In Part I, I discussed the buyer’s remorse I experienced after purchasing a beat-up Wenonah canoe. It’s important to remember that the best canoe for you is the canoe you have or the canoe you can afford. However, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice function. Follow along as I share my experience and review some tips for helping you with the purchase of your dream canoe.
Research and education are key to making an informed decision with anything in life. Selecting a canoe or kayak is no different. Since, I knew my wife, Alycia, and I were going to be paddling mostly flatwater with a few Class II’s from time to time and that we wanted a canoe with a higher weight capacity to be able to canoe camp and bring our Newfie, Miss Zoe, with us; I began my search here. I was also looking for a virtually indestructible hull material (Zoe is a chewer)! With the equivalent of three adults in the canoe (Zoe weighs 120 lbs.), plus our gear, I also wanted a boat with some length. To summarize, I was looking for a fairly wide, stable canoe with a durable hull and moderate rocker that was around 17’ in length and was a manageable weight for us. We didn’t plan on doing too many long portages, so I hoped to find a boat at 80 lbs. or less.
Going back to the internet, I started searching for brands with models matching our wish list. I looked at Old Town’s Penobscot 174, Esquif’s Mistral 17.5, Wenonah’s Minnesota II and Novacraft’s Prospector 18 and quickly realized if we wanted a canoe sooner than later we would have to look at used. I knew we may have to sacrifice a little here and there to get as close as possible to our desires since we would be buying pre-owned. Back to Craiglist once more to search for a good used boat at an affordable price. Month after month of searching and I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever find one. How much were we going to have to compromise?
I am an early riser which kills the wife. I typically sleep in on the weekends until around 0430. With coffee in hand, I sat down at the computer one Saturday morning to scour the internet for a canoe. Again, I typed my search parameters into Craigslist (16-18’, up to $750) and knew the tide was turning in my favor when a listing for an Old Town Tripper 172 popped up! I’m not embarrassed to say my heart was racing a little. You see, the Trippers were made of the famous Royalex composite material, and Royalex is no longer manufactured! The Trippers are known for being wide, stable and heavy load carriers with the perfect amount of rocker to go with the incredible hull material. At around 85 lbs., they are somewhat heavy but completely doable. Based on the pictures, she looked amazingly well cared for. And now for the price. I scrolled down the page, saw $325 and even though it was now only 0500 on a Saturday, I immediately messaged the seller.
The seller was awake as he and his wife were having a yard sale. I got directions to his home and told him if the canoe was in the condition the pictures showed, I’d be coming home with it. I woke Alycia and poured coffee down her throat, and we were on the road. We drove 75 minutes, pulled into the seller’s subdivision and there she was – the Tripper 172 of my dreams looking even better than the pictures. Alycia and I always joke when buying something used that we are looking for something is “LES condition”. Les was my father and he took care of his toys. Every boat was wiped down and dried as soon as it was pulled from the water. I was once scolded for allowing a bass to bleed on the carpet of his fishing boat! Looking over the Tripper with a fine-tooth comb, it was definitely in “LES condition”. The owner had recently retired and relocated to South Carolina from the Boston area to be near grandchildren and was selling the canoe because they had significantly downsized. He told us the canoe was a 1979 (like Alycia, lol😂) and that he and his dad bought it new in 1980. It was always garage kept and used mostly on flatwater. This is important information for several reasons. Flatwater use equals little to no gouges or scratches. Being a 1979 model and having lived her life in Boston, she only saw water 3 months a year! The canoe was garage kept in a cold climate, which is important because Royalex can be affected by extreme cold and temperature swings.
I pulled out my wallet and gladly handed the seller his full asking price of $325. He helped me load it atop our Suburban, and I began tying it down. While I was finishing up strapping it, the seller and his wife took Alycia into their garage and loaded her down with 4 paddles, 3 life jackets and a throwable cushion they were including in the purchase price!
Research and patience (and a little good luck) had paid off. I was all smiles on our drive home. Amazingly, our trip home took us right past Chester State Park, and the lake was calling. We cruised the lake for a bit to see how the Tripper handled. We were both extremely pleased and have been ever since. If you know exactly what you want out of a canoe and have the patience to wait for it as you’re saving up for it, you can find your dream canoe like we did.
If you’re looking for a new canoe, most locally owned stores have greater selection and more knowledgeable staff. This isn’t to say that the big box sporting goods stores don’t have good people, but knowledgeable canoe enthusiasts are hard to find.