Good Canoe for family, Bell OT, Wenonah

I have a two kids, 5 & 12, and have been thinking abput getting a canoe. I have pretty much narrowed it down to 3 models. Bell Vermont (05 or 06 closeout model) OT Penobscot 17 (also a closeout model, new old stock, about 1-2 years old), or Wenonah Spirit II, new. If all three were the same price, I think I would go with the Sprirt II, it seems to be a well regarded all purpose canoe. However the other two are several hundred dollars less expensive. The Bell Vermont looks like a great all purpose canoe. I was able to test paddle one, with the kids, and I have no complaints, however, my references are few. My biggest concern is why was it dicontinued after only 2 years. I called Bell, but they didn’t offer a reason.There is very little info that I can find online about it. The OT doesn’t have any rocker, as far as my research can tell (the others have 1.5"), however there seem to be plenty of happy owners. It is the least expensive of the three.

Am I making this too hard on myself, I think that we would be happy with any of the three, but just need some outside info.

Thanks for any info.

I love Bell canoes. The North series of canoes are good canoes depending on your total human cargo. If you go tripping/overnights then you might go with the big sucker like the Northshore. I personally like the Northwind. I fit 4: 2 adults, one 2yr old and one 13 yr old, but I only do daytrips.

I have a two kids, 5 & 12,…

I would focus on stability.

Not to worry. It is difficult to buy a
full sized canoe that is so unstable that a family with kids can’t adapt to it. Our first canoe had little initial stability, but tons of final stability. Kids moving around never caused a problem.

I like our…
Spirit II. I have 2 kids 7 & 11 plus a 65 lb black lab. The lab is, at times shifting around. The kids slipped to one side one time and we had the canoe over to it’s gunnel and never went over. Lots of room. It’s never easy making that first canoe choice. At least it wasn’t for me. But I’m very happy with it.

Yeah, we have a Bluewater Chippewa
that is similar to the Spirit II, and that good initial stability is kind of nice in our old age.

I f you nust buy a Royalex hull, despite all evidence to the contrary:

Bell’s Vermont is a tradenamed version of either their 17.5 ft NorthWind or their 15.5 ft MorningStar.

NorthWind is the best boat in class, MorningStar is too small for your family.

The others mentioned will do fine, the WeNoNah faster and less usef friendly tham the Penobscot.

All fine choices
The Penobscot may have a bit less initial stability, but it’s not a big deal. The lack of rocker isn’t a problem unless you’re doing something very tight and twisty, and it’s a great lake boat.

If the Vermont is a renamed 16.5’ Northwind, that’d be a tough call. I do like the tumblehome on the Bells.

Heck, buy the Penobscot, and put the money saved towards other gear or a solo boat for the older child for next year…

Thanks for the input. I haven’t been able to tell if the Vermont is a re labeled Northwind or not. It is 2 inches longer in Rx (16.8). The Penobscot has cane seats vs the nylon of the others, but I prefer the nylon, especially with kids. The Vermont is also dk green that I prefer over the OT red. But I can be swayed, there is a $100 difference.

Thanks everyone,


The Vermont is actually a Jim Henry
design. It’s more like a large Mad River Explorer, not really like any of the “classic” Bell hulls.

…a used Bell…to consider if seen
is a Northwoods. Great hull in their Blackgold layup…expensive, but worth every dollar.

Bell’s Vermont…
is actually an original Jim Henry design at 16’9" with an asymetric, vee hull. He had started work on it, but it didn’t have a home. Ted Bell hooked up with Jim and out went the stripper to Bell (2003 or 2004). Bell did the canoe in a Royalex Version. The plug is now home in Vermont in Jim’s barn.