Canadian Canoe Routes

Bell NorthStar Retrofit
Page 3 of 4

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 19th, 2022, 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Mrs. Hostagetaker did not pay me a visit; I always enjoy her in the shop, she is a sharp cookie with a fine sense of humor, and skilled enough that, unlike Mr. Hostagetaker, I allow her to work on the Big Boy bench. But she did pass the box of Conk minicel off to my Missus. Let’s see what Santa brought me. Much of this is cutoffs from Conk designed deeply sculpted minicel yoke pads.

16 cunning wedge curves, assembled from 3 pieces of band sawn and drum sander cut offs.

ImagePA160001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePA160003 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

More band sawn thin-skins of minicel than I will likely use in this lifetime, unless I start working on much skinnier canoes.

ImagePA160006 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those thin skins were perfect on the narrow Rushton

ImageP8280026 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

But the knee bumpers on the NorthStar need to come out two inches past the ouchie aluminum inwale for gentle leg pressing comfort.

And a box of assorted scrap minicel in various shapes and sizes, probably because Conk knows I can’t bear to throw away scrap minicel. Kinda like saving pieces of wood, who knows when a piece just that size might come in handy, and unlike too small pieces of scrap wood I can’t burn minicel in the wood stove.

ImagePA160007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Then Christmas in October continued. The UPS truck arrived with the replacement NRS float bags, and another larger box containing additional outfitting parts and pieces sent by Benevolent Barry; two large slabs of 3 ½” thick minicel, some 3/8” woven sheath bungee and a new, never used Wenonah adjustable foot brace.

ImagePA180025 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

All of that is going in some canoe someday, and some of it is going in the NorthStar soon, including some minicel and right sized bungee.

Author:  woodpuppy [ October 19th, 2022, 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Score! Do you need a new nephew Uncle Mike?

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 20th, 2022, 11:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

There was a day’s boatwork respite. I had company stopping in the shop. Chip, Bill and Joel, all old paddling friends too seldom seen together in one place.

Chip is fastidious about shop cleanliness and organization, so I thought it best to tidy up before he arrived and, suddenly beyond rich beyond dreams of avarice in minicel, I needed to sort the Barry and Conk pieces into their respective minicel pieces, chunks, circles and scraps boxes.

ImagePA160009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

A box of curved minicel wedges, much smaller than the Conk wedge curves. For barrel trapping purposes I like the beefier Conk Barrel Trappers ™.

ImagePA160008 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

No minicel cylinders in the care packages, but I needed no more of those.

ImagePA160010 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Ankle supports for kneeling maybe? Run a line through them and anchor off a floating boundary for canoe games or other follies? I have found other uses for them, the box was once so full the lid wouldn’t fit, but still another lifetime supply. Those are the cored cylinders from two-holer canoe consoles, I’ll be making more of them eventually.

The “Minicel Chunks & Large Pieces” box was worth digging through.

ImagePA160012 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

And the biggest box of all. Years ago a friend in the kayak business sent me a dorm refrigerator sized box of minicel scrap, the remains cut off from making oval minicel bulkheads. A gift that memorably arrived on Christmas Eve, I have used half the contents for one thing or another; what remains is highly irregular, and appears to have been raggedly cut with a dull steak knife. They needed lessons from Conk.

ImagePA160016 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those irregulars are still too sentimental to throw way. So you don’t think I am a hopeless minicel hoarder I did fill a (small) trashcan with WTF scrap pieces I could see no possible use for. I’ll probably need a piece of that minicel scrap come trash day.

Shop immaculate in the nick of time Chip arrived, and granted sanction of the cleaned and organized shop. I was so impressed by his approval that I forgot to take his photo as he gave the blessing. I handed him a beer instead.

Joel arrived in short order, and Bill in long order, having neglected the advice of locals to avoid Philadelphia and I-95 in New Jersey. I gave him grief. And a couple of knurled webbing strap keepers he had espoused that do not work for me. These things, which proved a PITA nope for my purposes.

ImagePC230005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Sounded good on paper, looked good once installed. Didn’t hold worth a damn without shouldered tension on the strap when the car topping. The strap came WHAPPITYWHAPITTYWHAP loose every time. Even using an auxiliary ladder lock to keep tension on the strap those were a too fiddly failure for my uses.

ImagePC230015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Bill gave a demo of how they work for him. After watching him bent over fiddlefutzing to get the webbing through the knurled bar and simultaneously tightened through the necessary ladder lock for five minutes I began to lose interest. I ain’t doing it that way, and my back was starting to have sympathy pains just watching his struggles.

Bill also demonstrated how not to back up a truck with a 3K canoe on the roof. Seen in the background here, he came within a whisker of crumpling that NorthStar Polaris on the tree as Joel and I cringed and shouted “Stop Bill, STOP!”. Fortunately he just binged a truck bumper.

ImagePA170018 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I will note that the base of that tree is painted white for 5’ up the trunk. It’s hard to miss, or more accurately, not that hard to miss. Fortunately Chip had not yet left, and shouted the most memorable line of the day, “THAT WAS WORTH WAITING FOR!” after the crunch. Unfortunate for me Bill’s canoe narrowly missed the tree; I was ready to offer $500 on the spot for a crumpled Polaris.

The Sawyer Loon was on the ground getting a test sit for design and installation of a glassed-in utility sail thwart. The long fiberglass Loon cockpit will benefit from a stiffening cross member up front, and Joel will benefit from downwind sailing in that decked, ruddered hull.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 21st, 2022, 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Fun with Minicel, AKA, I love the smell of contact cement and a heat gun in the morning

I got choosy about minicel cushiness versus durability, I really want the NorthStar to be my best and most thoughtful work yet. There are different grades of pliability and durability with minicel and EVA foams, and I believe I now have some in every variety. I wanted something cushy compressible for the knee bumpers, something from this pile of softer minicel chunks.

ImagePA160015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Something more rigid and durable for water shoe or boot heel planted in front of the foot brace bar, and a sturdy wedge to trap the barrel held in place against the front edge of the utility thwart.

The knee bumpers needed to be 3” thick cushy minicel, marked for contact cement where they tuck an inch under the inwales, and Dragonskinned for curved edges to reduce sheer forces when getting in and out of the canoe.

ImagePA170019 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The foot brace boot heel pads are 6” x 9” rectangles of more durable EVA yoga block from the Conk box. Perimeter outlines taped for precise contact cement application.

ImagePA170021 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I am amazed at how everything on the NorthStar fits so perfectly. I did another test sit before commencing with the minicel and contact cement. Everything is the acme of exactness. Not this Acme.

Considering I reused old inwale holes in some places I’m either damn good or damn lucky. The 45L blue barrel, my favorite size on longer trips, fits snug as a bug between the inwales.

ImagePA170022 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The 38L barrel is a couple inches shorter and will fit equally well. Either of those barrels will “trap” nicely against the front of the utility thwart via a minicel Conk wedge.

Time for some contact cement work; the usual three coats on the minicel, two on the hull, last coats dried to barely tacky, heat gunned, press together and pray for alignment.

ImagePA180024 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I dry fit practiced seating the knee bumpers a couple times, which are contact cemented to both the underside of the inwale and to the hull; always tricky when using contact cement adhesion in two dimensions at the same time. The knee bumpers, insta-stuck when contact cemented to both the underside of the inwale and the side of the hull where tricky to install just right; with a Sharpie mark at the inwale edge I could line them up and pivot them underneath to be simultaneously stuck to both edges. Or so I hoped, only get one chance with contact cement.

Once stuck all of that minicel got clamped or wax paper & sandbag weighted, and I could have a look at the replacement NRS 3D stem bags.

Fully inflated those 3D end bags fit the Yellowstone Solo stems very well. In the NorthStar stems I would need to deflate them to half their size. Beyond that, lacking sufficient lacing points for a decent cage, I had to honestly consider how often I was going to install flotation in the NorthStar. Somewhere between rarely and never.

The vinyl pad D-ring locations, installed at the ends of those half-filled bags, would be less than ideally located for other, more likely purposes. I wanted those double D-rings on the foam core floor betwixt seat and stems, between a couple sheerline tie points.

ImagePA180030 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

As far as I’m concerned those strategically located D-rings are never coming out, so I’ll install them using G/flex. The perimeter tape is just there, as with the minicel, to help neatly brushing on the contact cement, and to achieve squared-away and centered aim when installing the pads. Once the minicel and pads are glued in place the tape comes out.

Vinyl pad D-rings G/flexed in place, sand bag weighted and checked occasionally for full contact adhesion, finger pressed, hard rollered and re-weighted.

More epoxy babysitting, might be time to check in at the shop office, have a beer and other treats. I ran an exhaust fan in the bench window while doing the contact cement work, so I’m not stoned yet.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 22nd, 2022, 10:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Weights and clamps removed from the minicel everything looked mighty nice. The heel pads are large enough to allow the adjustable foot brace to be slid forward or back. After a few trips I will Dragonskin a shallow dimple where my knees fit against the knee bumpers.

ImagePA180033 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The Conk wedge curve made the perfect barrel trapper.

ImagePA180034 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I am please with all of the glued-in minicel for more than just comfort and trapped barrel reasons. The end float tanks in the NorthStar are miniscule slender, akin to half a vertical banana, and while the foam floor and ribs add more buoyancy I am happy to have some extra floatation.

The G/flexed Northwater double D-rings vinyl pads are firm and flush all the way around, and the one in the bow is ideal for strapping around the barrel.

ImagePA180035 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Plenty of room in front of the barrel for a 70L dry bag and the wag bag bucket toilet system, with room left for a camp chair, tarp poles or etc.

ImagePA180042 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

In the stern my essentials bag is in-canoe accessible behind the seat, and a 115L dry bag fits strapped in around the D-ring behind the thwart.

ImagePA180039 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

With the 115L bag strapped in there is room left in the stern stem for a DIY’ed tapered dry bag packed with light stuff. That is actually a tapered bag made for decked canoes, the open canoe dry bags I made were too bulbous for the NorthStar stems.

ImagePA180040 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

On non pack-out-your-feces wag bag trips, without the toilet system, I can replace the bucket in the bow with a second light-packed DIY tapered bag. Glad I made several tapered bags in each variation.

ImagePA180043 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That is a hefty pile of gear, and the NorthStar isn’t (yet) packed to the gills.

ImagePA180046 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Add a dromedary bag, small ice chest, group 1st aid kit, folding barrel tabletop and the NorthStar will still have room. Guess I need to bring more stuff. I’m not out here to rough it, I’m out here to smooth it.

Smooth it quietly. Without some line tension the jingle of mini SS D-rings, even working on the NorthStar in the shop, was annoying, and would be maddening when roof racked. I may have a big grey beard, but I don’t want to be mistaken for Santa’s sleigh.

Some 3mm cord, laced in a continuous XX, resolved that issue. If I had installed one more mini SS D-ring on each side I could have had a closer spaced XXX. Too late now.

ImagePA180049 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 28th, 2022, 12:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

I needed some thread protectors for the NorthStar (and Loon) exposed pop rivet pins. That involved a hunt & peck through the increasingly unorganized outfitting and SS boxes.

A half dozen boats have come through the shop in the last year, and it was well past time to sort out and semi-organize the boxes of stainless steel and small outfitting parts.

Too often (read “regularly”) when I have leftover nuts, bolts, washers, pad eyes, deck hooks and etc small outfitting parts on the bench after a task I don’t bother to find the correct box and put them back where they belong. I toss them in the handiest box or worse, start a new box of mixed miscellaneous. I had a lot of “miscellaneous” boxes.

If I had installed one more mini SS D-ring on each side I could have had a closer spaced XXX. Too late now.

Too late, but not too late for the next boat. Looking for parts and pieces for a friend’s Sawyer Loon I found another mini SS D-ring. Then another.

Semi-sorted into respective pipette tip boxes in storage bins I can more easily find what I’m looking for. Until I mess it up again, which I’m sure I will, but that chaos was years in the making.

ImagePA210031 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I eventually found six mini SS D-rings in various wrong bins, including two mini-mini’s. Couldashouldawoulda.

ImagePA210033 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

But only a small selection of various sized thread protectors. The 1/8” stud rivets from the NorthStar cover will require 40, plus another 10 when I install the center storage cover. The 3/16” pad eye pop rivets on the Loon decks need thread protectors as well.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 30th, 2022, 11:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Test loading dry bags and gear I realized (knew all along) that I needed to “cap” the protruding rivet pins inside the hull from installing the spray cover studs. I don’t like anything sharp or pokey inside the canoe; I’d rather avoid torn dry bags or torn epidermis. Even more so with the Loon, where a dry bag might be crammed invisibly under the decks.

3/16” ID thread protectors work on compressed 1/8” pop rivet pins, but without threads to screw onto need to be cut to protruding pin stubby length, and adhered with a teeny dab of epoxy. The full length thread protector is not needed, or wanted, so with a 25 pack cut in half to cover the stubby pop rivet pins I had 50 pieces.

ImagePA260004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The halves without the rounded cap work when left a little long, I just want dry bag and skin scrape protection.

A teensy dab of thickened G/flex 655 onto each exposed pop rivet pin. Times 40. I did 20 at a time with the Northstar again sideways, plus a couple extra at the stern where the HIN tag is pop riveted in place.

ImagePA270005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePA270006 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePA270007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

FWIW 3/16” thread protectors glue well to seated 1/8” pop rivet pins, and ¼” thread protectors the same on compressed 3/16” pop rivets. I needed ¼” thread protectors for the ends of the 3/16” flange rivets on the NorthStar seat brackets and various places on Joel’s Loon, and a bag full of those arrived soon enough. ... prod_image

ImagePA270009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

It was worth ordering a 25 count in each size; 3/16” and ¼” is damn near ubiquitous in canoe hardware popped rivets or machine screw ends. I wanted to have a shop supply, not be running to the hardware store to pay $1.25 for a two-pack. ... /204275996

With the NorthStar was held sideways there was opportunity to bead some E-6000 around the ends of the knee bumpers (topside already done), and then I needed both the NorthStar and Sawyer Loon upside down for a spell. The NorthStar briefly, just long enough to run a bead of E-6000 on the bottom of the knee bumpers.

ImagePA290025 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Author:  woodpuppy [ October 31st, 2022, 6:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Coming right along. After a 5-hr, 10.75 mile paddle last weekend I realize how much I need to do some basic outfitting- I need knee bumpers something fierce. Which sounds like it’s going to translate to needing a benchtop bandsaw…

Author:  Mike McCrea [ October 31st, 2022, 8:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

woodpuppy wrote:
Coming right along. After a 5-hr, 10.75 mile paddle last weekend I realize how much I need to do some basic outfitting- I need knee bumpers something fierce. Which sounds like it’s going to translate to needing a benchtop bandsaw…

Minicel can be cut with darned near anything. Sans a bandsaw a coping saw does a decent job for cutting curves in minicel; just Sharpie the cut lines all the way around so you don’t cut along the line on one side and get off kilter on the other.

With most gunwale systems it is easier to first contact cement a flat rectangle of minicel below the inwale that comes out flush with the inwale edge and clamp it there. Then contact a second piece of minicel to both the flush minicel and inwale edge.

I use Dragonskin to shape minicel, but that product is no longer available. There is drywall shaping sander foil (never used it) that is akin to Dragonskin, or a Surform shaver rasp (some folks swear by them, I swear at them).

I will eventually Dragonskin out a shallow depression where my knees hit, and then use regular sandpaper to remove the little frays visible in the photos above.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ November 3rd, 2022, 6:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Almost the last outfitting touch on the NorthStar – I still want to install a center storage cover for in-camp use – the eight 3/16” flange rivets holding the seat brackets needed thread protectors epoxied on. I could have done this when I epoxied the thread protectors on the stud rivets, but had to order a bag of ¼” thread protectors. Which meant – is anyone keeping count? – the NorthStar went sideways once again, and then got flipped 180 to do the seat bracket on other side.

ImagePA270008 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePA290002 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The Loon was alongside, also back upside down to get the same newly ordered ¼” thread protectors epoxied on the 3/16” pad eye pop rivets.

Last thing before the final weigh-in, some reflective tape, stickers and decorative flourishes. I marked how far down the spray covers extend, so the reflective tape and shop Gogetch weren’t half hidden.

Three small (2”) pieces of reflective tape first, one vertically on each stem and two nearby horizontally on the sides. I am almost out of reflective tape, need to order more. And a Duckhead sticker, only a couple left. And, of course, the shop Gogetch, hand painted by a younger fellow with better eyesight and a less shaky hand.

ImagePA190001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePA190002 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I am prone to peeling off company names and model stickers, but Bell’s stuff isn’t a hideous MAD RIVER CANOE in two inch tall block letter amidships like a paddling billboard. It is actually kind of attractive on that kevlar hull, and I’ve always like the Bell paw print logo. I’ll leave it be.

Final weigh-in of the NorthStar, after installing Dynel sleeve skid plates, Bubba Butt seat, utility thwart & sail mount, mini SS D-rings, vinyl pad D-rings, webbing loop ties, spray cover studs, strap yoke, and minicel, minicel and more minicel (without painter lines attached) . . . . .

. . . . . .just under 41lbs.

39lbs when originally received, 2lbs heavier soloized and fully outfitted. I can live with that, and more importantly, I can pick it up and carry it, and get it on and off the truck without risking a hernia.

For comfort, efficiency and safety there is not a single permanently installed outfitting feature I would do without, tripping or day paddling.

I’ll know tomorrow; the Loon and NorthStar are both racked on the truck. Joel may still be hors de combat for a long paddling day, but I have other friends available. I may swap and try the Loon, but we have a Monarch, so I already know the capabilities and may refuse to give up my seat in the NorthStar.


Author:  woodpuppy [ November 3rd, 2022, 5:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

I can come out now? You’re done poking holes in a perfect hood boat?

Looking forward to your trip report!

So what’s the story with the “shop gogetch”? Is this just something you do, or is it part of canoe outfitting culture and other outfitters have their own design?

Author:  Mike McCrea [ November 4th, 2022, 10:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

I had been jonsing to test paddle the soloized NorthStar, but had a shop commitment to finish the Loon. With the NorthStar and Loon completed I racked them both, grabbed a friend and headed north to paddle the upper Conowingo Pool on the Susquahanna.

ImagePB010001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

ImagePB010003 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The Conowingo Pool is where I first learned to paddle as a child, and I’ve been going there since the early 60’s. There is a lot of exposed rock and cliff face along the shoreline; I like country that shows good bones.

First stop along the pool, the entrance to the hidden grotto. The water level was too low to paddle in via the inauspicious opening in the cliff, but we paused for a brief ceremony.

ImageIMG_1197 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The jar contains some of my late great friend Brian’s ashes. He and I had many a youthful and some not so youthful adventures on the Conowingo Pool.

Last time I had one of Joel’s boats on the pool involved a canoe, but no actual paddling.

Taking a different route than my usual tour we moseyed up the east side of Upper Bear Island, into a slight headwind, which boded well for sailing back. There are a lot of barely submerged rocks at low level, but paddling slowly and choosing wisely I managed not to add any new scratches to the NorthStar.

ImageIMG_1216 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

It helped that empty of tripping gear the NorthStar drew but a few inches of water. Outfitting wise everything on the NorthStar is darned new perfect. The seat is very comfortable and set a bit less than 4” deep provided plenty of primary stability, but is high enough that I can wet foot exit the canoe without hazarding my ancient knees.

The knee bumpers could be a wee bit wider for use with stacked heel mukluks (I had neglected to don mukluks during the test fit sits). I may leave them as is until I do some barefoot paddling.

Darned near perfect, except note that the covers are not fully snapped at the bow and stern. We needed to access the carry handles when carrying the boats two at a time down to the launch; the covers were loose enough to pull over the deck plates when we arrived, but by the time we launched were a too-tight PITA to pull back over the stem tips.

Like all of the other canoes with covers the NorthStar needs through hull stem holes with epoxied flanges, with grab loops and carry toggles. I’m not done poking holes in the canoe just yet, I still need to drill four 7/8” holes for conduit flanged grab loops, and another ten 1/8” holes for center storage cover stud pop rivets.

The usual slot between Crow and Upper Bear was too low to run, so we turned about to put the sails up.

ImageIMG_1208 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

As is too often the case that action guaranteed that the wind would die down to nothing. Literally seconds later.

ImageIMG_1210 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

We slowly noodled our way downstream, and rode the mild current downriver between Big Chestnut, Wolf and Hennery islands.

ImageIMG_1228 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I had high hopes that once we exited the island into the mile wide open pool we would catch more wind and be able to sail back to the launch; the Conowingo Pool is rarely windless.

ImageIMG_1232 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

It was glass, as flat was I have ever seen the pool. If you want to be a wind-killer, bring a sail.

All in all a fine inaugural paddle. The couple minor outfitting tweaks may have to wait until after another open water trip ISO wind.

Author:  Canoeheadted [ November 4th, 2022, 2:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Looks great, thanks for the outfitting report. :clap:

My favourite part...

"I am prone to peeling off company names and model stickers, but Bell’s stuff isn’t a hideous MAD RIVER CANOE in two inch tall block letter amidships like a paddling billboard. It is actually kind of attractive on that kevlar hull, and I’ve always like the Bell paw print logo. I’ll leave it be."

Author:  wotrock [ November 4th, 2022, 7:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Mike McCrea wrote:

. There are a lot of barely submerged rocks at low level, but paddling slowly and choosing wisely I managed not to add any new scratches to the NorthStar.

So lots of sunkers then? ... x.php#4809

Author:  woodpuppy [ November 4th, 2022, 8:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bell NorthStar Retrofit

Looks good Mike! Love the lines on the Northstar / Polaris.

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