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.