Southern Bell Northstar

I am interested in the Bell Northstar primarily as a solo boat. Any thoughts on this boat as a solo would be appreciated. I am 6’0" 190 lbs and want a little more capacity for camping gear and 30lb sawed off Corgi Dog. I’m most interested in exploring the swamps, blackwater and tidal creeks and rivers here in the Southeast. If anyone has a Northstar they would allow me to try out I would be eternally grateful. I’m trying hard to obey the golden rule “try before you buy”. I would prefer to buy a used boat if anyone is considering selling. Thanks.

i like the northstar and have thought about picking up one myself. but why not just buy a true solo boat, like a magic, etc. they’ll haul plenty of gear.

Some Reasons
I’m thinking the Northstar will probably be a little less trim sensitive and a little more stable with the dog moving around. I also like the idea of having a cooler and possibly even some firewood for the barrier island trips. Finally, I do like the idea that I could paddle tandem. My biggest concern with the larger boat would be wind.

If you get down to Fort Myers, FL, you are welcome to paddle my Northstar. I bought it for exactly the same reasons you mention - solo paddling with a dog ( a 100 lb lab in my case). I ordered the boat with the optional kneeling thwart, which provided very good trim and control but was just not very comfortable for me for any longer than an hour. I took out the stock seat and the kneeling thwart and installed one of the curved cane seats available from Piragis just aft of the center yoke, and the boat trims great with the dog right in front of the yoke and me right behind it. I put in a stern thwart where the old stern seat was for added stiffnes.

My “real” solo, a Wenonah Advantage, was just too unstable with a large dog.

Northstar is a fine solo
for just what you want. It has a very good capacity and gunwale width is only 31". Empty it is best paddled from the center thwart and with a good load it can be trimmed to paddle from the kneeling thwart. Inital stability is not at all as firm as prospector style tripper but it’s a rock solid performer in the rough stuff and fairly fast. Secondary stability is excellent. Tracking is excellent.

me too?
i’ve got a really tricked out rob roy i’ll bring up to fort myers. maybe we can go for a paddle together and swap boats for an hour or so. i live down in san carlos park and paddle estero bay all the time.

Alas, I’m up in Massachusetts…
but I can heartily recomend the NorthStar as a solo. I did a solo trip in northern Maine this summer and decided to leave the WildFire at home and bring the NorthStar for exactly your rationale and I was not sorry. I’m 5’10"-162lbs. and I brought 175lbs, of cargo. Mine’s fitted with the kneeling thwart and it performed superbly.



Thanks for the go aheads …
Its nice to hear from those using the Northstar just as I imagine. I was thinking with the fair amount of tumblehome and 31" gunnel width that this should be a decent solo boat. It’s interesting that bell advertises the Morningstar as their crossover boat even though its wider with less tumblehome. Do any of you paddle hit and switch from the kneeling thwart position? Thanks again to all.

Andylee’s comments about factory placement of the tandem seats is right on the money. As noted in my earlier post, I just removed the stock seats. As for paddling hit and switch from the kneeling thwart, that worked very well for me for short fast workouts, but for longer trips the kneeling thwart was not comfortable. And to Chad19, I would be happy to go paddling with you and swap with your Rob Roy any time. Unfortunatley, we leave for Utah Friday for a few days on the Colorado river, and I go in for shoulder surgery the day we get back. My doc says it will be several months before I can paddle again. If you will take a raincheck until after Christmas, I would love to go. Larry

you’re the first person i’ve met who paddles a bell in the fort myers/naples area. i’d love to go out and do a boat swap for a day paddle. i’ll send you an e-mail so we can keep in touch. good luck out west, and good luck with the surgery.


You’re welcome to try my Northstar if you’re ever in Ann Arbor. My experience is that it’s a really fun solo for me and the dog…but it’s still extra very lightly loaded at 275 pounds or so and it would prefer even more weight. I bought mine at Carl’s in Madison some years ago and one young salesperson had recently “converted” from a real solo to a Northstar for solo paddling with a big camping load.

The Northstar will not touch a true solo for performance and it may be a handful on a windy day. So - depends on your planned usage.

I used to have a Bluewater Freedom Tripper 17. It’s not quite as stable as a Northstar because it’s a bit narrower and it’s a shallow vee instead of shallow arch, but it is WAY better than a Northstar solo and it will even perform as well as a real solo except on really windy days when it will cause you to work harder. It is an amazing solo, and a great tandem too. The Northstar is an amazing tandem that works pretty well solo in the right conditions…like super big load or on a calm day. Mine is a blast for freestyle with the dog on super calm lakes…you can spin it on a dime and do crazy things with it.

But for me - even at a reasonable 50 pounds for my very sturdy black/gold Northstar, I’d rather grab a 35 or 40 pound solo boat when I have time to paddle.