The Escape is a shorter version of the popular Minnesota II, with similar lines and the increased maneuverability that comes along with a shorter canoe. A medium sized performance tandem, it's a very versatile craft. The Escape is a sleek performance canoe that will paddle well on streams and rivers, as well as larger lakes. It has fair depth and width to hold plenty of gear, while its flared bow and extra depth at bow and stern keeps you dry in the choppiest waters.
Our conclusion is that the Escape is a fine boat for people who like an active paddling style and are in good physical condition. Because it is a performance boat, it naturally has narrow entry and exit lines, a round bottom, and straight or reverse tumblehome. Space for feet and legs is limited but sufficient if you are under 6 feet tall and weigh less than about 180 pounds. Also, it is a design best suited for straightforward paddling and touring, rather than fishing, wildlife observation or casual poking around in quiet waters.
Because of the design features to enhance speed and easy paddling, the Escape can rock back and forth excitedly in big waves. This could be horrifying to people who are unaccustomed to this motion, but it is natural for those who are accustomed to bracing and stabilizing a boat in rough water. The same design features make the boat more sensitive to the distribution of weight in the hull than wider and flatter models. To obtain maximum tracking ability and speed, we find it necessary to adjust the boat's trim periodically while underway, usually by moving the bow seat forward and backward or by changing the position of heavy gear.
Our average ground speed during the afternoon varies considerably, depending on numerous factors. When the winds and tides are directly opposed, it is about 3.5 mph. When the tide is slack, our speed against the wind and waves is about 2.6 mph, but about 5 mph downwind. If the tide is running at a 45 degree angle to the wind, which creates a diamond wave pattern, our speed varies from about 2 to 4 mph, depending on our angle of entry into the chop.
The Escape slices smoothly through waves up to one foot high. In waves higher than that, the bow rises dramatically, keeping the boat dry, but also creating a wild ride. It is best to approach steep waves from a slight angle in order to avoid a destabilizing launch over the top of a whitecap and a fall into empty space on the other side. Running broadside to waves up to 2 feet high is delightful, so long as one turns slightly into the steepest waves at the last moment, in order to prevent them from dumping water into the boat and rocking it violently. We have not encountered any unusual issues running downwind so far, except for some yawing, which is normal for any boat, but which has been easy to correct in the Escape.
My wife and I cannot say enough good things about this canoe. We have used a variety of small boats for touring on the Maine Coast over the last 30 years, from rowing and sailing boats to canoes and kayaks. The Escape is perhaps our favorite boat so far. For winds under 16 mph and waves under 2 feet, it is almost equal to our Current Designs Gulfstream sea kayaks in performance, but it is much easier to use in terms of loading, unloading, stowing gear, stretching, changing clothes, and so on.
We could not be happier with our purchase. While we are inexperienced canoers, we have done quite a bit of sailing, and in many respects the Escape reminds me of a sailboat - the stern paddler can effectively use their paddle like a rudder and get great turning results. I love the way this boat tracks in the water, my wife and I can get this thing cooking if we want to, with very little effort.
Others have talked about initial stability being a drawback. It took us no time to get used to the stability of this boat, when it warms up, we are going to see just how much it takes to to tip this thing, but the lakes are still too cold right now for that.
I can't imagine us ever wanting or needing a different boat, we bought what we thought was our second boat first, but I'm afraid that We-No-Nah isn't going to get any more of our money, this boat will be all we ever need.
This boat has served our unusual needs extremely well! A canoe design for the kayak couple with child or other visitor. The lively initial stability is a non-factor, even for our 3 year old. If you assume this craft is going to feel like a flatbottomed tank then maybe you would be uncomfortable? The secondary stability is fantastic! It is a very safe family boat. We test it all the time, we had it in very rough Delaware seas with white caps, taking waves at times from the side - not a problem! The hull is so well designed waves are a real treat and our daughter loves them, she asks for more! The depth of the bow is perfect, my wife claims on a number of trips if the bow was 1" lower she would be soaked!
My wife and I both use a 210 Werner Corryvrecken glass paddle (which we also love), at a fast cadence we can really get this boat cruising! Prefer these over the bent shaft canoe paddles since we are more comfortable with kayak paddles due to our experience. Part of the reason why we bought the Escape is because it has plenty of swing room with narrow gunwales which is a real treat!
Daddy can take it out solo sitting on a milk crate. Narrow enough at mid section to use 210 paddle! Found the 17.5 length is acceptable for solo use and can steer with lean. Very fast, fun, nice glide as others have written.
Fast enough we push through the wind and can cut through waves when conditions get rough. Open craft easy enough to jump in and out of when stopping to explore and collect shoreline goodies. For those families who want to get on the water with a child and cover some distance, the escape is fun and functional! We love it! If you only had room to store a single boat for a wide range of use, this is the design! Well done Wenonah!
Turning was a big surprise, we expected the Escape to turn slower than the shorter Jensen, but it comes about quickly in response to the bow paddlers draws and rudders. Its rounded bottom contour does like well timed strokes from both paddlers, a missed stroke with the other paddler sweeping is really felt as is a missed 'hut'. This hull does not challenge the Spirit II for stability, with well matched strokes it is stable and responds like a sports car, but it does demand the paddlers attention to keeping strokes in sync.
A fast seaworthy hull for paddlers not needing the capacity of the Minnesota II, but wanting the big water capability.
This boat lacks the extreme speed of the Minnesota II. Our GPS was reading 6.6 mph at a fast cruising pace, but when we slacked off, the boat was still running nice in the 5.5 - 6 mph range. This is a great touring speed, comfortable for all day paddling. The greatest assets to the Escape are not it's speed, but it's seaworthiness. The extreme flare in the bow should allow the boat to run much larger waves than we had it in (only mild chop), and the shorter length and increased maneuverability can also help with control in very rough blowing conditions.
Here in Colorado, I am looking at this as a great general-purpose lake and river canoe. I would not hesitate putting it in some nice class II, yet I know it will also eat up the flats. If you are shopping for a nice general-purpose tandem, this boat belongs on your short list.