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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 12:36 pm 
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pknoerr wrote:

But really, can I give an unbiased comparison?

Anyways, I love paddling canoes, and I like to read reviews, and I like writing my thoughts even more.... and while I'm glad that folks find my reviews useful, I'd caution anyone to take them as anything other than biased opinions based on how, where, when, and why I like to paddle.

Issues like quality control, different craftsmen doing the same task, manufacturers doing running modifications...PK



I would never buy a canoe that I hadn't paddled (although I might build one), so I'm not concerned with bias. If I want an unbiased comparison, I'll start with published specs and spread out from there. When I read a review, I automatically assume that I am getting an opinion, and opinions are always biased. I want to hear the reviewer's impression of the product. If enough reviewers are in consensus regarding similar characteristics, I will decide whether the boat is worth a paddle or not.

As far as quality control and manufacturers mods, a good example that I can site is the composite Wildfire. Charlie Wilson told me that originally he wanted the boat to have 3" of rocker fore and aft. David Yost reduced it to something like 2 1/2". When Bell made them, they put the foam bottom support in without heating it up, which pulled another 1/2" of rocker out of it. Then, Bell took out some of the bow rocker to give it better tracking, something that paddlers like Charlie think belongs in the hands of the canoeist. Then they put it out in Royalex and renamed it the "Yellowstone Solo". Now that the original plug is back in Charlie's hands, they will be using their own layup which will put that 1/2" back in, while stiffening up the sides as well. Curious if you can detect the difference, and if so, what you like better. Purely subjective.

That said, did you know that Bell sold out to a company called ORC, and that they are bringing Dave Kruger aboard to head up the manufacturing? ORC uses learning disabled people for the majority of their workforce. Used to be a U.S. defense contractor...But I'm NOT going there! :wink: Just curious to see how the quality holds up.

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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 1:24 pm 
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I'm with BK on this one... Reviews are by definition "biased" and I would never believe anyone who presented one as unbiased...

Facts/figures are unbiased... Much like the lines and performance curves portion of a Sea kayaker review... But just as useful/valid are the opinions presented by the various people they have paddle a boat.

The key is in getting to know the person who's opinion is being presented as it gives a good idea of the perspective they are using.

And yes hulls, vary even in this modern production age... The Winisk as designed has a 32" waterline beam, but in production it kept growing over the years I have old catalogs that show it at 32.5" and now its 33". The last time I checked it I seem to recall it had its rocker tweaked as well.

All of that doesn't change the value of getting other's perspectives.

But yes, in the end its our own perceptions that really matter if we're thinking of owning a canoe... Again I'd never buy without paddling, probably more than once.


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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 2:27 pm 
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I'd never heard that story from Charlie about the Wildfire. The rubber Wildfire has never had any heritage in Charlies composite Wildfire, except similar dimensions. I'd love to paddle an example of Placid's Wildfire, and compare it with Bell's. I'll probably like the rocker, as I have always liked the Flashfire more than the Wildfire, and grown to like the added rocker that was added when I bumped it wider to better accomodate my legs better. But I've come to consider that essentially as a measurement that means almost nothing. Too many ways to measure. So just too inconsistent to compare from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Finally, my interest in Bell has faded somewhat over the last several years, especially with the fire series boats gone. In addition, I like the DY designs , but I've never thought of Bell as an extremely high quality canoe, though they are among the better mass produced canoes (similar to Wenonah, Swift, Novacraft...etc. Obviously better than where Old Town and Mad River currently are. In addition, Bell hasn't always been consistent with quality... but almost nobody else is either. So I'm not too concerned about their quality. Dave knows enough about building canoes that they will surely be serviceable enough for those wanting those designs, but probably won't find much of a following from those with canoe collections. The only current Bell canoe I'd consider adding to my collection is the Ocoee. I've liked that canoe since the first time I paddled it. Just felt right!!!

Anyways... I hope Charlie does well with the Fires... and look forward to paddling them.

PK


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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 2:52 pm 
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pknoerr wrote:


have always liked the Flashfire more than the Wildfire, and grown to like the added rocker that was added when I bumped it wider to better accomodate my legs better.

But I've come to consider that essentially as a measurement that means almost nothing.

Finally, my interest in Bell has faded somewhat over the last several years, especially with the fire series boats gone. PK


Was that measured rocker after your mod? After Charlie gave me a detailed description of the effect of longer thwarts on rocker (using an envelope to illustrate his point) he stated that it would not affect my composite boat's rocker due to its rigid bottom.
He also agreed with you about rocker measurement and gave a funny imitation of Yost defining where and how it should be measured.

All said, I'd still like to know what your feelings on the composite NorthStar are?

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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 3:55 pm 
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Nope, I've never measured the rocker... but I have an unadulterated Flashfire at home as well to subjectively use as a basis. The modded one seems to turn a little faster... but I'm often playing with extreme pitch, and heel as well. I would rather run rivers with the unadulterated one... it seems to respond better to edging, and is slightly crisper when responding to heel. But, since I don't often get to paddle the un-modified one, It's what I know the best.

I've only had a couple opportunities to paddle a Northstar as a tandem. Like I said, I paddle tandem rarely these days. I like the Northstar, and have some general perceptions comparing it with other similar boats.... like the Malecite, the Kipawa, and the Solo Plus. I think that the Kip and Northstar work better as tandems... the Kip feels bigger than the Northstar, and I think it sheds waves better. But I like Bell's shouldered tumblehome on all their boats. Overall, I like the 16.5 boats better than say an Explorer or those boats that are a little shorter but pudgier. The Northstars chine feels very nice, and I'd not have a problem buying one.

The Malecite and Solo Plus are better solos than either the Kip or Northstar in my mind. But they all paddle pretty well solo in my book. I probably like the Solo Plus the least.... as I've never really fallen for any of the Wenonahs. I'm partial to the Malecite, as I bought one of those in 1993 before Bell built their Northstar, and have many miles both solo and tandem on it. I really like the long lean shape of the Malecite. I think it's a very pretty boat... especially in white (though mine is a skincoat). Personally, the Malecite is my favorite 16.5 solo tandem. We've dragged mine all over the US midwest, and up to LSPP, Obatanga, and Wabakimi. We travel light, and like the speed, and the ease of portageing it as it's only 39#.

PK


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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 4:15 pm 
pknoerr wrote:
[...]
I think that the Kip and Northstar work better as tandems... the Kip feels bigger than the Northstar, and I think it sheds waves better.


Yep, they certainly work better as tandems, although I can solo my Kip nicely.
Also I had the feeling that the Kipawa was easier/faster to paddle against (lake) waves. Coupled with its incredible stable behavior in waves, I have found the Kipawa so deceptively easy to paddle in some difficult wave and wind situations, that I almost started to think I finally was becoming a better paddler :-)

Dirk Barends


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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 6:27 pm 
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pknoerr wrote:
Nope, I've never measured the rocker... but I have an unadulterated Flashfire at home as well to subjectively use as a basis. The modded one seems to turn a little faster... but I'm often playing with extreme pitch, and heel as well. PK


So maybe the ends clear a bit more as you are heeled over? Do you know what the optimal capacity is for the Flash? I'm afraid I'm a bit hefty for a 13' canoe, but I know where a new one is for sale cheap (2004 leftover) and I'd love to add it to my rack, if only for my wife. And how about a Wildfire for a 250# guy? Still too small? I don't mind soloing the NorthStar, but I really want a solo boat for freestyle and just tooling around.

Thanks for your feedback on the NorthStar. It is my first "sophisticated" canoe and I was interested to know if more experienced paddlers liked it as much as I do. Your quick "review" here was especially helpful in that you compared it with other similar boats, allowing me some insight into them as well. All part of the learning curve.

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PostPosted: March 21st, 2007, 6:41 pm 
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Battenkiller wrote:
So maybe the ends clear a bit more as you are heeled over? Do you know what the optimal capacity is for the Flash? I'm afraid I'm a bit hefty for a 13' canoe, but I know where a new one is for sale cheap (2004 leftover) and I'd love to add it to my rack, if only for my wife. And how about a Wildfire for a 250# guy? Still too small? I don't mind soloing the NorthStar, but I really want a solo boat for freestyle and just tooling around..


I weigh in at about 175, and everyone says I'm too big for a Flashfire.... but I can paddle it, and I've even carried a full pack in it on an overnight. But it get's pretty mushy with weight. My one buddy who was 220 paddled his wifes Flashfire on occasion and had lots of fun with it. I think you could pretty easily paddle a Wildfire, but you'll drive it further into the water, and that makes it harder to lift the ends out of the water. But I'd try it out. You could go to a 15' canoe. I think a Supernova would make a great freestyle canoe for a larger paddler. A Starfire outfit with a solo seat makes a great freestyle canoe especially if you are tall. I would love to try paddling a Starfire that has only the center seat, it's a long reach to do cross strokes, and transverse posts are intense as hell.

I think that the Northstar is a great canoe... surely a canoe that you can do alot of things in, and given your size, you would likely like it better than the more intimate Malecite or Solo Plus. You'll likely never outgrow the canoe... you might opt for a more dedicated solo, but it's great fun when you can paddle a tandem like a solo, and get double the bang for your buck.

PK


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