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This is an addendum to our review of the Prospector 15 in Royalex dated 10/15/5. We tested four canoes for their poling qualities on the Androscoggin River between Brunswick and Topsham, Maine, this July and we included our Royalex 15 in the process.
The Androscoggin River in this area is affected by tidal rise and fall of about 2.5 feet. At low tide this section offers good poling potential on gravel and sandy bottoms. The currents run from 0 to 3 mph depending on location, although the average is about 1 mph. The fastest current is on the return trip between Cow Island the Topsham shore where the water falls over low gravel bars.
The wind is almost always a factor on this big river. On our testing days it averaged about 8 mph with gusts to about 14 mph.
The course was a 3.1 mile round trip both upstream and downstream so that the winds and current would affect both legs of the journey equally. I poled the boats solo with 40 lbs. of ballast on board to assist in setting the right trim.
Here are the results in terms of average speed over the course. Average speed in this case indicates fairly accurately the ease of handling the vessel, including its momentum, directional stability and overall stability while heading into wind, waves and currents.
E.M. White (1931), Wood and canvas, 18.5 ft, 75 lbs.: 3.2 mph Wenonah Prospector 15, Royalex, 59 lbs.: 3.1 mph Old Town Penobscot 16, Royalex, 68 lbs.: 2.9 mph Wenonah Prospector 16, Kevlar Ultralight, 40 lbs.: 2.4 mph
We found it striking how well the little Prospector 15 did in comparison to the E.M. White canoe, which is one of the greatest tripping boats in Maine history. The results would be different if we had two people and gear on board instead of running solo. In that case the difference in speed between the E.M. White and the others would be greater.
Even so, this test showed why my wife and I have had such fun with the little Prospector 15 and why we have managed to pole down the rivers in this region with both of us on board. Going upstream is more difficult than it would be in a longer canoe, but the fact that the little Prospector is so versatile is something to praise.
In my original review I said the Prospector 15 is too short while poling with two people on board, but my wife and I are managing to solve this problem with experience, at least on big rivers like the Androscoggin and going downstream in Class 1 and 2 whitewater. One approach to help with the crowding problem is to adopt a traditional diagonal stance and pole on one side of the boat only.
We have owned this boat for three years and have used it for paddling up and down small, rocky streams, beaver ponds, headwater wetlands, quickwater, Class 1 and 2 whitewater, light surf, and short trips among the rocks and ledges here in Midcoast Maine. We also own a Prospector 16 in Kevlar Ultralight for which we have written a separate review.
This boat is small but very capable. It is a blast for short trips where a small boat with decent speed and high maneuverability is an advantage. It is perfectly at home in the environments in which we use it.
It poles very well with one person, and it can be poled with two people on board and some gear also but it is a little small for that purpose. While poling with my wife on board, there isn't much room to stand with the gear stashed behind me and my wife trying to keep out of my way just a foot or so fin front of me. I continually drop water on her head because we are crammed so close together. Poling a longer boat is a lot more relaxing and pleasurable, but even so it can still be done with this versatile little vessel.
The Prospector 15 in Royalex excels in quickwater and Class 1 and 2 whitewater. It provides a very smooth ride and the superb handling that is needed to avoid obstacles such as trees and brush, haystacks, rocks and ledges on small streams. Ferrying from one side of the stream to the other is easy. Turning in and out of eddies is a breeze. Paddling upstream or holding the boat in one place in order to scout ahead or take a better route seems perfectly natural.
On the coast the Prospector 15 is great for short adventures among shoals, breaking waves and light surf. The idea is to steer among the shoals and avoid the breaking surf by staying in deep water. We paddle in seas up to about three feet high. Care is needed to avoid breaking waves of course and in this environment the little Prospector provides the precision handling needed to avoid them.
The Prospector 15 rides over big waves quite comfortably in all directions. This is also true of the Prospector 16. Modern asymmetrical hulls with little or no rocker like the Wenonah Escape and the Aurora are better than the Prospector style hull only when heading directly into steep little waves with a short wave period. That is because they tend to slice through them instead of bumping over them. In waves over a foot high and with a longer distance between crests, however, the Prospector style hull provides a smoother ride and safer handling.
The Prospector 15 is easy to carry because it is short. Shorter boats concentrate the weight closer to your body and are less likely to rock up and down as you walk or when the wind blows. We enjoy carrying this little boat a great deal in order to get around dams, fallen trees, waterfalls, sandbars and other obstructions during our journeys.
The Prospector 15 is also a fast boat for its size. Our average speed on both coastal and inland waters so far is 3.3 miles per hour. See the table below. On ponds, we can maintain a steady pace of about 3 mph against headwinds of about 10 mph gusting occasionally to 15 mph, which are very common here in spring and fall. It pays to use good paddles and synchronized strokes to maintain this momentum. The Prospector 15 requires a little more attention to keeping the vessel heading into the wind than the Prospector 16 but it is not difficult to do so. In sudden gusts over 15 mph the Prospector 15 can be blown sideways sometimes but this is true of any canoe.
Table of Average Boat Speeds, Midcoast Maine
- Wenonah Prospector 16, kevlar ultralight: 3.5 mph
- Wenonah Escape, fiberglass/polyester: 3.4 mph
- Wenonah Prospector 15, Royalex: 3.3 mph
- Old Town Tripper, Royalex: 3.0 mph
- Wenonah Aurora, kevlar ultralight: 2.7 mph
We don't recommend the Prospector 15 for wilderness tripping or Class 3 whitewater because of its small size and low freeboard. The Prospector 16 provides greater carrying capacity and speed for these purposes. Nonetheless, both boats are superb for what they were designed to do.
I had decided upon a Nova Craft Bob Special and called the late Lynn Lyon at KC Paddler whom asked me a few questions, gave his opinions, and told me to research the Wenonah Prospector 15 for a few weeks and if I was still "Sold" on the Bob he would sell it to me. Well, unfortunately, this "Exceptional" man had passed away when I called him to order the boat. With some work, I found another dealer whom ordered the last royalex Prospector 15 to leave the Wenonah factory.
The boat was a "Blem," and upon delivery the only thing I noticed was that the the vinyl skin was somewhat "Pebbled," like a golf ball in some places. Fit and finish was impeccable, but I do not like aluminum seat hangers and had requested they enclose wooden dowel seat hangers to replace them with.
After paddling it solo from bow seat with some ballast in the opposite end, I noted it balanced and paddled better than most 15-16' tandems I've paddled. But, since I plan to use it mostly solo, I experimented with different seat positions and settled upon a position 1' aft of center and putting a wing nut on the yoke to make it removable.
I'm VERY pleased with this boat. It responds consistently to paddle stroke lightly loaded or laden with tripping load. One of the points Lynn made was that the Wenonah Prospector 15 had just the right amount of width in the stems to allow for ease of paddling without being so narrow it will "Bury" in large waves. I wouldn't use it in "Serious" Whitewater, but Class I or II wave trains and drops on Ozark rivers are the kind of environment this boat thrives in. Stems seem to have the "Perfect" height to keep most of the water outside the boat while not being so high as to catch as much wind as most "Prospector" hulls? Wenonah did well with it's design!
The width is a bit much for an averaged or small paddler, unless you can lean it and paddle it "Canadian" style. And I would expect it to be a handful in the wind for a small person with no load. But I've had it in a few of those 20+ MPH wind days and found it manageable; more so than most Prospectors IMHO? It's a perfect river boat for tandem day trips or overnights and big guy river tripper. And really nice boat for photography on the river. Turns easily enough, but not so much that you have to focus on the boat when you want to pick up the camera.
I expect the composite version would paddle even better? Very pleased with this boat.
Like most tools, it all depends on what you want to use it for. As a solo boat, I have found it nimble and quick when paddling Canadian style, even in current or wind. I'm not massively proficient when running solo, and it was noticeably easier than my OT. It holds keeled over on its side very well.
I have also run it tandem down class I/II rapids with fairly good success. It's in the class II that I would offer some caution. We were doing a 5 day trip and had kept the Wenonah more lightly loaded than the other canoes, but still with a decent weight and two guys. When hitting the heavier class II rapids, especially haystacks/standing waves, it would take on a lot of water. By lightening the canoe altogether, or trimming it to make the bow light, it did improve matters significantly. For serious rapids running, however, a longer Prospector will likely be beneficial. That being said, it does run very easily through rough water, and more advanced skills will likely help avoid taking on water (eg, hitting waves at a slight angle and slowing down the approach a little). It accelerates quickly and turns very easily, even when loaded.
I haven't yet done any longer flatwater stints with it, so I have yet to see how it handles in those conditions, but my initial impressions are good.
Overall, it's a fast, stable boat, with excellent stability and maneuverability that will serve you well in a variety of conditions.
Pretty fast boat and darn tough too as I have taken on class II rocks and suffered only scratches and small dents. Good for fishing with 2 people, paddles well solo too. I would definitely buy this brand again. You don't see many in this part of the country, so it's nice to have something different. Seems to be well made. I wouldn't call it light at 60 lbs, but not too bad.
This is a good choice for class 1 and 2 (like I would know) and flatwater. You will get wet in this boat in whitewater, I got very wet once - operator error. Comfortable curved web seats, much better than the flat variety. Slightly tippy initially, but secondary stability seems good to me. I've thrown this boat on top of the SUV, in the back of a pickup, drag it over rocks, hit logs and boulders head on (by accident) and still has nothing but cosmetic scrapes, I guess that's the sole purpose of royalex.