It is a boat that is superlative because it is NOT extreme. Bow and stern high enough to not ship water in the rapids, midships deep enough to load a lot of gear and supplies, a modest rocker to keep turns easy, flat bottom that makes skating over a gravel bar a given, not a challenge, wide and flat to stand up in to see the path through ahead, and 500 pounds of tents and supplies in the mid and bow to counter my 275 pounds in the stern seat. A truly superlative canoe, especially if you single hand.
Durable, usable, friendly, a great boat that gives every ounce of what is truly needed. I wanna try the Seneca someday!
Camping or just paddling. Works well. Kids are older now with their own kayaks now but my wife and I still enjoy our canoe. Funny story from this past weekend, I had the canoe balanced on one rail of the Yakima carrier and the hood of our Volvo to clear our tailgate so we could unload our camping gear. Our daughter pushed the canoe to get a little more room and the canoe slid off the front of the car! Stern first. Ground up the top plate a little. Took it to our local dealer when we got back and they said all was fine. Now that's a tough canoe!
We had our Champlain repaired by Wenonah and, with a couple of small exceptions; it looks like it just came off the sales floor. We jokingly call it "The Beater Canoe" because after the tree hit it, it looked like a beater. In fact now, it's anything but a beater.
My wife and I finally took "our" Champlain out for a proper spin. It was on a large mountain reservoir, just under 5000 feet in the Sierra’s. The trip included the bare necessities and a small dog (see our trip report: California, Union Valley Reservoir). We got a sampling of flat water, choppy water, wind, gusts, mixed currents, bow/quartering/broadside/stern waves (from 0 – 12”), etc. We thought we'd be sorry with such a parachute and no load or spray deck to keep it on task. It handled flawlessly.
This canoe is almost a mind reader. It takes little more than a thought and it responds. Absolutely no surprises and no acute "points of no return". Everything is predictable, manageable, and reliable.
It won't replace either of our Wenonah Itascas. At times it might replace our Spirit II. And it's in a different class than our other crafts. But it won't sit idle when we have friends or family along either. Especially if friends or family require a lot of room and/or a large load… Or if they have some perverse desire to beat the water into submission.
I rate a canoe or kayak by how well it does what it is advertized to do. So I won’t rate a whitewater canoe using touring canoe expectations, or visa versa. That wouldn’t be fair. A perfect 10, means the canoe (at least in my mind) did everything it was advertized to do, and did it exceptionally well. This canoe easily makes the 10 grade, but if we ever get it out into the big stuff I might have to reevaluate.
Have fun and Keep your paddle blades on the bottom half.
We ran a little white water on the trips up to non-technical class II rapids. It is great in standing waves and rough water, but it doesn’t have enough rocker, like a Prospector, to tackle any technical river. If I start paddling more technical rivers, I’ll probably get myself a 17 ft. Royalex Prospector or something similar.
I had much trepidation buying a kevlar canoe instead of Royalex. I’m pleasantly surprised that the canoe can take quite a bit of abuse and not have much damage. A little epoxy and sanding will fix any scrapes. Being light, I can load the canoe myself on my pickup truck. A kevlar canoe is the only way to go when you don’t have to deal with many rock gardens.
An unloaded Champlain in the wind is just another name for a sailboat. It’s not a touring canoe unless you go with enough cargo, kids, dogs, etc. to weight it down. Loading makes it an entirely different canoe. I made splash covers for mine and that helps with the wind. Being so large and beamy, it is a very stable canoe, which you have to remind yourself that when switching to another canoe, or you’ll be doing some trout scouting when you do something that wouldn’t be wise on a less stable canoe. That I learned from personal experience in a very wet way.
A Champlain is big, like the crate they ship a Spirit II in, so if you don’t need a big tripping canoe, look somewhere else. However, if you want to take a ten day trip down the Green River in Utah where you have to carry twenty gallons of water, a fire pan, a porta-potty, a variety of food for ten days; the necessities for gracious living like a cooler of beer, a table and chairs, etc., then the Champlain can be just what the doctor ordered.
Plusses: light weight easier for my wifes compromised back (mine also), fast, easier in waves and maneuverable.
Negs: Does not turn to weather like the Grumman with keel (we get wind here on the Columbia River). Moving the rear seat 6" forward helped some, but its still a chore even with a middle paddler and all paddling on same side (yeah, I know what some may be thinking, but some times this set up is needed...). Am considering adding 16' 1x2 as keel (yep, I know the Indians did not use keels, but there may have been times that they wished they had 'em).
Overall satisfied. I like it better than the old Whitewater II I owned many years ago. Happy paddling!