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Submitted: 08-10-2009 by Jack F
Picked up a used Wenonah Spirit II a few weeks ago in gelcoated kevlar with wood trim. This one weighs in at about 57 pounds, so not an ultralight, but not a heavyweight either. I am 6'6" tall and weigh 250 and so is my son, and the reason I am posting this review is to add some information for larger paddlers considering this boat.
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.
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