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Wild Fire

by Jan Dettmer

The Wild Fire is a canoe, manufactured by Bell Canoe Works in the US. With an overall lenght of 14' (427 cm) he is pretty short, even for a solo-canoe. Midships, the Wild-Fire is showing significant tug-in, resulting in a width of 27'' at the Gunnels. Regarding the maximum width of 30'', this is quite a difference. The Wild Fire has a clear round bottom, illustrated by the 3'' water line, measuring 26.5''. A water line of 3'' eaquals, taking Bells Catalog for granted, 240 lbs. of weight in the canoe. The shear is 12.5'' at midship, 18.5'' in the bow and 16.5'' at stern. Like other Bell Canoes, the Wild Fire, also, has differential Rocker, being 2.5'' in the bow and 1.5'' astern. For a 14' canoe this is quite a bit. The optimum load range, regarding to Bell, is 160--280 lbs. I think this to be realistic and would not take along more than 160 lbs. of extra gear myself. The weight depends on the material choosen and will be found somewhere between 33 (Kevlar) and 44 lbs. (Royalex). As known from other Bell Canoes, the Wild Fire is sound. The composite is made well and the wood trim is a piece of craftmanship. The Wild Fire is a joy to look at.

The moment you get into the Wild Fire, you will notice the not so high initial stability. You begin paddling, and will notice that you are pretty fast on your way, compared to other 14' canoes. You reached the outlet at the end of the lake early. The current of the little creek catches the hull, the creek flows in tight bends. It is in the first bend that you notice it. You heel the canoe to perform an outside lean, the boat follows as if by magic, not the least bit slowed down. All those little diagonal currents do not disturb the Wild Fires smooth glide. Be sure to note the grin in your face! From now on, you will use every eddy to spin the canoe, you paddle backwards until you think of performing a ``reverse christie''3. A few moments later, again, you paddle forward, with an even bigger grin on your face, however, this time the grin could cause severe injury, but you don't mind. You keep the boat twisting and turning down the river, a side slip kepps the boat off a strainer. The Wild Fire slips sideways without a sound and passes the strainer. The grin on you face begins to hurt. Now you notice that you are late, despite passing the lake with a good pace, it took quite some time to get to the trips end. I think this correlates with the grin on your face, doesn't it? Getting out of the boat, you notice the low initial stability. This does not disturb the grin, but makes it to last longer.

OK, you are right, this was not very objective, but it shows, where the Wild Fire feels at home. On lakes, this canoe will be pretty fast, however, not as dry running in big waves as other, longer boats (e.g. the Rendevous by We no nah). But the maneuverability and the agility are hard to beat. If you want the Wild Fire to spin on a dime, you will have to heel. This is one reason, why lots of people like this boat for freestyle canoeing. Sure, there are canoes, better suited for freestyle canoeing (like the Twister), but in these boats you should not expect to take a 2 weeks supply of food along. Shooting white water is not recommended, although the new Bell catalog implies this by showing certain fotos. The strengths of this boat are different. I can take my Wild Fire to the next pond and spin around in circles for hours, smiling. I can play down all creeks but those with serious white water. Further, the boat haul gear for a two weeks trip and is fast on lakes.

Like all Bell canoes it's not a cheap one. I would recommend the White Gold and Wood trim version for freestyle paddling and the like. Information can be obtained from Bell Canoe Works or, for Europe, from Wooden Boat.

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© copyright 2001 Jan Dettmer