Half the fun of planning for a big expedition is researching and buying all the new gear specific to the trip. For a canoe trip that will be taking us 15% of the circumference of the earth, that means we need a mighty big boat.
It's been an interesting learning experience, trying to figure out exactly what our little excursion requires: we started out thinking something around 16' would be a good size, then 17', 18' and finally 20'. For the record, this is generally the longest size before you get into the Voyageur-style boats, which can get truly enormous.
The size of our proposed canoe turned out to be both a boon and hindrance; while there are many really wonderful companies out there making some fantastic watercraft, not all that many make something big enough. We slowly wheedled down our list, giving Canadian companies the priority of our attention and then American ones. We looked at a variety of factors, such as weight, price and materials used.
On March 4th we went to the Mid-Canada Boat Show that took place here in Winnipeg from the 2nd to the 5th and finally found our vessel. While the show is mostly composed of motor boats (some truly enormous, with faux leather seats and built in bars), two of our local stores had spaces showcasing their canoes. Both seem like great little companies, Winnipeg Canoe Rentals and Wilderness Supply.
By this point we had narrowed our potential canoes down to a Clipper MacKenzie from Winnipeg Canoe Rentals and a Wenonah Minnesota 3 from Wilderness Supply, both 20-footers, so we had a rather perfect opportunity to talk to individuals from both shops.
Our main concern was that the Clipper was a significantly heavier boat at 84lbs for their Kevlar model. The Wenonah, in contrast, weighs in at 69lbs in flex-core with Kevlar and 55lbs for their ultralight Kevlar. Even Wenonah's Tuf-Weave model (a composite of polyester and fiberglass) is 75lbs.
We couldn't seem to get a firm answer about where exactly all the extra weight was coming from in the Clipper, though it does have more depth along the whole length of the boat, meaning more material. However, when comparing the 18'6" MacKenzie with the 20', we discovered that the additional 1.5' of boat resulted in an additional 14lbs of total weight, which seemed like a lot.
Having just done some math, I've discovered that in adding that 1.5', they're adding 8% more length and 20% more weight, so I'm still rather confused on that front.
Still, we wanted to be sure our canoe would be durable enough to go from one side of the country to another without major issues (within reason; if it somehow accidentally goes off a waterfall or we use it as cover from a gunfight allowances will be made), but the folks from Wilderness Supply didn't seem to have any doubts that a Wenonah would be capable of making the distance. They did suggest the Tuf-Weave model might be worth considering as it is a heavier material.
After some intense discussion in two different luxury motor-things, we decided to give Wilderness Supply a deposit for a Wenonah canoe, giving us a 10% Boat Show discount (one reason we wanted to make our decision that day if we could).
As of today we're still deciding whether to make our final order in Kevlar or Tuf-Weave, but we're one step closer to being able to touch what will be our home-away-from-home, transportation and storage for half the year come April 2018.