Paging through Craigslist one day, I came across a 16’ Wenonah Canoe for sale. It was listed at $325 – a great deal for a Wenonah (should’ve been a red flag)! I discussed it with my wife, Alycia, and we decided to contact the seller. We had been saving to buy a used canoe and had $350 in our “canoe envelope”. I emailed the seller and we set up a time to meet about 45 minutes from our house. The day of the meet-up, we left our house stopping at Dollar General on the way to purchase two pool noodles. Our Suburban already had a factory roof rack, so we could easily use the noodles to cushion between the crossrails and the canoe for a cheap, quick-fix car topping method. (Always check your vehicles manufacturer specs for weight and capacity of roof rack).
We headed north up the highway arriving at the assigned storage facility. The seller sat waiting for us in blue Prius like he said he would. We followed him to his storage unit and helped pull the canoe out. I looked over the Wenonah. She had a few spots where the outer shell had chipped, but I knew this was an easy fix with some fiberglass resin. Next, I checked the gunwales and they were very loose (also a red flag), but I was so enamored with the Wenonah name brand that I had to have this craft. My wife allowed me to make the decision to purchase or not (always a bad choice for her), and I offered $300 to the seller which he quickly accepted.
I proudly hoisted our Wenonah atop the Suburban and using two straps over the top, I tied it to the front and rear tow hooks. We headed home with our purchase, stopping twice to ensure the straps and ropes were still tight. Upon arriving home, we unloaded the canoe and lovingly placed it on a rack I had built with pallets.
The following weekend was to be her maiden voyage. I quickly repaired the bare spots on the hull to allow the fiberglass resin time to cure. My wife and I set about determining which lake in our area would be our first adventure. We decided on Chester State Park, a 160-acre lake just 5 minutes from our home. The work week dragged on as my excitement was building until finally, Saturday had arrived. By the time Alycia woke, I had the canoe loaded. Giddy like schoolchildren on Christmas morning, we headed to the lake! Once we were in the boat, it was so unstable that both of us were afraid to take our hands off the gunwales to touch a paddle much less use it to propel us. Suddenly, I had an epiphany (I’m slow like that)! In my haste to purchase, I had not researched this canoes hull design, width, carrying capacity, etc. Also, with the gunwales being very loose, the stability of the canoe was seriously affected. The gunwales could be fixed with time and skill, but it was impossible to reshape this canoe into what I actually wanted it to be. Wenonah makes fantastic canoes. Unfortunately, I had fallen for one that had been abused.
Of course, Alycia was none too pleased with me for my lack of research, but no one was more disappointed than me as I had big canoe fishing and camping plans. Thankfully, I was able to resell the vessel to someone with more skill than I that could repair the gunwales and restore this craft to her former beauty.
I had learned a valuable lesson. Research, research and research some more. When shopping for a canoe, make sure you know what type you want. Will you use it primarily for whitewater, recreation or tripping? If purchasing pre-owned, ask the seller some questions:
- Is the seller the original owner?
- Where was it stored? Inside? Outside? Covered?
- How was it stored? (If a canoe is hung right-side up, it can create stress points).
- How old is it?
- How often was it used?
- Has it seen any repairs?
- Why are they selling?
- What kind of trips did you take in this canoe?
- What type of water has it been used in?
When you see the boat, assess for damage including chips and deep gouges in the hull. Scratches are okay. Check to see if the gunwales are tight and that the thwarts and carry yoke are in good shape. Thwarts and yokes are an easy and cheap fix at approximately $50. Meet the seller at the lake for a test paddle. Look for sun damage such as fading or flaking on the hull as the hull may be breaking down from UV rays. Also, check for oil canning or ripples in the bottom of the hull. Many of the issues listed above can be easily fixed and aren’t necessarily a deterrent, but should be taken into consideration depending on your skill level and budget. Speaking of budget, research how much different canoes are being sold for in your area and adjust your offer price accordingly.
These few simple steps will ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Stay tuned for My Nightmare Turned Dream Canoe: Part II where we will see if I’m able to redeem myself and get out of the doghouse with wifey!