Submitted: 12-04-2006 by Ardy
I'm an experienced paddler with a number of canoes. I bought a Penobscot 16' a few years ago because I wanted a boat that would track better than my Old Town Appalachian and run rapids better than my Wenonah Jensen 17. The Penobscot fit that pretty well. Seemed like a good boat for some of the northern trips I like to do. Reasonably fast on the lakes, reasonably light on the portages, sufficient volume for tripping solo or tandem. Still able to run some rapids while fully loaded. A couple years ago a friend of mine and I were paddling tandem on a 10 day trip on the Petawawa River in Ontario.We were skipping most of the portage trails and running or lineing the rapids.This is what I usually do and even if it's not faster, it's usually more interesting than doing the portages. Well this one rapid inperticular we found very interesting. It was the one that had my Penobscot and all our gear wrapped around a rock right in the middle of the main stream. We had been lining the canoe through this nasty looking, rock studed class III kind of drop, and just when the boat was passing through the main slot the fairly sharp stern stem cought the current wrong, broadsided the curling wave at the bottom of the drop. The upstream gunwale dipped below the surface, filled catching the full current, and in about half a second was compleatly wrapped around a rock. I had to hike up river a ways to find a safe place to swim across. Then was able to approach one end of the canoe from river left, and retrieve a 60 foot piece of rope that I keep for just such a thing, but had never needed for this purpose before. Luckly I was able to position myself in a place where I could tie one end of the rope to the center yoke,pass the other end under the boat, bring it up and over the top and toss it to my paddling partner who was still upstream on river right. After tying the rope to a rock the best he could he pulled on that rope while I pulled on the stern line. Well as unconfortable as the Penobscot looked in that position,it didn't want to budge. We were pretty much in the middle of our 10 day trip with no one around to help and no other canoe, so we didn't have much choise, we had to get this canoe off the rock. So on about the third or forth try the Penobscot started to budge, and then we couldn't stop, we gave it every ounce of strength we had left and she rolled up and came swinging off the rock and to shore on the end of the rope. OK...we had our boat back now but it was mangled. The aluminum gunwale broken in three places. It was obvious we weren't going anywhere soon, but atleast no one was hurt and we didn't loose anything but a water bottle. We went ahead and set up camp for the night right where we were. We were able to stomp the hull while pulling up on the gunwales until it started resembling a canoe again, although still badly twisted. Next we turned it on its side and lashed the stern thwart to a tree, the bow rested against a second tree. Then using a couple carabiners we set up a z-drag pully system tied to the yoke and a third tree perpendicular to the canoe. By pulling this rope we were able to straighten out the twist. The bow seat had ripped out and was hanging by just one bolt and the gunwale still broken in three places. We cut saplings to splint the gunwales. By drilling holes through the royalex just below the gunwales with my leatherman we were able to lash the saplings in place. With enough cordage and a few more holes drilled in the right places we were able to rig a servicable bow seat. The next morning we started off again. I thought we'd be paddling in circles the rest of the trip, but the Penobscot did good. We even found our lost water bottle. It looked like it had been through a war or something and put back together by savages but it paddled just fine. I've been meaning to replace the gunwales with vinyl ones and install a new seat too but I just keep paddling it like it is . Not too bad and its a good reminder of the power of moving water. I never pass a portage trail anymore without thinking about that experience. But back to the review. The Penobscot does alot of things, but nothing real well. That's why I'd only give it a 7 or an 8. I guess I should give it an 8 after all it's been through, poor thing !