Bell vs. Nova Craft Prospector

I’ve had my eyes on the Nova Craft Prospector 16 on Royalex for some time and was thinking of buying one this spring. It seems to be a great all around boat. NC’s website states that it was designed by the Chestnut Canoe Co back in 1910.

Now yesterday I was in the local canoe shop and saw the Bell Chestnut Prospector. Bell’s website calls it the “authentic Chestnut Prospector”.

So are they essentially the same canoe? If not, what differences can I expect?

Also are there any thoughts about Bell vs. NC canoes in general?

Everbody makes a prospector
Don’t forget these other brands making Prospectors

Bluewater, Clipper, Esquif, Merrimack, and Wenonah.

Well thanks for muddying things up a bit more. So, are these all basically the same boat, or are there significnat differences? If the latter, which one is acknowledged to be the best overall?

There is no "Best"
Canoe design is about comprimise. Some are more nimble, others more stable, others faster. I’ve paddled a bunch of prospectors, and they all have some redeeming quality.

The original prospector was a wood/canvas boat. You won’t get those lines perfectly reproduced on any royalex boat anyway. Whether everyone who buys a “prospector” really wants the original lines is debatable.

All the big names make good boats, so if you test paddle it and like it, you can’t go wrong.

test drive
I had basically the same questions about a month ago and figured the best thing to do was test paddle as many of the prospectors as I could find available.Took a trip to Alabama small boats who had the Nova Craft and Wenonah prospector 16. They let me put them in and give them a try.From all I read and the advice and info I picked up off this site I was hedging toward the N.C. a very nice built boat.IMHO I felt it was better built than the Wenonah,sturdier decks and thwarts,nicer seats and the royalex seemed thicker.With that said after testing them on the water I came away with the Wenonah.It just felt better to me even with my unrefined much work needed on strokes.I’ve had it for 2weeks now and about 10 of those days I’ve been sick so I’m looking forward to working it out or it working me out this weekend. I think the more you can try the better. Good Luck


Wenonah Prospector
I, too, own a wenonah Prospector (16). I can’t compare it to the Bell or the Nova Craft though I can tell you that I really like the wenonah. It just has a nice feel both empty or loaded. And it can carry quite the load. Very nice on a rough lake. Very nice glide. Very nice to paddle.

Regarding Nova Craft, though I haven’t paddled their Prospector I have paddled others and own a Bob Special. I suspect that Nova Craft is closer to the original Prospector as far as dimentions. I’m sure it paddles well, too. Also, I find the Nova Craft workmanship extremely good. They do good trim work, fun seats, good yokes. i wouldn’t hesitate to buy another.

I believe the Bell Prospector is largely unproven. I think it is a new model for them. I don’t have an opinion either way. I’d be more inclined to take a chance on a Royalex model than a composite. Bell has recently been sold to a new company; moved to a new city; and has a new workforce. It takes awhile to become proficient in making a composite canoe, much longer than with Royalex. I believe Bell is still climbing on that learning curve.