Bell Eveningstar vs. Wenonah Spirit II

My wife and I have paddled a Mad River Explorer for several decades. We’re considering a lighter canoe,so we’re pondering Kevlar. We have paddled a Wenonah Spirit II with our two dogs (about 60 pounds apiece). We were a little unsettled by having less initial stability than we were used to. How would the Bell Eveningstar compare to the Spirit II for initial stability, suitability for five-day trips, and ability to handle Class II whitewater?

Primary stability of the Spirit II

– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 7:16 AM EST –

I really don't think you'll notice the Spirit II's primary stability after you've spent a couple of hours in one. My wife and I were complete newbies when we got and thought it was a great canoe.

If you kneel, a big bow paddler will find that station a little narrow for a good stance. Smaller paddlers probably not. Like most Wenonah's its compromises tend toward speed and efficency. This can also make the bow station a little wet in bigger waves and holes. Not sure what kind of class II you do. But at the upper end of class II I'd probably look to more of a Novacraft Prospector.

I'm not at all familiar with the Eveneningstar. But at 6" shorter and 2" wider than the Spirit II, it probably wouldn't be my own choice.

some experience here
I have paddled the explorer and the spirit 2 quite a bit with dogs. I have not padled the Evening Star. I argee with you on the Explorer and the Spirit. On paper the Evening Star should be more stable than the Explorer if the seats ar at a similar height. Maybe you can find one to test paddle. It is wide and full bodied. I would also suggest a Kevlar Explorer. Stability like the Royalex, a little speedier, and available on the used market for around 1500.

dog paddling
I have paddled the Explorer and Spirit2 with dogs but not the Evening Star. If you can find and Evening star to test paddle it looks like a good bet on paper. The Kevlar Explorer would work well and is available on the used market.

hmmm thought i lost that

Bell Eveningstar
I own an Eveningstar. It’s my first canoe, and I’ve only had it 2 months. I’ve had it on the water a dozen times loaded with my wife and I, 2 kids, and gear. It is more stable than I ever imagined a canoe could be. I had a 12 foot jon boat when I was a younger man and the Bell seems just as stable as that did. Sounds crazy, I know. It also has proven to be very manuverable, speedy enough for us, and just great fun to paddle.

My only complaint so far is that high winds will push the bow around. That may be due to the differential rocker, or my inexperience, or both.

When I bought the Bell, the Spirit 2 was also on my short list. Rutabaga Paddlesports advised me that I would find the Bell to be the more stable of the 2. Also that the space in the bow and the overall capacity, would be greater in the Bell.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your purchase.

Thanks for Sharing Your Experience
I’m glad to hear from someone who actually paddled an Eveningstar. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Bell Canoes
My wife and I just bought a Bell Morningstar. Based on Bell’s specs, the Morningstar is a slightly shorter Eveningstar. We do a lot of fly fishing in canoes, and the Morningstar’s primary and secondary stability are great. We had a Bell Northwind in Royalex until last year, and feel just as secure on big lakes with the Morningstar as we did with the Northwind. Our Morningstar is Blackgold with the wood trim package. It is spectacular. We were fishing a lake last week with wind and waves, and never felt the least bit uncomfortable in the Morningstar. I’ll go out on a limb, and say the Eveningstar would be even better. Speed is just about as good as with the longer Northwind, but the Morningstar is much easier to turn (although tracks straight with ease). Best part of the Bells is they’re all on clearance. I paid

less than 1/3 of full retail for mine a month ago(!!!). There’s a canoe shop in Rochester, New York selling Kevlar Northwind canoes at clearance prices.

Their Eveningstar’s are all Royalex…I think: Oak Orchard Canoe is the shop, and they have an online inventory list.

Spirit II
I have an ultralight Spirit II with bucket seats, for 10 years. If anything, the primary stability is too high. It tracks really well, and likes the bent shaft. It turns with some effort, and you could do class 2, but it is not a river canoe. We use it for canoe camping in the Adirondacks. It holds loads of gear. Unloaded, the wind grabs it. The forward sliding seat really helps with the wind. I would never try to solo it, as it is too wide in the center. It was one of wenonah’s first and designed as an all purpose canoes, if memory serves. We love it, it has been good to us. Don’t know about the Bell. Hope that is of some help. Cheers, dave

Spiriit II vs Bell Evening Star
My wife and I have paddling a slew of canoes over the years. I’ve been paddling off and on almost my whole life. Of the 19 or so canoes and kayaks we own, Wenonahs account for more than of 1/2 of the canoes. That said, Bell is a very good company in my opinion. But I have a problem with symmetrical canoes that have more rocker at the front than at the rear. These tend to weathercock (spin in the wind) much easier. They also make it difficult to control in a reverse paddle should you have the opportunity. I’ve paddled Bell canoes before. I like the Wenonah’s better. I can control the amount of relative rocker by adjusting my load to simulate the conditions were are going to face. Hard to do in a Bell. I don’t think you will go wrong with either, but my vote is soundly on the Spirit II. It’s one of our favorite canoes…for flat water.

If you haven’t decided yet, good luck and feel free to contact me direct. Otherwise keep your blades wet and you seats dry,

Vern Matthews

V-bottomed canoes like the Explorer
can skew expectations about initial stability. In fact, the Explorer rocks a bit on its V bottom until it comes to rest on its capacious lateral surfaces. (I paddle two other MR canoes with V-bottoms.) Now, some call that good initial stability. It is surely secure, but it isn’t the same as initial firmness.

Our tandem is a Bluewater Chippewa, with the same sort of very shallow arch bottom as the Spirit II. When we first paddled our Bluewater, we were surprised and pleased at how firm and steady it is. It wants to sit flat. It is steadier than our erstwhile Old Town Tripper, and much steadier than our old Moore Voyageur, which has a much more pronounced arch in the bottom.

I have no idea why the original poster and spouse found the Spirit II to be less than satisfactory in the initial stability department. But I suspect it was related to their long tenure in the Mad River Explorer. Going to the Spirit II was too big a step. But I have not heard anyone complain that the Spirit II is other than rock steady after paddling one for a while.

If Mad River has had a problem in the area of canoe design, it is their repeatedly returning to the V-bottom approach. Very reassuring in its extreme form, but a full-out V bottom canoe like the Explorer is inevitably slower, and less agile, than a comparable shallow arch design. Race an Explorer and a Tripper in cruising class in the downriver and slalom events and you’ll see why.

Good comments, Dave. I have an old
Paddler Magazine comparison test where they evaluated both the Kevlar and the Royalex versions of the Spirit II. They were pleased with the Royalex version’s handling on rivers and easy whitewater. They found that the composite version did not maneuver as easily, though they were unsure whether it was faster.

Our Bluewater Chippewa is very similar to the Spirit II, except that rocker is not distributed across the length of the hull. Instead, the ends are raised for maybe 3.5 feet back. I don’t think it is as fast as a Spirit II, but it maneuvers much easier in cypress swamps.

paddle the Explorer and the
Tripper in the wind and you will see something else entirely

Eveningstar vs Spirit II
The Spirit II has a lot less primary stability than the Eveningstar and actually the Eveningstar has a lot of performance for being 38"wide. It is the big brother to the Morningstar and has the same rocker profile, so it will track a little better on flatwater due to the added length. I have paddled the Eveningstar since it came out and I had a Spirit II in the early 2000s and I would have to say hands down that the Eveningstar is better. I actually have a few of them now. Let me know if you want one.