Galyan’s Bell Northwind 16 solo?

Just purchased this rebranded Bell Northwind 16.5 foot Royalex canoe for $550 with two Bending Branches paddles. It’s an ‘02 model. For those that don’t know Bell canoe hulls were purchased and rebranded as Galyan’s with slightly lower quality trim and seats. Hull is in great shape, wood needs replacing. Will use some for tandem tripping, but really want to outfit for solo tripping mainly flatwater. I realize it’s not the best boat out there for this, but you paddle what you got (what you can get your hands on it this case!). Does anyone have any experience with soloing a NW16 or the best way to convert/add a solo seat? Heard some people add a seat and others remove the front thwart to paddle backwards from bow seat. I’m super excited to get it on the water! (Blue 94 Wenonah Spirit 2 in background)


Nice boat. It will perform best as a solo if you put a kneeling thwart or center seat in the proper position. I find a seat more comfy than a thwart. First decide if you want to keep or replace the center yoke for carrying. I prefer eliminating the yoke but all my carries are short distance. The ideal placement for the seat is just behind center, typically with the leading edge of the seat 9-11" behind center. You can sit on a small cooler to experiment with the best spot to sit if you like. If you keep the center yoke then you may need to put the seat or thwart a few inches further back to make sure you can’t get trapped between the yoke snd seat if you tip over. If you plan to sit you want the solo seat level and if you plan to kneel the front edge of the seat should be about an inch lower than the rear. is one source of high quality parts at reasonable prices.

If the thwarts need replacing you can use anything you have on hard. Use the old wood parts as templates to cut the new parts to length snd maintain the hole spacing (width).

It will be easy and fun to convert to a solo.

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I converted my 14’7” tandem to a solo after trying everything I could think of to make it work both ways. With a 16’ you might have better luck getting a center seat location and maintaining the tandem. Sitting in the bow seat facing backwards works ok if you always have enough gear to trim the canoe that can be put into the other end. If not trimmed any wind will spin you on a dime. One thing about the center seat location is it is the widest part of the canoe and yours has some tumblehome to the hull and that will help you there, but you may find it a little wide for a single blade stroke. When I opted for a dedicated center seat and without tumblehome I went with a double blade kayak paddle and a shallow stroke with a 260cm paddle length. I found it very effective and with that length drips stayed outside the canoe. Just something to try out when sitting on the cooler looking for your best weight distribution point.

One nice thing about a center seat is you can divide your gear some in front of you and some behind to trim level. I like the stuff I need to get at when on the water in front of me.

I ended up stripping everything out of the boat between the carry handles and placing my seat where I wanted it building a low support frame that I attached a folding seat back to. I’m old and wanted the back support for long hours and I also only paddle mild flat water. Then I made all new thwarts from old aluminum tent poles I had around. Placing them right where I needed them to separate the hull into cargo areas to fit the things I wanted and they are used to strap items in the boat. I had no use for the carry yoke so I left it out keeping the cockpit just the size I wanted without feeling trapped.

I also drilled the bow and stern and added grab loops that I find very useful in and out of the water.

The five thwarts are a bit much I added but they can be quickly removed if I want to open up to a larger storage area.

Looks like you have a good start there and a nice canoe, congrats. I have a thread I started showing all the mistakes I made along the way.

The companies like make some beautiful products from wood and cane. Almost works of art I would say. Along with quite reasonable pricing for the quality.

Depending on the person and the project you can go different ways with accessories and how you build or outfit a canoe.

In my case shown above I placed function first and wanted a canoe to be worry free and used hard. I paid under 20 bucks for that seat back at Wal-Mart and it was made for a stadium bench seat and had some clamps I cut off the bottom and I bolted it in solid to my seat support with bolts and wing nuts. It comes out quickly and makes a nice camp chair that keeps your butt off the ground. The seat and back are mesh and breath well and can take water well. When it fails I will just grab a new one.

I you are going to replace all the wood, check out

I have used their seats and parts several times and the stuff is high quality, plus you get the whole set for less that two seats from Ed’s. They also sell on EBay

I re-fitted an old Disco 174 that had plastic seats and it came out great


I have a northwind 16 rx. I added a center seat from eds canoe for soloing. I centered the seat between the yoke and rear seat.(20 inches each direction) It works out well. if I am fishing I can set gear in front of yoke for balance. When I sit in the center seat it woks well if I have a light paddler in the front. If I am paddling with a heavier paddler I can move to the back. I had originally put eds yoke seat in that was a mistake. Hope this helps you out. I also weigh 300 so it really matters where I am at in the boat. It also puts you far enough back for decent boat control.


Thanks for the good advice everyone! I really appreciate it!

There are folks working at Northstar from the old Bell days. I’ve found them to be knowledgeable and eager to assist, even if you’re not in the market for one of their new boats. Worth a call or email (, perhaps.

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I converted a 15’7" OT Canadienne from a tandem boat to a solo boat. Take out the middle thwart and the two seats. Add a solo seat. Not hard to do. The only question is how far back of amidships to put the seat? I paddle with my dog so I moved it back to about 9 inches instead of the typical 7 inches. I like the black webbed seats. The boat is a rocket. In kevlar it is about 48 pounds.