Chapter 4- The Ultimate Quiver
We had a team, we had a route, now we needed canoes. Wenonah Canoe’s brand promises include tracking and efficiency. Tracking and efficiency are absolutely essential to traveling longer distances with minimal effort. I can’t begin to stress enough the necessity for straight tracking canoes in locations like the BWCA. The shortest distance is a straight line, not a Charlie Brown t-shirt. It’s far easier and significantly more efficient to turn a canoe with a couple of steering strokes than constantly throwing steering strokes in order to keep a canoe going strait. Wenonah’s lineup includes a plethora of options from ultra-stable, fishing platforms to efficient tripping machines. For our trip, tripping machines were indicated. In order to further fabricate my case for labeling the trip “work”, I decided a direct on-water model comparison was in order. So I walked into the factory and ordered “The Ultimate Quiver” - Minnesota II, Champlain, Itasca and Minnesota 3 - All Kevlar® Ultralight, of course. Lastly, all canoes with the exception of the Minnesota 3 were equipped with both bow and stern sliding bucket seats. This would facilitate achieving proper trim without a lot of load and pack juggling. Without proper trim, not even the best canoe will track and turn as designed.
The ultimate quiver at sunset after a full day on the water. L to R: Champlain, Minnesota 3, Minnesota II and Itasca. Photo: RayGoodwin.com.
The Minnesota II has long been considered the canoe of choice for BWCA trips, period. Is this fact? Or, is this a case where Mr. Drayton’s famous quote “don’t believe the hype,” is true? Just because this is the canoe most of our employees paddle on weeknights, weekends and trips doesn’t mean we’re right. Or does it? Let’s put this to a test with our paddlers from Wales to Hawaii – I call this Market Research. The near rockerless hull of the MN II is designed to run straight and true. It also has exceptional glide, efficiency and speed. In The Ultimate Quiver, only the Minnesota 3 would offer a faster ride and straighter tracking.
Heather and the author paddling a Minnesota II at the top of Curtain Falls.
The Champlain is also a favorite in the BWCA. This canoe has “two-fingers” of rocker essential to facilitate turning when heavily loaded. The Champlain is capable of carrying more load than the Minnesota II but our short-week trip wouldn’t challenge any load limits. The initial stability of the Champlain is greater than the Minnesota II making it a more comfortable hook-setting platform. On paper, the depths are also greater than the Minnesota II suggesting a dryer ride but more susceptibility to wind. In The Ultimate Quiver, only the Itasca is capable of carrying more load.
Richard and Ray with a sizable load easily carried in their Champlain. Photo: Wenonah Canoe.
The Itasca is a marriage of function, style and dreams. This is the “trip of a lifetime” canoe capable of unsupported lengthy expeditions. The Itasca was clearly over-kill for our trip but I will admit it was a selfish choice on my part. I’ve padded this canoe many times but never loaded. So, in effect, my previous promotions for this canoe were based on my “trust me” catch phrase; by now you know this theme. This was my chance to log some strokes and call it “work”. The Itasca also sports about two-fingers of rocker for the same purpose as the Champlain. And, if we brought the proverbial kitchen sink, this is the canoe to carry it with efficiency and style. Oh, yea, we did bring the kitchen sink but I’ll save that story for a future installment.
The Itasca making good time with Claudia, Dave and a load of gear. Photo: Wenonah Canoe.
Rounding out the Ultimate Quiver was the Minnesota 3. BWCA permits allow 9 people but only 4 canoes per campsite. We needed a “BWCA Campsite Maximizer!”, as I call it; a true three seater. The Minnesota 3 is a Minnesota II extended 18” and with a third seat aft of center. Any three seat canoe compromises some gear storage space to accommodate the third paddler. If you have a party of only 3 paddlers, you’ll need to select your gear wisely. Since we had an Itasca and Champlain in the mix, gear space wasn’t a worry. The Minnesota 3 is also a great option for 2 paddlers and a lot of gear. With all things being equal, this lengthy waterline affords superior tracking and splendid efficiency.
The Minnesota 3 easily transporting Ted, Jennifer, Bill B and gear on a beautiful fall day. Photo: Wenonah Canoe.
No fleet is complete without propulsion. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, “composite boats deserve composite paddles. You wouldn’t put cheap rubber on your Tesla - if you had a Tesla”. The paddle choices were simple, Wenonah Black Lite Elbows or Wenonah Pro Lite Elbows. Both options are super-duper every day, do everything paddles. The former is slightly lighter in weight and the latter is slightly stiffer. The only cautions I have for these paddles are they are not push poles and they shouldn’t be used to dig latrines. If you have a composite canoe and don’t have a composite bent shaft paddle, buy one. Lacking this, you’ll never fully realize what your canoe has to offer. Lastly, proper paddle sizing - Whoever started measuring canoe paddles against standing humans must have been an oracle foretelling the Stand Up Paddle craze. Standing height has nothing to do with your shoulder height when you’re sitting or kneeling in a canoe. Proper sizing, especially for bent shaft paddles, is dependent on the height of the paddler’s shoulder above the water. Too long and you risk shoulder injury. Too short and you sacrifice efficiency. I suggest consulting with your local Wenonah retailer for a proper fit. If they want to measure you standing up, tell them what you just learned.
The Ultimate Quiver touching water for the first time on the trip at the Nina Moose River put in. L to R: Minnesota 3, Minnesota II, Itasca and Champlain. Photo: RayGoodwin.com
Stay tuned to this series through the conclusion when I reveal the canoe our team selected as “their” favorite canoe.
Up next: Let’s Get Loaded!