what's my next canoe...

I have a wenonah argosy for twisty class 1 - 2 rivers…and a novacraft prospector 16 in royalex for a tandem on same.

I’m soon in the market for a LITE 75%solo/25% tandem strictly for lake travel.

I’m 57 yrs, old…thinking ahead to when I may want more primary stability, but still something that will MOVE FAST on flat water that I can easily use solo…that is lite( I HATE gettingolder!!!) I’m thinking of Bell Northstar or Wenonah Escapade or Novacraft Pal - in lightest construction possible so I can carry the thing when I’m 75. This will be my last canoe purchase as far as I can see…otherwise she’ll kill me… By the way…living in tennessee, I can’t “test drive”…it’s just not possible here…really sucks!. any suggestions?

Tricky decision, because if your
tandem lake travel includes carrying much gear, you will tend to overload any canoe that also paddles well solo. The Northstar and Escapade are good options. Just examine your planned use very carefully.

Will be watching this thread closely myself. Looking for the same thing; 75% solo, 25% flatwater tandem day trips. Have paddled several Bell hulls and own an Angler and a Northwind. I’m THINKING the Northstar is what I’m looking for and know where I can get a new, older model 'glass version for a pretty good price.

I’ve read all the reviews, but would also like to see anything else someone might add about this hull.

Thanks for posting this question gjmesa! WW

If it were me
And I had the cash…

I would look at a Novacraft PAL in Blue Steel.

To me, that looks like a heck of a boat…

Bell Northstar
The Northstar is a fantastic model. I’ve owned one for two years and could not be happier. I use mine strictly tandem, since I have two dedicated solo models, but can see how it will work well as a solo, too. It’s my favorite tandem canoe.

It is very efficient despite being only 16.5’ (it moves better than my 17.5’ Bell Northwind). And it handles great, turning and tracking decently. Be aware, however, that its initial stability is not great (the cost for that efficiency/speed), but its secondary stability is excellent, and it should be fine for you since you sound like a very experienced paddler. If you want more initial stability, a Souris River Quetico 16 would do the trick for you. I used to own this model (for five years), which I used solo and tandem, but sold it last year. It was too slow for me (the cost for all that initial stability).

You know, however, that you’re making comprises. You’d be better off getting a dedicated solo for your 75% solo paddling, but that will require two canoes, which I know is not part of your plan (my wife has been properly trained!). Having used a small tandem model (Souris River Quetico 16) for solo paddling and now two dedicated solo canoes (Bell Merlin II and Wenonah Voyager), there is no comparison. Might you be happier getting a dedicated solo to cover your 75% scenario and then use your existing tandems for the 25% scenario?

I love Bell’s BlackGold layup (carbon-kevlar composite), I think it’s the best in the business, but it is heavier than the Kevlight. My Northstar in BlackGold with aluminum trim weighs 44 lbs; the Kevlight is 40 lbs., I think.

The Wenonah Escapade is supposed to be a good design as well, but I have not paddled it.

You should also be aware that Bell Canoe Works was sold by Ted Bell in 2006 and its factory moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin. There were quality issues the first year (2007), but it is supposedly fine now. Mine were all built by the original Bell, so I cannot speak to current quality.

In general, I can recommend the Northstar and expect that you will be happy with it.

Have fun!

What is the opposite of Hobson’s Choice?

– Last Updated: Jan-26-09 9:39 PM EST –

This isn't a difficult choice because the boats are bad; instead, it is difficult because you've picked three great boats! I've been lucky enough to have paddled all three (though I have only paddled the Northstar as a tandem,) so here's a quick opinion on each. I'm very partial to the PAL in either Kev/Spec or (especially) Blue Steel. I have a Blue Steel Bob Special that I really enjoy; the PAL is a faster, edgier version of it. It paddles beautifully from the center "Canadian style" and also from the bow seat "backwards" (which is my usually my choice because of lousy knees.) The Northstar is not quite as as fast, certainly has more initial stability and about the same secondary stabilty (meaning quite a bit.) I think the difference in "speed" is actually that the PAL glides better than the Northstar. The available Black Gold layup from Bell isn't really lighter than their kev-light, but, like the Blue Steel from Nova Craft, it is very tough stuff (and good looking, too.) The Escapade (and I'm speaking here of the 2008 and later models, which are a real advance over previous ones) is the fastest of the three, glides almost as well as the PAL and is hands down the best of the three when paddled from a dedicated center seat because of the tumblehome in the center section. It would be the least useful of the three as a small tripper. What could tip the scales for the Escapade is the very lightweight carbon/kevlar layup from Wenonah. It is certainly less robust than an ultra-light kevlar model (and not remotely as stong as the carbon-based layups from Bell and Nova Craft), but it is REALLY light, even with wood gunwales, which look great w/the black hull.

As I said, you can't go wrong with any of the three. If I was going to pick a forever boat and I could only have one of them, I'd probably go with the PAL. But I'd lose sleep over the decision, for sure!

Can’t help you much on the canoes
but I disagree with you on the “Getting older”

I have a lot of years on you, and other than a bad knee, I think I am in the best shape of my life.

I also have never been as happy in my life as I am now.

All eight kids grown and out of the house - No mortage - no debt -

My main worry is if the wind will be higher than 15 MPH and planning my tomorrows paddle.

Oh yea, on that canoe: take a look at a Wenonah, Jensen 17 ultralight (39 pounds). If you are a fairly tall guy you can paddle it solo from the center seat, and it is awesome as a tandem.



Northstar a good choice

– Last Updated: Jan-27-09 3:00 PM EST –

I have one in Kev Light - 39# spec weight. Bought it for Tandem use only, but I have solo'd it for day trips. Paddling it from the bow seat facing the stern does not work unless you have a lot of weight to use for trim - empty, the "bow" rides way out of the water and its nothing but a wind vane. Paddled from the kneeling thwart position( I don't have a kneeling thwart, just the "pipe" thwart )it paddles fine solo, but I'm not a kneeler and wouldnt' want to do that for a long trip.

A similar boat is the Mad River Malecite, if you can find one; and maybe the Wenonah Solo Plus ?

Do a search on here for "pocket tripper" and you'll find some threads discussing these boats.

As far as these boats being too small for tandem tripping,I disagree totally. I use mine for 10 to 12 day Quetico trips with my brother. Everything fits, below the gunnels. You can buy the boat you want and pare down the gear (which, from the emphasis on LITE you used, sounds like it should be your style)till it fits, or you can buy a boat to fit a huge load and alomost always have more boat than you need. Essentially for the reason you were talking about, I prefer to go ultralight with a small fast boat that portages super easy.

Savage river
Drive up to western Maryland and test a Deep Creek from John Diller at Savage River canoes. 30 pounds. I have had 2 SR Otegans (21 pounds!) in the family and John is definitely a classy builder. I bet he’d put a center seat in a Deep Creek if you asked.

Take a look at the new Eaglet design from Dave Curtis’ Hemlock Canoes. This is in my garage right now awaiting softer water. 37 pounds rigged for solo, spec’d at 41 if 3 seats are installed. I got this one exactly for the reasons you stated – more stable feeling as I get more creaky. But still light and 75% soloable. Can’t give you much of a performance review until after this summer, though!

If you want light, you want less canoe. Therefore it will be easier to just get a solo. A Bell magic is pretty quick. Also, you won’t go nearly as fast in a boat wide enough to tandem well.

Have a look at the Bluewater Peterborough.

Have a look at the Esquif Champlain.

Both are Canadian-made, classicly styled canoes.

Both will do OK with two people, but be better with one. Neither will be as fast or efficient as a Jensen 17’. The Jensen 17’ will also be more widely available, and maybe available used.

What style of paddling do you like (sitting/kneeling, boat heeled or boat flat, switch sides or steer with strokes, straight shaft or bent paddles)? In all the first cases, I would get a Peterborough. In all the second cases, a Jensen 17’.

Let us know what you choose - I am interested.

I’ve always admired the Peterborough.
Though it certainly won’t be as fast as the Jensen, it has modest wetted area and is nice and narrow. Should be an easy paddler.

Interference Fit
Combi boats mostly don’t work for the buyer. They are fine for two compact folks or one large person, but one small person cannot solo the creature without compromise.

Secondly, they certainly are not fast or light.

All that said, Bell’s NorthStar, Hemlock’s Eagle and Eaglet are your best choices because they have tumblehome. The Hemlock’s are solidly built. From Bell, I’d choose Black/Gold over Kev-Lite, it’ll last lots longer.

I’d suggest you lobby for a Lake Tandem, which allows expanding your choices to include lightweight Swift and WeNoNah tandems, and a lake solo, which will allow you to choose the boat you really want to paddle.

There are several fast solos under 30 lbs, some under 25.

Charlie is correct, in that canoe design is about comprimise.

If versatility is key, a Bluewater Prospector (much more lake-tuned than most) is a fine solo boat and a nice tandem. It weighs about 50 and can do most things well. The Peterborough will be better solo, and worse tandem.

I agree also with whoever suggested just getting a solo and using one of your other canoes for tandem. Then you can avoid compromise.

Personally, I have tried solos, and don’t like them as much because they are less comfortable/stable, fast, or maneuverable than comparable tandems (i.e. something has to give - choose your compromise).

One more note - I haven’t tried the NC Pal in a composite, but did own a w/c version, and tried the Royalex one. The Royalex Pal is such a strange canoe and I found it to be nothing like the W/C. This is not because I am a W/C purist (in fact I sold it because I just didn’t want to maintain it). I expect their 'glass version will be much better, but that plastic Pal was, in my opinion, a very poor choice.

I guess it depends on your definition of FAST on flat water…almost no combi will match a real solo.

Charlie has valid point that tandems will not fit ideally yet some can be paddled “canadian” style where the fit is different, plus a little extra width and non-ideal fit isn’t the worst disaster and the stability/luxury of a light tandem can be quite enjoyable.

I have no experience with Novacraft but have spent time in some of the others under discussion.

A Bell Starfire is a nice boat, paddles effortlessly and is a much better solo than Northstar. It’s not “fast” but it’s satisfying and may be one of the most effortless light tandems to paddle solo. It can also handle quite a load and works well tandem. Impressive boat. Could be hard to find one.

I’ve got a Peterborough and it’s a neat boat. Quite fast (for a tandem) solo and scoots with two light paddlers tandem. Tandem load needs to be below 400 pounds and if either paddler is chubby it could be a problem since tandem paddling stations are narrow. Mine is 45 pounds and strong (and pretty). Plenty of primary stability.

Hemlock Eaglet is a very nice boat with great primary stability and decent efficiency. A touch slower than Peterborough and a touch more effort than Starfire but more comfy and stable…and beautiful and well-made. It flies tandem with two smaller paddlers…about same as Peterborough. Also wonderfully light - and strong too.

I had a Tripper 17 and it’s amazing too. Give it some muscle and it keeps up with real solos. Tandem it’s faster than a Northstar. It gives up some primary stability to all the others…this could be the deal-breaker for you. This boat can also spin like a top solo…amazing…turns better than any of the others except Starfire.

I’ve got a Northstar and it’s a fine boat but more of a tandem than a solo. Solo it’s OK and can scoot if you give it muscle but even with my 70 pound dog in front of me it’s bow-light and wanting more weight. Tandem it’s one of best boats ever…everyone loves it.

If you trip across an older Blackhawk Combi 15.8 or 14.9 I’d say grab it. Both are fine solos and good oocasional tandems (esp. 15.8).

Mad River Malecite also works quite well both solo and tandem although it’s tandem-biased.

==> just my two cents

couple more thoughts
I also don’t have much time in Wenonahs but in some ways I think you’re describing a Jensen 17…which would satisfy you need for speed I think. Efficiency (effortless glide) always feels good.

I like boats that can turn gracefully and sharply but if turning is less important to you then a boat like a Jensen 17 could be perfect.

Your choices will also narrow if you know whether you plan to kneel - or not. In general boats offered with kneeling thwarts are meant for kneeling…Northstar would prefer kneeling and Tripper 17 requires kneeling.

To muddy the waters
If you’re looking at bigger solos a la Eaglet how about an Evergreen Willow?


One more - Clipper Tripper S
Tripper S, Clipper

Length: 16’ 6"; Rocker: Minimal; Beam: 33"; Center Depth: 14"; Weight: 66 lbs; Price: $1,595; www.westerncanoekayak.com

Western Canoeing has been building canoes under the Clipper brand for more than 25 years. Its lineup includes a wide variety of “composite” canoes, constructed of both fiberglass and Kevlar material.

The 16-foot-6-inch Tripper S made available for this review was constructed in the company’s standard fiberglass layup and is a downsized version of the company’s popular 17-foot-6-inch Tripper touring canoe. The “S” definitely stands for solo use; at 33 inches wide, the canoe is fairly narrow, greatly enhancing ease of solo paddling but adding an element of “sensitivity” when it’s paddled tandem. (In other words, it helps if tandem paddlers know what they’re doing!)

The review below is from the Canoe and Kayak Website:


They review 'glass, but I’m sure it could be had in lighter kevlar.

The Tripper S is an outstanding solo-tripping or cruising canoe, however, with excellent speed (thanks to its relatively long waterline), tracking, and carrying capacity.

Quality fiberglass boats are light, stiff, and excellent value for the money, and the Tripper S is no exception. Our test boat tipped the scales at a very manageable 67 pounds and was the stiffest canoe paddled of the boats reviewed (the hull is reinforced with laminated foam ribs and floor). The Tripper S is also available in Kevlar.

Primary Use: solo cruising or tripping, with occasional tandem use

If you mostly solo
I think you’ll soon suffer from buyer’s remorse if you don’t acquire a good, light solo. Yes, you can solo in tandems, but it’s a “Plan B” solution in my book.

I’m very happy with my Prism on open water if the wind isn’t too frisky. In the latter case, I use the Vagabond which responds well on windy days. But I’ve ordered a Wilderness with pedestal-mounted bucket seat (adjustable), which I’m hoping will be even more foul-weather friendly. The Prism and Wilderness weigh in at 34 lbs for the kevlar ultra-light; the Vagabond is 4 pounds lighter. Even with bad joints I can still lift them easily.

As for buying your last boat at age 57, don’t be so sure. I’m 65 and am still buying a boat a year, more or less.

Vermont Canoe "Indy"
I’m just saying.