Bell Magic solo canoe-ok for a beginner?

I’m actively looking for a used Bell Magic in kevlight but I’m having second thoughts that a 16.5 foot canoe is a bit large for a beginner. I’m 5 foot 8 inches, 155 pounds and am 50 this year. I have a 75 acre pond in my back yard. Most of my paddling will be on small lakes and slow moving rivers. The canoe will also be used for fishing and solo trips up to 5 days.

The other canoe that caught my eye was the Yellow Stone Solo in Kevlight, I know these are two different designs and the YS will not track as well but would be more maneuverable in the rivers. My thought is that the YS would be easier to handle for a beginner.

Any helpful advice would be appreciated!

Magic won’t fit
It’s not the best choice for your size or your intended usage!

Looked at a Merlin II?

– Last Updated: Feb-27-10 5:32 PM EST –

It's shorter, so maybe a little easier to handle. I can't speak to its fit in volume for you, since I am mostly a kayak person and still just barely beginning to get the canoe sizing thing. Also maybe a little more maneuverable than the Magic, though with that comes slower.

(This is funny - I just saw Eric's post when I went back after posting this.)

Hemlock Kestrel
might work for you. I have one for sale. Shameless plug for my boat but it truly is a nice craft. I just dont use it since I bought my flashfire and paddle mostly tight streams.

Magic is fine for a beginner
However you will have to decide if the philosophy of it fits you.

It can turn well but needs a heel to do that. Are you going to be sitting?

Most who sit choose this boat for its go ahead style on covering ground on trips. It lends itself to hit and switch paddling.

If streams moving water and small crooked places but not so much lakes (though it will do) are more what you want. Try Yellowstone.

If you fall somewhere in between like might kneel and might sit and like some maneuvarability without heeling go for Merlin II.

I think
To reiterate, I think the Magic is probably too big. On day trips he’s likely to be blown around. For five day trips he’d have to pack like Mariah Carey on a weekend in Miami to justify the volume. Merlin II and its ilk, I think, would be better fitted to the stated paddler/purpose.

I know he is not
I have some similar sided friends that have Magics and have no trouble.

Sure he is five lbs shy of the minimum performance load. Eat a good lunch and wear the PFD.

50 is not shabby. I started solo tripping at 50. Thank goodness for retirement. Oh btw I started in boat not too different from the Magic. I am smaller in knee spread so it was a little big for me.

The Magic is not 16.5 feet long. More like a foot shorter at the waterline. The bow hangs a little proud.

It’s just Magic!
I am 190 LB 5Ft 10 and 64. I have paddled a Magic for over 10 years. It has taken me on many 10+ day trips. A smaller boat would handle me and the same load but I pack light. A smaller boat would probably be easier for me to portage and paddle. I would probably enjoy a smaller boat more. NO my Magic is not for sale.


At first, it’s 80% the boat and 20% the
paddler but that changes quick. If you pass up the Bell, you’ll regret it later. Just watch out for rocks.

OK…I have had a Magic for …
2 years and I’m a smaller person. I’ve paddled it on rivers, creeks and some big water. I consider it my day boat although I’ve camped out of it. Is there a sit-n-switch boat that is built for a 150# person that fits the " looking to cover distance" description of the Magic? I also paddle a Prism( my bring the dog boat as well as a camping boat)and an Autumn Mist…seems like I prefer to paddle big guy’s boats…

Someone suggested the Kestrel
or the Curtis Vagabond.

Its mainly a function of fitting in with good contact in the chines for kneeling boats and having boats whose width match your arm length for a vertical stroke.

Weight is a consideration but most people ignore the importance of height and arm span. Sometimes that is more important.

There is a good bit of leeway in the weight department.

A Swift Shearwater is too big for me…because I cannot sit or kneel in the middle and do a vertical stroke or cross stroke. Same for the Raven. Not because of weight factors.

Best to start with
A general purpose solo tripper, like Bell’s Merlin II, Vermont Canoe’s/ Mad River’s Indy, Wenonah’s Vagabond, Sawyers Autumn Mist or Hemlock Peregrine. They all respond best to a straight stick but also do well with a bent. Wenonah’s Wilderness and Swift’s Shearwater have too much volume for you.

Magic was designed as a dedicated Bent-Shaft hull, grouped with Wenonah’s Prism and Savage River’s Otegan. They are all strongly delta shaped which complicates handling and bent paddles steepen the learning curve too. These are best as successive solo canoes.

The YellowStone Solo groups with Wenonah’s Argosy, Swifts Osprey and Hemlock’s SRT, all differentially rockered hulls with lots of bow rocker. They work better with straight paddles than bents but are considered intermediate level river hulls, again, better second choices than first.

This is great advice!
Thanks for all the comments here. Yes, I am a beginner and have a good sense of balance. I will probably experiment with kneeling and the sitting positions and start with the basics. I’ve learning allot here and thanks for mentioning that 50 is not too shabby for a guy trying a new “sport”. I really value the advice that I’ve been given and look forward to this spring, with someone’s old canoe, but new to me!

Sawyer Canoes are built in Lyons, MI,

– Last Updated: Mar-01-10 3:36 AM EST –

so you could probably test paddle the Autumn Mist, Solo 13 and Summersong as soon as ice is out and the water warms up a bit, since you are in S.E MI, you're probably only about 100 miles or so from the builder.

Too Long? No too Narrow? Maybe
Pretty much any dedicated solo is pretty narrow. Some folks find those a bit tender(tippy)for fishing.

OTOH there’s a few folks here who think their Magics are the best fishing boats ever.

IMO the Magic is made to be paddled, and a sweet paddling boat she is. If you want to float and fish you might be happier with something wider.

Yup, the perfect fishing vessel

That’s hard to argue with!

I was really looking forward to see someone standing fly casting in a Magic!

To be fair
That was me in the picture. I was not a beginner at that time but my buddy in the background was steadying my off side as I hoisted the Pike for the photo. No fish were harmed in the making of this picture.

Been doing week+ trips in the magic for 6 years and have nothing but confidence in the boat. The fellow in the pic with me paddles a Merlin II and is roughly the same physical size as the OP. Steve keeps right up with us in our Magics and lands some fine fish as well. He’ll carry equal amounts or more gear so that is not an issue either.

Thanks for the tip on Sawyer / Superior
Thanks for the tip on Sawyer / Superior Canoes in Lyon, Michigan. This place is only an hour and a half drive from my house. I never knew it.

I also saw groovymanatee is selling a Hemlock Kestrel, if only Florida was closer to Michigan!