Owner Mike Cichanowski poses with his canoes.
I’ve always found the process of making things to be fascinating. I devoured “How It’s Made”-style videos on TV shows and YouTube videos when they first appeared. And even though the majority of things are really uninteresting, I adore discovering handmade goods.
Combine this passion with my lifelong association of paddling with Wenonah, which began when I was a little child and went on my first we-no-Nah canoe trip with my family or the Boy Scouts. To me, a canoe was a canoe, unless you had a Wenonah.
One of the top canoe producers in the world just so happens to be in Winona, Minnesota, about three hours from my house, and they still construct each one by hand.
A Bit About We no nah Canoe
What really sets We no nah Canoe apart is that their award-winning canoes are still hand made. Even though Wenonah’s canoes use cutting-edge technology, the fact that every single canoe is handcrafted at every stage of the process speaks volumes about the company’s dedication to excellence.
Mike Cichanowski started Wenonah Canoe in 1968.Mike grew up loving the outdoors and the Mississippi River and was building his first wooden canoe at the age of 16. Today, this canoe is hanging in the city of Winona’s Museum.
The Winona Museum has Mike Cichanowski’s original boat on display.
When Mike was a college student, he had already made and sold numerous boats and was using moulds to streamline his production. He decided to obtain a loan, buy some land, and construct a shop to launch his own canoe-building company, We no nah Canoe, during his undergraduate years.
The remainder of the narrative, according to Mike, isn’t “history,” but rather the result of hard labour, trying times, ups and downs, and a lot of invention that helped his business become the biggest producer of kevlar canoes in the world.
- Mike Cichanowski is displaying the initial Wenonah dealer map.
I totally anticipated Mike to be a busy businessman who would give me a 20–30-minute interview and then send me on my way when I sat down with him. Instead, after only ten minutes of talking, I met a man with whom I quickly felt at ease.
Mike and I inspecting the assortment of canoes in the storage facility.
Everything he said was infused with his fervour for canoeing and for teaching others about the sport. By the time we had done discussing and looking at boats (more than 4 hours later), I was completely in awe of the business he had established and the item he was creating.
The Canoe Making Process
The Wenonah Canoe factory resembles a Tetris game in that it was constructed throughout the years as the business expanded into what it is now. The factory is made up of several different passageways, doorways, areas, and entirely distinct structures.
1: Kevlar sheets being laid by workers inside a Wenonah Canoe
- As soon as we walked in, we could see where employees had taken the pre-built fiberglass moulds and had added layers of kevlar and glue to create the basic structure of a new canoe. The factory meticulously completed this task in a number of steps.
2: A new kevlar boat is being produced using a canoe mould.
The interior of the kevlar canoe is next filled with pieces of precisely formed foam to give it structure and stiffness after the first few layers of kevlar have dried.
- The inside of the canoe already has foam inserts in place to increase rigidity.
- Another shot of the foam inserts.
- Then, another layer of kevlar and glue is applied to these foam pieces.
- After the last layer of kevlar is placed, the canoe is wrapped in plastic and connected to a vacuum, which removes all the air and tightly keeps the foam and kevlar layers together for the ultimate drying phase.
Vacuum pressing a new canoe.
Actually, Wenonah was the first boatmaker to use the hoover method. Prior to this, pushing the canoe’s layers together for final drying was an extremely challenging procedure. Now, the procedure is really rather easy.
After the canoe’s basic shell has been created, it is transported to another portion of the manufacturing facility for trim, hardware, seats, and any other requirements the canoe may have.
Demonstrating the trimming of a Wenonah canoe
Every canoe constructed at Wenonah has a home before construction even begins, according to Mike, who informed us that. As we passed each canoe, Mike appeared to enjoy looking at each tag to see where the canoe was going. wherever in between, from Minnesota to Australia.
A picture displaying the many stern and bow forms for the We no nah Canoe.
Since each canoe was customized for a particular buyer, practically every boat we saw was unique from the others in some manner. The disparities were clear, whether it was in terms of color, body type, or extras.
A small sample of the tens of thousands of boats at Wenonah Canoe.
It was impressive to see the Wenonah facility’s canoe storage space. I was informed that their storage facilities are occupied throughout the winter as individuals buy boats but wait for delivery in the spring, resulting in a collection of more canoes than I could have ever imagined.
I didn’t know that Wenonah also owns two additional kayak brands that are marketed internationally. These companies produce some excellent kayaks, including QCC Kayaks and Current Designs Kayaks.
Mike explaining the kayak building process.
Although the boats made at Wenonah were of the highest quality, the kayaks were works of art.
A Current Designs kayak is being built.
I felt that the canoes placed less emphasis on appearance and flair than the kayaks did. They reminded me of a brand-new, sparkly Dodge Charger that had just rolled off the manufacturing line.
Another beautiful kayak is in process.
my experience with kayaks has been the $500 plastic composite kayaks you see at any outdoor sporting shop like REI (which currently does sell Current Design Kayaks!).
After being hoover sealed, I take a close look at a kayak.
The store was constructed all at once and was more carefully thought out than the one-of-a-kind we no nah canoe facility, which is the only distinction between the Kayak brands and Wenonah’s canoe brands. Although the kayaks are still handmade, the shop is considerably larger and feels more contemporary (not a good or bad thing, just pointing it out).
Kayaks made to the current design are nearing completion.
A new kayak can be produced every 20 minutes using a method that combines fantastic steel moulds, a huge oven, and several fans for their plastic composite boats.
The larger kayak oven.
Of all the boats and kayaks in Wenonah, the plastic kayaks are perhaps the most mechanised component. A huge kayak mould is first filled with a plastic material in the form of a powder. It is then hoisted up and placed inside a massive revolving oven. For 20 minutes, this oven rattles and melts the plastic.
A row of fans used to quickly cool kayak mould after it has been removed from the oven.
After that, the mould is taken out of the oven and swiftly cooled using a long row of fans. As a result, the kayak doesn’t get smaller.
Basic embellishments like a seat and ropes are added once the mould has cooled.
C4 Waterman Paddle Boards
While at Wenonah, we had one more surprise in store. Additionally, they sell stand-up paddleboards under the C4 Waterman brand. In the past five to seven years, stand up paddle boarding, often known as SUP, has gained enormous popularity all over the world.
⦁ You can almost always find at least one SUP boarder on any lake in Minnesota, where I live.
⦁ The C4 brand offers a wide variety of paddle boards, including 1-person inflatables, inflatables that can accommodate 7 or more people, and ordinary foam-core boards.
In fact, C4 Waterman was the first business to market the inflatable SUP, which they called the iSUP. Over the past several years, SUP boarding has evolved into one of my new favorite pastimes, and I can’t wait to use a C4 board!
Wrapping Up a Great Day
We had an excellent day in We no nah Canoe after seeing everything there was to see. Mike was a blast, and the entire day you could see how much he loved the outdoors and anything related to paddling.
Mike examining a kayak made by Current Designs to determine the destination.
In northern Minnesota, we are travelling in a Wenonah Minnesota Two to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Be sure to come back often for updates on our journey, pictures, and articles on the various equipment we’ll be utilizing along the route.
Mike inspecting a Current Designs kayak to see where it shipping to.
We are taking a Weno-nah Minnesota Two to the Boundary Water Canoe Area here in Norther’s Minnesota. Make sure to check back for update on our trip, photos and to read about all of the different gear we will be using along the way.
We no nah canoe makers are present everywhere, but an authentic and advanced canoe maker knows well how to play with the designs. Even in the presence of advanced technologies and modern equipment, no one can beat the handmade designs of the canoe. In a similar way, Mike Cichanowski makes revolutionary videos on YouTube about exploring the ideas of attractive handmade crafts of the canoe. Even kayaks can be prepared within 20 minutes by simply molding steel. In 1968, the startup of the Wenonah canoe was started, which is still award-winning and known due to its unique and handcrafted styles overall. Wenonah facilities have storage spaces inside too. Kevlar boats include a precise foam structure within for stiffness and comfort too.
Is a We no nah canoe good for traveling?
Yes, they are easy to use, and you can make your way simply through the rough and tough rivers. They have sharp entry lines on them that are helpful for better gliding.
Which one is easier to use, a canoe or a kayak?
Both have the same overall length, but kayaks are easier to use and preferable for transport as they are faster.
What should not be done in a we no nah canoe?
You should not need to walk in the canoe when it is running. Especially when it is near the store, you don’t need to stand up and walk in for security reasons.