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My fishing buddy had a different model We-no-nah canoe, and he likes the Spirit II better. The Royalex makes the canoe pretty easy to handle - I can put it on the roof of my Vibe by myself, but at times I wish it was a bit stiffer.
we are 4, my 2 kids are 6 and 9 and weigh 65-75 lbs each my wife is a slender sub 100lbs. No need to say I could not find what I was looking for. I did find a Spirit 2 which is an amazing family boat for us. On our last camping trip to lake Sonoma CA, led the 4 of us paddled it (with an old Town detachable plastic mid-seat) to the boat only campgrounds 3 miles from the launch in an Hour, fending of some serious mid-afternoon winds. needless to say we had all our camping equipment in the boat with us which was another 100lbs or so. the boat felt really comfortable and easy going and whenever correction were needed my 6 year old boy in the front seat helped with a draw and a pry here and there.
We have also went down the Russian River in it and plan many more such trips. I would really like to own the fast Minnesota 2 but I think that when the kids grow up a bit I might just move to the Champlain or Itasca.
In summary I am very pleased with my Spirit 2 - tough weave in a bright red Ferrari color!
The first time we put the paddles in the water, I turned around, and she had as big of grin as I did! Since we both grew up with "camp canoes" we didn't know a canoe could behave so amazingly well in the water.
We took a 7 day flat water trip in Northern Idaho. With probably 70 pounds of gear and neither of us are teeny people, the canoe handled superbly. We were even caught out in a summer blow up, and waited out the worst of the wind and took off to cross the lake in front of the rain.
Even in whitewater chop, the boat was so stable. I was in front, and there were times as I was driving hard, the bow came out of the water, and my friend was still able to steer and handle the boat in the wind and chop.
She would buy this boat brand new, and so would I. It's perfect for the kind of adventures we take.
First off, it is everything the Wenonah website says it is -- a very versatile, all around usable design. But with larger paddlers any canoe loses some of its initial stability -- we are both heavier and sit higher, so generate a higher center of gravity than an average pair of paddlers. If you are larger, keep that in mind when choosing a canoe based on reading online comments as initial stability is probably going to be somewhat less for you than an average person's.
Compared to my Jensen 18 this boat has more initial stability, a bit more readable secondary stability and quite frankly glides and paddles very nearly as efficiently -- that latter point was a huge surprise to me. I also like to be able to paddle solo, so I removed the thwart behind the front seat and added a rear-facing solo seat. The Spirit II has a lot of volume, so is a marginal solo boat even with one as large as me paddling it. I add a 20 pound anchor up front (behind the rear seat) to trim and add some ballast and that improves things a bit, and using a long kayak paddle keeps you moving along briskly. The bottom line is it works and is easily maneuverable, but is nothing stellar to solo other than recreationally. The J-18 paddles better solo, but as a solo the J-18 is almost impossible to turn unless you heel it way over. That said, I've sold the J-18 and I really need to demo a Solo-Plus...
Back to Spirit II and stability. The Spirit II's initial stability with two large paddlers in it and no other gear is reliable, then you can feel secondary kick in and firm up a bit, but you can go past secondary very quickly and roll the boat. In other words, you feel it firm up about 3" or 4" from the inboard gunwale, but lean just a little more to 2" and secondary disappears instantly then you're in the water. Adding gear to the bottom lowers center of gravity and of course the boat gets more secure on secondary.
So my two cent summary: if you're larger paddler(s) and want the best canoe to fish for a few hours from or one you can easily stand up in, get one with a flatter bottom (like the Kingfisher). Unfortunately flat bottom designs aren't as much fun to paddle, especially if you want to get from point A to B and enjoy the experience. So if you want a boat that is efficient, can hold a lot of gear, is fun to paddle and maneuver with or without a load, but still has reasonable stability for fishing when empty as long as you don't need to stand up, the Spirit II is definitely worth considering.
Would like to try it solo, but the thwart behind the front seat won't let you paddle it backwards from that seat. Center seat would be great, but would be hard to take two kids. I'll experiment with it.
Wenonah is worth the $ for us.
I've just finished a 130 kilometer paddling trip three days ago, spent a week on flat water, around one of the biggest islands in Finland. The Spirit II was beyond my expectations, once again. I had to pull through a couple of open waters with heavy wind one day, accompanied with waves and some rain. The canoe steered well, and with moderate waves I didn't need spray decks - I'm going to purchase (or make) them anyway in the future, just for convenience.
I don't like portages, and pack accordingly, not needing to worry about the amount of weight versus stability. The weight is a factor though when I bump into obstacles or just hit a submerged rock - the Royalex outer surface gets scratched easily but that does not have effect to the performance on water, what it does is a boost in street credibility...
I rotate paddling techniques during a trip, to keep myself from straining muscles. The Spirit II is great for the Canadian style as well. This is one well made, well designed canoe!
It is light enough for me to carry by myself and for my wife and I to get on top of our SUV. The gel coat is easy to scratch on the bottom, but you just have to accept that with any gel coated boat. The tractor-seats are comfortable once you get used to them, but we will probably line them with foam for a little padding.
We clicked off 20 miles on the first afternoon, then set up camp. The next day we ran Moshannon falls (a Class 2+ rapid with a few haystacks with hidden rocks) with no serious problems, then many unamed riffles. Buttermilk Falls presented a bit more challenge (many barely submerged rocks) but the Royalex slid off any gotchas. We paddled down to the meeting of the West and Noth Branches of the Susquehanna after tough portages around dams at Lock Haven and Williamsport. The Spirit II glided efficiently through the Main Branch Susquehanna's flatwater, and took the few ledges with aplomb.
We were very pleased with the canoe's performance. the only time we wished we had a Kevlar canoe was the tough portage around the Williamsport dam. Even there Royalex was an advantage as we roped the canoe up and slid it down the other side.
The capacity was more then adequate, seaworthiness was amazing (even in rough chop produced by Memorial Day speedboat traffic on the 12 mile lake before Williamsport), and the tractor seats were remarkably comfortable. We can unequivocally recommend the Spirit II as a long distance canoe!
I learned canoeing in Grummans and have spent hours kneeling, so I know that higher seats provide more flexibility (kneeling for stability, seated for comfort). But when I considered all the possible uses for this canoe, over 90% of the hours will be in the seated position. If the seats are mounted low enough you have stability and comfort.
The hardest decision was between the Royalex Spirit II and the Kevlar (a mere $400 difference due to year -end sale). We finally decided on Royalex -- I just don't want to worry about my canoe. We have rocky streams in pennsylvania and one of the (few) benefits of a Coleman RAM-x canoe is you can head downstream without a care for rocks. Though Royalex will scratch, it will slide over rocks and be less prone to catastrophic (i.e. expensive) damage.
We purchased a Mitchell paddle for my son. Ive been very pleased with the workmanship and design of this paddle (I use a 25 year old Camp Paddle and just added a FoxWorks Guide model -- 18 onces of pure efficiency!).
I opted for sponges on the front and a hitch rack in back for our Ford F-150. That was a mistake. The F-150 roof is flat and the sponges slide. We lost two sponges in the 50 MPH + winds that night (14 degrees, as well). We stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods the next morning and bought four more straps. With three straps across the roof it was solid all the way home (south of Pittsburgh). I've called and ordered the front rack for the truck -- it can't come too soon!
We've had the Spirit II out twice since we brought it home (we've had a long streak of cold weather) and paddled on a local reservoir. It has been a joy to paddle. My son and I are each 190+ and we can fly across the lake. Today we challenged a 15 MPH + headwind and it cut through the water with ease. Primary stability is acceptable, but secondary is amazing. You will have to WORK to tip this canoe!
It oilcans a bit in chop, but that's an acceptable price to pay for the stability, speed, and durability of this Royalex canoe.
We are planning a 220 mile trip down the West Branch of the Susquehanna from Clearfield to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this May. I'll report on the Spirit II's tripping capabilities after that trip, but I am expecting to be just as pleased then.
Last month it went on its first BWCA trip and I would give it an A. In five days it seemed to have the full spectrum tossed at it from big swirling waves on Snowbank Lake with no oilcanning that I noticed. To lazy walleye fishing on Disappointment and actually being a joy to carry on 200 plus rod portages. Paddled well loaded and unloaded while fishing. The gelcoat took a beating witch I know it would and I managed a small hole in the gelcoat on the keel not the kevlar behind it. From the almighty hidden rock but it was nothing a little good old duct tape couldn't fix till home.
Rain or shine kids or packs or just empty the Spirit II is every thing I read and asked about in making my decision to purchase it and more which was nice to see in todayís day and age.
No, I did not test paddle everything in the Spirit IIs class from other MFGs. but I would be hard pressed to believe there is better.
For a 17' canoe in RX it is light, but this must be due to the royalex being so thin. (Try comparing hull stiffness with, say a NovaCraft 17') The RX also seems very soft, as is wearing at an alarming rate compared to my other boats.
The gunwales are great: narrow yet very solid, as are the seat hangers, though I angled the seats just a little to improve kneeling comfort.
The yoke is just too light weight, I exchanged mine for a deep dish type, more comfort, more strength, more weight, more cost. Usual trade offs.
Basically I'm happy enough with it for what I use it for, but wouldn't buy one again. I'd trade weight for a stiffer hull.
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.
We have many, many years of tandem canoe experience and were using a 25 year old fiberglass Mohawk that had provided years of loyal and honorable service. Needlesstosay, the contrast between the two boats is severe. We were just amazed at the Spirit's speed, tracking, light weight and responsiveness. Its soft chine causes the Spirit to feel a bit more "tippy" than its predecessor (we feel it more when the dog switches sides), but ultimately it is extremely stable. I feel almost "at one" in the stern of this canoe as in my kayak.
So new to us, we haven't put the vessel to any "real" test yet. In light of what I've read and experienced, though, I am sure it will succeed. We look forward to many years of pleasure with this canoe. If you are considering a canoe purchase, give this boat close attention. You will be glad you did. Finally, if you do buy one, add Wenonah's bent-shaft Brio paddle to the order. It's my first elbow paddle. I wonder why I waited so long. Both are highly recommended.
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