First, some about me for context:
Ive paddled recreationally my whole life (I'm currently 27) although this was my first year of serious paddling. I got about 200-250 hours of seat time this year. About 50% of that was in my Jensen. A lot of the rest was with more experienced paddlers coaching me. some was in my solo canoe too. Most of my experience is on relatively flat water lakes and rivers around MN, although, a several times we were out in 1-2 foot waves and a strong wind (20-30 mph). Besides my Jensen I have paddled in several common canoes like the MNII, Sundowner, Penobscot, many aluminum boats, a prospector, 3x27 pro boats, and 4x32 cruisers, as well as a couple wood strip boats with no name.
On to the Jensen 17':
I love this boat. Although, I've discovered I love almost anything Gene Jensen designed. He generally designed boats that were performance/speed oriented. I mostly use my Jensen for day trips, casual paddling with my wife, and some training for races. My wife has relatively little paddling experience. It has a shallow arch bottom so the initial stability is medium-low (by most people's scale) but it firms up quickly as its leaned. I think it feels very stable but I have good balance. My wife has a low tolerance for the "tippy" feeling and she feels comfortable with the stability of this boat. The shallow arch rides over side waves very nicely. It does not roll with the wave very much. A couple times a ski boat went by us slowly with its 1.5-2.5' wave and we had no problems with it. Ive only had to brace it a couple times and it was more for my wife's peace of mind than necessary to stay dry. All summer I never came close to tipping unintentionally so don't be discouraged by the other reviews.
I don't mind unstable boats so I think the Jensen feels like a rock compared to a 3x27 pro boat, or my solo that has a round bottom and low primary stability. My wife likes a much more stable boat and has no issues with the Jensen on flat water. A couple times in 1-2.5' waves she has been uncomfortable but I know we were still far from a capsize. A little seat time will make you very comfortable in this boat for 97% of people.
I'm 190 lbs, she's ~160. The sliding bow seat makes it fairly easy to trim the boat. With just us in the boat it flies. Jensen's are known for speed. I like racing the Jensen 18' in stock class races. The 17' is just slightly slower and has slightly less carrying capacity. We do some day trips down local rivers and travel with a bunch of stuff (probably more than we need =). I bet we can get another 150lbs of cooler, grill, picnic table, hammock, water, and stuff in the boat on a good day. That puts us in at around 500 lbs total weight. With that much weight in the boat it slows down a little, but is still a fairly efficient cruiser.
The low bow and sides make this more of a day/weekend tripping canoe as opposed to a wilderness tripper although Ive heard of people taking Jensen 18's to the BWCA. Personally when I go up there I think I'll just rent a Kevlar MNII for more volume and a higher bow (and 45lbs instead of my 60lbs). For my uses I like the low profile of this canoe because it is affected less by wind and I think low profile boats are just generally easier to paddle and switch sides. I would probably feel different if I was commonly in big waves like on a coast but you're usually in a kayak/surf ski in that situation anyways.
I have a Tuff weave layup and have to say it earns its name. Although it puts the boat in at 60lbs it is extremely durable and stiff. Ill probably try to find a Jensen 18 in Kevlar UL but that's just because I want to race it and carry it solo easily.
So in conclusion: for athletic training, day trips, rec paddling, or short weekend trips this is a great boat. If I was crossing big, open water or carrying a very large load consistently, I might look more at a MNII or something like that.A Jensen 18' fiberglass was our first canoe. It may not be what you would pick as an ideal beginner canoe, but it turned out be be a fantastic boat. It's original design is as a racing canoe. So getting it as a first canoe was akin to getting a Ferrari as a first car. Because of it's shallow arched hull, it's stronger at secondary stability than primary, but the secondary stability is very good. For all our efforts, we've never tipped it over. It's felt at times like we were going to, but when that secondary stability kicks in, it's almost like something is pushing back. It's an unusual sensation.
It wasn't a relaxing ride at first. Just floating stationary, that low primary stability still feels a little "tippy" even though you know it won't do so easily. But in motion, it gets very stable. It maneuvers surprisingly well for such a long boat with no rocker. And when you want to go fast, it will do that, just as it was designed to do. It's more fun than I imagined it would be to go fast in a canoe. It tracks super straight, glides superbly, and carries a surprising volume. It's a great boat for someone looking to go far or fast. It does well on large and small bodies of water alike. While probably targeted toward experienced paddlers, it's also an unexpectedly fine starter boat that get's you accustomed to learning and trusting the secondary stability of a boat.I have had my kevlar ultra-light core Jensen for many years now, so I guess I can safely rate it. It is a fantastic canoe, and my wife and I have a room full of trophies from racing it.
I have one complaint, and that is why I can't give it a 10. It is advertised as a great boat for paddling solo as well as tandem, but no matter how I try, it is too wide for me to paddle solo. I am 5'-9", so perhaps if I were taller with longer arms I could do it. If you want a fast reliable, tandem, light weight boat, I highly recommend it.