Morningstar...Am I Delusional???

My wife and I bought a Bell Morningstar in BG with wood trim about 2 months ago. We paid ridiculously little money for it from the The Jersey Paddler, and have been enjoying in on the local lake. We live in Pensylvania, and if you live around here, I don’t need to tell you how WINDY it’s been! In fact, I’m wondering what this canoe would be like without 15mph winds, and considerable currents and chop. We had a Bell Northwind in RX before this canoe, and those that came before aren’t worth mentioning. In any case, this canoe is performing much better than I had expected for a 15’6" model. I’m 6’1" and 195lbs, and my wife is about 5’2" and average build. The local lake is moderate in size, but we’d also like to use this canoe on the Delaware River (smooth portions). Our canoe trips are really fly fishing excursions, and we haven’t had any problems yet. The Northwind put a foot more space between the two of us, but was more difficult to hold in place while casting along a windy bank. The Northwind was a huge improvement in speed over the canoes we had owned before, but the Morningstar is probably just as fast, and manuevers more easily. I just keep thinking that maybe a larger canoe like a Northstar or Northwind would be better. I could sell the Morningstar, and make out well (I paid $900!!!), and then drop another $2,000 on a canoe that I might not need. Heck, some longer canoes have a lower capacity rating than the Morningstar. I suppose that’s because the Morningstar is wider than many other “performance” tandems in the 16-16.5 foot range.

Has anyone used the Morningstar as their main tandem?

I have paddled a MS
and I wonder why you got the idea it is a wide boat? It is 32 inches at the waterline and 32 at the gunwale. The maximum width is not even in the water!

In its length class it is a slender boat. And as it has less skin for the average tandem day paddler that does not sink it down with two weeks of camping gear.,it has less skin friction to overcome.

Length does not tell the whole story.

Bell Specs
Hi Kayamedic,

I’m just going by Bell’s specs. The Morningstar is 32gw/ 36mx/ 32wl, with an Opt. Load of 250-550. The Northstar is 31gw/ 34.5mx/ 31wl, with an Opt. Load of 250-500. It would seem that the Morningstar might serve our needs better even though it’s a foot shorter. The Northwind has the same width numbers as the Morningstar, but has a greater optimum load.

The reason I titled the thread “Am I Delusional?”, is that the Morningstar is serving our needs, but seems too short to do it as well as it has been. Our old Northwind was definitely a larger canoe, but the Morningstar does better solo. It just seems too good to be true, including the price. It’s one of those buyer’s remorse things where I wonder if the deal was so good because it wasn’t a popular canoe. I’ve done a search on this forum for the Morningstar, and some have dismissed it as a “cabin canoe”. It matches my furniture in any case…LOL:

Morningstar Stability…

– Last Updated: Apr-16-12 8:55 PM EST –

We were in about a foot of water this past weekend, and I decided to test the canoe's secondary stability. With the rails about 3-4 inches from the water, the canoe just wanted to pop upright. My wife doesn't know about keeping your head over the keel*, so that test went well considering. I did rock the boat quite a bit when it was heeled over, and it didn't do anything weird.

*Center Axis might be better since it doesn't have a keel.

For a fishing platform, you will probably be happier with the Morningstar over a Northstar. I think they’re a little less tender. Same with the Northwind over the Northstar. They all have good secondary stability.

The Morningstar is one of the shortest
non-whitewater tandems I recommend for consideration of buyers. The MR Explorer 15 is another. But the Morningstar is very stable for a short boat with nice cruising speed.

Don’t worry, be happy
You got a beautiful canoe at an unbelievable price which is doing everything you want and more. Heck, if I were in your shoes, I’d be happier than a pig in s–t and wouldn’t worry about what others may think!

Enjoy your boat. Maybe I’ll see you on the water some time.


its not a cabin canoe
It is for compact paddlers without a ton of gear.

If you can read John Winters Shape of the Canoe there is a discussion why longer is not always faster. The faster can be obtained in a longer boat only if you have the horsepower to drive it.

As far as popularity, I can lay my hands on about six MorningStars at this timme…in no way is it as second rate boat.

If you and your bow mate have excellent horsepower (and she is the engine) sure move up to the longer boat.

Specs VS Experience
If I’m reading this right, you are saying that you are very happy with the performance of your Morningstar. But the numbers leave you doubting your experience.

That is backwards thinking. The specs provided by a manufacturer can be used to narrow down what boats you might want to try. But the proof is in the paddling. It sounds to me as though you are quite happy with the paddling.


Had a RX Morningstar for years, and just traded for a used BG one. It was a nice upgrade.

If wind is a big issue, the Northstar is the only other Bell boat I’d consider. The capacity is almost identical to Morningstar, so the draft and freeboard are very close. Anything larger will have less draft and more freeboard and probably be worse in wind.

But if your primary mission is fishing, the stability of the Morningstar may be more valuable than the speed potential of the Northstar. The Morningstar is a reasonably efficient boat at moderate speeds.

For fishing in wind, I’ve found a drift sock/sea anchor to be a huge help.

Simple, David Yost

– Last Updated: Apr-17-12 11:22 AM EST –

Never met a boat of his that didn't paddle easier and felt more stable than it ought to. Morningstar is a good hull, although; I'd give the Northwind a bit of an edge.

IMHO, you probably "Sink" that Morningstar closer to that "Max" waterline due to it's shorter length than you would the Northwind. That would effectively make it feel a bit more stable. Gnatcatcher, he hit the nail on the head. I'd be freekin' ecstatic to get a Morningstar for that price!

I sure would sure like to meet DY someday and tell him how much I enjoy his boats, like MY personal favorites, the Starfire, Autumn Mist, and the Northwind.

We’re Definitely Closer to the Water…

– Last Updated: Apr-17-12 8:33 PM EST – the Morningstar, when compared to the RX Northwind. It's the "compact paddlers" thing that makes me wonder as well. I'm not compact (6'1" 195lbs), and my wife isn't petite, but she seems to fit:
The stern seat is much more narrow than our old Northwind, but I can live with it. The price really was crazy, and that got me thinking that I could flip this and buy another Northwind. Finding a Blackgold Northwind is proving impossible, and I've seen mixed reviews of Kevlight.
Video of my wife paddling alone on a calm day:

And a windy day:

The Morningstar does move along nicely with only my wife paddling (barely!!!). Maybe I should just accept it for what it is.
P.S. Here's a video of my wife casting, and the Morningstar remaining pretty stable:
EDIT: Here's the video album link (it was marked as private before...???):

Video Link
The previous video links required my photobucket password, but this is public:

Thanks to everyone who replied!!!

Looks like you move that boat along
at a pretty good clip.

That’s Just my Wife Paddling…
I can’t film and paddle at the same time. When I do paddle, we move along nicely. Previously owned canoes were a 12’ Sears, Coleman, OT Discovery, OT Charles River, and a Bell Northwind in RX. The latter was miles ahead of the others (all owned over a span of 30 years), but the Blackgold just glides so easily through the water. It certainly has a finer shape than the Royalex Northwind.

The Flood
In the beginning, Bell had three problematical tandems. WE tried to buy the 222 and 190 Cruiser molds/ rights, etc from Sawyert. When that fell through, we prevailed on Bill Swift to release DY from exclusive contract to design two tandems for us in exchange for two solos for Swift.

So there were two; NorthWoods, 18.5’X36" and NorthStar, 16.5’ and 34.5". Both were race spec tandems with the then radical concept of bothering to tumblehome tandems. Quite a bit of discussion over the latter, as DY didn’t think it necessary and Ted was unconvinced re the two piece mold.

It soon became obvious that we’d a hole in our marketing concept. There were lots of tandem pairing too larger for the pocket rocket NStar yet without the stick skills/horsepower to overcome the wetted surface of a full on 18.5 cruiser. Worse, Swift wouldn’t release a third DY tandem to BCW. Sooo, we made up a very heavy glass NWoods, removed the foot long section centering max beam, faired it back together, pooched out the quarters a scooch, filled in the cheek a little and sanded in a little more rocker. NorthWind was born. It became Bell’s best selling tandem pretty quickly.

Much later, Tom Pemsing, our NE Rep, became enamored by the little MRC, later VT Canoe and Lincoln tandems that sold well in the region. He insisted Bell needed a competitor but DY refused to design a tandem under 15 feet. The easy answer was to collapse the NWoods 36" stations since the NStars narrower statios would prove pretty tippy shortened. As Bell was doing the half foot thing, MorningStar was born at 15.5’

MorningStar is a USCA Cruiser collapsed to 15.5’, with all the benefits of significant and differential rocker, tumblehomed sides and DY’s proven sea-kindlyness. It doesn’t push the water away from the hole as easily as the longer North hulls but it also doesn’t have as much skin friction. At recreational speeds and exertion levels she’s probably plenty fast and more importantly efficiency is great for it’s length.

Paying under a $K for a Black/Gold laminate? That is an act of theft from the community at large which should be punished by mandatory rounds for all paddlers in the house throughout the 2012 paddling season.

Thanks Charlie…
I’ve read many of your posts on this forum, and was hoping for your opinion/info. The Jersey Paddler had the Morningstar listed on their site as being a RX canoe, and when I called, John told me it was BG. I bought my RX Northwind from them in 2007: a nearly new demo with wood trim. They had it listed for $1,200, but when I asked how long it was used as a demo, they said, “How about $850?”!!! I was prepared to pay $1,200, and only asked because it looked brand new. The guys at the Jersey Paddler are kayakers at heart, and most of their customers seem to be as well. I think that once they decide it’s time for a canoe to go, it’s REALLY time for it to go.

My wife’s meager paddling efforts yield awfully good results with the Morningstar (as seen in the videos), but most of the paddling is done by me. That’s when we really move. The lake in the videos gets larger in the center, but we haven’t had any problems there. The other “local” lake we use is MUCH larger, and has powerboats with a 25hp limit. Our Northwind weathered the stinkpotters’ wakes well enough, and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see with the Morningstar.

Worst case scenario is that I buy a larger canoe for bigger waters, and use the Morningstar as my solo. I’ve been trying to find a BG Northwind at full price, but no luck so far.

Thanks again for all that info about design, Charlie!

Pictures of Us in the Morningstar…

– Last Updated: Apr-22-12 10:22 PM EST –

This is the first picture of us in the canoe (taken today), and raises the question "What Should One Wear for Canoe Photos?" I'm wearing chestwaders, an unzipped PFD, and a fishing vest in the canoe today, and look like I weigh 300lbs..LOL. The pic of me holding the Morningstar was taken last weekend, and I'm only wearing chest waders and a jacket....and looking NOT huge.
Pic where I don't have a ton of gear on (50-yr-old vanity issue):

The Michelin Man look aside, it appears that the Mornignstar isn't too small for the two of us, and we have plenty of freeboard left. When we were loading the canoe on top of my Jeep Cherokee at the end of the day, we had plenty of people at the ramp asking about its construction, and giving lots of compliments! I sure hope that someone begins building Bells again.............

Beautiful canoe!

Worst case scenario sounds pretty
good to me!