Widened Flashfire: Return to stock?

My white gold Bell Flashfire was widened by the original owners. My understanding was that they had only widened it about 1", but tonight I took measurements and it appears to actually be 2" wider at the gunwales than a stock Bell Flashfire.

I’m finally ready to replace the very uncomfortable wood kneeling thwart with a cane bucket seat from Ed’s Canoe so it will be comfortable enough for 6hr to 8hr river trips and was planning to return all of the gunwale widths to stock width, but am a little concerned about whether replacing the thwarts with 2" shorter thwarts might result in damage in the hull along the edge of the core mat, which had been suggested when I first inquired about returning the width to stock late last spring, when I thought it was only 1" wider than stock.

Note: The thwart and seat placements are measured from the outer edge of the gunwales, which overhang the hull at the bow and the stern by 1".

Measurements taken at the gunwale, not the center of the boat. I think I was doing it correctly with the arc method.

Stock Flashfire measurements, as I know them, are in ().

53" to center hole of front thwart (52")

81" to front edge of 5" wide kneeling thwart. (84" to 1st screw hole for seat)

83" to 1st kneeling thwart screw.

85" to 2nd kneeling thwart screw.

53" from stern to center hole of rear thwart. (52")

Width measurements taken at the seam of the inwale and outwale:

24.25" wide front thwart. (22.25")

24.0" wide rear thwart. (22.25")

27.0" wide kneeling thwart. (25.0")

Here’s the questions:

  1. Ar the stock Bell Flashfire measurements listed above correct?

  2. Are my concerns about replacing the 2" longer thwarts with stock length thwarts and seat legitimate or unfounded? I’ll just leave the gunwales at the widened width, if it’s likely I’ll damage the hull by shortening them.

    The “stock” Bell Flashfire measurements that I have referenced were given to me today via phone conversation with Paul at Colden Canoe while he measured them off a Bell Flashfire that he has.


Seats and Ladybugs
No one can answer the dimensions question unless they have a Flashfire they are willing to measure. Hard to believe Paul would have made a mistake.

Don’t really know about your hull stress question. I’ve always thought that pulling in the gunwales or pushing them out from the design width would stress the hull in some way, but lots of boaters do it. Returning the hull to its original design shape may relieve stress. Take the thwarts out and see what happens. Flex the hull some and test it. You saw Karen Knight paddling a thwartless Flashfire, and she crawls all around it and cartops it that way. Probably for many, many years.

I like Conk’s seat, sold by Hemlock, better than the Ed’s bucket. It’s a wide seat, so you can easily slide from side to side or sit at an angle. A bucket seat, cane or otherwise, wants to keep you centered. Plus, Conk’s seat is webbing, which I prefer over cane. YMMV.

If you shorten the thwarts, you should lose rocker and increase waterline. This theoretically should make the Flash turn worse and track better. If so, and this is still theoretical, you may transform it into … a … heavy Curtis Ladybug.

Then you’ll really want a new boat.

I"ve considered leaving it wide and just

– Last Updated: Apr-29-11 3:21 AM EST –

replacing the seat, at least initially, just so I do have two quite different handling boats, with the widened Flashfire being looser and more turny than the Lady Bug.

That Conk seat is kind of pricey. Would you happen have a link to some pictures? Is it similar to Ed's center contour seat http://www.edscanoe.com/40cecacose.html?

Edit: I found a link to Conk's seat http://picasaweb.google.com/conk46er/ConkCustomContourCanoeSeat#

I kind of like the way the bucket seats keep me centered when heeling the boat, especially when sitting.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Clarify please, (and)
You say the boat is 2" wider at the gunwales, but where? Are the actual thwarts 2" wider than stock, or is the max beam 2" wider than stock?

As for stress: It would depend on when the mod was done. If the hull was still green, fully cured, or sun baked :slight_smile: I think the WG layup, in my experience, is dynamic enough to not have a problem in your circumstance. You’d want to watch the areas where the core mat is laminated onto the hull, and the float tanks.

I have replaced
the gunwales on my kevlar Jensen several times. I am always amazed how the canoe would reshape itself after I took out all thwarts and seats. With that set of experiences in mind I suggest you remove all seats and thwarts and see what the hull wants to do.

Charlie in

Denver NC

just think of the weight you’ll shave!

Weight savings?

– Last Updated: Apr-29-11 9:04 AM EST –

The removal of the kneeling thwart, and shortening of the oversized gunwales "must" equal the weight of the new, wood/cane seat from Eds, or the handling of your Flashfire will change so much, you'll probably have to get rid of it.

Then there is the problem of the massive amount of change in the hull shape(probably as much as 3/4 inch?) that will result when you replace the oversized thwarts you installed with stock sized thwarts.

It could take years to adapt to those changes.
It will probably handle like a completely different boat?

I experienced similiar problems once when I removed oversized thwarts, and put in a different seat in a Bell Wildfire I had.
I solved the problem by buying a bag of M & Ms with peanuts everytime I went paddling. Used the M & Ms as ballast; just moved them around in the bildge until I found the "sweet spot" for perfect balance. If that doesn't work; you can eat a few of the M & Ms and then try additional/different positioning of the M & Ms.
I tried plain M & Ms, but found them unsuitable.



Try it

– Last Updated: Apr-29-11 9:11 AM EST –

Remove the thwarts and pull the gunnels in very slowly, gradually and evenly with two woodworking clamps or ratcheting straps positioned where the thwarts attach. Watch very closely as you suck it in. Take measurements as you go and see what happens. If you like it, measure and cut your thwarts to match.
This is my advice and I deny I ever offered it.

Problem with the M&Ms
There is an issue with using a bag of M&Ms for ballast. I recall Bob using this method on more than one of the Ozark Rendezvous trips. During our routine breaks on gravel bars, when Bob wasn’t looking, probably he was engrossed in telling tales to fellow paddlers about how he shared a bag of M&Ms with Van Halen backstage after a concert in the early 80s and David Lee Roth wouldn’t eat the brown M&Ms, myself, Silverwave, Rob, Pam, Vic, Pat1, Pat2 and others would eat some of Bob’s M&Ms, sans the brown ones. It was fun watching Bob paddle the rest of the trip, dumbfounded as to why he’d do so many fish counts, and why the river dorks we passed along the way would whoop and holler at the spectacle of Bob’s Wildfire, with the bow riding a least a foot above the water!

flashfire set up
Hi Yanoer, wouldn’t it be easier to sell all the “imperfect” flashfires you have and get a Colden? I looked at that stretched flashfire before you bought it, it’s one of the reasons, I walked away from it. As for myself, I’m saving for the 22# Colden…jesse

Nice guy
I’d have no hesitation in buying that boat and pulling the gunwales in. It’ll do anything Dave wants it to do other than levitating itself on and off the racks.

Nice guy #2

– Last Updated: Apr-29-11 11:34 AM EST –

I'll give you $500.00 & a bag of M & Ms with peanuts for it!

Never trust those Illinois & Indiana paddlers; they'll take advantage of you every time you turn your back & then laugh at all the pain & grief they cause. Chuck & Silverware are the worst of the lot; they could teach real pirates a few tricks or two.


pulling rails inward
decreases rocker. Tracking will improve but why buy a Fire boat if you want straight tracking. Also the Fire series hulls are perpendicular vs. flared or tumblehome. You could create some tumblehome by pulling in the rails and that effects stability when acutely heeled. If one wanted a hull with little rocker and more tumblehome why buy a Flashfire? Other models are availble with those features.

Why would anyone want a Falsh that was 2" wider? Makes no sense to me. Sounds like a Wildfire would be better. HTH.


nobody is answering the OP
original question…

Charlie would know but the Adirondacks are getting massively flooded. Looks like roads in the vicinity of AFS are under water…and some getting destroyed. We should be glad there is some time before AFS to fix things.

Its a hundred year flood and its going unnoticed. on national media.Saranac Lake Village is under siege.


So I bet CEW is a bit busy moving stuff in his lakeside abode yet again toward the roof.

ain’t taking final exams here. Ain’t this ‘Last Comic Standing’?

Jeez, the boat ain’t on life support in ER fer crisakes.

Call up Chuck/Silverwave and drive over and take your own measurements on her WG Flashfire. If it jives with one inch, take the freaking thwarts out and draw in one inch. If two, make it two.

Then go paddle the hell out of it.

Used Flashfire availability…
That’s why someone, such as myself, would buy a Flashfire that’s 2" wider than normal. Flashfires of any construction or modification just don’t come available very often around here, or anywhere, for that matter, at least not a prices that I can pay.

I looked for 4 years before I found this one and I had to import it from CO. I was fortunate to find a specimen of it’s closest living relative, a Curtis Lady Bug, to paddle for a couple years before I acquired this Flashfire.

It’s difficult for beggers to be too choosy.

Besides, as has been noted, thwart lengths can be changed back to stock. It’s not like it has skid plates or some non-restorable horror like that.

I’ll try connecting with
Chuck_IL and Silverwave, but they don’t sit still long.

My first objective is to get the kneeling thwart replaced with a seat. The rest can follow.

I’ll try making some seat drops before I leave work today, since we have a table saw and drill press here and I don’t have them at home.

Hull Widths and Flash Arcs
Widening a canoe to increase rocker works quite well with wood and fabric hulls. It works pretty well with ABS/RX/RL hulls, depending on the number and shape of partial layers in the blanket. It works kinda well on solid fabric hulls like Bell’s Black/Gold, Placid and Colden boats. It works progressively less well on core mat or center cookie hulls like Bell’s W/G, and rather poorly on foam cored hulls because the center section changes not at all.

I think the Stecker’s were more interested in increased floatation heeled than more rocker. At one point they installed a pedestal on one of their FlashFires? The official Bell response to that was muted compared to when Pat Moore discovered Mark and Becky Molina to have installed a kneeling thwart in a Reverie III.

Anyway, popping standard spread thwarts and seat in the boat will not damage the hull and will not turn it into a LadyBug either. It will always have more rocker than LB, and lift it’s stems higher when heeled and be significantly drier in waves than LB.

The discrepancy between Bell and Placid/Colden arcs for FlashFire thwart and seat placements are explained by differences in the rails. All arcs are swung after a spreader bar is installed amidships. The Bell arcs are longer because Bell rail tips extend[ed], past tense?, ~1 inch past the molded stem. Placid and Coldens do not. This is less important for the thwarts than seat, but installing the seat another inch aft would improve tracking I suppose; at the cost of maneuverability.

Of minor interest, it’s been wet here. The High peaks has received over 8" of rain this week. Water in Lower Saranac Lake is over 2 feet higher than normal and over 14" deep in my boathouse’s lower level. My son suggested we sandbag and start bailing? I guess that would work if one carried the water up the hill and over the road to dump into the Lake Kiwassa drainage which is downstream of the Lower Saranac Lock and Damn. But, since ~ 300 cu/ft/sec is running over the dam at the locks, dumping two buckets every twenty minutes or so wouldn’t help that much either.

I’d love to paddle in and open both sets of lock gates, but that would deposit the village of Saranac Lake downstream to Plattsburgh overnight.

bon chance!

Thanks Charlie. I think I’m straight

– Last Updated: May-01-11 11:34 AM EST –

now on seat and thwart placement. Edited to add: It looks like the 2nd hole of the current kneeling thwart, which is 85" from the outer edge of the thwarts/deck, is the same as the 84" from the bow hull shear line, because of the 1" overhang of the Bell thwarts at the bow and stern.

I'll start with replacing the kneeling thwart with a seat at the current width and move on from there. I've got a seat that will work well enough until I decide on which upgrade seat to get (Ed's cane bucket, Conk's seat or something else).

I wish you the best in dealing with the flood waters.

Kudos to Paul at Colden Canoe for
being so ready and willing to measure his Bell Flashfire and offer tips and suggestions for this project and for always being available by phone.

Thanks Paul.