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Like I said, I can only compare this to my other canoe which is a M.R. Explorer, in royalex, and I think this canoe is far superior. I find it more stable, much faster and much lighter in the kevlight of course. It does scratch easy but I hope to use it more than save it. This makes for a fabulous family canoe as Bell's web site testifies.
I have seen on facebook that Bell is making canoes again and that they are available in Minnesota. If they are I hope that the molds are the same.
This is a fine canoe and is what a canoe should be. Not junk that turns people off.
I've never once felt unstable in either of the Northwoods I've owned. Whether fully loaded or just with fishing gear its always felt solid. We did get blown around a bit in 20mph winds with a light load one day, but were able to maintain a course fairly well despite the light load as long as we communicated and really dug in when we needed to.
I also found that despite its size it was fairly comfortable to fish from solo in the early morning calm. I would never take it out like that in breezier weather, but it worked out great for this trip. I'm probably going to replace the rear thwart with a kneeling thwart just for that purpose.
Overall I love this boat. If you get one you'll love it too. If you find one, grab it! You'll be glad you did. While you're at it you may as well get a 75+ lb dog, you'll have room for it.
As a note of caution to buyers considering this gem, I did find it very difficult to paddle into the wind with an inexperienced bow paddler and only fishing gear. The slightest wind would push the bow away from the wind and I would have to dig mightily in order to right the course. I had the same problem with solo paddling while empty, (save for some fishing gear) even when paddling from amidships.
This problem may be true of any canoe, but all hull design involves compromises. The lightness of weight and stability while heavily loaded come at a price while traveling lightly.
I find the canoe to be very easy to carry and load by myself. I am really happy with the seaworthiness of the Northwoods. We have been in some amazing conditions with it and have stayed dry every time. I suspect my Sundowner is a touch faster when empty, but the difference is very small. The Northwoods seems faster when paddled loaded though, and by a larger margin. It feels really secure with a load in it too.
The Northwoods is noticeably easier to turn than the Sundowner due to the slight rocker. It is also a bit more work to keep it moving straight, but it still tracks extremely well. I am not blindly in love with it though. A few things I don't care for is the lack of a sliding bow seat. I also wish a tractor type seat was an option. My legs fall asleep on occasion on the bench. I considered putting in contoured seats, but for now I have added an inflatable Thermarest style pads which have helped. I prefer the tractor seats in my Wenonahs and Sawyers (and my main paddling partner has an even stronger opinion on this). It also needs a footrest added in the stern. I have added a Wenonah adjustable brace last week, but haven't used it yet. I had been using a neoprene heel pad which helped a lot, but it needed a real foot brace. I have also replaced the rope loop at the bow with a plastic coated stainless cable so I can securely lock the canoe when running shuttles.
Overall it is a great canoe, and the build quality on mine is absolutely fantastic ! The way the cloth was laid in the mold was smooth and symmetrical. The trimming of the cloth and wood was very precise, much better than any of my Wenonah or Sawyer canoes have been, and that's not to say they were at all bad. But the Bell is exceptional.
We've taken the Northwoods on many trips in the BWCA, Quetico, Woods Caribou Provincial Park, and to the Pas. Highly recommend it as a long haul tripper. We had a little steering problem with a quartering bow wind one time when we had a light paddler in the bow and all the packs were toward the rear of the canoe. This was easily rectified by moving the packs forward. The canoe is a ten and much superior to any other tripper I've used (we own seven canoes and have tried many others over the years).
Looks are another 10+!! Black/gold with a bow slider and aluminum trim. It is 5 pounds lighter than the wood trim model. An absolutely beautiful canoe.
We take two weeks in September for our trip and cover about 15 to 20 lakes and many more portages. The weather can be pretty bad this late in the summer and white caps with wind bound days are not uncommon. This boat is the driest and fastest we have tried. We not only love it's performance, but you cannot beat the wood gunnals,wicker seats, and the black with gold hints of the hull. We recommend the Bell Northwoods to anyone who wants a dry, light weight, high volume wilderness tripper
The Northwoods proved both fast and stable. Most of the way in, we paddled against whitecaps churned up by a strong quartering headwind. The boats seemed to have a tremendous amount of bouyancy, even when carrying such a heavy load. They shrugged off the waves and spray effortlessly. Stability was excellent; there was never a moment when we seemed in danger of tipping. And, despite the circumstances, they seemed to track straight and true. The return trip was made in calmer weather, and the Northwoods seemed to move quickly through the water without a great deal of effort. Despite the 18'6" length, I found it fairly easy to turn. It also bears mentioning that, from an aesthetic standpoint, this is a beautiful boat. I would like to have one in the black/gold layup, with wood trim. It's not the absolute lightest canoe in its class, but it's easily portaged. I've been told that its hull offers greater durability than some lighter boats posess.
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