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North Wind

by Jan Dettmer

North Wind specifications The North Wind is a hull designed by Bell Canoe Works in the US. At 17'6'' it is a pretty long, but not extremely long hull. The maximum width is 36'', when drawing 4'' of water (this eaquals a 480 lbs. of weight in the canoe), you get a 32'' width at the waterline. This is not very much! The center depth of the boat is at 14'' fairly deep for a cruising hull and rises to a 21'' at the bow. The stern is at 19'' slightly lower, but, if compared to other hulls, still high. Further, the North Wind has a significant rocker in the bow, measuring 2.5''. This is quite a bit and would slow the boat down, if not David Yost (Designer) had used a very special tool, called differential rocker. This means that the rocker is only 1.5'' in the stern. The weight is in a range of 47 to 63 lbs., depending on the material you choose. Have a look at this canoe! It's a beautiful one. The wood gunwales (optional) are made from white ash and do mirror a really careful peace of work. This is completed by walnut decks with fine slots to ease emptying water out of the canoe. Now we have the characteristics of the canoe, lets have a look at it's performance!

When you get into this boat you will love its sleek hull from the first moment. This feature helps a lot to perform well, since you can use efficient technique. Sitting in the bow position, you feel very close to the boat, for it has a narrow bow part. Even the slight flare does not prevent the paddler from keeping the blade close to the keelline. My North Wind has a sliding bow seat and I found this to be very useful to trim the boat and to give smaller persons the possibility to slide forward, so they could reach the narrow part of the bow. The flotation chamber makes a good brace for your feet, so you wont slide around and can use high energy in your strokes. The stern position also gives you opportunity for efficient strokes, the hull shows no flare in this part. Bell does not fit their canoes with foot braces for the stern positions. I think they should do this for the sleek hulls. I think of putting one into my boat but this can be quite a bit of work. If I manage to do this I will add a topic to this page.

North Wind, click to enlarge! I was astonished by the speed the canoe builds up when cruising. It glides good and you paddle high cruising speeds with ease. I think this is mainly beacause of the sleekness of the hull, and the round bottom. The differential rocker adds great tracking on lakes, yet giving a good dryness in the bow. Don't get me wrong, this is not a racing hull. But it is a very fast canoe if you want to take along quite an amount of gear. The MN II from We no nah is faster, but not as dry in high winds. I paddled this canoe in pretty high waves with white caps all around and it still went through pretty dry. Waves of considerable height do not slow down your speed, the boat slices them without hesitation. It also tracks very good in winds, even when the wind is to your side. I think this is because of the differential rocker. Compared to other canoes of eaqual speed, the North Wind has high gunwales in the stern. This is your advantage when the wind comes from behind. It runs dryer in these conditions than most fast canoes I know. Even more than this, the Bell likes to surf waves on lakes. You can catch waves and ride them for a few moments even if there are no white caps. This is fun and saves energy.

Well, I told you something on performance on lakes, but how about rivers, white water and small creeks? I think the North Wind is also at home on all but rivers containing serious white water. You can run easy class II rapids with this canoe. Everything above this is not recommended. The above mentioned dryness in big waves on lakes, is not reproduceable in white water. Waves build in rapids have a different geometry and are not easily taken. On all other rivers the Bell is a very good canoe. This is because of it's quickness in acceleration and it's great turning abilities when heeled. You can play this canoe down almost every small river! You can easily lean the canoe until the gunnels touch the water and the boat is stable in this position. With an outside lean and a good duffek you can take almost every turn and all this does not slow the canoe down to dead speed. There is room for gear in the mid section of the boat, but not for very long trips. You can easily get the equipment for a 4 week cruise in there, but not more. Bell says the optimum load to be between 350 and 650 lbs. I think the 650 lbs. should be the maximum load for this canoe. This means more than 300 lbs. of gear, that's a lot! You can stay out there for quite some time with this capacity. My conclusion is that the Bell slogan is really reflected by this boat: Nothing moves you like a Bell!

So lets talk about prices. The North Wind is not a cheap canoe. Wood gunnels and a sliding bow seat cost extra. Prices range from $995.- (Royalex at 16'6'') to $2520.- (graphite, wood trim, sliding bow seat) depending on the Material. You can check Bell Canoe Works for a dealer list. In Germany Bell is distributed by Wooden Boat.

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© copyright 2001 Jan Dettmer