I’ll admit it right up front: I’m a Ted Bell and David Yost fan. I used to own a Bell Magic and Bell Wildfire. Those canoes really paddled like Magic and were the best combo to own. The Magic was perfect for fast and light tripping in the BWCA and the Wildfire was a fun boat to take down rivers or just mess about in on flat water. I was bummed when I heard that Bell Canoe went out of business.
And then Ted Bell got back in business under the name of Northstar Canoe.
And then I ran into a perfect deal. The deal was a trade from my old canoes for two new Northstar Canoes. I’d get a new Magic, and instead of a Wildfire, which they don’t make anymore, I’d get a Northstar Phoenix. Sweet.
The Phoenix is Northstar’s version of a all-around canoe for traveling on rivers or flat water. It also works well for freestyle (I’m really rusty). It’s the replacement for the Bell Wildfire and Rockstar Solo (Royalex). It was designed by Carl Yost, David Yost’s son. It’s slightly bigger than the Wildfire, which is something I like as a 200 pound paddler. That extra length also makes it easier to load.
The design is symmetrical, which means that the bow and stern halves are exactly the same. It has 2.5 inches of rocker and carries far more than I’d need even on a 10 to 15 day trip. It features shouldered tumblehome, which makes the gunwales narrower than the widest part of the hull by a significant margin. In this case by 4 inches.
There are two options for trim, either wood or aluminum. I picked aluminum to keep the weight down. There are three materials to pick from: Black Lite, Kevlar Lite and White Gold. Black Lite is a combination of carbon and Kevlar and is supper durable. Kevlar Lite is the lightest layup. White Gold is Kevlar with fiberglass reinforcements. It’s durable and the fiberglass keeps the cost down. I love the look of the Black Lite, but for photographers the White Gold offers colors. I got a custom red color. It photographs awesome! You can also choose the style of seat: kneeling or sitting. I got the kneeling seat which has enough space under it to get your legs under. The sitting seat sits lower and adds stability to the canoe, but you can’t get your legs under the seat.
On the water, the Phoenix is everything that I like in a canoe. It turns quickly, but goes straight when needed. It’s fast enough (but not nearly as fast as the Magic). It has plenty of secondary for edging the canoe onto its side when turning. With the symmetrical design, a strong edge lifts the bow and stern out of the water and makes for a fast turn. It feels like the stern is skidding around as you sweep. It responds without hesitation to draws and pries. Although designed for rivers, I found it very enjoyable on flat water, especially while weaving in and out of rocks near the shore. Basically, it’s a blast to paddle.
I’ve loaded it up on one occasion and had no problems getting a Duluth Pack Northwoods Pack into the stern and a Sealine Boundary 35 [REI Link] into the front. For a river trip, I’d likely take the Phoenix, but for long trips on flat water, such as a trip into the Boundary Waters, I’d likely leave the Phoenix at home and take the Magic. Although when my better half and I go paddling, I take the Phoenix, and she takes the Magic.
If you like fun canoes, it’s a nobrainer: buy one. Simple as that. If you’re shopping for a solo canoe and you aren’t sure what you want, paddling a Phoenix will definitely help you make up your mind.
- More info: Northstar Phoenix
Length: 14ft 6in
Length/Width Ratio: 6.4
Width: 26 gw / 30 mx / 27 wl
Sheer: 19 bw / 13 ms / 17 st
Rocker: 2.5 bw / 2.5 st
Weight: 29 Kevlar Lite / 32 Black Lite / 37 White Gold
6” freeboard: 700 lbs
Optimal Load: 170–310 lbs
Displacement: 2” WL : 170 lbs
3” WL : 260 lbs
4” WL : 360 lbs