Got my what???

I just bought a good ole Bell Northwind - my first vessel. I take trips up to the Boundary Waters and onto a few rivers and lakes in the area, and probably fish on 50-75% of the trips I go on. I literally have nothing but the boat at this point, and I’d like to take a few (or a lot) of suggestions/tips from the experts on how to gear up. If I don’t get help it’ll mean I run to the local FleetFarm or Cabelas and pick up whatever they’ve got sitting around - only because I don’t know any better. I’m usually one of the “buy it right the first time” guys though and don’t have a problem investing in some nicer stuff.

-Paddles - brands? bent or straight? wood or carbon?

-Cheap Paddles to give out as loaners or to use on shallow rivers? (plastic or wood?)


-Some type of tackle organizer, tray, drink holder, etc etc?

-Third Seat/Solo Seat (is this the same thing?) Should I order one more wicker seat from Bell or is there much cheaper options elsewhere?

-Trolling Motor Mount so I can borrow my brother’s trolling motor when I’m around town

-Anything else I just can’t live without???

Thanks for your help. I know I’m a newb…but there’s got to be a few people sympathetic. I really don’t want to buy something from Cabelas just because I don’t know any better…unless of course Cabelas is where I should be going.

Re: Got my canoe…now what???
I should also say that although I’m comfortable on a canoe, if you’d have asked me anything about what we had last year, other than saying I borrowed an Old Town, some type of aluminum canoe and some beat up wooden paddles, I couldn’t tell you anything else. I’m gear stupid at this point.

First off, nice choice of boat. I have a Northwind too and it’s a great boat.

As for gear, other than a paddle and PFD I’d say dont rush out and try to buy everything at once. Use the boat a while and you’ll come up with items you’d like and will come in handy. Paddles are personal preference so pick up what feels good to you. I have an extremely expensive bent shaft that I never use…and an inexpensive $50 ash ottertail paddle made by the penob tribe that is my favorite go to paddle so…let the paddle pick you.

For PFD’s, again get one that you like and is comfortable. Sounds like you’re a fisherman so maybe a vest with pockets would come in handy.

The only other must haves would be a painter line (length of rope you can use to tie off the boat, or to tow it if needed). I use a length of paracord, probably 20 feet long velcro’d to the front carry handle. A neat accessory would be to call Merrimac Canoe and order a few of their velcro “star” holders. I keep a few onboard attached to thwarts and carry handles for securing rope, paddles, etc.

For using that boat solo, do you have a kneeling thwart? If not try installing one. I use mine and find it perfect, and it doesn’t get in the way while using it as a tandem.

For trolling motor use, I would check your local regs first. Here in NH, you have to plaster huge letters and numbers on the bow of your canoe…you must have a fire extinguisher and whistle or horn on board…fore and aft lights if you use it after dusk…CRAZY! I haven’t used a trolling motor since 4 or 5 boats ago. Paddling is more fun anyway, and that’s why we have canoes right?

Good luck with your boat and safe paddling!

Find a local club.

– Last Updated: Jun-06-11 8:08 AM EST –

By far the best way to learn, get tips and advice, try out different equipment, make new friends, and soak up enthusiasm and encouragement.

Read everything you can get your hands on, including the resources on this site.

Mflores is right, though. Get yourself a better-than-average PFD and straight-shaft paddle that fit and a beater for a spare, put appropriate painters on your boat and don't overdo it at first. Get out there and enjoy your new boat.

Paddles: You can't go too far wrong with anything from Bending Branches.

You need paddles and vests so you can paddle that thing.

Get a few cheap paddles. Either plastic or wood, but do so with the intention of using them as backup or loaners. Then get out to the local club and borrow every paddle you can. When you find one you like, buy some. I like Fox works paddles and zaverals. I use foxworx because I can not afford ZRE’s.

Get real paddling PFDs. A ski vest with 14 buckles on it will probably end up in the bottom of the boat, where a good pfd will be on you and not uncomfortable. The extrasport universal livery vest is a good place to start.

That is all I would buy right off the bat. When I fish, I put a 2 sided 12 inch or so box in a backpack, along with my other fishing gear and just toss it in the canoe.

I second
everything above. Be sure to have a first aid kit with you in the boat. For your paddle, I would recommend that you start with a normal straight shaft paddle, either wood or alum/plastic - whichever you like best. Get something you like, but don’t spend a ton. If you find you like the “sit and switch” technique, you can get a bent shaft paddle later on. If you find you prefer to J-stroke, you can get a nice beavertail or ottertail paddle later on. You keep your original paddle for river use or when you need a “beater” to push off or get through rocks or whatever. You could also get a kayak double-bladed paddle to use when soloing. For a center seat, they do make “drop in” seats that are less expensive and easier to put in than a “real” seat. I’ve never used one, though. Have you tried turning the boat around and paddling from the bow seat facing towards the stern when soloing? Alot of people do that, but I’m not sure if that would work on a Northwind. For other stuff, its nice to have something to kneel on, to vary up your paddling positions. I’m using a gardening kneel pad for now, but I’m thinking of getting a pair of those canoe-specific stick-on pads. I also like to have a spare universal-fit PFD and paddle on hand for guests. Its good to have a spare paddle to take out on the water anyway, just in case. Good luck with your outfitting.

More on paddles

– Last Updated: Jun-06-11 8:53 AM EST –

As a very first step, it's important to know that there is no standard rule regarding what length paddle is right for you. Paddles are sold according to total length, but they are chosen based on shaft length, and that choice is affected by your torso height, and to some extent seat height, and finally modified a bit according to personal preference. Thus, a traditional beaver-tail paddle will be quite a bit longer than a modern paddle having a wider (and therefore shorter) blade.

Here's an article from Rutabaga's web site to get you started. They sell a pretty good selection of paddles too.

Oh, and since there's usually no way to know the shaft length when buying a paddle online, it would be good to talk to a sales person on the phone before buying one that way.

A good PFD and paddle
A good comfy PFD is more likely to be worn. a cheap paddle for a back up and loaner is not a bad idea. cheap paddles can be a decent starting point. at least to figure out what lengh is best for you. try others paddles and (the charts that tell you what lenght is best may work for you as well.) i ended up doing better with a shorter paddle than the chart suggested. then buy a better paddle when you know what you like. as for the bent shaft or not, there are lots of bent shafts with only a 10dgree bend. worth considering if you straddle the fence on this subject i have one paddle with just a 10dgree bend and another with a bit more bend. a lot of paddlers tend to carry extra paddles.if you follow this rout no reason to not vary your choices. ( consider keeping what ever you choose about the same wight. if you use a lighter paddle but have to switch to a heaver one you will notice the difrence.

Dry bags, fist aid kit, [painter lines all good things to have as well.

You can instal a center seat for solo paddling pretty easy.( even i did it without screwing things up) and still no issues about were things can go. i paddle a Northwind as well.

all the above advice is great. If you want a good looking and feeling paddle that isn’t too expensive, but not a plastic… check out dri-ki woodwork, Rick used to make porter paddles, not is on his own, does a great job, and you will only spend about $15 more than the plastic you will only keep for back up…go to your cabelas and try on some pfd’s, don’t go by price, try then out, like the other post said, it is comfort you want.

as for gear i take day hike stuff with me (rain jacket, water bottles, purifier, first aid gear, 3 small small tackle boxes (the one lid kind about 2 inches deep) extra clothes and towel) all in a dry pack/bag along with my pfd, two paddles, and a old milk jug to bail…and food, always food :wink: have fun out there.

A little something more about paddles. If you go wood, really try a paddle’s grip before you buy…try to picture what your hand will like after a few hours. I cant stand poly on grips, but almost everyone does it these days. Porter, and now Dri Ki make paddles right, with unfinished bare grips. Dont let the low price of Dri Ki’s paddles scare you, they’re every bit as good or better than any other $100 + paddle. The workmanship is incredible.

I don’t want…
anything installed “permanently”. So I wouldn’t get an extra cane seat to install. If you are going on an overnight trip with a partner, the third seat will just take up room you’d rather have available for camping gear. And as others have said, you need time in the canoe to decide what might and might not work for you.

A lot of people seem to just muddle through with whatever gear they bring…in other words, they never take the time to figure out the most efficient way of stowing gear, setting up the canoe, etc. Take time to figure out how you’re going to most efficiently carry fishing tackle, camping gear, and stuff for day trips before you are actually at water’s edge.

I have been floating and fishing in canoes for well over 40 years, and by this time I’ve got a system for carrying everything that works the best for me. I’ve experimented with and rejected a lot of stuff getting to this point. You will, too.