Back in the good ole’ days when I used to work retail, we carried Bell Canoes. They were made in Minnesota and were the perfect canoes for traveling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which was where our customers were heading. If you don’t know that Boundary Waters, you should. It’s a 1 million acre wilderness area that is only one of two wilderness areas in the U.S. designated specifically for canoes. It’s also America’s most used wilderness area. In the BWCA, you travel from lake to lake using portages that you carry your gear over. Bell Canoes were light, efficient at touring speed and nice and stable. They also handled nicely and maneuvered well. Loving canoeing, I bought a couple for myself. The first was a Wildfire and the second was a Magic, both were solo canoes. Eventually, Bell sold out and then that business stopped making the canoes. You couldn’t buy some of the finest designs for touring.
That is until now.
Ted Bell is back and is now building 7 different touring canoes that are based on the old Bell designs in three different layups including the awesome carbon/Kevlar combo called Black-Lite, Kevlar Lite and White Gold (fiberglass and Kevlar for durability and low cost). He’s building them under the Northstar Canoes name (Facebook page: Northstar Canoe). I know lots of paddlers mourned the loss of Bell Canoe and their canoe models, so this is great new for those fans. I feel like I can go back to beating the snot out of my Magic, because I can get a new one again!
Here’s the new Northstar Canoes lineup:
Northwind 20 – 20’6″ (was North Shore)
Northwind 18 – 18’9″ (was Northwoods)
Northwind 17 – 17’6″ (was Northwind)
Northwind 16 – 16’6″ (was Northstar)
Magic – 16′ (was Magic)
Northwind Solo - 15’6″ (similar to Merlin II, but designed by Carl Yost, the son of David Yost. It’s Carl’s first solo design.)
Double Blade Touring
ADK Solo – 12′
Phoenix – 14’6″ (Wildfire/Rockstar Solo)
One thing you may notice is that on the tandem canoes, the shouldered tumblehome is gone. The specs for the width show the maximum width and the gunwale width as the same, but the lineup is similar. And not only is the lineup similar, I just heard that the old trailer that was used to deliver canoes to retailers in the past is going to be used. That’s kind of geeky canoe-insider info, but fun to know.