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Replacement for Old Town Discovery 169

Jul 19, 2023
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Corvallis, Oregon
Hello from From Corvallis, Oregon. I've paddling for 45 years. Mostly with an Old Town Discovery 169. That boat is now too heavy to lift on the car at 90 pounds. I like having a boat that can comfortable do up to class 3 white water, but also works on lakes and quiet water. I also need a boat that isn't too fragile. My boat has many scratches from landing on the gravel beds of the Willamette River in Oregon, and from occasional bumps and thumps on rocks in the river. I'm hoping for 16' or shorter. Must be tandem. I prefer the toughness of plastic. The lower the weight, obviously the better. Any suggestions for a replacement. - Thanks, Parlando
Any comments welcome.

The MRC 15' Explorer and Wenonah 17' Spirit II are both advertised at 58-59 lbs, so weight isn't the deciding factor.

The Spirit at 2' longer would obviously hold more gear and heavier paddlers and would probably be faster on lakes. The MRC with V-bottom might feel a little more tender in terms of initial stability, and would best work as a tandem for smaller, lighter paddlers. The MRC is likely to be more maneuverable and would certainly be the better canoe when paddled solo. If everything else is equal and it comes down to material, I'd take Royalex over fiberglass.

The wood decks are almost certainly add-ons. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the factory decks were usually just slabs of Royalex. You can always remove decks, as they add weight and don't really serve any purpose unless they are hiding some sort of ugly construction.

If you can get the serial numbers, that will tell you the date of manufacture. I don't think the MRC is overpriced, but the ad virtually says an OBO cash offer will be accepted.
It looks like there may be something going on on the port stern of the Wenonah. It may be just the lighting.

Another factor besides length and material is the seats. The Wenonah has tractor seats. People seam to either love them or hate them. I liked the ones I had, but my son did not.
I really liked paddling the Willamette R from Eugene to Albany and will do it again.
I rented some OT 169 canoes once for the Trinity River in California and they did really good on technical water.
There are lots of lighter replacements for your 169, and most of them will be fine on the Willamette.
There are plenty of used canoes around and I would just keep an eye out for a good one.
Here is a Spirit II in Tuff-weave. 58ish pounds. Maybe a little longer than you are looking for, but a very versatile canoe.

Hi CaptainOllieWest. I was looking at that Spirit II. Does the bow look deformed to you? Also, it is advertised as Fiberglas. Do you think that is correct? I'm worried that Fiberglas might not be as durable as t-Formex, Royalex. Do they still make Fiberglas canoes?
Wenonah uses what they call Tuff-weave. It is a fiberglass and polyester layup.

It makes for a stiff hull that can take some abuse. It is not going to be as forgiving as Royalex or T-Formex, but will arguably paddle better.

I had a Wenonah in Tuff-weave and liked it a lot.

The port stern area in the picture looks warped. It may just be the picture.
There have been ads in this thread for two different Wenonah Spirit II's. Both claim 58 lbs. That's the weight of so-called Tuff Weave, which is 50% fiberglass and 50% polyester and is durable enough for most careful uses, though not as bomb-proof as Royalex.

I forgot to mention the seats in my prior post. There are strong, conflicting views among canoeists about tractor/bucket seats vs. bench seats. Kneelers, especially, usually don't want tractor seats.

There are also conflicting structural and aesthetic opinions about aluminum gunwales vs. wood.

I don't see any warps in the bow or stern of either Wenonah. I believe that's a shadow crossing the port stern seat in the red Wenonah. But that can be clarified by simple questions to the seller.
Not knowing your skill set or living conditions, but I’ll chime in with my standard answer…
Build your own stripper. Any design you want, build it tough and you’ll be under 50 lb for a 17 ft tandem.
Many of us here to lean on (virtually) and help you along the way.
Oh, and for the cost of a good used canoe, you can build 2 or 2-1/2 of your own. Not sure how that whole 1/2 boat thing works, but it sounds dramatic.
Hi stripperguy, Are you talking about building a cedar strip canoe. I've given that a lot of thought. Some of my reading suggested that if it was your first build, buying one would be better, both economically and product wise. But I'd be interested to hear your opinion. Do they require a lot of upkeep? thanks
Any thoughts on this Mad River Malecite. I've made an inquiry to ask about it's age. What do you think of the price? I would want to use it as a tandem. I weigh in at 185 and my wife is 135. I would use this on lakes, streams. Save my Old Town Discovery 169 for the Willamette River. Here is the link:

Any thoughts on this Mad River Malecite.

The Malecite was the first boat designed by Jim Henry, the original owner of MRC, in 1971. He designed it for downriver whitewater racing. It thereafter became a popular all-purpose tandem/solo combo canoe.

It is narrow for a 16.5' tandem—33" at the gunwales and 31" at the 4" waterline. That, combined with the V bottom makes the canoe fast, somewhat "wiggly" in initial stability, but firm when leaned for secondary stability. The initial stability bothers some inexperienced paddlers and doesn't bother others.

I've never heard of a "Royalex fiberglass composite" as stated in the ad. Malecites were made in either fiberglass or Kevlar and maybe combinations thereof. The Kevlar versions are more valued because they are much lighter. I suspect the canoe in the ad is fiberglass because of the price and the absence of a "Kevlar 49" label. But there's no way to know unless you pick it up and weigh it. Bring a bathroom scale with you to do so. It looks to be in good condition.

No one can predict whether you would like the stability and turnability characteristics of the canoe. You really should push hard for a test paddle to find out for yourself.

Here is the Malecite catalog page with its specs:

I really like my Malecite. It's a great paddling boat that I've tripped in for 30 years. I never noticed any initial instability, even when paddling it empty and solo. We load it up with about 600-650 total weight with no problem for flat water trips. On one trip on a large lake in wind and waves (with probably more weight than 650 lbs.) it did seem to be at it's limit as far as freeboard and stability. I have never taken it in whitewater as I have other boats for that, but my impression is that it would be too affected by the current.

All in all I think it is a great performing hull, and the price seems reasonable if it is in good condition.
Yes, a cedar strip built canoe is quite easy to accomplish, even if you’ve never built anything similar.
Just a series of small steps that add up in a big way.
Specialized tools not required, but may make the effort quicker and easier.
Costs are minimal compared to buying even a used boat, never mind comparing to new.
This website has a collection of some of the best non production canoe builders, and most of us will be happy to mentor you virtually. Depending on your location, some of us may be able to assist in real life.
Even a first effort build is a thing of beauty.
It’s quite a head trip to paddle a canoe that you have made yourself, I’ve been building since 1979 and it never gets old.
As far as durability, strippers can be incredibly tough and require minimal maintenance, a recoat of varnish or oil every few years is about it.
And what if you impart damage? Who cares, if you built it, you can easily repair it. Repairs may or may not be obvious, but hey, every scar tells a story. And who (or what) makes it through life without a few scars?

Bottom line, build your own strip canoe, the rewards go far beyond the dollars saved…
Thanks to everyone for your advice and help. I found a Tuf-weave Spirit II that had only been used once. It is easy for my wife and I to load, even on our Highlander. And it paddles so much better than our Old Town Discovery. We are still keeping the Old Town for any rougher and rockier river trips and will count on another couple to help us load and unload it. Many thanks again.
Maybe a little late here for another opinion but based on what you say - gravel beds, rocks, bumps and scrapes, lakes, rivers, whitewater, I'd say an Appalachian plastic Old Town would do nicely. Weighs a lot less than a Discovery too. Has enough rocker but tracks OK for lakes. 16 ft, 35" beam, 15" deep I used mine in a lot of different ways - class II solo whitewater on the Wolf River in Wis, plus holds lotsa gear for a week. Good for poling too. Mine was stolen and I'm still looking for a replacement, so may be difficult to find as it's been out of production for awhile.