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Bell Wildfire RX (Yellowstone) Restomod

Looks nice—it’s exciting to see this coming along, and I look forward to seeing the final results and hearing your impressions after your test paddle and your trip!

As for your question about kneeling: I alternate between the two positions you describe. I think I find myself with my feet flat/toes pointed toward the stern most of the time, but I definitely got a little sore from doing that until I bought a kneeling pad that I could fit my feet onto so that my ankles would be cushioned, rather than pressed against the hard bottom of the canoe (some kind of dedicated ankle cushion—e.g. a pool noodle?—would probably give the same benefit). When I want to put the balls of my feet on the floor, the seat can get in the way if I’m wearing water shoes; I solve that by taking my shoes off while I’m paddling (but NB: being shoeless could be a safety issue in a capsize—neoprene boots/shoes/socks like @Glenn MacGrady mentioned are a better idea!).

You’re definitely right that adding a load will help alleviate any twitchiness you might feel. Also, “twitchy” is the most descriptive word I can think of, but it makes me picture a canoe that feels eager to dump you, and so I want to clarify that that’s not the Yellowstone Solo: even empty, it feels incredibly secure, but it always wants to roll around underneath you rather than settle into one position like a flatter-bottomed canoe does. Loading it up with a few days’ worth of camping gear diminishes that feeling and lets you relax while sitting, even with the seat set up for kneeling.

I use that same Northstar pad. Seemed awfully expensive but I wouldn’t be without it. And I do use a pool noodle under my ankles. Can’t kneel very long without it. Sometimes straightening up off the seat is enough to get a break, but sometimes I need to sit and stretch my legs.
 
I'm thinking about aluminum decks. This is a paper mock-up. I have 1/8" aluminum plate, which would extend 3/8" proud of the hull or so.

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I'd like to hide the beat up ends of my inwales and protect the leading edge of my hull.

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Wow - it looks great - nice work.

I kneel feet flat, toes pointed back. People think that the pressure point on your body when kneeling is the knees. I agree that it is actually the ankles that get uncomfortable first. I've tried pads under my feet and pool noodles under my ankles and it didn't make a difference. When I need a break I sit for a while.

That becomes another variable in seat height - you need to be able to get your feet out from under the seat to go from kneeling to sitting, and back under the seat to go from sitting to kneeling, and you need to be able to do it on the water while the boat is "twitching" under you. Not hard, but definitely something you should try before deciding on the seat hieght You wouldn't be the first person to take a dump switching between the two. I had my boat out yesterday for a run near my house, and I probably changed positions 10 times in a 3 hour paddle.

Paddle length and type will be the next debate. I use a 56' Werner Bandit pretty much all the time. My spare is a 54" rafting paddle from NRS that I use on shallow, rocky rivers. A lot of people bring beaver tails for flatwater or bent shafts when sitting. Hopefully someone can give you advice on those.

It is good that you are getting the boat out on the water before making final decisions - you'll decide what feels comfortable for you.
 
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My Outrage (outfitted by Millbrook) has a thin piece of composite material as a deck plate. The back is screwed down to the handle, which wouldn't work on your boat.

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p.s. - I have beat up the leading edge a little. ;)
 
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First test paddle in the books! The occasion seemed to warrant a rare selfie. Apologies on behalf of my generation.
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I know it's just our first date, but I'm already head over heels in love! I'm very comfortable sitting at this height, though I do expect I'll make a mistake and get wet soon, ha! I wore neoprene booties, per the advice above, but I don't think I have the space to toe curl my toes under the seat (toes forward, on balls of feet). I do feel very comfortable with my toes pointed backwards, and I brought along some extra foam for ankle support (thanks for that tip). I'll likely experiment with an alternate set of drops that are closer to 0" and 1", just to see what its like to have more room for curled feet, but I don't want drops any deeper than the current 1"-2" set.

I always keep a Duluth pack basket directly in front of my paddling position to keep priority gear within reach. Because I've made adjustments to the thwart layout, I've hemmed myself in a little and created a tighter cockpit. This is because I moved the front thwart aft about 5.5" from the factory location to accommodate my largest possible packing unit (my group-trip k-wan is an NRS Canyon boundary box) in the front of the boat. This pushes the pack-basket rearward but still just forward of my kneeling pad. There's enough space for me to stretch my legs out on both sides of the pack basket.

Sitting, with legs stretched forward, flanking the pack basket:
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Kneeling:
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Paddle length and type will be the next debate.
I've always used a 57" beavertail as my go-to paddle and it worked fine this morning. I have a 54" Cruiser Plus 11 from Bending Branches that I'll be sure to bring along as well, though I forgot it today. A paddle with a Maine guide grip has been on my wish list for a while, so perhaps this is the moment to take the plunge.
 
Thwart layout changes: I moved the forward thwart aft 5.5" and the rear thwart forward about 1" from their factory positions. Doing so, allows me to accommodate my largest possible packing units, in either the front or the back of the boat. I won't paddle with these units most of the time, but I'm glad to know I can accommodate them when we're glamping on group trips. When I'm solo, I'd much prefer to keep all my gear at or below the gunwales.

Here's the max-load arrangement. The three arrows are the flexible packing volumes that I can use to refine trim. I have a heavy and dense Partner stove kit that'll be shifted around for this purpose.
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The partner stove kit is 15"x10"x10" and probably weighs 25 pounds.
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My Outrage (outfitted by Millbrook) has a thin piece of composite material as a deck plate. The back is screwed down to the handle, which wouldn't work on your boat.
I love my Millbrook decks. The most practical solution ever. Very simple, durable, serviceable and promotes drainage. The thwart/handle that supports the base of the deck triangle can be made pretty easily. 1714962466080.jpeg

I think that approach, or something similar, could still be done here. I did it on one of my rebuilds. But because I don’t have a vacuum bagging setup, or real laminating experience, to make them like Kaz, I bought a premade carbon plate to match the carbon hull. Thinking pure carbon would be brittle if it was too thin, I went waaay thicker than I needed to at 1/8”, but it’s totally bombproof! Next time I’d go 1/32” and save some money, or learn to layup a simple piece of fiberglass. 1714961937653.jpeg1714961965533.jpeg

A nice, thin wood cap would work too, especially the way that Placid and Colden did it with a block from underneath so no screws are visible on top. 1714962039430.jpeg
Spitfire waiting to be restored, so don’t judge too hard…
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Longer gunwale screws extend into the triangular block, which is epoxied and screwed to the bottom of the deck.

I think the aluminum is going to get pretty beat up and rough looking, even if you paint it. Maybe a flat piece of thick Kydex would look decent and offer enough protection.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Royalex Wildfire, or any RX Bell, with wood trim, so I can’t think of what the decks would have looked like other than the plastic end caps they used. I think they only offered vinyl and possibly aluminums rails on their RX hulls, but could be wrong. That contour seat is definitely from Ed’s. Looks great with the new cane! The Bell seats were flat with a beveled front edge like in Erik’s photo.

Great boat, glad you’re bringing it back to life! ✌️
 
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Royalex Wildfire, or any RX Bell, with wood trim, so I can’t think of what the decks would have looked like other than the plastic end caps they used.
I’ve seen a few RX Wildfire/Yellowstone Solos pop up with wood trim. The OEM decks look like this:

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Source

Personally, I think they’re kinda ugly—IMO, a simpler, more triangular shape like any of the decks @TimG shared would look much sleeker!
 
Wow, they really did kerf the gunwales! Never seen that on RX before, thanks for sharing, @Sliding Focus . They kerfed the inwale too, as was/is their custom.

It’s interesting they stayed with the scuppered deck motif from their composite boats, even though it’s blocked by the inwale. No drainage at the end either the way it drops down to meet the sheerline. I like having a small gap there to flush out sand and debris and not dam up water to promote rot. Their composite boats have the same problem.

They used the block method like Placid and Colden but left the screws exposed on the top instead of hidden on the bottom. Not quite as nice. But, it does look like a Bell deck.
 
Circling back around to the seat, I outsourced the re-caning to a dear friend who refurbishes cast off pieces of furniture. Every piece she works on ends up with a name: there's a Charlotte, a Wallis, etc. So, it fell to me to name my seat too and there was no getting out of it. Benson it is.

I do still need to name the boat too, but they tend to find their own names when the time is right.

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So now my seat has been saved and imbued with a little extra love and history, thanks to the ladies of the 1800 House.
 
Last night I fitted the 1/8" aluminum decks. I kept them relatively small (about 7") and just barely proud of the hull.
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Hereafter I will drill another pair of holes and install shock cord to hold my painter lines in place.
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There's a thin gap between the bottom of the deck and the top edge of the hull, where the hull extends forward of the gunwales. In the near term, that gap should act like a scupper to drain water when the boat is flipped over, but eventually it may close up as the decks are beaten into shape over time. At that point, I can drill another relief hole as needed. One added benefit of the aluminum is that I can tap that drain hole, adding threads that will receive a bolt for mounting various temporary attachments. Camera mounts, etc.
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Looks good, but I’d recommend some random sanding on it. That is going to be a ruthless source of glare! And I’d knock down the corners a bit more and round over the top perimeter of the plate a bit more.
 
I might be the only one with this problem, but I've got galvanic corrosion on my aluminum gunnels. The stainless screws for handles seem to be the problem.

They aren't cheap to source, but you might consider aluminum screws if you'll be around saltwater.
 
There's a thin gap between the bottom of the deck and the top edge of the hull, where the hull extends forward of the gunwales.

Curious as to why the gap is there. Is it because the inwales are higher than the hull, or because you shimmed or bent the deck up a bit?
If that gap helps drain water, good. If it lets water in to stand between the deck and wooden gunwales, bad.

Personally, I don't see any purpose for small decks on most flatwater solo canoes, and think they look more elegant without them. Never saw aluminum decks other than on aluminum canoes, and will be interested in how they work out for you in the long term.
 
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