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Submitted: 09-12-2004 by Vern
Let me start with a little background. Iím in my late 40ís and have been in canoes since before I could walk, as have our kids. My wife and I have been married over 18 years, and I introduced her to serious paddling when we were still dating (if you want to see if a relationship will last, go paddling ;-). We sport a family of 6. We own 8 canoes (1 under construction), 4 kayaks (one under construction), and have paddled, build, repaired, altered, or modified almost every conceivable make or type of canoe on the market (barring dugouts). Several times a year we try to introduce people to the sport. Iím also a research fanatic.
Last summer we had to dry dock our 1964 Moore Venom Racer for repairs and a very special face lift. My wife and I use the Venom Racer like most serious canoeists use a touring canoe. Itís an extension of our bodies and fast enough to outrun small sailboats, yet after years of practice with specialized strokes, we can maneuver just fine in the thickets. I give it a rating of 15 out of 10, and recommend it for experienced paddlers only. After trying a substandard stand-in for a canoe trip, I knew I couldnít last the season without a real canoe separating me from the water.
My wife and I had talked about getting or building an all-around touring canoe. One that would go and do the few things the Venom Racer wasnít capable of. We found it in the California Canoe and Kayak shop in Sacramento while returning from a canoe trip near Lake Tahoe. A Wenonah Spirit II Roylex with a center portage thwart. Since then, weíve had it on everything but the ocean and nothing above a slow Class II. This includes an incredible 60 mile+ trip and portage in the back country waters of British Columbia. Hereís how I rate the Spirit II.
It does everything Wenonah says it does. Itís solid as a rock. Normally we like to ďstableĒ our canoes when the other person climbs in or out. On the Spirit II, I just shove off and jump in. When loaded light, it skips across the water, but loses some tracking. Once cresting a wave side-to in a heavy wake, a 20 to 30 mph cross wind gust lifted the entire canoe out of the water (weíve never flown a canoe before). It was just a few inches off the water, and we landed just fine. So you could say it also has good aerodynamic stability too. When loaded heavy, it digs in but doesnít compromise its maneuverability. We carried the majority of gear for four people on our 5 day British Columbia trip. Even in heavy chop with swirling winds and waves rolling down the gunwales, we never lost control of the canoe. I found the portage thwart to be well balanced, but uncomfortable outside of the short haul. I installed Bourquin Boat Yoke Pads on Wenonahís portage thwart and fell in love all over again. Problem solved. After experiencing various hull shapes, Iíll probably never be happy with anything but an arced bottom. This is one of Wenonahís Spirit IIís trademarks. These hulls are quicker and more maneuverable than most non-specialized hulls. Their initial stability is almost as good as a flat bottom, but they retain a good secondary stability. And they donít concentrate bottom damage along the keel line like ďVĒ hulls and those with keels. The Roylex holds up well. It has taken a few significant hits and though we have dents to show for them, the canoe was never compromised. However, I will probably install some Kevlar stem guards since speed isnít an issue. And last but not least, itís very quiet on the water. If you like to hunt, fish, photograph wildlife, or just sneak around, this is the vessel.
Now for the down side. First understand Iím used to our Racer, so these issues may not be issues for most canoeists. Speed is not its strong point. It paddles well and moves easily, but not fast and effortlessly. Rolyex has a lot less drag than HDPE (including PolyLink3), but canít compare with the polished finish you can adorn composites with. You must earn your speed with a discounted cadence. As for tracking, it lacks real tracking by my wifeís standards. Too much effort is spent correcting its course (in racing canoes, you want every stroke of the paddle to move you forward, not back onto course). She is, perhaps, spoiled in that respect. In an unbiased statement, it tracks and maneuvers better than many canoes Iíve been in, and this includes some high rated big name canoes. Unloaded there is a tendency to oilcan just a bit (between my wife and I we make about 400 pounds of cargo, thus increasing the likelihood of oilcanning). It slices through waves (which is a good thing normally), but without a cover, deep waves can roll right in over the gunwales. A price you pay for a sleek touring canoe and no flair on the freeboard. I wish it were faster, but do not hold it against the Spirit II. Still, I have to say, it can back up all of its claims. Without a doubt, it is one of the very few quintessential touring canoes on the market.
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