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Submitted: 03-06-2006 by DanMc
We purchased a Wenonah Spirit II Royalex, Alaskan ivory with performance package (sliding bow and bucket seats) from Oak Orchard canoe in Waterport, NY on February 17th, 2006. Though I placed a deposit on a Bell Northwind in Royalex, I didn't want to go less than 17' and the Royalex version of the Northwind is 16'6". I thought the overall appearance and design of the Northwind was solid and it has had good reviews, but the size and the cane seats forced me to drop it down on the priority list. We also looked at the 17' Old Town Penobscot. It is probably a fine canoe, but I found the seats too high.
I learned canoeing in Grummans and have spent hours kneeling, so I know that higher seats provide more flexibility (kneeling for stability, seated for comfort). But when I considered all the possible uses for this canoe, over 90% of the hours will be in the seated position. If the seats are mounted low enough you have stability and comfort.
The hardest decision was between the Royalex Spirit II and the Kevlar (a mere $400 difference due to year -end sale). We finally decided on Royalex -- I just don't want to worry about my canoe. We have rocky streams in pennsylvania and one of the (few) benefits of a Coleman RAM-x canoe is you can head downstream without a care for rocks. Though Royalex will scratch, it will slide over rocks and be less prone to catastrophic (i.e. expensive) damage.
We purchased a Mitchell paddle for my son. Ive been very pleased with the workmanship and design of this paddle (I use a 25 year old Camp Paddle and just added a FoxWorks Guide model -- 18 onces of pure efficiency!).
I opted for sponges on the front and a hitch rack in back for our Ford F-150. That was a mistake. The F-150 roof is flat and the sponges slide. We lost two sponges in the 50 MPH + winds that night (14 degrees, as well). We stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods the next morning and bought four more straps. With three straps across the roof it was solid all the way home (south of Pittsburgh). I've called and ordered the front rack for the truck -- it can't come too soon!
We've had the Spirit II out twice since we brought it home (we've had a long streak of cold weather) and paddled on a local reservoir. It has been a joy to paddle. My son and I are each 190+ and we can fly across the lake. Today we challenged a 15 MPH + headwind and it cut through the water with ease. Primary stability is acceptable, but secondary is amazing. You will have to WORK to tip this canoe!
It oilcans a bit in chop, but that's an acceptable price to pay for the stability, speed, and durability of this Royalex canoe.
We are planning a 220 mile trip down the West Branch of the Susquehanna from Clearfield to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this May. I'll report on the Spirit II's tripping capabilities after that trip, but I am expecting to be just as pleased then.