Saturday 5 June 2010

Wenonah Solitude and Rendezvous

A few weeks ago my friend Paul took some photos of me trying out his Solitude and Rendezvous canoes when a few of us got together with different boats and paddles. I thought I would post  a brief review of the two boats with some of Paul's photos.

Wenonah Solitude (now built by Clipper):

The Solitude is a classic Jensen design with minimal sheer and a low stern. The tumblehome is modest but pleasing and the boat paddles equally comfortably with a single or double paddle.

This is an efficient hull that feels slightly more zippy than my Solo Plus but with relatively similar glide and tracking. The Solitude is shorter (15.6 for the Solitude, 16.6 for the Solo Plus) and a bit closer across the beam (28" at the widest and 30" at the waterline compared to the Solo Plus at 29" and 31.75" at the water line). It turns a little easier that the Solo Plus, matching the exact depth at the paddling station but with a different shape in relation to the ends. The Solo Plus has a more pronounced sheer line making it seem lower to the water at the paddling station.

I would recommend this boat for the kind of day tripping I like to do on flat water. Short two or three day trips would also be quite comfortable in this craft.

The boat's most noteworthy quality, in my estimation, is it's clean lines and somewhat minimalist aesthetic quality. Here is a shot of Paul in the Solitude that accentuates the rich aged look of both the kevlar and wood gunwales.  A genuinely pretty boat.
And also...

Wenonah Rendezvous

You can see three different paddles in this shot, and despite the look on my face I was happy with how this boat performed with each one. The bent shaft carbon fibre paddle of Paul's that I am using in the photo really accelerated this canoe nicely and I was surprised at how little effort it took to keep this moderately rockered boat on target. I'm generally not keen on bent shaft paddles for solo paddling, but because this boat is so easy to maneuver, it was actually almost effortless to paddle with a standard Canadian stroke.

My Cree/Iroquois style single blade was also comfortable, though slightly less enjoyable than it's performance in my Spitfire.  I'm still mulling this over, but for some reason the Cree/Iroquois blade is perfectly suited for the little pack canoe, while in this boat if felt merely adequate.

The Greenland style double was also comfortable to use with this boat, perhaps surprisingly given the higher paddling station (15"). Our craftsman extraordinaire, Charles, subsequently designed and fashioned a longer Greenland style paddle (actually an Aluet design) for use with our solo canoes and I will be reviewing it in an upcoming post.

I have to confess that paddling the Rendezvous disrupted my long held beliefs about rockered boats. I had always considered them to be designed for, and best suited to, river travel. For the kind of flat water paddling I now do, I have been leaning toward minimally rockered racehorses like the Wenonah Advantage. Now I am not so sure. I have to take my hat off to the designer of this hull - maybe Mike Cichanowski? There is something magical about it.

It is nimble, easy to correct and keep on target, and amazingly exhilarating to paddle. It SEEMS to go faster with the same amount of effort I would put into paddling other boats. Next to the Rapidfire, this is the hull I am now most enamored with.  Just a lot of fun to paddle.

So thanks Paul for letting me try out your boats, and for taking some shots of me in them. It was a great day and very educational.

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