Submitted: 09-02-2008 by Gary W. Fogg
My wife and I bought the Wenonah Escape in Tuf-weave for day tripping on the Maine coast this spring and have taken it out on numerous occasions since then. Our paddles take place in semi-protected waters, where conditions are often calm in the morning , but then changing to a wind speed of 10-16 mph and waves from 1-2 feet by early afternoon. In addition, there is almost always a tidal current of about 1 mph interacting with the wind and waves during these outings.
Our conclusion is that the Escape is a fine boat for people who like an active paddling style and are in good physical condition. Because it is a performance boat, it naturally has narrow entry and exit lines, a round bottom, and straight or reverse tumblehome. Space for feet and legs is limited but sufficient if you are under 6 feet tall and weigh less than about 180 pounds. Also, it is a design best suited for straightforward paddling and touring, rather than fishing, wildlife observation or casual poking around in quiet waters.
Because of the design features to enhance speed and easy paddling, the Escape can rock back and forth excitedly in big waves. This could be horrifying to people who are unaccustomed to this motion, but it is natural for those who are accustomed to bracing and stabilizing a boat in rough water. The same design features make the boat more sensitive to the distribution of weight in the hull than wider and flatter models. To obtain maximum tracking ability and speed, we find it necessary to adjust the boat's trim periodically while underway, usually by moving the bow seat forward and backward or by changing the position of heavy gear.
Our average ground speed during the afternoon varies considerably, depending on numerous factors. When the winds and tides are directly opposed, it is about 3.5 mph. When the tide is slack, our speed against the wind and waves is about 2.6 mph, but about 5 mph downwind. If the tide is running at a 45 degree angle to the wind, which creates a diamond wave pattern, our speed varies from about 2 to 4 mph, depending on our angle of entry into the chop.
The Escape slices smoothly through waves up to one foot high. In waves higher than that, the bow rises dramatically, keeping the boat dry, but also creating a wild ride. It is best to approach steep waves from a slight angle in order to avoid a destabilizing launch over the top of a whitecap and a fall into empty space on the other side. Running broadside to waves up to 2 feet high is delightful, so long as one turns slightly into the steepest waves at the last moment, in order to prevent them from dumping water into the boat and rocking it violently. We have not encountered any unusual issues running downwind so far, except for some yawing, which is normal for any boat, but which has been easy to correct in the Escape.
My wife and I cannot say enough good things about this canoe. We have used a variety of small boats for touring on the Maine Coast over the last 30 years, from rowing and sailing boats to canoes and kayaks. The Escape is perhaps our favorite boat so far. For winds under 16 mph and waves under 2 feet, it is almost equal to our Current Designs Gulfstream sea kayaks in performance, but it is much easier to use in terms of loading, unloading, stowing gear, stretching, changing clothes, and so on.