Bell CJ Solo Canoe????

Anyone know much about this boat? I found one used and am considering among a couple of others.

I can find little online about it. I did read that it was a good canoe for bigger / heavier paddlers.

I am looking for a fast flat water solo. Heard this one was not the speediest, but maybe it would be good for me at 190 pounds. Not sure.

Are other models such as the Magic and Merlin better suited to a lighter weight paddler than me?



Don’t know…

– Last Updated: Mar-12-09 5:39 PM EST –

Don't know much about the CJ Solo, but I am certainly interested in hearing about it from someone who does know. Kind of reminds me of the Northern Light......

The optimum load for the Merlin II & the Magic optimum is approx. 160 to 280 lbs. You are well within that range. I'm 200 lbs.; my weight has little effect on either of them.

I'm personally a fan of the Merlin II. I procrastinated too long on a great deal on a Merlin II in white gold layup (exactly what I wanted). A buddy scarfed it up after I told him, "If you don't buy it today; I gurantee you it won't be here tomorrow, because it'll be at my house".


What I found…
Here is the one thing I found about this boat…written by Cliff Jacobson himself on another forum:

Hello PG:

The Bell CJ has an interesting history. It began life as a wood-strip canoe I built with the help of my friends Bob Brown and Darrell Foss. IT was similar to your boat but had curved back stems and about 3 inches of rocker at each end. It was my first solo tripping canoe, built around 1979, if I recall. I sold the design to Old Town who straightened the stems and removed the rocker (big mistake!). They called it the Old Town CJ Solo. At the time, it was one of a very few true solo tripping canoes on the market. Old Town sold only a few dozen CJ’s and I got the mold from them and gave it to Ted Bell who lightened the construction and generally improved the canoe all around. He named it the CJ Solo and it was Bell’s first successful solo canoe. It has been out of production now for I’d guess about 10 years. It was a good canoe—high volume, relatively fast and very seaworthy. But by today’s standards it is simply too big for most people, and the zero rocker and square ends make turning it a chore. Still, it’s a nice canoe, though not in the league with the top Bell’s and We-no-nah’s of today.

The more you paddle solo canoes the more you come to realize that the CJ is bigger than you need. I weigh barely 130 pounds and that old CJ is way too big for me. Indeed, even the Yellowstone Solo or older Bell Wildfire is marginally too large for me. The little Bell Flashfire is really a more perfect fit for someone my weight. But, I still prefer the YS because of its versatility—reasonably fast on the flats, pivots on a penny in rapids and is very seaworthy in big waves.

Your Bell CJ is a fine old canoe, and a good boat for a beginner. When my daughters were little I installed two extra seats in it and the girls paddled it like a tandem canoe. They could really move that boat: my wife, Sharon and I had a Sawyer Charger (18.5 ft) at the time and the girls could keep up with us if we didn’t push real hard.

I think you’ll enjoy your CJ. It won’t depreciate any more than it already has. You will probably be able to sell it for more than what you paid for it five years from now—that is, if you can bear to part with it.

You’ll find some references to the old CJ in my book CANOEING WILD RIVERS (revised edition). The newer versions of this book (EXPEDITION CANOEING) reference more recent designs.


Cliff Jacobson

CJ solo
is not what you want if you want a “fast” solo. Think of it as the pickup truck of the solo world…large, stable, dependable, seaworthy, but not fast. At 190 you’re OK in the weight department and if you want to carry lots of gear it will do it. Great for a platform for fishing or photography or paddling when comfort is the desired attribute. Certainly large enough to sleep in or under if circumstances require.

Hello, I own a 1989 Bell CJ. I paddle it regularly. Take it down the river by my house, as well as trips to BWCA. I am a large person, 280 give or take a garbage pizza. It handles me and a weeks worth of gear no problem.
Now it’s not the fastest, nor the nimblest, but it is incredibly seaworthy and it’s a good old barge for me.
My wife paddles a Merlin 2, it suits her, she constantly out hustles me in the curves but I can take her on the straights loaded or mt.
It is and has been kept in perfect condition.
I will keep the “The Freighter” till I die. They don’t make em like that anymore.

I’d sure like to try Cliff Jacobsen’s stripper with 3 inches of rocker.

I can tell you that your weight is easy for a Merlin II. Mine handles me plus the dog effortlessly at about 240 pounds and I even prefer it with the dog vs just me at 180.

There’s a Lotus BJX in SE Michigan that you can find on Ann Arbor craigslist.