Northstar kneeling thwart or 3rd seat?

I’m ready to order a Bell Northstar in Black Gold with wood trim. Thinking of having the Bell contoured web seats rather than cane, anyone using them? a good choice?

I’m thinking of not having the fixed yoke and instead having a third seat put in, just aft of the centre line for solo paddling, (also a Bell contoured web seat). Then having a Bell removable yoke for as and when needed, is this a good piece of kit?

No yoke in my Yellowstone Solo and I’ve got used to not having one, my Y/Solo with it’s kevlar end plates and air bags probably weighs 50lbs and I’m reckoning the Northstar will end up about the same.

Am I making a mistake opting for a third seat and not a kneeling thwart as is usual? (I’m thinking of having the 4 inch drops fitted for all the seats, and having a set of 2 inch drops as spare and then using whichever feels best for a mix of sitting and kneeling in the centre).

I’m thinking that using a third ‘centre’ seat the canoe will be better balanced and I can reach for the bow better for more control, although obviously the canoe would be narrower from a kneeling thwart set back from a fixed yoke which I guess could make it easier to solo.

I’ll be paddling about 75% solo and 25% tandem, and I want the setup to be good for paddling several hours at a time, not on rocky rivers but on the sea and other big open water.

Advice welcome.


Northstar w/3 seats
I had a BlackGold NorthStar with the center seat for soloing. I still miss that boat!

I’d go for the center seat, especially with your soloing it more. Very nice paddling boat solo.

I never missed having a portage yoke. Pretty light boat and very strong.


Not the countered seat
I swtich back and forth between a kneeling thwart and a center seat in my NorthStar, and use two of the holes for the kneeling thwart for the seat. When the thwart is in the boat, there are just wo extra holes in the gunwale. This allows me to keep the portage yoke in all the time. Both arrangements trim out reasonalby well.

I would recommend against the countoured seat for the center though. It forces you to stay centered, and this boat paddles mcuh better solo with a little lean.

Where ya at?
A regular has got one used in the classifieds. If you’re in his neck of the woods, it would be worth contacting him. He’ll have some thoughts on your questions too no doubt.

Color me green with envy. Enjoy!!!

a few thoughts
Given that you talk about paddling on the sea and having a yoke in the centre, my guess is that you are not close to Michigan!

It will be interesting to hear Charlie’s comments if he weighs in.

Just a few thoughts based on my experienced with owning and enjoying a B/G Northstar for years.

I hope you are kind of heavy because although it does make a decent solo it’s also more of a tandem…with me plus the dog (275 pounds or so) the boat is very lightly loaded. It’s plenty fun solo on calm lakes or downriver and you can also drive it quite well in a wind, but it’s not as efficient as a true solo. So hopefully you are reasonably strong. It will certainly keep you dry in almost any conditions. Even tandem the boat is happier with the dog in it…it loves having more than 400 pounds.

I think the center seat is not a bad idea since a kneeling thwart is never as comfy as a real seat…but the Bell thwart is also reaosnably comfy and it’s just a plank so you can always replace it with one a bit wider, plus I have friends that have Cooke Custom Sewing pads for their Bell kneeling thwarts.

Personally I’m always a bit leery about buying a boat without seeing it since I’ve seen quite a bit of variability in both weight and the details of the lay-up in Bell boats. Perhaps the B/G is better than W/G for hull to hull variability. But I expect you have no choice but to order unseen.

I’m not sure what the rated weight is for the boat but you should add 6 pounds as a rule of thumb (someone wise told me this and it agrees with my experience). So with three seats plus a removable thwart I’d guess that the boat will be well over 50 pounds…could easily be over 55 and perhaps closer to 60.

I use a Nashwaak solo kneeling strap when I solo my Northstar. This solo strap doesn’t work in all tandems but it grabs the skinny rails on a Bell nicely. This allows me to get much more forward than the kneeling thwart whch helps the trim a lot even with a 70 pound dog in front of me.

I’ll be curious to hear Charlie’s comments about whether you need to worry about more overall flex in the boat since removing the center yoke must give up some support to the hull. I know a B/G Starfire can get along fine with three seats and no yoke but not sure if the N’Star is same since it’s 1.5 feet longer than a S’Fire.

Overall I expect you’ll be happy with the boat with three seats and no yoke as long as you’re reasonably strong and realize it may get blown around a bit on windy days if you are solo (not tandem, I’ve had mine out in wind with gusts over 50 mph where we heard three trees snap in one day) and if you realize that it will weigh more than you think.

solid post
good information whitewater

I did
I did something I havn’t seen before that worked out great for me in my Pal. I installed an angled seat behind the front seat facing backwards.It paddles great Canadian style.I put my pack in the front for a little counter-ballance.I leave it in when paddling tandem.I can’t paddle with with just a thwart for more than 1/2 hr. Being behind center the canoe is narrower and manoverability beter also.Your boat may be asymetrical and not good for paddling backwards,but the principle would apply for going foreward.


NorthStar Solo
The NorthStar is one of the better compact tandems of all time. Differential rocker and slight swede-form yield a fast, good tracking and maneuverable hull, and shouldered tumblehome allows smaller bow paddlers to get their hands across the rail and use vertical-shaft strokes.

That said, it’s still a tandem; 34.5 in wide. Most solos run 28 to 30 in wide, there are just a few at 31 in max width. It’d take a big, BIG, guy, with shoulders maybe 3 feet wide to paddle from a solo seat say, 9 in aft of center.

Due to the asymmetry, the boat will paddle horribly backwards - The differential rocker works against this configuration and it’ll handle like a cab-forward, fish form hull.

So, the paddler needs be moved aft to where the hull is, say 30-32 inches wide. The kneeling thwart makes sense because it doesn’t intrude on the stern paddlers legroom as a full sized seat would. [There are 3/4 width seats available that may help.]

But the third thwart position doesn’t work very well either - The bow is a long way off and won’t respond to draws well.

All in all, it would be better to paddle that YellowStone solo and use the NStar tandem. A tandem boat always compromises skilled solo paddling, a solo boat will always compromise skilled tandem teams. Combi boats almost always fail. if you’re big enough to paddle it solo, two of you can’t paddle it tandem. If both are compact enough to paddle it tandem, either will be too small to dominate the hull solo. Free lunches are pretty rare.

But Bell’s black/Gold with wood is one of the better laminates available.

Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17
Much faster than a Northstar solo (will piss off and surprise some solo paddlers), somewhat faster than a Northstar tandem, more maneuverable than a Northstar solo, about equal tandem. Less stable than Northstar, especially tandem. Not quite as seaworthy as N’Star but darn dry for a solo! Mine made me dizzy solo and the sog skidded around more due to shallow vee vs shallow arch hull. Unique hull design…seems sailboat-like to me, where the stern adds length/speed when cruising straight up but pops right out of the water with any lean angle.

Could be worth considering.

Most likely Charlie is right on. You could get a spray deck to keep you dry in your solo (in the sea) and get a Northstar to enjoy tandem (and occasional solo) paddling. Northstar may be best all time tandem hull…quick/fast/maneuverable/stable. Everyone loves mine, except the tiny folks that bought my Hemlock Eaglet.

Are you the one who had the Bluewater Peterborough for sale in the classifieds here?

Really useful advice

Maybe I’d be better buying a composite solo and a secondhand Rx tandem for family use.

I’m after a canoe that is a little swifter through the water, more glide, and has a light responsive feel on the water.

I think the best looking solo I’ve seen is a Magic in Black Gold. I guess a Black Gold Wildfire or Merlin 2 would also have the lighter feel on the water, be more responsive and be swifter than my Yellowstone Solo.

(In Rx I guess the Wenonah Wilderness and the new Bell Rockstar would be contenders, but I think they would probably feel similar on the water to paddle)

Maybe I should buy a one seat open top sports car (Magic) and then look out for a secondhand Rx (or composite if a good price) tandem for the family.

In a Magic I still like the idea of having the contoured web seat instead of a cane seat, I’ve seen this setup in a Merlin2 at (unfortunately doesn’t appear to be creating the link) and it looks right.

One thing I find with the Yellowstone Solo is that after a few hours of kneeling I start to have discomfort, becomes pain, in my ankles and there isn’t the stability to just sit on the seat and stretch/relax for a bit especially on lumpier open water. I had thought that the Northstar would give me that extra stability to take breaks on a longer paddle and to change from kneeling to sitting.

Decisions decisions but all good fun…

Embarrassed, but
Kinda embarrassing, but we’re offering all this advice and don’t know how tall you are and what you weight.

Without that info, specific boat suggestions are shots in the dark.

Given that you seem to want to both kneel and sit, another question is paddle style. Do you use cross strokes when you kneel? Do you use a bent when sitting?

But I think you’re approaching the best answer. Get the best boat you can, for your size, needs, for the 75% of the time you solo. Get the best deal you can on a usable tandem for that 25% of your on-water time.

Web seats last longer than cane, but, once rained on stay damp all day.

Yes definately
I think you’re on the right track with the solo idea. No point in dropping that kind of $$$ on a compromise boat. You’ll be really happy the 25% of the time your tandem paddling, but kinda disappointed the other 75% of the time.

I don’t know what your financial situation is, but you could divvy the fund. Say you were going to spend ~2500 on the Northstar. You can find a really nice used solo ~1600 (seen really nice BG Magics sell of this site for that), and you’d still have $900 to spend on a nice used tandem.

I’m used to paddling with
friends who are mostly using their 16’0 Royalex Prospectors or similar and paddling them solo and tandem, only one composite canoe in use locally and that’s arrived very recently. More by luck than judgement I went for the Bell Yellowstone Solo, on a windy day or pushing into the tide it sure helps having the canoe with the lower profile.

Let’s see I’m 5’7, 180lbs, brown eyes…I guess that’s going too far…lots of determination rather than strength.

I rarely paddle sitting, raised the drops on my seat so I could kneel in the Yellowstone Solo and doesn’t feel so good to paddle sitting. I paddle with a bent shaft probably 80% of the time, sometimes switching and other times on one side only, but running before the wind and when paddling alone I use a beavertail.

I read good thngs about the Magic, and I think it would be a keeper, maybe that’s the special one for me.

have the Bell Chestnut Prospector
in B/G w/wood trim and the kneeling thwart. Love kneeling off the thwart solo except for those windy days!

The Peterborough makes a fine large solo and tandem you want to keep the total weigh to about 400 or less. It’s got fine ends and with a lighter pair of tandem paddlers it scoots…could be a touch quicker/faster than Northstar even though it’s a symmetric boat.

I haven’t spent much time in it…I have many more hours in the Northstar and in a Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17. I’m impressed with the quality of Bluewater boats although I have zero experience with their boats since they have changed ownership.

Swift Shearwater
Is a lovely high volume solo that will cruise and turn effortlessly and keep you as dry as just about any solo.

Magic may be good for you if you are biased towards sitting. I was not that fond of my Magic but others seem to like theirs…I kneel and I like a boat that turns. Compared to your Yellowstone a Merlin II will be significantly better for acceleration response after the first couple of strokes, a bunch better for cruising, somewhat better for stability and respectable for turning but not even clsoe to a Yellowstone. I think it’s more of a kneeling boat and you’ll still have to pay attention when taking a break sitting (in the sea!) but it’s less jumpy than a Y’Stone. I’ve put more miles on my Merlin II than all other boats combined…but I also miss my Swift Osprey and Shearwater. My Osprey kept me safe and dry in big/confused waves that scared me and the fishermen watching me…but it’s also a kneeler in my experience, although some P-Netters may have more experience sitting and using a foot brace. Hemlock Peregrine might also be a bullseye for you.

Face it, you need a trip to the states to try lots of boats!