Bell Magic vs. Wenonah Prism???

Curious to hear your thoughts. As you all probably know I like to buy and try canoes and it’s time for something different.

I had a Magic for a while and I did like it a lot. I am thinking of trying to get another but also want to consider the Prism which I think is in a very similar niche.

As far as the characteristics I want, I want a fast sit and switch boat that will track well. I value tracking over maneuverability for this boat and I want a hull that allows a good vertical stroke.

I will use it for day trips and short overnighters. While I want it to track well I also want it to be reasonably neutral and controllable in winds and waves.

I am also considering the Wenonah Voyager. It sounds like a great boat but I a little unsure of it due to the fact that many say it really needs a load and that it can be a real bear in the wind…of course this may be solved with a good cover, but that may only reduce the issue rather than solve it.

I imagine that the Prism probably has less rocker than the Magic and a longer water line. I would think it is more stable, a bit faster, tracks better, and is less maneuverable. I also gather it would not be as neutral in the wind as the Magic is, but that it may not be a handful either like the Voyager. I also gather that it may offer a more efficient paddling position / allow for a more vertical stroke. Those are my guesses.

The Voyager sounds like it woudl be great but that it may have some stability issues without a load and that it would again be a bear in the wind.

My decision will be subject to what I can find out there on the used market (as always for me)!

Unfortunately as well I don’t necessarily have the chance to get out and test paddle these boats so that is why I ask your opinion.



Well . . .
Allow me to be the first to suggest and Old Town Pack, not because it meets your criteria, but because someone always suggests one. You would need to add a rudder to help with the tracking and small outboard motor to give you efficiency, plus sponsons and a full set of bags to help in the wind and waves, but other than that it should be fine. :slight_smile:

Now back to the three boats in question.

Efficiency: The Voyager is hands down the most efficient. The Magic and the Prism are pretty close.

Wind and waves: The Magic is the best of the three in wind and waves. In a strong tailwind, the Prism develops a mind of its own. I have never tried a cover on a Prism so I do not know if that would help. As has been stated many times, the Voyager needs a cover if you are going to paddle in moderate to strong winds without a load.

Stability: With your background as a kayaker, I think any of them would be fine. The Prism is the most stable. I’ve always been comfortable in the Magic. The Voyager can feel a bit unstable in beam waves without a load. That may not bother you since you have a kayaking background. If it does, you can always install a lower seat. String did that with his Voyager and I seem to remember it making quite a difference. I’m pretty sure you can order one built to your specs directly from Wenonah if you decide to go that route.

Other boats to consider are the Merlin II, the Savage River Otegan, and the Grasse River Classic.

Not the Prism
You should be comparing the Magic against the Wenonah Advantage. The Prism is a big boat compared to the Magic.

I prefer the Magic to the Prism
I think they are both fine boats and I don’t think I have paddled either enough to make any intelligent statements about the fine points of their speed or handling.

Having said that, I prefer the Magic to the Prism. But I agree with nermal, they both seem like very big boats for day trips and overnighters. The Voyager I think has just too much volume for that use as well.

I thought you had once owned an Advantage? That would certainly be the boat I would be looking at for your intended use. I don’t have one so I have to make do with a Sawyer Summersong, or a Bell Merlin II for sit and switch type paddling days trips.

A matter of tastes?

– Last Updated: Dec-08-10 11:52 AM EST –

I'm sure this one has been done before... and probably many times... and it's certainly been done in recent times in a contrast with the Advantage (a comparison from which, IIRC, the the Magic came out very well indeed). Staying on topic, one conclusion that I recall coming from one respected source (verbally, not online) was that the Magic is what the Prism should have been - which for me, from that source, is pretty much enough :)

I'd have thought most of us could pretty much instinctively say which we'd prefer... based mostly, I suspect, on whether or not we like the idea of a canoe designed to encourage the paddler to heel, break the bows clear of the drink and show some semblance of an inclination to turn... and then on whether we really wanted all that volume above the waterline (with implications for efficient load capacity and windage... and perhaps - I'm not at all sure about this - on how wet the ride might get in big waves).

Prism comments
I have paddled a Prism kevlar flex core for the last 4 years. Much of my paddling is flat water for I can do it without having to bother with a shuttle but I also do some creek and river paddling.

My Prism has served me well and the workmanship on my particular boat is top notch. I did replace the sliding bucket seat with a sliding cane seat and I find it to be more comfortable. I sit and switch paddle using a 50 inch Barton graphite paddle. I can usually get 5 or 6 strokes on a side before switching.

My Prism is very stable and I do a lot of waterfowl hunting from it. I also like it for wildlife and bird watching. Extreme wind can be a problem but a cover might help that.

I have no trouble with my canoe in moderate fast water. Bt reaching out and leaning the canoe I can turn better than many posters on this forum state.

I have 2 other solos - a golden glass Sawyer DY Special and an ultra light kevlar DY Special. The DY Specials are faster than the Prism but being narrower they are more confining. I like the Prism much better for fishing and wildlife viewing for it gives more room to flex my legs and prevent stiffness.

I have not paddled a Magin but I did paddle and Advantage and it was a very nice touring boat. A little faster than the Prism but more confining. I also paddled a Swift (Osprey??) and an Argosy and I could not get more than 3 or 4 strokes per side before having to switch. I paddled a friend’s Wenonah Encounter and it is way to much boat for day tripping and over night trips.

Don’t be affraid of a Prism. Mine has served me well and I paddle over 400 miles a summer. I also would like to try a Magic some day.

Voyager and Classic XL
I owned a Voyager in the past and currently own the Grasse River Classic XL. Both are fast, excellent boats, but for day use, or lightly loaded cruising especially in wind the Classic XL wins hands down. Even with my 240 lbs, the Voyager could be a handful in the wind.

If you’re ever down this way, you’re welcome to test the Classic if you’d like.

Magic and Voyager in wind
Never paddled a Prism or Voyager but late this summer was in a race where I used my Magic and another paddler had a Voyager. It was very windy and he was having a heck of a time trying to get lined up for the start, it was blowing him all over the place. He ended up capsizing, don’t know how much due to the boat or paddler.

I can’t imagine there is much, if any, speed difference between the Magic and Prism.

String uses a kayak paddle, so the lower
seat position doesn’t hinder his stroke mechanics.

Wenonoah Advantage
Hey Matt,

Other responses have given you some comparisons between boats. I don’t have the benefit of having paddled some of the alternatives discussed here, but the canoe I paddled on the Waccamaw was the Advantage. I got it used.

It does track like a train, any sharp turns you need to make MUST be planned well in advance. Learned this on the Class I water on the Current in Missouri. That was a week long canoe camping trip trip.

It’s a fast hull - I have NO problem staying with the sea kayakers I paddle with if wind is not an issue (any cross wind gives the low profile sea kayak an advantage - no pun intended.)

I did test paddle both a Voyageur and Prism before I bought used. My memory is the Prism is very similar but I think the Advantage is more of a racing hull design.

Hope that helps.


The Voyager is a great , go straight,
fast, load carrying boat.It is a bitch in a quartering wind.A cover does help. I keep hearing about stability issues, but even before I had the seat lowered ,It wasn’t that big a deal and my COG is higher than most.

The Advantage has most of the benefits without some of the problems.

“I have NO problem staying with the sea
kayakers I paddle with if wind is not an issue”

I have great respect and awe for you single blade canoe paddlers that can keep up with folks in their 16’ and longer sea kayaks when they’re not lilly dipping. It doesn’t work for me in my canoe and my sea kayak paddling friends, unless they’re willing to take it a bit easy to allow me to keep up with the group.

Double Blade
I double blade the canoe and use a single blade as my spare when I paddle with my yaker friends.

Sawyer Loon…?
What did you think of the Loon’s paddling characteristics…for a daytripper?

You can see some detailed posts from me about the Loon if you do a search. I wrote a few good posts on it.

In summary…I think the Loon is great. I really liked it. It had a unique mix of speed, stability and maneuverability.

However…it really needed a rudder or a load to track straight. A 3 gallon container of water in back and the seat all the way back made it track well…but without it you would be all over the place.

For tripping it wasn’t a problem I guess, but with the low volume stern I felt like I was weighed down in the stern.

I decided I just wanted a more neutral and tradition canoe.

Frankly the Magic probably fits the bill for that in terms of being a truly neutral handling boat. I was very impressed with mine in high winds and waves…but they are harder to find used than the Prism is.

I found a used Prism I am going to buy. It’s available and the price is right. It has a cover so it may help with handling in the wind.

I imagine that the Prism will track better and be a hair faster than the Magic at the expense of maneuvability and neutral handling in winds. I imangine it will be very sea worthy as well.


The Prism is definitely a good boat. I am still curious as to why you would prefer it to an Advantage for your intended usage.

Matt: If you are buying the Prism from Joe, she was mine for a decade or so. She took me all over the Adirondacks with grace and flair. I had some amazing experiences with her, including some one could say were mystical. I don’t go for all that stuff and, ordinarily, I am about as cold and logical as you can be. Really, she has mojo. I’ve enjoyed your posts and I am glad she is going to a good home to be used. As is often said, other than in quartering tailwinds, a Prism is a joy. Dave


Yes it is Joe’s / your boat I am buying. Thanks for the comments. I will paddle it with reverence knowing that it has been well traveled and will seek its mojo. I actually did like your post!



I would be sure to take a hard look at he Old Town Pack. You can always use a circular saw to take 8 to 10" off the end of your paddle to slow it up a bit, otherwise you may get in trouble in a no wake zone. Plus with the Pack, if your outing takes you through some Class10 white water with 25’ waterfalls, you’ll have the perfect boat to handle it.

Wow! I’m surprised that this thread
isn’t archived yet. I thought that “Advice” threads usually archived after just a couple weeks.