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My New Northstar Phoenix

Jun 15, 2022
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Spartanburg, SC
Northstar Phoenix

I finally did it. I ordered a new canoe. This is the first canoe that I have ever custom ordered, I usually buy used boats. Here is why I got it:

I currently have three fast, straight-tracking solo touring canoes and a couple of solo whitewater boats, a Hornbeck 10 for my wife, and a few kayaks, but no canoe that is ideal for tight twisty creeks and swampy paddling that one often finds in South Carolina. I have been using the touring canoes but have had to back out of some spots instead of turning around in the creek. I needed a more maneuverable canoe in my quiver. The Northstar Phoenix is the canoe that I chose to fill this gap.

I had paddled a Phoenix canoe at the Western Pennsylvania Solo Canoe Rendezvous and really enjoyed it. The feel of the Phoenix reminded me of my old Yellowstone Solo, but larger, which is a good thing for me. The nimbleness and glide of the Phoenix stuck in my mind and I decided that I would like to add one to my stable of canoes. I started watching for one to appear on Craigslist or one of the other websites that I monitor, but few showed up. The ones that did were mostly in the IXP layup and were costing close to the original retail price. My ideal Phoenix would be in the Blacklight layup with wood trim, but it seems that this combo is not too common in the Southeast.

To get my “dream boat” it looked like I would have to order one. I looked up the Northstar website to verify that the nearest dealer was still the one near Savanna, Georgia, which is over four hours away. Looking over the dealer list I noted the Sunrift Outfitters in Travelers Rest SC was now listed as a dealer. They are about 45 minutes from my home and I have shopped there many times in the past few decades, picking up hiking and paddling gear. On September 21st I called the shop and talked to the owner. He sounded surprised; he had just hit “send” on placing their fall order just a minute before and said that if I decided soon that I could get the Phoenix on the same order, which should be here in six to eight weeks. If I waited, the next order would be in the spring. I told him that I would be back in touch that afternoon.

I wanted to see what options were available on the canoe besides the layup and wood gunnels so I called Northstar. The phone was answered by Bear and we had a great conversation about canoeing, the Phoenix, options and the delivery time; it would be no problem to schedule it in since he had just received the Sunrift order. After chatting for a while, I told Bear to watch for the order to come in soon. I called back to Sunrift and started the order process for the Phoenix. Besides the Blacklight layup and wood trim, I also added internal skid plates and went with the kneeling drops as they ship with sitting drops if you do not specify. The transaction went smoothly and now all I could do was wait.

At the five week point I called back to Northstar to check on the delivery estimate. I ended up talking the driver that would deliver the canoes. He checked on my Phoenix; it was finished and ready for delivery. He then checked his schedule and said that if all went as scheduled, he would be at Sunrift on Tuesday, November 7th. That would be just over six and a half weeks from ordering. Whoopie!

On Monday November 6th, right at 6 1/2 weeks from placing the order, I found a message on my phone; the Phoenix had arrived a day early. I bustled on over to Sunrift and driving up I saw a bunch of new Northstar canoes sitting by the storage building, most still in their wrappings. One of those was my Phoenix. After several employees gathered around, they removed the three protective layers and I saw my canoe. It was beautiful and in perfect shape after it’s long trip from Minnesota to South Carolina. I loaded it up on the car and drove back home. It was a bit late in the day to go paddling, so I saved that for tomorrow.

I tested my new Phoenix on a sunny, 81-degree November day at a small local lake. There was a light breeze rising as I set the canoe into the water. I had been used to sitting while paddling, except while using a whitewater pedestal or saddle, so getting into a kneeling position with my size 12 feet under a seat even with kneeling drops took a few tries. I finally, but not too gracefully, managed it although it will take some practice to get this move down. In the kneeling position the Phoenix was quite stable and responded well to the different paddle strokes that I tried. I also sat on the seat and the canoe was a bit tender, but still more stable than I remembered. After this 1½ hour paddle along the autumn colored banks, I am looking forward to getting it on moving water.


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Congrats, SK. Beautiful canoe.

I've loved paddling in South Carolina. The Sparkleberry Swamp is in my all-time top 5. I just love slaloming around in an endless swamped forest. Gee, if I knew someone with extra canoes down that way , , , ,
Congrats and thanks for the write-up. I felt like I was reading a TR (hint, hint as we'll be living vicariously through our Southern kin for the next few months). Hope she brings you years of pleasure.
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I love my Phoenix for rivers streams and just having fun on a lake or pond. Yours looks great.
Thanks to all for the good words. To those in the frozen north; I will try to post a paddling trip report or two through the winter so you can imagine being on water.

dtvburns: I can't blow up your avatar enough to see, but are you paddling the Phoenix in that photo?
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Thanks to all for the good words. To those in the frozen north; I will try to post a paddling trip report or two through the winter so you can imagine being on water.

dtvburns: I can't blow up your avatar enough to see, but are you paddling the Phoenix in that photo?
Yes, I use the Phoenix in low water guiding when we can't run rafts and the clients go in duckies.
Yes, I use the Phoenix in low water guiding when we can't run rafts and the clients go in duckies.
It really looks great with the spray decks! I am considering spray decks for mine down the road, but I will mostly be using my Phoenix on rivers ranging from flat moving water up to class 2 for a while.
That is what it is designed for, works well for it too. It is not a real WW boat, it is a touring boat that handles light WW well. I love mine.
Today I put the Northstar Phoenix in some water more like water it was designed for:

I did a short trip in a low water river, but the Phoenix did a great job maneuvering around the rocks and fallen trees. The trip was on the Lawson's Fork near Glendale, SC. It was a sunny, 75-degree November day and the put in is only 10 minutes from my house. I could not resist playing hooky from my chores for a bit and learning a bit more about the handling of this canoe. I paddled up the river for about 1/4 mile until I came to "The Slot", an old millrace cut into a rock ledge that crosses the river. After portaging over the rock, I continued up the creek, going around, over and through a number fallen trees until I came to a large tree across the the river and could see more downed trees upstream; time to head back and wait for more water. I only went about 2 miles, but had a good chance to learn how this canoe handles in tight situations and a little bit of current. It was a good day for wildlife with mallards, wood ducks, turtles, squirrels, songbirds, and when I went up a small tributary I found a beaver dam, but no beaver were in sight.
I do like his canoe.


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