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“Need” a new solo!

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It looks like I’m working on a fleet. The 5-boat collection? I have 4 currently- an 18’ Wenonah Sundowner, a Prism, an Encounter, and my new Polaris. I do intend to sell the Encounter. If I need that much weight capacity I will likely take the Polaris and a young un. So I suppose I’m not ready for a fifth boat…

The Prism is great on open water. If I want to make time, it’s sit and switch. I can also quite comfortably control the boat from one side at a more leisurely pace. It works adequately in a downstream paddle. But it’s long and tracks too hard for a lot of the places I want to play. A great tool for the right set of circumstances.

The Encounter hauls 2 kids with me effortlessly. I think it is more stable that the Prism.

The Sundowner lives down the street at my in-laws’ on the lake. It’s a heavy beast, OK if I have another adult with me, but it’s too much with just me and the kids. It is stable and can carry quite a load.

The Polaris is a joy! But long, wide, and sits high in the water for the twisty rivers as a solo boat. It is affected by the wind more that the Wenonahs, but I expect that is partly due to the rocker.

So this has me looking at some smaller solos. I want something for daytrips, or single overnighters. I don’t have much fast water here in North Florida, or at least when it is it’s flat. I love the few videos I’ve seen of the Northstar Phoenix, but that boat has a high shear and is meant to ride over waves. The NW Solo is a choice, but I also think the smaller Trillium might be really nice. I’m not opposed to a Bell Merlin II. I am all in with the idea of composite boats. My Polaris is Blacklight (carbon over Kevlar) and the two solos are UL Kevlar. I am curious and interested in IXP for a boat that I think will wind up being my beater pickup.

The market for canoes here is poor. Kayaks rule, and not without merit. Nearest Northstar dealers are in Knoxville and SE Georgia. Try before you buy, yes if I can.

I’m 6’3” and around 220-lbs. I’m not yet fully comfortable with kneeling, though I intend to give it the ol college try. The Polaris is set up with a high canted center seat for this reason.

All of Bear’s videos about the Northstar solos point me toward the Phoenix/NW Solo size, rather than the smaller Firebird/Trillium. But what do y’all think, for primarily daytripping and short overnights? I value the maneuverability over the cargo capacity. But I need to be comfortable in the boat.
 
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I haven't paddled a Northwind Solo. It does appear to be more or less an upsized version of the Bell Merlin II (which I do own) the NW Solo being a half foot longer and about an inch wider, and very slightly deeper with the same differential rocker. The Merlin II is a pretty nice boat but better paddled kneeling IMO. It is pretty maneuverable but not as much as the Bell/Placid/Colden Wildfire, although a bit more efficient. At your size I think the slightly larger NW Solo might be a better choice especially if you plan to paddle it with any load.
 
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You might look at the Wenonah Wilderness. A dedicated solo it is maneuverable yet holds a line. Fairly fast for its shorter length.

After several years of paddling the UL Wilderness as my favorite canoe it has been replaced by my new favorite canoe - Northstar Polaris in blacklite set up for solo with a center seat. I enjoy the larger cockpit and being more free to move about without worries of pitching over the side. The Polaris is only an inch wider at waterline but it adds immensely to the feel of stability.

When I test paddled quite a few light weight solos before I bought, I found I began to feel comfortable in a canoe once waterline widths were 30 inches. The Wilderness is 30 inches @WL, the Polaris is 31 inches @WL. I’m 6’1”; 230lbs
 
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I believe there are a few spots left in the current Swift build queue. Might be worth a look. I also second the Wilderness above. Mine worked well in twisty southern blackwater creeks and on the big reservoirs as well.
 
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Don't know if you can get a Hellman Canoe where you are but, if you can, I recommend the Hellman Solitude. Stable, hauls a load and I can keep up with my friends in their tandems (although that might be a comment on the speed of the tandem paddlers).
 
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One of my children has a Northwind solo. He took it with my brother and I on a two day trip. He's about your size and weight. I was very impressed that he kept up with us in our tandem canoe which I think is fairly fast. We had heavy wind and he seemed to handle it well.
 
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I have a Trillium, and am delighted with it. Contrast: I'm 5'6" and 125lbs, and usually paddle it day tripping, with another 15-20lbs for pack & gear. Have on occasion added another 25-35lbs (water in a dry bag) to see how it felt, particularly on a windy day; have rarely felt a need to though.
What I'm getting at is the Solo or Phoenix may well be a better fitting boat for you. I bought the Trillium sight unseen, no test paddle, and bonded very quickly. Seems like those boats have similar qualities, but are more optimally sized for you.
 
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I've paddled all the boats that you're considering. I'm a bit over 6 feet and 185-ish but often take a dog so maybe 265 pounds or so total load with a little gear. I think you want a lake boat so NW Solo or Trillium. NW Solo is a perfect fit to your size and weight, it's much more maneuverable than the boats you're used to (except maybe the Polaris) and it's a stable solo so you should feel comfortable in it...and it should help you get comfy kneeling if you want to kneel. I have a Merlin II that I've put a lot of miles on and agree that it's best as a kneeling boat. I also have a Swift Keewaydin 15 that I like and it's very similar to the NW Solo.

Trillium and Firebird are both very hot and very cool. You'd have to kneel all the time if you wanted the higher seat position and if you wanted to sit you'd have to lower the seat to the point where you could never kneel. I guarantee you wouldn't be comfy sitting with the seat in the higher (kneeling) position in Firebird or Trillium due to their narrow'width and relatively low volume.
 
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Yes I owned a Phoenix for a while but ended up trading it. I was hoping it would be like a slightly faster Wildfire (since it has a little less rocker and a little more length) but for me it was a bit boring. Super capable, friendly and stable, versatile. But I do a lot of paddling upstream on rivers and I'm really fussy about efficiency. Just FYI my take on the Firebird is that it's a better Flashfire...a little longer so noticeably better for cruising but still crazy maneuverable. If I did a lot of downstream paddling on rivers with serious rocks then I might reconsider a Phoenix. Phoenix may still satisfy most people on flat water because it's just a good, solid solo.

In my opinion the Firebird is not a "smaller Phoenix" and the Trillium is not a "smaller NW Solo" as Northstar advertises. The Firebird and Trillium are red hot solos...exceptional for their performance (and quite stable given how responsive they are) while the Phoenix and NW Solo are exceptional for their combination of user-friendliness (stability and predictable handling) combined with solid performance.

Just my two cents
 
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There’s a nice looking Mad River Independence on Craigslist in Orlando:


Then I see a pic of a Bell Wildfire… 🤤
There’s just something about those Bells and Northstars…
And we are in the area..but with two boats that I am not parting with.. somehow I don't need three to go home to Maine.. That Indy is priced nice
 
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Knoxville has a North Star dealer? I didn't know that. I'm about an hour and some change from Knoxville. I'll have to check that out.
 
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Knoxville has a North Star dealer? I didn't know that. I'm about an hour and some change from Knoxville. I'll have to check that out.

Lucky dog! Closest one to me is in Tybee Island, GA, 4hrs 40min away.
 
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