Last Saturday I got in touch with Mikey "The Beard" at the Duluth Pack Store to arrange for a paddle in a Bell Magic. We set up Monday morning as a paddle date. I showed up at the store about 9:00 AM Monday, only to find Mikey had no way to get the canoe to water. I'd driven Wing's little Ford into town, and Mikey commutes to work on a bicycle. We made a date for today, (Tuesday) at the same time. This morning, when I awoke, rain was coming down steady. I checked on the Internet for weather and the weatherman said partly sunny by noon. I called Mikey and made a date for 1:00 AM.
At 1:00 AM I rolled in with the pickup and trailer. We picked up the Bell Magic and a Bell Merlin II for a test paddle. As we were strapping the canoes down, I thought, "We're not doing this right." We had one strap over both canoes on the end of the trailer, and two straps, one over each canoe, at the front of the trailer. It should have been exactly opposite. "Oh well," I thought, "We're not that far from water."
Instead of going two blocks to the waterfront, however, Mikey directed me to the end of Park Point, over a mile away. The roadway was rough, and you guessed it - one of the canoes fell off. I've been hauling canoes around for decades and this is the first time I've ever lost a canoe. Fortunately, there wasn't a car behind us, and we were only going about 20 mph. The canoe, which is used by the staff at the canoe store - and is already scratched up every where a canoe could be scratched - showed little sign of its sudden parting from the trailer.
We threw the canoe back on the trailer, rearranged our straps, and continued on our way.
I've been hearing good things about the Magic ever since I started thinking about a solo canoe, three or four years ago. The only negative I'd heard was it had some initial stability problems commensurate with its slim design. Everyone advised me it was tender, but that you soon got used to it. Having had a lot of initial stability problems with the We-no-nah Minnesota II, I was not about to pay a lot of money for a canoe I didn't like the feel of. That's why I wanted to try out the Merlin as well.
We put the canoe in the water and put a 40 pound tent in the bow for stability. I asked Mikey to let me get in the canoe by myself. I stepped in and crabbed up to the seat, turned and sat myself down. Hmmm - no stability problem there. I reversed and paddled down along the shoreline. There was a fair chop going, and I decided I should be going against the wind - rather than with it. I turned around. No problem. I went up wind - into the waves. Canoe handled fine. I layed in the trough - just to see how the canoe would handle. I tried ommering - just for the heck of it. Going down wind, I tried quartering, and decided there was no need for it. The Magic went so fast with the wind; there was no point in quartering. I was at shore before I could have made the necessary adjustment. I tried exiting the canoe - without help, and had no problem at all. I kept my feet dry, and did no damage to the canoe.