This canoe excels at what it was designed for.....heavy loads, long days.....day after day in all types of weather with a large paddler. The seat placement is fine. Fifty or a hundred pounds is not enough to trim this boat. If you don't have a minimum of 400 pounds in the boat you are missing the point.
I probably won't use the Encounter much for its intended purpose of loading it down with lots weight for expedition work. I haven't paddled it in much wind but noticed that the wind would push the bow down and make it more difficult to control. I'm sure a cover would take care of this problem for most paddlers. For me the seat is in the right spot no trouble manuvering this fine craft.
Yes it is a big boat and incredibly stable so its not as exciting as a narrower hull. This boat turns incredibly well if you know how to lean the boat on the opposite side of the turn and use the right strokes. I usually kneel in a canoe but I can make this one turn sitting almost as easily. She is effected very little by the current even when going upstream around tight turns.
If I only had one boat for wilderness travel this would be my pick. Its too bad its only listed as just an expedition canoe, paddled light shes a gem in my opinion.
This boat also does well for weekend lake camping trips. I can't think of another solo boat that handles a 70qt cooler, 4 man tent, fishing tackle, and a folding lounge chair across a large windy lake with the ease and grace of my Encounter. I have other boats for other uses. No boat can do all things well.
To come close to trimming the canoe I had to slide the seat as far back as it could go plus put my large pack behind me. Those that say the seat needs to be mounted 12" further aft are correct. Furthermore, the placement of the foot brace is all wrong. With the foot brace moved as close to center as possible and the seat move forward as far as possible, my feet barely reached it. Granted I am not tall, but to have the seat set to where it trims the canoe (ie as far back as possible) you’d need to be seven feet tall to reach the brace even with it set as close to center as possible.
I found the canoe to be neither efficient nor fast. I found it be non-responsive and a tug to paddle. I will say Wenonah is correct saying that it is buoyant and stable.
To those thinking I have a grudge against Wenonah, I don’t. I am a happy owner of a Wenonah Prospector 16 (great boat), am a former owner of a Sandpiper, and have enjoyed paddling the Vagabond, Solo Plus, Spirit II, Adirondack, and Escapade. The Encounter is one of the few Wenonahs that I haven’t liked.
If you are looking for a solo, work boat that needs to carry a very large load, this may be right boat for you. If you want a tripping boat for canoe camping for less than a month, this boat is too big.
This boat is a 58# fiberglass tuff weave hull with aluminum gunnels. The boat’s weight is magnified by the narrow aluminum gunnels when handled by a solo paddler on land. Wider wood gunnels would greatly improve balance and handling during portage and loading.
The severely curved midships flex to the point of cracking the gelcoat when lifted from the center as a solo paddler would when portaging or loading. The cracks are cosmetic but heartbreaking. Getting up from the center seat is best done by grabbing the forward thwart rather than pushing down on the midship gunnels. A pair of midship half ribs would solve this problem. The hull is quite stiff with absolutely no flex evident while on the water.
Although the Encounter can be leaned all the way to the letters before going over, the 7” wide pedestal seat base in that ample hull gives an unnecessary feel of instability. I cured this by widening the pedestal base 9” and lowering it 5/8”. As delivered, the Encounter solo seat assembly is positioned to accommodate at 220-230# paddler at the maximum aft seat position in an empty boat. A heavier paddler would be at a loss without ballast. Moving the entire seat assembly back an inch or two will allow a heavier paddler to trim an empty boat without ballast. Further repositioning of the seat aft will require the thwart to be repositioned.
Considering the dimensions and buoyancy of this boat I began to believe the Encounter could be paddled as a tandem. A major concern was that balance and handling would be lost as paddler weight was shifted fore and aft. This was unfounded even with my weight of 220#. In fact the 100# weight difference between myself and my daughter could be appropriately trimmed for best efficiency. As a result we just placed 3rd in an 11 mile flatwater race beating a Kevlar Wenonah tandem boat that had always beat us.
The modifications to allow tandem or solo paddling were simply to attach brackets to the hull in the three possible paddling positions to which the two sliding seat assemblies were pinned for easy repositioning or removal. The stern/solo pedestal seat assembly was widened 2” and lowered 5/8” for a more “seat of the pants” feel of stability. The forward seat assembly was left at the stock width but lowered 5/8”. I also added a footbrace and thigh padding to tie the stern paddler into the hull making for a totally integrated feel of boat control.
I am very pleased with the performance of the Encounter as a solo and especially as a tandem. My preference would be for a lighter weight Kevlar version modified as described above. This Encounter is a “sleeper” among dedicated boats and would enhance Wenonah’s lineup as the ENCOUNTER II. Truly the best of both worlds, a competitive race boat and an all around tripping/ fishing/ hunting boat with good handling and stability for any reasonable conditions encountered. As delivered, the boat is a 7. As modified it comes close to a 10. Great design just needs some tweaking.
With no tracking to mention sharp steering is hard to do, but on big waters there are few sharp turns. I paddle the encounter empty on small rivers, but the encounter was not designed for this use. I would not recommend buying an encounter for small water.(to much work) After about 70 days of paddling the seat welds welded to the sliding bar began to break. Before my trip was over all the welds broke. The seat has a ridge on the back and I had a habit of sitting up high on the ridge which put stress on the front two welds.