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Thread: Wenonah Vagabond

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Default Wenonah Vagabond

    Maker's Spec


    Vagabond availability:
    Graphite Ultra-light Core 24lb.
    Kevlar Ultra-light 29lb.
    Kevlar Flex-core38lb.
    Royalex 43lb.
    *Weights published are for canoes with all standard equipment

    Maker's Write Up
    A small, maneuverable canoe for sight-seeing, fishing, or exploration on moderate waters.

    The Vagabond is only moderately wide but is full from bow to stern, giving good stability and volume for its size. Though only big enough for short trips, it holds plenty of gear for fishing and casual use.

    The Vagabond is manageable and enjoyable for new paddlers, and its small size makes this canoe very easy to car-top and carry, and convenient to store.

    The Vagabond also responds well when used with a kayak paddle for improved performance on calm water of better control in inclement weather. The Vagabond is lighter than any kayak of comparable length and when paddled this way, also easily out-performs a kayak of similar size. A longer hull will haul more, track straighter, and easily outpace a canoe of its size, but a smaller boat has other appealing virtues. One obvious advantage is light weight; a small canoe is easy to portage and to lift onto your car. Also, a smaller boat takes less storage space. Quick turning is another advantage. The Vagabond delivers all of these virtues, yet has enough efficiency and capacity to be enjoyable in a variety of conditions.
    Last edited by Chrish; 19th-November-2007 at 12:44 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Ipswich, England
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    736

    Default Wenonah Vagabond review

    Wenonah Vagabond

    I have had this boat since the end of May 2007 so thought it was about time to submit a review.

    I chose the Vagabond because I wanted a solo boat to use on flat inland river trips. I’ve been used to a 16 foot Traveller, which I still own, but wanted something lighter and faster for the flat-water touring, which due to where I live (flat Suffolk) is what we mainly do round here. Also because of its size and light weight (I have the Royalex version) it is easy to load and unload from the car.

    For a short boat, 14 foot and a bit, it’s fairly fast, mainly due to its narrowness. Compared to a full size boat it does feel a little wobbly getting in and out but once in and settled it feels fine. I certainly would not fancy trying to pole it though.

    One thing I have done is to take out the tilting seat which it came fitted with. Unfortunately I have had to leave the side panels in as it looks like I would have to remove the gunwales to take them out. I found the seat too central which made the trim bow heavy (btw if it helps I’m 5 foot 7 and weigh 11 stone). I have now replaced the seat with a kneeling thwart which makes the trim much nicer.

    It tracks in a straight line well and moves fairly fast and effortlessly without having to heel it over on edge. Also due to its low freeboard it behaves well in the wind. When you read the Wenonah review they mention paddling it with a kayak paddle. Now I’m normally disapproving of open boats being paddled with kayak paddles but thought I’d better give it a go for research purposes only. I have to admit it don’t half shift with a kayak paddle (I just hope no one was watching me at the time otherwsie my reputation will be in tatters!).

    What it doesn’t do though is turn very quickly. Even heeling it over on edge hardly reduces the waterline length as it has minimal rocker. I knew this before I bought it though. If I wanted a more manoeuvrable solo boat I would have opted for the Argosy or Freedom Solo. I know people do use them on moving water but I would only fancy straight running a grade II in it, I would not want to have to commit to a tight breakout. For moving water I’ll stick to my Traveller for now.

    Summary

    If you want a lightweight, fast, solo boat for flat-water touring, then it may be worth a look.

    If you want something more stable or manoeuvrable then the Vagabond is probably not the right choice.

    If you have any questions about the Vagabond I'll do my best to answer them.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 7th-August-2007 at 09:26 PM. Reason: Fix font

  3. #3

    Default Questions on the Vagabond

    Hi Richard,

    I am shopping for a solo and the Vagabond is on my short list. The problem is that where I live (Vancouver Island BC Canada) there are very few solo canoes in the shops so trying them out is either impossible or means traveling to Vancouver and even there, everyone is into kayaks or tandem canoes. I find if funny how the kayak has muscled out all other boats around here, but that is a rant for a different time.

    I am wondering if you can answer a few questions about the Vagabond.

    1. I have heard different things about both its tracking and its turning. I own a large old no-name flat bottom tandem which my father purchased from a scout camp and “fixed up” over the years. I inherited it when he passed away. It is the boat I have paddled the most, though I have paddled for about 10 years in various kayaks. So – it seems to me that a boat this size should not be that difficult to turn, I would tend to think that tracking would be more the problem, but from what I have read, and from what you say in your review, it sound like manoeuvrability is an issue. Can you say a little more about this? Are you talking about pivoting the boat, redirecting it in moving water, etc? for instance, how well does the scull stroke work to move the boat sideways?
    2. The second thing is its hull shape. The Wenonah catalogue shows it as a very shallow arch, bordering on flat. Is this the case? From looking at it I thought it would have good initial stability but not great secondary, but I have read that the secondary is not bad. I’m just wondering how you find this, do you ever paddle Canadian style and if so, does it make a difference in the manoeuvrability? Is it comfortable to paddle in that fashion?
    3. Finally, let me tell you what I am mainly looking for and maybe you can tell me if you think this might be the boat for me or not. I want a very light (so I am looking at the graphite) solo boat that I can paddle with a double blade or a single stick. I want to be able to fish from it, and intend to mainly use it for poking along streams, ponds, small lakes, and gentle rivers with the occasional foray into larger waters. Secondarily I would like to be able to take it out for two or three days with some portaging. What do you think?

    Appreciate any advice you can give.

    Richard

  4. #4

    Default sorry, one more thing...

    By the way, do you have any pictures of your Vagabond? Here is one from a recent trip with my sons...



    Richard

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Ipswich, England
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    736

    Default Vagabond Answers

    Richard

    I have tried to answer your questions as below. I hope this helps.

    1. Moving the boat sideways using sculling draw or even moving sideways whilst on the move is no problem. Turning it on the spot is not easy though . The Vagabond has little rocker and therefore most of it's length is in the water. Even heeled well over on it's side hardly reduces the waterline length. It does not turn very easily when using sweep strokes, inside or outside pivot turns. The most effective stroke is the circle stroke where you continue to sweep right under the hull. I don't know if you've ever tried an Old Town Pack but it behaves very similiar to this. Turning on the move is slightly better but you do have to be very committed, I found a bow jam most effective. However this has been on flat water only. I have not had the chance to take it on any rapids yet so cannot say how well it will perform on moving water. However I did have a play on a wave train at the bottom of a weir and tried breaking in and out but again it did not turn easily. So in my opinion it does not score well on manoeuvrability. However it does track well and is reasonably efficient if you wanted to paddle in a straight line.

    2. I always paddle Canadian style. Your description of the hull shape is spot on. It is shallow arch but I guess because it is a small boat the curves are very slight with minimal tumblehome. I have not fallen out of it yet but am not that confident in it's secondary stability. It's a narrow boat so will always feel unstable compared to the tandem you are used to. It's certainly not a boat to stand up in and would be too narrow and unstable for poling. But again for paddling in a straight line it can be heeled comfortably on it's side and paddled with ease.

    3. I've got the Royalex version which is light enough for me but the graphite would be even lighter. It's light enough to be carried on the shoulder for short distances; mine doesn't have a carrying yoke (yet) which would of course help on longer portages. I always paddle with a single blade but as an experiment did try a kayak paddle - it was very fast! Obviously being narrow and short you cannot carry much gear.

    I use the Vagabond as my flatwater boat and will stick to my old 16 foot boat for moving water. I must admit although I wanted a light weight and faster boat for my flatwater trips I wished I had found something which was slightly more responsive.

    I've taken the adjustable tilting seat out of my Vagabond as found it to be too central which made the trim all wrong, I also did not find it to be very comfortable. I've now replaced the seat with a kneeling thwart.

    I hope this has been useful if not conclusive. Strongly suggest you try before you buy!

    I will attempt to attach some pictures in another post.

    Regards

  6. #6

    Default

    Hi Richard,

    You said:
    Quote Originally Posted by BigRich View Post
    1. Moving the boat sideways using sculling draw or even moving sideways whilst on the move is no problem. Turning it on the spot is not easy though . The Vagabond has little rocker and therefore most of it's length is in the water. Even heeled well over on it's side hardly reduces the waterline length. It does not turn very easily when using sweep strokes, inside or outside pivot turns. The most effective stroke is the circle stroke where you continue to sweep right under the hull. I don't know if you've ever tried an Old Town Pack but it behaves very similiar to this.
    That is very helpful. I paddled a canoe one time that had enough rocker that when heeled over it liturally spun on the spot with gentle box/sculls.

    You said:
    Quote Originally Posted by BigRich View Post
    So in my opinion it does not score well on manoeuvrability. However it does track well and is reasonably efficient if you wanted to paddle in a straight line.
    What is so helpful in your response is that you explain the manoeuvrability issue. I read up on several boats on paddlenet and sometimes people split half and half on manoeuvrability. "How can this be?" I thought to myself, but I guess it depends on what you are talking about. What are the chances I will find a boat that recaptures my past experience of manoeuvrability, from what you say, the Vagabond doesn't sound like it!


    You said:
    Quote Originally Posted by BigRich View Post
    It's a narrow boat so will always feel unstable compared to the tandem you are used to.
    Again, this is good to know. I have been in several kayaks and found one of them to be particularly tippy. In a kayak, though, you can really grab the hull by wedging your feet on the pegs and your knees on the underside of the deck, and the boat becomes an extension of your body. So the solo canoe may feel more tippy for lack of "control" as much as anything. Do you find that kneeling (rather than sitting) makes a big difference?

    You said:
    Quote Originally Posted by BigRich View Post
    I've taken the adjustable tilting seat out of my Vagabond as found it to be too central which made the trim all wrong, I also did not find it to be very comfortable. I've now replaced the seat with a kneeling thwart.
    Interesting. A lot of people seem to find the "factory setting" for the seats to be wrong. Personal preference? Body shape? stupid manufacturers?

    I appreciate your admonition to try before I buy. I would dearly like that too. I have e-mailed the shop in Victoria who had the solo in stock, but no response so far. I have been shocked at how many retailers simply do not return e-mails. I'm talking about buying two boats here, what gives with that? business must be good!

    Anyway, I very much appreciate all your detailed and clear responses. It has helped a lot and given me more to think about.

    Richard

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Ipswich, England
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Powell View Post
    Hi Richard,

    Do you find that kneeling (rather than sitting) makes a big difference?


    Kneeling is definitely more stable and gives you more control, you kind of get used to the legs falling asleep and the inability to walk after a long paddle!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Ipswich, England
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    736

    Default Vagabond Picture

    Picture of Vagabond (first attempt at uploading a picture so apologies if this is rubbish).
    [/IMG]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Default Vagabond Picture #2

    This gives an indication of the very modest tumblehome

    [/IMG]

  10. #10

    Default

    Wow, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Thank you for posting those. I'm sure others will appreciate seeing the boat too. I can see how that kneeling thwart would be much better than the seat for paddling Canadian style. I can't remember, is that a standard option from Wenonah or did you make it yourself?

    It looks like you have it outfitted well for tripping. The only issue I still have to think about is how much rocker I want. This boat looks perfect for camping trips and the tracking ability would be appreciated on longer hauls.

    I do like to be able to swing a boat around on the pivot, and I guess I need more rocker to do that easily. I'm just trying to think how much I actually use that move. Generally it is when I am sitting fishing or looking at the mountains and want to turn right around. Hmmm.....

    Richard

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Ipswich, England
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    Default

    [... I can see how that kneeling thwart would be much better than the seat for paddling Canadian style. I can't remember, is that a standard option from Wenonah or did you make it yourself?
    [/quote]


    The kneeling thwart is home made and replaces the tilting seat that came with the boat. I have positioned it a few inches behind where the seat was to improve the trim.

  12. #12

    Default

    Interesting that you were able to find the right trim by moving the seat (so to speak) back. is that because of running with a load, or a result of your weight/hight, or just a personal preference?

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