in the same way that royalex can be to remove dents (heat gun). Furthermore, the polylink outer skin scrapes can be smoothed out with with a moderately hot iron because of its relatively low melting point, but you do need to put a piece of paper between the iron and the skin to keep the plastic from sticking to the iron.
I have never dealt with a polylink hull breach, so I can't speak to that extent of repair.
One other comment I can make about polylink, I have not seen it molded into any shape that doesn't oilcan.
“oilcan” or “warp”?
Old Town’s plastic boats always sem to get severely warped over time. I can’t speak for oilcanning, which is that glug-glug flexible bending of the bottom while riding over waves, etc.
I have opinions on all the boats in question:
Old town camper 16 – I owned one for a long time. It served me well. I took it on many canoe camping trips. It solos terrible. It is slow as a tandem. But boy did I have a good time in it! I did upgrade, however, to a wenonah Prospector. The Camper is a family boat that gets you on the water and feels stable on flatwater. It’ll do the job.
Old town Charles River RX 163 – I never even paddled this boat. However, I do like the look of it. I’d like to paddle it but I know of no one that does demo days for Old Towns. Of the 4 boats you listed this is the one that I personally would buy with the understanding that I may have to get rid of it soon if it doesn’t perform well. It should be noted as well, as someone pointed out, there are two versions of this boat - the royalex and the polylink (crosslink). I believe the crosslink is only 16’ while the royalex is 16’ 3". Royalex is the one you want.
Wenonah Spirit II 17’ – Good boat with a good reputation. Out of the 4, this is probably the right choice for you. Good capacity. Good design. Good all-around use (rivers and lakes).
Wenonah Aurora 16’ – This is my least favorite (in fact not a favorite at all). No matter what the marketing materials say, I don’t think this is a 16’ version of the Spirit II. It paddles very differently. IMHO it is NOT a family-friendly boat. I find it very tippy. Easily caught by the wind. Rides too high. IMHO, take it off your list.
If you’re looking for an opinion of which to buy for your situation … #1 the wenonah Spirit II. A distant 2nd, the Charles River. 3rd, the Camper.
The reshaping of Polylink with heat. is
just a phony repair. I am not a big fan of repairing ABS sandwich with heat. I prefer to use glass and epoxy when the damage gets serious. Of course, glass and epoxy will not stick to polylink. Poly kayaks, NOT sandwich construction, are at least plastic-weldable.
Polylink is cheaper, a bit more resistant to severe blows, but not significantly repairable. And HEAVIER.
No one should consider a polylink boat for Canadian wilderness trips (not Quetico, but up nearer Arctic Circle) because it cannot be fixed in the field. Royalex can be fixed with an epoxy and glass cloth repair kit.
just for info
both the camper and penobscot are royalex, I believe. From talking to people, both boats are good. Penobscot is faster, but camper is more stable.
The Camper has more intitial stability…it feels less tippy than the Penobscot. But final stability–how difficult it is to actually flip it–the Penobscot is probably better.
I love the Penobscot 16. It is the best paddling Royalex tandem I’ve ever paddled, tracks well, reasonably fast. But it’s not a “family” canoe.
Given your choices, I’d go for the Spirit II.
What happened to the Bell Northwind?
A couple three years ago that boat got mentioned routinely to those considering general purpose tandems (available in Rx too). Now, it seems to never come up. Who paddles one?
Which canoe will I get?
We are going to the west coast of FL in about 4 weeks and we have now narrowed our search down to Spirit II or the Charles River 163…
This will be a family canoe, but we don’t want to be paddling a sled either.
We are more concerned with stability with 2 full-sized adults and a dog and we like to take pictures, just enjoy the beauty of the river and maybe get a little fish line in now and then. We
aren’t in it for speed, just for leisure. We usually only paddle about 5-9 miles at a time, then back to our campground.
I thank everyone for all their help-now I hope the dealers we go to have one of each to test!