Submitted: 02-22-2012 by vcmtthws
We wound up with an Ultra-Lite Champlain after we bought it for a wedding gift. A tree fell on it during a winter storm before we could give it away (it also took out a fence, part of a neighbors roof, and crushed one side of a covered steel canoe rack). We had to buy a second Champlain for the Bride and Groom. The groom was a tall powerful Marine (now a tall powerful cop). His tactics are to beat the water into submission. We knew we needed to get a large canoe that would allow him live out his abusive water routines while he and his new wife still got maximum enjoyment out of the canoe. Owning nearly 20 canoes and kayaks, we had a good idea as to what would work and what wouldn't. Now fast forward a few years…
We had our Champlain repaired by Wenonah and, with a couple of small exceptions; it looks like it just came off the sales floor. We jokingly call it "The Beater Canoe" because after the tree hit it, it looked like a beater. In fact now, it's anything but a beater.
My wife and I finally took "our" Champlain out for a proper spin. It was on a large mountain reservoir, just under 5000 feet in the Sierra’s. The trip included the bare necessities and a small dog (see our trip report: California, Union Valley Reservoir). We got a sampling of flat water, choppy water, wind, gusts, mixed currents, bow/quartering/broadside/stern waves (from 0 – 12”), etc. We thought we'd be sorry with such a parachute and no load or spray deck to keep it on task. It handled flawlessly.
This canoe is almost a mind reader. It takes little more than a thought and it responds. Absolutely no surprises and no acute "points of no return". Everything is predictable, manageable, and reliable.
It won't replace either of our Wenonah Itascas. At times it might replace our Spirit II. And it's in a different class than our other crafts. But it won't sit idle when we have friends or family along either. Especially if friends or family require a lot of room and/or a large load… Or if they have some perverse desire to beat the water into submission.
I rate a canoe or kayak by how well it does what it is advertized to do. So I won’t rate a whitewater canoe using touring canoe expectations, or visa versa. That wouldn’t be fair. A perfect 10, means the canoe (at least in my mind) did everything it was advertized to do, and did it exceptionally well. This canoe easily makes the 10 grade, but if we ever get it out into the big stuff I might have to reevaluate.
Have fun and Keep your paddle blades on the bottom half.