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Submitted: 01-12-2008 by vcmtthws

Thought it was about time to write a review on our Itasca. You know, before the 08 season gets into play. We’ve had it for almost 3 years. We have 16 or 17 canoes & kayaks. We’ve paddled many more. We like wilderness expedition, but rarely get the opportunity. We’ve paddled most western states, & some areas in Canada.

Together my wife & I weigh over 400 lbs, & I stand over 6 feet. My wife, a few inches less. Our kids were raised in the bow of our Moore Venom Racer (nursing while I paddled). We’ve done our minimalist camping, but enjoy good meals & simple frills, so we don’t always pack light. Also, I’m an amateur outdoor photographer, with equipment weighing nearly 100 lbs. on photo ops.

We shopped a long time for our next “Perfect” canoe. It had to have leg room, be big enough for ocean, carry weeks of supplies, track well, and glide like a bird. Eventually we narrowed our search down to 4 different canoes and settled on the Kevlar Flex-Core w/ Gel Coat Itasca. Shortly after, I injured my arm. I was unable to paddle for over a year. I still can’t paddle a double blade, or match the racing strokes I used to love, but as a result, the maiden voyage of the Itasca was more than just a test of my passion…it defined our new canoe.

In high winds, and from the bow, my wife paddled a 9 mi. round trip in one day, & kept up with most of the rest in our group. After I was able to paddle again, we were victims of an intentional swamping prank. We rode quartering waves over 5 ft. from crest to trough & never went over. We did take on a small amount of water & the bow free-fell to the bottom with a slap, but we were still able to assist a flipped kayak suffering the same prank immediately after.

Insight & tips. This is a remarkable canoe. It instantly became our favorite. We ordered it with the Kevlar skid pads. Unlike after market installations, these are installed in the mold prior to laminating. There is NO additional drag. We got sliding/contoured seats, & a rear foot brace. After reading about wind problems, I was going to make a canoe cover. Not possible with my injury, so I called Wenonah. They told me: "Load extra ballast." An old trick we’ve used to trim out canoes for decades. But this required a lot of ballast & was soon abandoned. Our solution was a couple of $35.00 car top bags from Pep Boys. Empty or loaded, these shed the wind like a raincoat to rain, & give us a great & secure way to load the vessel. Speed is unholy for a touring canoe. It will never compete against a true racer, but for a tandem touring canoe it’s heaven.

Maneuvering was supposed to be a problem. After 20+ years in a marathon racer, it was no big deal. We use many of the same strokes the racer needs, & we can turn it on a dime in an instant. And the glide…it has a Gene Jensen glide. Need I say more. To launch, I just shove off & jump in. Initial stability is shamefully similar to a…er…uh…recreational…uh…floatie thing, but the secondary is so good you almost can’t find its limits. Get a light color, it hides the scratches better. Would be nice if Wenonah would offer pre-finished gunwale options for an additional price. It took me weeks to finish ours left handed.

The price was high, but worth it. Are there other great canoes out there? No doubt. So the down side would be this: I’ll probably never have a desire to find out. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Vern Matthews, keep your bottom wet!

P.S: I rate a canoe or kayak by how well they meet up to their advertised expectations. I won’t rate one based on improper applications (e.g. whitewater use on a recreational canoe, unless it functions well even when not used as intended). So a 10 does an incredible job doing exactly what it was designed to do. If I could, I’d rate this one an 11. I never thought flatwater touring could go to this level!

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