Bell Flashfire weights? BG & WG

True for me, and no thought required

– Last Updated: Apr-23-11 4:15 PM EST –

All I have to do is look at the undersides of my 16 canoes and kayaks, some of which are more than 30 years old.

The most scratching and damage on all of them, composite and plastic, WW and FW, is nearer the middle. I am not shy about going over logs or beaver dams or mild WW boofing over rocks. There is no significant damage on any of my boats, including my WW boats and certainly not my composite FW boats, in the area where a skid plate would be placed.

Rarely can I recall hitting a subsurface rock head-on near the stem in any kind of water. I did bend the 9" surfing rudder on my outrigger on the granite rock gardens of Georgian Bay and got stranded on a remote rock island with an unpaddleable (in a straight line) canoe. That was fun.

Of course, we all do have different experiences. And installing a skid plate, like most other decisions in life, is a matter of balancing the probabilities of benefit vs. detriment.

I installed Kevlar skid plates only on my very first new canoe, a MRC Royalex Explorer. That canoe has been used in all kinds of water for 32 years, solo and tandem, and the skid plates are barely scratched or impacted. They are, however, delaminating, curling off, adding weight, and looking even uglier than ever. Based on that experience, my decision was that the detrimental probabilities of skid plates clearly outweighed the beneficial probabilities--and I have never again considered them.

I dont boof logs…yes beaver dams sometimes though the thought of breaking a canoe in Woodland Caribou, though remote, is not appealing.

The thread has seriously drifted from Yanoers original question and the motto might be…scratch now and apply patch later when you see where on your butt you are scratching.

Most of my abrasion is amidship, also,
on my river canoes, as stated above. So I wouldn’t add skid plates to a canoe that I already have.

The decision for me to make is whether to buy an excellent condition black gold Flashfire at a relatively low price, compared with other rare black gold Flashfires that I’ve seen advertised in the last 4 or 5 years, with kevlar felt skid plates already installed as lighter replacement for my 39 lb white gold Flashfire.

I tentatively agreed to buy the black gold Flashfire with skid plates last week, pending opportunity for me to go pick it up, but all of this very negative talk about the horrible effects of added skid plates to the value and handling/performance of a Flashfire has me seriously considering backing out of the deal.

I realize that the almond gel coat on my white gold Flashfire will not show scratches as obviously as the black gold Flashfire shows scratches, so the black gold version’s hull will end up looking pretty whitish after it gets scratched up a bit and the scratches will be obvious from a distance, whereas scratches in the almond gel coat won’t even be noticeable until one is up pretty close to the boat, so, in the long run, the offensive appearance (to some viewers) of the skid plates (which match color with the wood trim) may be overwhelmed by the whitish scuffed up bottom of the black gold boat.

My white gold Flashfire was modified by the original owner with 1" wider thwarts, including the kneeling thwart, and I haven’t switched it back to original configuration, yet, so it’s pretty painful for me to paddle - the kneeling thwart is pretty hard - so I haven’t paddled it much yet.

If someone wants to sell me an unmodified black gold Flashfire in good condition for about $1200, I’ll cancel the black gold deal and sell the white gold boat also. Otherwise, I’ll likely go ahead with the black gold deal, unless the actual weight, which I’m still waiting for, is over 34 lbs, in which case the weight reduction wouldn’t be enough to make the change from my current boat.

Thanks for all of the advice and discussion, it’s been interesting.

Keep it coming.

My thoughts
Yanoer, you are an experienced boater with several canoes. I didn’t mean to go off on a big tangent about skid plates, but I thought the lamination issue was settled.


The key issue for you should be almost solely weight. Therefore, you need a really accurate measurement of the weight of your current W/G vs. the B/G. I don’t have an opinion on whether a W/G Flash will perform differently from a B/G Flash with or without the skid plate issue. My guess is that there won’t be any big difference for recreational paddling.

Hemlock’s price list says that internal skid plates add 1 pound of weight.

As to appearance, yes, the clear gel on the B/G will show scratches somewhat more than white gel, which is always the best gel for hiding that.

In addition, all gelcoat will oxidize, more or less, depending on how much UV it’s been exposed to. On my clear gel B/G Wildfire, this shows up as a cloudy milkiness in the gelcoat. With a white gelcoated canoe, the white oxidation won’t be as visible; it will show up more as a dulled whiteness than a change in color. You may want to check for this if appearance is important to you.

As to skid plates affecting value, there are competing perspectives. First, the Flash is rare enough that it may always command a good price from motivated buyers, regardless of skid plates. Second, I think most experienced canoeists would, like you, be looking for performance and light weight in a B/G Flash, and hence would be turned off to some degree by skid plates. Third, a novice buyer could be convinced that skid plates increase function and value, as I once was.

YC can speak for herself, but I didn’t interpret her post as unconditional support for skid plates, but rather as pointing out some paddling circumstances that she probably faces more than I. Skid plates may make sense on a rocky northern lake tripper canoe, except then they don’t on the portages.

I have internal skid plates on my Hemlock SRT, which is my tripping canoe. I also have a beefy laminate and an adjustable (but not sliding) seat mechanism. I wouldn’t have ordered any of these three weight-adding items on a new SRT, but I was buying a used and fairly hard to find boat, I had a tight budget, and hence I made compromises on weight to get the hull performance function I was after at a price I could afford.

Skid plates are not something
I would ever add to a boat.

I have added them once to a tandem and found out two things:

  1. hit something hard enough and you can take the skid plate off the boat. In my case it was a one inch diameter divot. Maybe it was too much resin in the skid plate.

    2.Aforehand applied they don’t seem to be designed for the place YOU are going to whack. That is entirely up to you and may vary depending on where you go (see the only right answer to anything canoeing is “maybe”)

    I don’t think in this case they would make as big a difference comparing the two FlashFires as comparing an old Bell FlashFire to the Colden FlashFire. The latter is simply a revelation and a joy and if skid pads were to be applied the boat would have gone to the devil.

This BG Flash is 40 lbs w/skid plates

– Last Updated: Apr-26-11 4:35 AM EST –

and glued in knee pads. Wow, Gremmie, you're apparently not alone in getting one of the black gold Flashfires that weighed way heavy at about 37 lbs from the factory. I'm sure those kevlar felt skid plates from Mad River didn't add 8 lbs to the factory black gold Flashfire.

What a surprise and disappointment. I definitely won't be buying it. My white gold Flashfire actually weighs 1 lb less, at 39 lbs, with an added Wenonah aluminum sliding foot brace, glued in knee pads and tracks for a grade VI pedestal.

Who (except Gremmie) would've thunk it?

Edit to add: It's a 1998 model.

Makes you wonder …
… whether to believe manufacturer’s weight claims. Imagine, paying a big dollar premium for a supposedly higher tech and lighter laminate and then finding out it is heavier than the cheaper laminate.

I once had extended and serious telephone discussions with a kayak manufacturer who made weight claims. I wanted to buy the boat, but also wanted the claims to be true. I drafted a sales contact that included a promise by him to reduce the price by $100 for every pound the boat ended up over the target weight. He wouldn’t sign it, and I didn’t buy the kayak. I bought a resin infused Surge, which I knew would come in at the (much lower) target weight, and it did. I have been very happy with that kayak.

I been thinking about applying for disability for my incapacitation from lifting that heavy FF on to the rack. Just a killer. Life shouldn’t be this hard. Guess I’ll have to make do with this mess of a boat.


– Last Updated: Apr-26-11 10:48 PM EST –

Have we established that Gremmie has a B/G hull? If it has a core-Mat bottom it's W/G and the weight becomes more understandable.

That said, contact lamination weights will always vary ~ +/- 10% from average as ambient and mold temperture and humidity vary. The nature of the industry to publish the lowest weight achieved as hull weight further frustrates. Unsuprisingly, a lamination crew's first boat of the day will be lighter than their third or fourth. Fatigue is another factor.

Weight variation is less a factor with wet bagged bottoms, and completely disappears with infused skittles. Once we were infusing at Placid our hull weights variation would swing a couple ounces. As all partials are/ were pattern cut we tried correlating variation with mold temperature and barometric pressure but it had more to do with gel coat spray thickness, again, temperature and humidity related when sprayed in the mold.

You’re a strapping young lad, familiar
with physical labor. You could easily manage the weight of a Flashfire trimmed in gold, rather than wood.

I’m a relatively sedentary old lab rat unaccustomed to the rigors of muscular exertion and with arms the size of twigs, so I need a boat framed with hollow bird bones covered with waterproof silk.

I endeavor to build my myo abilities up to your level so that I, too can toss my Flashfire around with the effortlessness that you do yours.

My Flash outweighs yours by 2 lbs, so I should still be able to triumph in a heated match of bumper boats.


– Last Updated: Apr-26-11 12:33 PM EST –

If it weighs over 30 pounds soaking wet; it ain't worth keeping...........

Solution: Find a company that will make you a canoe out of balsa wood, and sell me your overweight barges for half of what you paid for them.

What do you do when you have to put a Royalex canoe on top of your vehicle?
Haul it on top with a Z drag, or hire someone to come out with a crane?

Yep for the weight conscious
A Colden Flash is the way to go.

$1200 is the price, so if you’re
smallish and don’t already have a boat that’s a good fit, this is possibly the best price you’ll ever see in the midwest on a black gold Bell Flashfire and I probably would have bought it if I didn’t already have a white gold Flashfire, because Flashfires of any construction or condition rarely show up in this part of the country at all and I personally have never seen a black gold Flashfire advertised anywhere for anywhere near this price.

I’m sure there are posters on this site that have purchased black gold Flasfires in immaculate condition for $400 or $500, but I’m not one of them. I don’t have the network or connections. For us mere mortals, $1200 is about as good as it’s likely to get and, from my perspective, a 40 lb black gold Flashfire bastardized with professionally applied skid plates is a much more desireable river boat than a brand new royalex Yellowstone Solo or Wenonah Argosy that would cost about the same, fit a smaller paddler less well, be much less fun and certainly much less pretty and still weigh several lbs more.

We smaller single blade paddlers don’t have many properly sized boats available at all, let alone a well made composite boat in excellent condition at royalex price.

I’d be happy to put any interested parties in touch with the seller, who is in Minneapolis.

Happy paddling.

I roll my RX Yellowstone Solo up on it’s
nose and walk under it from the stern end until I can rest the front edge of the seat on my shoulders. I don’t use that lift technique with my wood trimmed composite boats - they go from the ground or water to my knees and then to my shoulders.

The real, affordable solution for me to have a BG Flash that actually weighs in the expected range of 30 to 32 lbs, is for you to score one for $700 or $800 and sell it to me with the addition of a generous $100 finder’s fee.

You’d have the joy and satisfaction of helping out a less fortunate paddler and I’d have a boat that I’ve lusted over for years, but was always just out of my reach. A win-win situation.

It’s the $1200 vs $3000 that guides me
toward the used Bell Flashfires, rather than the brand new Colden Flashfires. I fully understand that the new, infused Colden and used Placid Flashfires with infused hulls and composite rails are superior to any of Bell’s constructions, but out of my price range for now.

If I were buying a brand new Colden canoe, it would likely be a Vagabond because, for me, it would be a more versatile all around boat which would see more use and I’d be more able to justify the price of new.

For me, a Flashfire will be mostly a river boat, because I’ve got more efficient options for lakes and longer, non current assisted outings.

I know…

– Last Updated: Apr-26-11 12:40 PM EST –

I know where(2)"garage queens" are...........
Securely stashed away; they have "never" touched water. Matter of fact, I don't think they've seen daylight in the past 5 years.
I believe they are what is referred to as the 25th? anniversary edition model. Not sure, but I think they are in the BG layup? If I remember correctly?, they have wood trim & a gold colored medallion embedded in the bow decking with some anniversary edition blurb.

Maybe Charlie can give more us more concrete information about that edition ???

Haven't asked about them lately. Perhaps I should reestablish contact with the "hoarder"; in hopes that he has wavered in his commitment to hang onto them.........for reasons I am not privy too.

Of course they would be weighty barges; with wood trim & that heavy medallion embedded in the bow decking..........



P.S. Your "finder's fee" is not very generous. You are obviously not prepared to sacrifice that which is necessary to gain black gold "canoe nirvana". Get a second job, so you can pay for your black gold "fix".

I have a black gold flashfire that weighs in at 31 lbs.

May have it up for sale next month.


Please give me 1st shot,
though you already know that I can’t pay as much as others on this board.

Yanoer - a tangent, if I may
How much does your Curtis Ladybug weigh compared to the Flash?

And I’d be interested in your opinion on the performance differences between those two boats.

My Curtis Lady Bug weighs 32 lbs with
a Wenonah sliding foot brace installed and the stock seat replaced with a cane bucket seat from Ed’s Canoe.

It tracks more readily than my Flashfire (which has thwarts 1" longer than stock) and requires more heel to turn. My widened Flash flat turns much more readily than my Lady Bug, but I haven’t had a chance to compare it with a stock Flashfire.

The reality is that the Lady Bug actually works quite adequately for 90% + of my central IL river trips and I don’t really “need” a Flashfire, but I wan’t a Flashfire, with it’s increased rocker - even though not much increased - to help me get into some of the smaller and twistier streams that I currently don’t take any open canoe into, because it turns quicker and with less heel than the Lady Bug. The Flash is also a little more fun to surf the very occasional standing waves on our local rivers than the Lady Bug is. The Flash is stiffer than the Lady Bug, also.

My Lady Bug cruises more efficiently and has more glide than my sample of the Flashfire, also, so I’ll choose the Lady Bug over the Flashfire for lake outings where I wan’t to cover some distance with less effort or rivers where there’s a lot of slow sections or pools.

To me, the Curtis Lady Bug and Bell Flashfire seem to handle quite a bit differently, even though I’ve read and been told verbally, that from the water’s point of view, they are the same hull.

Once I get my white gold Flashfire returned to stock gunwale width, I’ll compare it with the Lady Bug head to head, one right after the other on one of my local lakes.

As they often say, YMMV when it comes to perceptions of boat performance and handling.

Except for really shallow river outings where a lot of rock scraping or banging is expected, I always choose my Lady Bug over my 49 lb royalex Bell Yellowstone Solo for river trips.