Help with canoe choice?

How much slower is the northwind 18 do you folks thick, compared with the MN2?


How fast is a canoe? What does that mean…with two world class paddlers sprinting at full power? With two average people paddling at half power? With a husband and wife at an all day pace? With two newbies lily dipping? With just one paddler pushing a loaded boat while the other rests?

The NW18 is 18’9" boat (long). It has a length to width ratio of 7 (narrow). The specs add up to fast…like it will just walk away from any 16 or 17 foot tandem. Speed difference to a MNII likely to be under half a mile an hour in the real world in my guesstimation…or maybe they are equal with your paddlers…it is a low effort boat that moves easily. The boat is virtually identical to the former Bell Northwoods (see reviews). Don’t discount the seaworthiness…note the one comment about how the test paddlers were scared in a MNII but not at all concerned in the Northwoods. A family swamped in a big Wenonah on Lake Superior a year or two ago (“overwhelmed by wind and waves” when the weather changed) and when you get caught in a sudden weather change you’ll be happy you have a boat that can handle it. About a month ago I was out when wind speed changed from dead calm to 40+ mph gusts in ten minutes and it’s definitely not the first time I’ve experienced Mother Nature showing off.

Lets call it an average husband and wife at a long range cruising pace.

Those reviews for the older northwoods sound great! With the family its probably worth a little less speed for more stability huh? As much as I like the idea of pure speed…

What do you folks think of the northstar starlite hulls? Tough enough to stand up to prolonged use?


Hi - late to the discussion…

A bit earlier you asked about the durability of the Wenonah Ultralight layup. Here’s the story we got from a senior Wenonah exec on a dealer tour on the East Coast (full disclosure, I work part time in a shop that sells Nova Craft and Wenonah).

First - the “Ultralight” name - I asked him about it, because folks here it and almost immediately think fragile. He acknowledge that and said the name was a bit of a screw up - they’re in Minnesota and sell a ton of boats to Boundary Water Canoe Area outfitters and were thinking portage, where ultra light is a good thing. They knew how the boat is built, so didn’t thing fragile.

What he covered is that they way they save weight is to use minimal material where it’s not going to get a lot of abuse and add material where it is. So right below the gunwales there are two layers of aramid (Kevlar generic name) all the way around. Lower down there are additional layers, and even more added towards the bow and stern. And many of the layers overlap. The result is that you have 8 to 10 layers of aramid wrapping the bow and stern. So tough where it needs to be.

Nova Craft TuffStuff is also an incredible tough material - Basalt and Innegra weave. Nova Craft designs are a bit more traditional - a lot of them are based on Chestnut Canoe molds. Not quite as light a Wenonah, but a little fuller. Their hulls are almost all symmetric which I like because I solo their tandems a lot.

Northstar makes great boats - their Blacklite material is really tough - banged it off of rocks on a few occasions with nothing more than a scratch.

Essentially, you can’t go wrong with any of these, it’s a matter of which one you feel most comfortable with. If you can, find a dealer and try them out. Or call the company to see if they put you in touch with some of their customers in your area who might let you test paddle the boat. Can’t hurt to ask and it worked for me.

Hope this helps.


The word slow does not belong in a sentence with a Northwind 18 or a MN II. They are fast boats along with the Itasca, Champlain, and only a few others. I have a Wenonah Cascade discontinued, which is an 18 foot down river boat with 2 inches of rocker and 15 inches deep. All of the big cruising canoes have relatively fine entry lines for speed and some flare to keep them dry. Not like an OT Tripper at all. You can haul ass with a big cruiser.

I have read a lot of reviews about the OT Canadienne. One theme that is reported over and over again about fast canoes. “No one has ever passed me on a river.”

I’ve never paddled a Wenonah Minn 2 or a Northstar Northwind 18, but I’m positive from the plan views and specs that I’d prefer the Northwind 18.

First, I would never buy a zero rocker canoe like the Minn 2 unless I was purely interested in racing on flat or smooth water. The Northwind has 2.5/1.5 differential rocker, which will make it easier to turn and maneuver.

Second, the Northwind is deeper than the Minn 2 amidships and at the bow and stern. I would want extra depth both for hauling large capacities and also to stay drier in whitewater and wind waves.

Finally, the top speed difference between these two canoes, whatever it is, will be irrelevant to 90+% of paddlers as a practical matter. Other things being equal, theoretical maximum hull speed is a direct function of length and an inverse function of drag caused by the hull’s block coefficient, which can be approximated by the hull’s length/width ratio. Crudely calculated from their lengths overall (LOA) divided by their waterline beams, the Northwind has a length/width ratio of 7.0 to the Minn 2’s 6.6, which may mean the Northwind has a higher top hull speed. But it may not, if the beam waterlines are measured differently and the LOA’s are significantly different from the actual waterline lengths.

That all blathered, 90+% of paddlers, as I said, will never drive such long hulls to their top hull speeds when tripping or day paddling, and most paddlers would probably be physically unable to do so except for short sprints. In sum, I wouldn’t worry about which canoe is theoretically faster. Both will more more than fast enough for all practical purposes.

A lot of people make their decision based on price, color or availability. Personally, I don’t like foam core hulls on a tripping or whitewater hull, so I’d be inclined to go for a non-foam layup if I could afford it and if it were light enough to suit me.


I really think the NW18 would be just a spectacular boat for you. The starlight lay-up is a good lay-up and will work just fine and outfitters rent starlight boats. That said, as kattenbo mentioned the black lite is a superb option…it is super stiff and strong. You will feel a difference in how solid the boat feels if folks are moving around in the boat and you have to lean one way to offset people that are leaning the other way. I would recommend black lite if you can swing it…the standard aluminum gunwales are nice so you can skip the wood or carbon fiber gunwales but best place to spend a few hundred more is to get black lite vs starlight. I have a black lite Polaris. A friend just bought a black lite Trillium. I have 3 older Bells in their black gold lay-up. The combination of stiff carbon fiber and tough Kevlar makes a crazy strong boat that’s still light. If you get starlight you’ll still love it and I’ll forgive you.

People here have commented better than I can on the canoe for the job.

As to rack systems, FWIW we had round Yakima bars on our three Taurus/Sable station wagons. I am deeply confused by a statement above that someone had trouble finding mountings for a 1996 Taurus wagon, we found no problems in the Yakima line for a 1993, 1996 and finally 2003 wagon. But the important part is not that.

We never had any idea why people complained about the noise from Yakima’s round bars until the 2007 Subaru Outback. It was not an issue with any of those years of Taurus/Sable wagons.

But it was horrid in the 2007 Subaru Outback., immediately. We got back from our first long drive and got a wind spoiler.

I subsequently flipped to Thule square bars, to support a Hullivator. A getting older gift to myself. On yet another car, Rav4. But the noise while present is still not at the level of the round bars on the Subaru.

Bottom line is that I have reluctantly had to admit that roof shape can make a heck of a diff with the round bars, but seems to produce less variable effects with the square bars.

My guess is that the aero type bars, whether Yakima’s or Thule’s, produce less noise. I have not been tempted by them though, like the hunking solid feel of the non aero bars.

We went ahead with the northwind 18 in starlight, and took her out for the first time today. The first impression is good. This is a fast boat! 4 miles were effortless… can’t wait to do some bigger trips. The stability is good, I was able to jump out and get back aboard without too much difficulty by popping up and grabbing a seat. Turning was easy. Tracking strait was a little annoying, but I’ll chalk that up to the first time back in a proper canoe in a while, plus the boat the was underloaded with just me and my wife out for a quick shakedown.

On your car, when you tie it down, how tight to make your roof straps? Is it OK for the boat to wiggle side to side by a couple inches, mainly in the turbulence around trucks at highway speeds, or is that too loose… how tight can I crank the straps down on the boat without hurting it? Should I pad the crossbars?

Thanks everyone for your help!

Gunwale blocks on the racks on the racks will limit yawing (side to side movement). Two bow lines, one out to each side will give you peace of mind about the whole thing and prevent the boat from going through the windshield of the guy behind you if a strap or a rack fails. Bow lines can be fastened to loops of nylon webbing fastened under a fender bolt and lead out under the side of the hood when in use. The straps should be snug.


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I really prefer saddles designed for canoes like these that are sold by Thule, Yakima, and others:

But in general you can save a lot of money just be padding your crossbars with closed foam split pipe insulation. It’s sold in most hardware stores in 6’ lengths in various diameters. It will protect both the canoe and the crossbars. In addition it will minimize movement caused by the wind. .Always use bow and stern tie downs. With a canoe, with its high cross section, it often helps to double up on these with securing them to opposite corners.

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Congrats on your new boat. Any problems with tracking are just technique since the boat is very responsive and just obeys your inputs. Maybe you are just overpowering your wife and need to back off a bit. Whoever is in the bow can practice bow draws and bow rudders…if the bow paddler adds a subtle bow draw to their forward stroke it helps drive the boat straight.

With some practice you should be able to easily control your new canoe from the stern seat no matter what the bow paddler does.

I will never forget the first time I had a really talented paddler in my boat. Jerry Nyre is a legend around Denver. He effortlessly controlled an 18 1/2 foot straight keeled canoe from the bow seat. I had not seen that before.

In my experiences using just straps alone…really doesn’t do the best job with tandem boats. Wide straps around the bars are fine but in addition to the end tiedowns I like to use a few tiedowns inside the gunwales…a few as-short-as-possible thwart-to-bar ties with thin, but rugged, rope…then you get good firm support not only from the outside & over tiedowns but from the inside of the gunwales tiedowns(just two is usually enough). I realize the inside tiedowns, at first, are major PITAs, but THEY are the ones that will add a lot of stability to your canoe’s ride, especially if/when encountering those trucker windtunnels. When entering/exiting or just movin’ around get a hold of the gunwales, stay balanced and move slowly…might wanna forget the jumping around in it but a paddle does help with balance if needed upon exits/entering(bringing lunches/beverages and finding a beach for lunch/snacks is fun if not bug-hounded…once found;-))…and just one personal opinion…before grabbing the commercial paddles out of the nearby store and take a look at a few different brands of paddles, Grey Owl…reviews are around…good and so-so…some a little stiffer some not…etc, RedTail’s paddles are, at least my ash OtterTail(or BeaverTail) is a bit on the softer side and is soooo comfortable on the joints after a long day’s paddle. Some good REVIEWS in here too, different weights…etc)Mitchell, Bending Branches, Sawyer…all kind of generic but ok. Great going on your new boat!!!. Storing them upside-down is the way to go…(from what I’ve practiced & have read…).


Ya, day 2 went much better!

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re Tracking:
I’m not sure of your canoeing expertise, so I apologize if my suggestions are obvious. There are several things you and your partner can do to keep the canoe on track.

  1. Paddle at the same time. You will need to find a pace that suits both of you and that may take time. The bow sets the pace and the stern can ask the bow to speed up or slow down. If you are missing too many strokes, ask her to slow down. In calm water, the stern should match 95-99% of the bow’s strokes, including minor correction strokes.

  2. Keep your paddle vertical as you stroke. The paddle blade should follow a straight line as much as possible. This means that the hands are stacked. The opposite of stacked hands is a sweep, which will turn the boat to the offside (the side of the canoe opposite of your paddle). So, the more vertical the paddle, the less steering effect it will have.

  3. Make minor correction strokes more often rather than infrequent major ones. These minor corrections take less time, which enables the stern to keep up with the bow, though the stern’s recovery may be a bit quicker.

  4. Switch sides when you get tired. This means both paddlers will paddle on their weak and strong sides and you’ll both develop paddle skills on your weak sides. I still revert to my strong side in big waves, but otherwise I’m happy paddling on either side. Either the bow or stern can call switch. Just develop a system that works for you. Some people use the “Hut” method, with “Hut” called at the top of the stroke and the switch happening at the end of that stroke. Some teams do not J at all, but only switch. I do a modified J and switch to rest, make major corrections or deal with big waves. The key is, the switch happens at the same time and bow and stern never paddle on the same side (ya, ya, white water. I know, lol).

  5. The stern is in charge of making correction strokes. The bow can help when asked or jump in during emergencies, but this is atypical. This is different than in moving water.

  6. Keep your strokes short. If you are still pulling past your hips, you are lifting the boat.

These are a few tips. Practice big changes one at a time, because there are lots of things to think about. Don’t always think about technique. Go off course as you look at the flowers, clouds and wildlife, sing songs and tell jokes and stories. That’s as important or even more important than how fast or straight you go.