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The Starfire can be paddled tandem by smaller paddlers or like I paddle it, a large guy solo boat. The Starfire has 3" rocker, so if you are looking for a boat to paddle lakes, this is probably not what you're looking for? If you are not proficient with a paddle, it will wander about looking for someplace else to go. But it turns, ferries, and moves wherever you point it and it just feels like it wants to please?
The depth is just perfect for a couple smaller paddlers or a large solo paddler. Low enough that the wind doesn't bother it much, but deep enough for some waves or some Class I rivers with wave trains. The stability is predictable and the more you lean it, the harder it pushes back. It's a good boat to paddle in the wintertime when you need a "Predictable" boat to keep you dry.
Even loaded off center, it's easy to paddle. Once, with the seat in the center position, I loaded my wife after she'd capsized her boat. I pointed it upstream and prepared for a tough slog to ferry it upstream and across. I was pleasantly surprised that it easily slipped across the river even with the boat bow heavy and off balance. I've also found that unlike most boats I've paddled on my home river, MO's Current River, I can easily check out a line and if I don't care for it I can turn it around and ferry across to a line more to my liking before turning it back downstream.
The only downside I've found is with photography. I like to take pictures and this boat likes to wander if the paddle is out of the water. Of course, it's easy to nudge it back on track when you put the camera back up.
As for the layup, I have the Black Gold with built in skid plates in the stems. It's very tough, and it is easy to sand down and slap a little epoxy or clear coat to make it look good as new. I have toyed with getting a different solo for when the river is running low because every rock that reaches out and touches this beautiful boat makes me feel like I'm kicking my dog!
I've never given a boat a "10" in a review until now. This boat deserves it. If you want a straight tracking flatwater boat, you won't rate it that high. If you are wanting something to run Class II and up, this isn't the boat. But if you are a large paddler that wants to paddle it primarily solo or are a smaller sized couple paddling tandem, I don't think there is a better river canoe out there?
Of course, Bell doesn't make it anymore and used Starfires are difficult to find. Most folks who paddle one won't part with it until they quit paddling. But Colden Canoes now makes this David Yost hull and they certainly are beautifully done.
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