Submitted: 08-07-2006 by R. Lee
I researched for months before moving to buy a Bell Northwind in Royalex with the aluminum trim. I am more than completely satisfied--the canoe is a thing of beauty, both in looks and performance. I've had the pleasure of paddling a lot of different hulls over the years, and this boat simply paddles like a dream.
Everyone will have different needs and preferences, but here's my situation: I'm 6'1", 260 lbs., and I like to do long-trip (1-4 weeks) paddling, but locally will be using mostly as a solo day-paddler. I chose the Northwind in Royalex because it proved to be an excellent solo craft for a guy my size and still gives plenty of capacity for decent tripping with a fellow paddler. It turns like a dream, and the glide on the hull is like a Stradavarius--I was blown away! Also, with the single exception of a gorgeous wood and canvas original Seliga I used to paddle, it is defintely the most stable canoe I've ever been in. This was important to me because my wife, and neophite friends, are not so comfortable in a canoe without the stability. The secondary stability is awesome, but even the initial stability feels reassuring--it's simply amazing!
The Royalex is supposedly 60 lbs., but actually feels lighter, to my astonishment (I opted away from composites, because my local water is shallow and rocky, and 'up nort' I like to do whitewater, I am much more comfortable seeing my buddies portage my Royalex hull and not Kevlar, plus the Royalex costs about 1/2 as much!). It's a breeze for me to put on and take off the car top and to portage. I have added clamp-on portage yoke pads, which I'm very pleased with. They're super light, easy to put on and take off, and with the canoe being so light, they are barely necessary except for the longest portages. I also mounted a Bell kneeling thwart--wow. It's a dream to solo with the kneeling thwart--places me in the optimal position, very comfortable, and I get a great, powerful stroke. I very much noticed the difference w/the kneeling thwart vs. simply kneeling in front of the stern thwart. I do not recommend soloing this canoe from the bow seat backwards--it's just unwieldly compared to the kneeling thwart.
In short--this canoe exceeds my (well researched and obsessive) expectations of a boat that can meet my needs: great manueverability, terrific speed/efficiency, great stability, nimble enough for a 'big guy' to solo, and a dream for two adults to tandem--and even better with gear; sturdy enough for whitewater use and novices alike, and light enough even for the longest of portages. I LOVE this canoe--can't believe all these points are addressed so well with one boat, an EXCEPTIONAL value for the money. Thank you, Bell!