I’ve paddled a Royalex Yellowstone Solo for the past couple of years. I’m looking to buy another canoe that performs at least as well when the wind is blowing, so a ‘low profile’, suitable for paddling solo on large open water, on the sea, so will ride waves well. Paddling where there are stones and sand on the shore, not for rocky rivers. A bit more space for the paddler than the Yellowstone Solo, both for my comfort when solo over longer paddles, but also so I can paddle tandem occasionally, oh and a bit quicker, more glide, and still able to use a bent shaft as well as a straight shaft paddle. I know it’s alot to ask but I’ve come down to a Bell Northstar in KevLight with wood trim. I’ve been put off the blackgold because the few I’ve seen, all new, all had breaks in their outer gelcoat just from shipping (in England). Whereas the Bell Seliga I paddled in kevlight, (demo paddle solo and it was great shame I had to conclude it’s a bit too large) had an excellent finish, and no ‘seam’ on the outside, I gather this is from where they pull apart the molds when making a blackgold canoe. The 16’6 Northwind in Rx is my other contender, with the plastic trim, half the price, weighs notably more,just a little larger in width and depth. Which to choose??? Anyone paddling a Bell in their latest KevLight layup? Actually what will hit the canoe most often is probably fellow paddlers canoes, notably those with metal trim, I’m not sure whether to have faith in the Bell Kevlight layup. (Also a Northstar hasn’t been bought in by the importer before so I can see one before buying)Incidentally at two US dollars to the pound sterling, in England the Northwind in Rx is about 2,200 dollars and the Northstar in Kevlight about 4,000 dollars, the Northstar in Blackgold would be more. The shipping costs and import tax, and lack of retail competition, makes prices high here. Of course if anyone thinks they know of a great alternative then please share, although there are several makes that no one is importing to the UK.
Thanks for any info or advice.
For your stated purposes, I think
Bell’s Kevlight layup is just too light. I do not understand why a Seliga Kevlight came through shipping without superficial damage, while two BlackGold boats had superficial damage. That’s a small sample on which to base conclusions. It is true that carbon, as an outside fiber, has less strength to withstand point-source damage than glass.
If you don’t mind carrying a heavier boat, get the Royalex. It will stand up better to accidental and incidental abuse than BlackGold, and much better than Kevlight. I suggest a pedestal kneeling seat wedged under the center thwart to remove some of the floppiness of Royalex. Plan it right and you can have foam portage yoke wings coming off the front of the pedestal.
I'd suggest the Northstar - great versatility, and you don't really have the bigger open water (unless you plan on canoeing the Channel!) that the Northwind is designed for.
Incidentally, I'm familiar with exactly the incidents you described with Bell in the UK, and could probably, though not ethically, go into more detail than you need. I will say that the last shipment to the UK before this most recent season was of early production run hulls from the new factory. Bell no longer clear gel coats hulls - those fractures you saw were only in the clear coat, they should not have been in the fabric (the importer did not mention anything to the contrary to me) but nonetheless, a black gold hull will show more cosmetic imperfections than a kevlight. That seam is present on every Bell composite other than the Seliga (stern seam) the Rob Roys, and the Bucktail - it just hides more on the Kevlar due to the bi-color pattern. For what its worth, they have done a remarkable job in fixing the molds to prevent the seam from becoming as much of an issue - in most models.
I'd suggest an aluminum railed, black gold Northstar with a kneeling thwart installed - its a tougher layup, the right size, option for solo, and if you make mention to the UK importer of being extra careful in shipping, I'm sure they will remember to do so when wrapping and loading...I remember him being very explicit about certain boats for particular customers...pleasant, but explicit. of course, I'm not there anymore so I can't handle it myself.
The Black gold will show more scratches, but with a boat that nice, you'll probably be more vigilant in entering/exiting properly.
Also the Northstar is the most popular tandem ordered from Bell in Germany...there's another option to see one if you're planning a holiday .
thanks for advice
Very useful to know that Bell have stopped using the clear gelcoat and to be steered towards Blackgold instead of Kevlight and by someone who obviously knows the Bell canoes and their layup.
Why the aluminium trim and not wood? I think the aluminium trim that goes with blackgold looks good, but I like the look of Bell’s wood trim too and somehow it seems to belong more on the gunwales of a canoe than metal. Are their some real differences when paddling? Does aluminium trim make the canoe stiffer/paddle differently and is it stronger?
I have enough scars on my Rx Yellowstone Solo to know the value of a hull that will take bumps and scrapes, so the Northwind in Rx is still a contender and for half the money.
Thanks for the advice
NorthStar in B/G
The NorthStyar in Black/Gold may be the finest short class tandem ever designed or built. A light and rugged laminate in a very high performance design for two compact paddlers that is narrow enough for workable solo paddling from a third kneeling thwart.
The Kev/Krystal/Lite/whatever laminate is fragile. The wider, longer NorthWind variant in RX kinda defeats the entire concept of performance paddling. If you need a hull for bouncing off rocks get a YellowStone tandem.
It turns out that the very best stuff actually works better.