Submitted: 09-03-2002 by jlaresen
I started my search for our new canoe at Canoecopia in March. I had an open mind to any brand and model that would best suit our needs. I was looking for a top performing canoe for my wife and I for day tripping and a once a year week long trip. We are an athletic 50 years old. I wanted a center seat for an occasional solo or three person outing. After attending several demo days and trying any canoe that would be a good choice from Bell, Mad River, and Wenonah, I came to the following conclusions.
There are major differences in models. The canoes must be tested on water to see these differences. If you can not demo a canoe, do not buy it. Bell and Mad River had several demo days that we were able to attend. We also did demos at the different dealers. The dealer’s recommendations were a start, but I often liked a different canoe better. After the demos, we decided on a Kevlar canoe over Royalex for performance and weight. The Wenonah dealers recommended the Spirit II. I liked the Wenonah Escape the best of the Wenonahs. The Escape was fast, but it could have turned easier. It had good load capacity and handled rough water. The fit and finish of the Wenonahs did not compare to the Mad River and Bell. Wenonah’s weight advantage vanished when a gel coat and wood gunnels were added. The aluminum gunnels were hot to touch and noisy.
The Mad River Explorer was the Mad River model recommended by the dealers. I did not like its performance. I felt like it was a Volvo station wagon. Getting into a Malecite was a night and day difference. The Malecite was fast but stable. Its down side was its limited load capacity, and it did not handle rough water as well as the Escape. The fit and finish of the Mad River canoes was very good.
The dealers recommended the Bell Northstar. The Northstar was very fast and turned well, but was very unstable. It was the only canoe the I paddled that had a stability problem. I always felt that any wrong movement would put us in the water. We then tried the Northwind. The Northwind had it all. It had the speed of the Escape and Northstar. It turned much better than the Escape. The Escape has no rocker whereas all of the other canoes have some rocker. The Northwind had the stability that the Northstar did not have. The Northwind had the load capacity and could handle rough water that the Malecite could not handle. The Bells had the best fit and finish of all of the canoes we looked at although the Mad Rivers were almost as good.
We purchased the Bell Northwind in the Black Gold Kevlar Graphite material, wood gunnels, sliding front seat, foot brace, and removable center seat. We chose the almond color as it does not show scratches like darker colors. It weighs 52 ponds without the center seat. Our testing was fun and essential in finding the best canoe for our needs. We are very please with the canoe and feel that we made the best choice.