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Submitted: 03-24-2008 by yetiman
I picked up a 2007 KevLight Northwoods with full wood trim late last summer.
I have a number of solo canoes, and my main tandem had been a Wenonah Sundowner 18. I really like the Sundowner, but wanted something that paddled better with a big load of gear in it and lighter (my Sunny is glass). I have not been a fan of wood trim and the associated maintenance and weight. I didn't care for the aluminum gunnels on the Northwoods I test paddled, and when we pulled down a wood trimmed Northy I was simply in love with the look of it. I continue to like the look and feel of the wood gunnels more and more every time we hit the water. After I added a bunch of Watco oil, the wood is amazing.
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.
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