BWCA Penobscot or UL Encounter for solo Boundary Waters Gear Forum
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wrightscreek
member (9)member
 
10/18/2021 11:46AM  
This week I am looking at two very different boats as options for solo paddling - a royalex Penobscot 16 in excellent condition. This one looks like it has been hanging from the rafters of the guys garage after one outing or something - it’s basically new. $800.

The other option someone is offering is a Wenonah Encounter ultralight kevlar for 1300 (negotiable). It has some scratches but has been kept indoors and is well cared for by a very experienced paddler.

Now, I know these two boats are very different, but allow me to explain why I’m considering both. I already have an Alumacraft voyager that is rigged for racing, it is not a viable option for solo because of the sliding seats and the thwart placement. My primary goal is to have boat I can get out on the lake with to stay fit when my partner can’t train (we’ve got a few races planned this year) and also have something for solo tripping. I am considering two trips this year, both in shallow rocky rivers (Devils and Rio Grande) and may end up doing them solo.

These are the things I’ve considered -

-Penobscot-

Pros:
Seems to do just about anything you want, solo or tandem and could potentially be something I’d hang onto for the long haul as a do-it-all boat. From what I’ve read, it also tracks well and relatively quick for a plastic boat.
Cons:
Heavy(er) than an ultralight of course, duh. Not as fast or well-tracking as the encounter. Might paddle alright solo, but not quick.

-Encounter-

Pros:
Lightweight (38 lbs I believe). Great for solo tripping. Would feel more race-like and be more appropriate for race training I think. Heck, I could even race it if I needed to!
Cons:
Fragile - I’m a pretty competent paddler, but the rivers around these parts are shallow and riddled with gravel bars, so unless I’m absolutely anal about I will be scraping rocks in it. Designed for hauling lots of gear and/or a heavier paddler. I only weigh 150lbs, and almost every post I’ve read about these are either written by people who clock in over 200lbs or are by those who complain about it’s poor performance unloaded. Needs more care in general, I’d want to buy a cover for it as I only have the option of outdoor storage at the moment.

Now, I haven’t paddle either of these before and I only have experience in plastic and aluminum boats. As much as I’d love to have both and one day plan to have a whole fleet, I can only choose one! Maybe this was just to brain dump my thoughts about it to help myself, but are there any other things I’m not considering about this? Any thoughts much appreciated! Cheers y’all!
 
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MReid
distinguished member (333)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/18/2021 12:39PM  
I've owned both (2 Penobscots in two different Royalex layups, 1 Encounter in UL skin coat). The Penobscot is a decent solo river boat (I've done multi-day trips in up to Class IV) water. If you get one, please put in a solo seat and remove the tandems--this will get you in a better paddling position and save on weight. You can always change the seating configuration back to tandem in only a few minutes.

The Encounter is a sorta big fast solo canoe, primarily for tripping using sit-and-switch paddling technique. It is fun to paddle, and can cover lots of ground either empty or loaded. It will be a much better fitness boat.

For bouncing off rocks, the Penobscot (whether Royalex or PE) will be much better. For lake paddling, or non-technical rivers (including gravel bars, where you're sliding over the gravel rather than bouncing off rocks), the Encounter will be much nicer, especially if it has a gel coat (adds weight, but also adds lots of durability).

As you mentioned, they are radically different boats. Style also comes to bear--if you're a straight-shaft paddler, you'll probably be happier in the Penobscot. If you're a bent-shafter, the Encounter will be nicer by far (x10) with its tumblehome. For portaging, the Encounter by far--weights are about 38 on the Encounter, 57 on the light Royalex (ca 2001), and 75 on the current (PE) Penobscot. And by the way, I'm 160 (and 15 less when I was doing Class IV!).
 
wrightscreek
member (9)member
 
10/18/2021 01:18PM  
Much appreciated! It’s great to hear from someone who has owned both, and I never thought about the paddling style. I’ll never put down my bent shaft ZREs and they’re pretty short so I worry I might be reaching a lot in the Penobscot. Thanks!
 
MReid
distinguished member (333)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/18/2021 01:38PM  
wrightscreek: "Much appreciated! It’s great to hear from someone who has owned both, and I never thought about the paddling style. I’ll never put down my bent shaft ZREs and they’re pretty short so I worry I might be reaching a lot in the Penobscot. Thanks! "
Being a long-time bent shafter (Wenonah fast boats), I got a 2" longer cheapo bent shaft for the Penobscot. It worked ok, but not ideal. If you trim the Penobscot level where the bow is engaged, it sorta tracks. I was paddling with a tandem Kevlar Explorer, and was pretty much keeping pace, but I'm sure I was working harder than them. In whitewater (CII), I was enjoying watching them work their butts off while I was just bobbing around casually making solo strokes.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member(565)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/18/2021 07:13PM  
wrightscreek: "Much appreciated! It’s great to hear from someone who has owned both, and I never thought about the paddling style. I’ll never put down my bent shaft ZREs and they’re pretty short so I worry I might be reaching a lot in the Penobscot. Thanks! "

Time to open your mind to the wonders of seeing double. No, not through chemistry - this:

Bending Branches Impression Solo





My Penobscot 17 and I recently returned after traversing a chunk of Seagull Lake loaded to the gunwales. I found the experience as satisfying as any bent shaft paddling I do in it when used as a tandem:





(Disregard the Greenland paddle seen here. Too much dripping for a canoe, IMO. Loved it in a kayak.)
 
RedLakePaddler
distinguished member (117)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
10/19/2021 08:55AM  
If the Penobscot is Royalex I would lean that direction. I have a UL Encounter which I use for lake paddling but would never use it on a rocky river. While being fast and high volume it doesn’t turn. Also the the damage from bouncing of rocks would be of great concern to me.
The Penobscot would also give you the option of using it tandem. I have a Kevlar Mad River explorer which I have used both ways.

Carl
 
wrightscreek
member (9)member
 
10/19/2021 07:52PM  
gravelroad: "wrightscreek: "Much appreciated! It’s great to hear from someone who has owned both, and I never thought about the paddling style. I’ll never put down my bent shaft ZREs and they’re pretty short so I worry I might be reaching a lot in the Penobscot. Thanks! "


Time to open your mind to the wonders of seeing double. No, not through chemistry - this:


Bending Branches Impression Solo





My Penobscot 17 and I recently returned after traversing a chunk of Seagull Lake loaded to the gunwales. I found the experience as satisfying as any bent shaft paddling I do in it when used as a tandem:






(Disregard the Greenland paddle seen here. Too much dripping for a canoe, IMO. Loved it in a kayak.) "
That’s loaded down! You moving furniture with that thing? Great point on going double bladed. Actually, I have an older Mitchell wooden kayak paddle that I’ve hung onto for a while now and hardly used since I’ve switched to canoes. I haven’t been able to bring myself to sell it because I just love the way it feels (even sounds!) moving through the water and it’s surprisingly lightweight. Although it is only 235cm I think so perhaps I’ll look into the BB link you sent. Thanks!

Anyways, I’ve decided on the P16 - I’m headed out to pick it up a few hours away tomorrow. I think the multipurpose factor and ruggedness of the P16 will get me more use and enjoyment out of it compared to the Encounter, at least for now! If I’m surrounded by miles of desert out on the Rio grande I’d feel much more relaxed paddling a royalex boat, where hiking out if put in a bind could be treacherous. And as for the solo fitness paddling out on the lake, well at least it’ll get me on the water when my partner can’t practice. Paddling that heavy boat ought to make me stronger, right? ;)

Thank y’all for the comments and suggestions! Cheers!
 
brulu
senior member (59)senior membersenior member
 
10/20/2021 06:36AM  
Definitely hang on to that kayak paddle that you like. You might find that you like it in a canoe too.

When I got my solo canoe I picked up a double-bladed solo canoe paddle of the recommended length (in theory should be longer than a kayak paddle for the same person). It worked just fine, but it seemed obnoxiously long when stowing in the canoe, and when portaging it.

I recently acquired a sea kayak and got a somewhat shorter paddle for that. On my last canoe trip I decided to try the shorter kayak paddle with the solo canoe. It also worked just fine, while at the same time being lighter, more wieldy, and easier to portage.

I switch off between a standard canoe paddle and a double-bladed one, so even if the double-bladed one is slightly shorter than optimum, it's not noticeable to me, and the benefits of being shorter are worth it. If I was going to exclusively use the double-bladed paddle then I might go with a longer one.

And maybe it's different using a tandem (Penobscot 16) as a solo, probably wider than a solo, depending on where you sit, requiring a longer double-bladed paddle anyway.
 
10/20/2021 08:53AM  
Contrary thoughts but that's where the name comes in. Between a Penobscot or Encounter for solo paddling? No question in my mind the Encounter. A Tandem to a solo feels like comparing a minivan to a sport car. Yeah either will get you point a to b, but the comparison ends there.

Far as tandem blades, they are a thing of the devil and as such cursed by solo canoeists (OK, only by me but what the he--), you get warts from touching them.

You have a tandem (even if rigged to race), so the solo makes more sense. Worry about paddles latter as it seems you are already geared for tandem competition and there is a gear overlap with solo canoes.
The Encounter is kinda large for a solo but better than a tandem. Sure you want to invest now or maybe look some more. Nice solo's pop up used fairly often up in the northern midwest. I have been considering selling my Advantage, getting closer all the time ( just turned 70 and got arthritis for my birthday). Oh once you spend some time with composite canoe(s), you may well find out they are not fragile at all, and even better simple to repair at home.

butthead
 
BrianDay
senior member (58)senior membersenior member
 
10/22/2021 07:45AM  
butthead: "Contrary thoughts but that's where the name comes in. Between a Penobscot or Encounter for solo paddling? No question in my mind the Encounter. A Tandem to a solo feels like comparing a minivan to a sport car. Yeah either will get you point a to b, but the comparison ends there.


Far as tandem blades, they are a thing of the devil and as such cursed by solo canoeists (OK, only by me but what the he--), you get warts from touching them.


You have a tandem (even if rigged to race), so the solo makes more sense. Worry about paddles latter as it seems you are already geared for tandem competition and there is a gear overlap with solo canoes.
The Encounter is kinda large for a solo but better than a tandem. Sure you want to invest now or maybe look some more. Nice solo's pop up used fairly often up in the northern midwest. I have been considering selling my Advantage, getting closer all the time ( just turned 70 and got arthritis for my birthday). Oh once you spend some time with composite canoe(s), you may well find out they are not fragile at all, and even better simple to repair at home.


butthead"


Brian from Wenonah here.

Agreed on all. If you're looking for a fitness boat that will be compatible with your racing technique the Encounter is a better choice. Gravel bars aren't a problem for UL Aramid construction. These boats are tougher than most people give them credit for. Sure, you'll scratch it up, but that's not a big deal. You should see how scratched up Boundary Waters rental canoes get and keep on trucking.

I have an old beater Encounter that I bought used years ago before I worked here at Wenonah. It's a fast boat and I've enjoyed using it for fitness paddles. I have an Advantage now, which is a better fit for flatwater fitness paddling, but my wife recently discovered solo paddling, so I'm in the Encounter again much of the time. No complaints.

The Penobscot is a great canoe, but you'll be better off with a true solo for training.

Brian
 
wrightscreek
member (9)member
 
10/22/2021 08:09AM  
BrianDay: "butthead: "Contrary thoughts but that's where the name comes in. Between a Penobscot or Encounter for solo paddling? No question in my mind the Encounter. A Tandem to a solo feels like comparing a minivan to a sport car. Yeah either will get you point a to b, but the comparison ends there.



Far as tandem blades, they are a thing of the devil and as such cursed by solo canoeists (OK, only by me but what the he--), you get warts from touching them.



You have a tandem (even if rigged to race), so the solo makes more sense. Worry about paddles latter as it seems you are already geared for tandem competition and there is a gear overlap with solo canoes.
The Encounter is kinda large for a solo but better than a tandem. Sure you want to invest now or maybe look some more. Nice solo's pop up used fairly often up in the northern midwest. I have been considering selling my Advantage, getting closer all the time ( just turned 70 and got arthritis for my birthday). Oh once you spend some time with composite canoe(s), you may well find out they are not fragile at all, and even better simple to repair at home.



butthead"



Brian from Wenonah here.


Agreed on all. If you're looking for a fitness boat that will be compatible with your racing technique the Encounter is a better choice. Gravel bars aren't a problem for UL Aramid construction. These boats are tougher than most people give them credit for. Sure, you'll scratch it up, but that's not a big deal. You should see how scratched up Boundary Waters rental canoes get and keep on trucking.


I have an old beater Encounter that I bought used years ago before I worked here at Wenonah. It's a fast boat and I've enjoyed using it for fitness paddles. I have an Advantage now, which is a better fit for flatwater fitness paddling, but my wife recently discovered solo paddling, so I'm in the Encounter again much of the time. No complaints.


The Penobscot is a great canoe, but you'll be better off with a true solo for training.


Brian"


I appreciate your thoughts on this from both of you! I ended up not buying the Penobscot afterall for the reasons you mentioned. I will be checking out the Encounter after a race this coming weekend. Looking forward to it and something tells me I’ll be coming home with a new (to me) boat! If it will fit on the ladder rack next to my Voyager (or maybe tied down in the truck bed somehow)…cheers!
 
BrianDay
senior member (58)senior membersenior member
 
10/22/2021 08:27AM  
Have fun with that Encounter!

Brian
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(711)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/01/2021 03:59PM  
gravelroad: "wrightscreek: "Much appreciated! It’s great to hear from someone who has owned both, and I never thought about the paddling style. I’ll never put down my bent shaft ZREs and they’re pretty short so I worry I might be reaching a lot in the Penobscot. Thanks! "


Time to open your mind to the wonders of seeing double. No, not through chemistry - this:


Bending Branches Impression Solo





My Penobscot 17 and I recently returned after traversing a chunk of Seagull Lake loaded to the gunwales. I found the experience as satisfying as any bent shaft paddling I do in it when used as a tandem:






(Disregard the Greenland paddle seen here. Too much dripping for a canoe, IMO. Loved it in a kayak.) "


That's all just for you? We take less in a tandem with two guys for a week.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member(565)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/01/2021 08:57PM  
No, that’s for two hunters hoping to bring a bear and/or deer back out. There’s seventy-five pounds of ice in two large coolers included in that load. And a heavy duty bear fence:

Bear fence specs
 
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