Submitted: 06-13-2006 by M.S.
I recently purchased a Wenonah Prospector 16' Kevlar flex-core canoe. I opted for all wood trim as opposed to aluminum. I felt it looked better on a Prospector. I was looking for a canoe that I would primarily paddle solo or with one or both of my kids, they wouldn't be paddlers, just passengers, they're both real young. I also wanted it to be a tandem, sometimes my wife will be along as well. Alot of the time she is in a sea kayak, so solo paddling with one or two kids would be the main use.
I have a Bell kneeling thwart installed in place of the stern thwart. This places you closer to center than paddling from the bow seat with the canoe reversed. I've paddled on the Green River in Utah for a day paddle as well as a few days paddling on other reservoirs in Utah. Paddling from the kneeling thwart with about 40-50 lbs. of gear in front of me between the carrying thwart and the bow seat, really seems to be the best way to paddle this canoe in up to 10 knot winds. I had absolutely no problems at all keeping pointed in whatever direction I wanted to go. The Prospector 16 is listed in Wenonah's catalog as having 4 inches of rocker. Paddled from the kneeling thwart is the way to go in windy conditions. The kneeling thwart is mounted at a height of 11.5 inches from the floor of the canoe. This seems to be a good height for me. I'm 5'11" tall, 32" inseam. and weigh 200 lbs. My weight is equally distributed between my butt and knees at this height. I'm using a 1/2" foam pad to kneel on. From the kneeling thwart, I'm using a 58" straight paddle. I have experimented with paddling from the bow seat with the canoe backwards. The "front" edge of the seat is 9.5 inches high. I sat for the most part. I tried kneeling from here and could do it, but I would want to raise the seat up a bit if I plan to paddle from here. I had the same gear as previously mentioned, in front of me, on the other side of the carry thwart. The wind was around 10 knots, and it did effect the canoe a bit, and want to blow the bow down wind. I would recommend paddling from a kneeling thwart, although both positions work. From a sitting position I'm using a 54" straight paddle. It seems to me that what length of paddle you use, depends mostly on if your going to sit or kneel. I suppose I could split the difference, and just get a 56". From either position, sweep strokes as well as j-strokes work very well. As I stated, my preference is to paddle from the kneeling thwart. This puts my knees on the floor about 12" behind center. Only minimal effort is required on windy days to keep my canoe tracking straight. I usually paddle on my right side, I slide over on the thwart a couple of inches, to be closer to the gunwhale. this only leans the canoe slightly. Practice your j-strokes, and you can easily make a rockered canoe track straight, and you still have all of the advantages of maneuverability. A canoe with no rocker at all will actually resist your corrective strokes. That's why I mention the fact that it only takes minimal effort to keep everything straight. On the day I paddled on the Green River, there wasn't any wind to speak of, it was relatively flat water, but moving very fast at 12,000 cubic ft. per second. It was a bit of work to paddle against the current, I experimented with paddling at angles to the current to cross from one side of the river to the other. A rockered canoe really shines when it comes to maneuvering around the river. I tried to same thing going down river, and found it just as controllable, and less work of course. When leaning the canoe in the currents, I found the Prospector to really stiffen up. It seems to have a very good secondary stability. I wanted a tandem canoe that would handle well as a solo canoe. As well as be versatile enough to paddle everything from class 2 rivers, wind blown lakes, and still water with no wind. And still be able to serve well as a tandem.I can't give any feedback on paddling tandem, as I haven't done it yet. I can't imagine any real shortcomings there. Although, if I were going to strictly use a tandem canoe only as a tandem, with kids and a bunch of camping gear, then I would look for an 18' Wenonah Champlain, Bell Northwoods or a Souris River Quetico 18.5. The 16' Prospector fits the bill for me,and handles all of the above mentioned conditions very well. I rated it an 8, because paddling a tandem as a solo is a compromise compared to paddling a dedicated solo canoe. I really had my eye on a kevlar Wenonah Rendezvous 15'8" solo, they're only available from "Canoe Colorado". But I needed the extra room for kids. The Prospector was my choice, I'm very happy with it.