Bell Northstar - Solo

Does anyone have experience paddling a Bell Northstar Solo? My fiancee bought me one for my birthday / engagement canoe (if I’d have know she’d get me a canoe, I’d have bought her a ring a couple years ago!). I know she’ll come out with me, but doesn’t love to paddle as much as I do, so there’ll be times I want to take it out solo.

For the solo paddlers, do you use the optional kneeling thwart from Bell? Or do you flip it around and paddle it backwards? And if you do flip it around and paddle it, do you use any sort of ballast? By the way I just read a recent post on ballast, and if this seems to be necessary, a ‘dry bag’ filled with water and put in the bow sounds like an incredible way to do it!

I literally got home with the canoe about an hour ago, so haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but and looking forward to it and thought I’d get any advice possible before investing in the kneeling thwart.

I’m sure the advantages / disadvantages of kneeling vs flipping the canoe around has been discussed here before, and I will research, but was wondering specifically how the Northstar paddled in either configuration.


Few things
Most Bell boats have asymmetrical rocker, so generally you don’t want to paddle it from the front seat turned around. You’re much better off installing the kneeling thwart. But before you install the kneeling thwart, take it out solo and figure out where you want to be so you know where to install it, don’t rely on factory default. IMHO, water in the bow is great (method of choice, dry bag, jugs, etc), otherwise you’re going to have a real handful when winds pick up.

One last thing to keep in mind is that the Northstar is a tandem that you can solo, it’s not a solo. When you solo her a few times and realize you’re thoroughly addicted to the water, you’ll probably want to be looking at a dedicated solo :smiley: It’s a whole other level.

Thank you
Thank you both for suggestions. I realize it’s a tandem boat that can be paddled solo - I don’t plan on tripping in it solo, but just for a lazy evening on the lake for a couple hours.

I’ve tripped with mine solo…
install the thwart, I put mine in the stock position, dropped 3/4" and it works well for me (5’10"- 170#). Sometimes I heel it and do a bit of freestyle, also works ok with a bent shaft. It’s a great crossover boat.

Stupid question
As I’ve never used a kneeling thwart - or even seen on except in pictures (all my trips have been tandem with my dad or uncle, or 3 man with dad and brother), where exactly does the kneeling thwart fit your body while kneeling?

I would assume it be there to support your rear / hamstrings while you kneel. Is this correct? Or do you kneel and lean your chest against it while paddling?

Much thanks.

Kneeling thwart
You kneel against it, much like you’d kneel against the front edge of a regular canoe seat. The advantage of a kneeling thwart is that it doesn’t eat up room like a full (third) seat would.

Kneeling thwart
I find it to be very comfortable. The only problem is keeping my knees from slipping – a good pad or even a cheap bathroom rug can be a big help.

The Bell T pad would be a nice addition to the new boat:

Congratulations! That’s a very nice canoe.

forget the kneeling thwart
If you are going tripping and carrying lots of gear for weeks this thing can be a hindrance…unless you dont mind popping it in and out.

I prefer a portable stool it sits on a base, has a deck rail baluster for support and the top is about 5 inches by 11 inches to support your butt. If you need to move because of wind you can take the stool with you.

Is this something you made? Or bought? If the latter, where might be a place to find one?

a kneeling thwart
…looks like a regular thwart except it should be several inches lower. It’s used as a seat. The paddlers kneels and rests his butt on the kneeling thwart just like it was a skinny seat.

A trip report (blog): solo Northstar
Right now there is a Finnish guy paddling the Finnish coastline – a trip of slightly more than 1200 km! – solo using a Bell Northstar. So I guess it can be paddled solo :slight_smile:

His canoe is modified though; he has removed the bow and stern seats and has installed a center seat (plus spray decks, float bags, etc.).

There is a blog about his trip; it’s mainly in Finnish but has some short entries in English as well, and there are also several photos of his canoe and other equipment etc. that you may find interesting even if you wouldn’t understand much of the diary entries.

The site is:

Could you explain that?

– Last Updated: Jul-23-07 5:03 PM EST –

I don't understand why a kneeling thwart is a hinderance or why you must pop it in and out during those times you carry lots of gear. I've never met a paddler who took the kneeling thwart out for any reason.

When using the kneeling thwart, you simply position yourself at the best location for paddling the boat, and put your gear somewhere else (in front of you and behind you). You take up the same amount of space no matter what part of the boat you paddle from, and the same is true of your gear. Yes, you have two extra seats in the boat that are "wasting" space, but that's also true if you use a stool. As far as trimming the boat, that's easy when you have gear on board. Obviously I must be missing something....

third seat
I paddled my Northstar solo with the standard kneeling thwart for a while, but eventually took out the kneeling thwart and addeda third seat in its place. This does require drilling a few hole thorugh the gunwale (mine has the aluminum gunnel), but that is not really a big deal. I just find the seat more comfortable for a long day.

I put the bow and stern seats in when planning a trip with my wife, but just leave them out to save a few pounds most of the time.

If you decide to add a third seat, there are lots of options on the market. I love the countoured cane and ash version, which is quite comfortable and has a very traditional look.

Just one word of caution - withot and load and paddling solo, this is a tough boat to handle if the wind picks up. It never feels dangerous, just hard to keep on a heading or turn through the wind.