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Review of Bell / Northstar Seliga Tripper

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I recently acquired a brand new old stock Bell Seliga Tripper from Raquette River Outfitters in the Adirondacks. The owners had been holding onto this boat for their own use since Bell went out of business. Now that Tom Bell is producing them again at Northstar they were willing to part with it. I picked the boat up on Oct 10th and had it in the water within an hour. Following are my impressions of the boat.

Appearance
The only thing I knew about the boat was that it was 36" at the beam, 14' deep and 21' at the stems and had a traditional shape with recurved stems. My first impression was that this is large hull, carrying its fullness right to the ends, looking tub like. I was kind of hoping it would be a little more tapered and svelte for good paddling characteristics. The traditional shape looking from the side was nice without having overly upswept stems. I didn't mind the look of the epoxy over cloth finish, it's a pretty neutral color that blends in with the environment. When I flipped the boat over the interior was underwhelming, The walnut seat drop trusses were nice, making me wish all of the wood trim was walnut instead of ash. The thwarts and yoke have a non traditional shape and are nice to look at. Being able to see the foam core on the bottom and sides at the seats and yoke were not too appealing. The interior of this boat looks a lot better when it is filled with canvas packs and baskets. The bronzed aluminum gunnels seem very high quality, they look and feel good too.
The real beauty of this boat didn't become apparent until I had looked at it flipped over on the rack in my yard for a few days. I really liked the shape of the bottom. It is very round and seems to have all of the curves in all the right places, to my eye anyway. I think it is these curves and how they effect performance that have made the original Seligas so popular.


Performance and tripping characteristics
We got the canoe on the water and loaded our packs. The first thing I noticed was that the hull seemed very spacious compared to other similar sized trippers I've used. There was more spare room between my #4 Duluth pack and the hull than on any other 36' wide boats I have used. It is usually a tight squeeze to stick my spare paddle between the hull and packs but not in this case.
The total weight we had in the boat was somewhere around 530- 550 lbs. The boat cut through the water very easily and I couldn't really tell that there was so much weight in it. It was also very maneuverable loaded. It was and was easy to turn from the stern even without the help from the bow paddler, similar to my 20' White Guide. The loaded boat was very stable, even when standing. While paddling standing I leaned the boat over and was surprised to feel the hull bite in and carve a sharp turn. For as smooth and rounded the hull is I was surprised by how well it carved.

The next test came on the open water of the lake with winds whipping up whitecaps. We didn't go out to where the whitecaps were but got into enough wind and waves to get a feel for things. The first thing I noticed was how smoothly it took the waves. When I was sure the boat was going to slap down coming off of the wave it gently settled in. It also held fast on course and didn't get blown around, but I expected that being loaded. Next we headed to shore and unloaded to see how it went with no pack weight. We left the packs on shore and headed back out into the wind. First off, we didn't really notice any difference in stability with almost 150 lbs removed. Next I noticed that it had that same smooth ride and also held its course pretty much like it did loaded.
The next day when my wife and I took the boat out empty I felt a little twitchyness in initial stability. This seemed pretty slight and went away when moving. The twitchyness, although slight, was enough to make poling less comfortable than other similar sized flatter bottom boats, when empty anyway. The light weight made for real quick acceleration while poling but the light weight would probably not be good in the wind with the bow light trim needed for poling. The other thing about poling is that when the pole is stowed with the tip outside the gunnels it interferes with the bow paddler being able to paddle on both sides. This is also the case with my 18' boat, but no problem with a twenty footer.
Over the past week I have had it out solo and found it to be very easily handled, even in a stiff wind. As the wind increased I had to move closer to midship from either the bow seat or thwart, at one point kneeling directly under the center thwart. When there was no wind it paddled beautifully from the stern seat. It paddled well from any position, either heeled over or sitting level.
The only fault with the boat is that it doesn't carry well, surprising at 40 lbs.(unconfirmred) The yoke is not deep enough to rest balanced on my shoulders. It wanted to nose dive and when I 'd lift the bow it wanted to slide off my back. The yoke is only 2 1/8' deep, my other standard yokes are 2 5/8". The yoke I like best is on my Island Falls EM White at 3.5 inches.


In summary I'd say that this boat is an excellent tripper, either tandem or solo. It paddles well with or without a load. When compared to deeper flatter bottom trippers I have used, it handles wind better, tracks better when level, feels good when heeled over, cuts through the water better and is probably faster. I think it will also carry a comparable load to the other big trippers. I think it's the perfect compromise between a Prospector type boat and a cruiser without giving up much of anything on the tripping side. I highly recommend this boat. Raquette River Outfitters has them in their rental fleet and they are a Northstar dealer.
 
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Sounds like a fantastic boat! I plan on trying my pole out tomorrow in my Polaris. I expect it to be a little twitchy at 34” wide so I’m taking a cooler and a dry bag full of water.
 
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I think I was very lucky to find it. Raquette River Outfitters is the closest Northstar dealer to me. I gave them a call expecting to have to order a boat for hopefully a spring delivery. I'm happy to have an original Bell model too.

One thing I didn't mention above is that the hull is very stiff, at least as stiff as a w/c boat
 
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Very good review, congrats on the purchase. I was admiring that exact same boat the day before you were there. A very unique boat, and awesome to have a Bell.
 
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Thanks AJR, the more I paddle it the more impressed I am with it. For it being such a special hull design I'm surprised they aren't more popular.

For me this would be the perfect quiver of one boat. It's not going to replace my w/c boats as a daily driver but when it is my boat of choice I won't feel like I'm taking a step down.
 
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As far as them not being more popular, my guess is that there weren’t a lot made so they haven’t really marketed them much. I’ve had a Bell Northwind for over 10 years and I never hear of the Bell Seliga until I saw that one at Raquette River. That could just be me though, I’ve been spending more time on this hobby lately and becoming more aware of things like this.
 
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Maybe people think recurved stems are old fashion and they may also like the benefits of asymmetric hulls. Maybe with the popularity of all the "Prospectors" out there more people will take a look at it.

I can't say it enough "the Seliga Tripper is a great hull design." It's funny how subtle differences between hulls effects performance and changes the feel. This one is full of surprises and they're all good. Except for the yoke.
 
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Thanks for taking the time to write a thorough review, I found it very helpful.
 
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Thanks for taking the time to write a thorough review, I found it very helpful.
I'm glad you found it helpful and I hope it swayed you towards trying one out. If you are located near the upstate NY area give a call to Raquette River Outfitters to set something up for next spring. Tell them Alan sent you, the guy who got their Bell Seliga. It is definitely not too big of a boat for solo tripping and plenty big for tandem.

Great canoe Al. I love the big well built trippers.
Thanks Forester, I've always been a big boat fan too. Stability is my main priority for a tripper. I need to be able to move around in the boat for things like getting over beaver dams and getting in and out and loading and unloading at precarious landings. It's also good to be able to move around in case you have to dig through a pack while underway.
Compared to the other flatter bottom big trippers I have used it seems to be a better paddler, faster and tracks better but is also very maneuverable when leaned over. It must give something up to achieve this, so it is probably a little less dry, it might not carry as much weight and it definitely won't have as shallow of a draft as others.
 
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I had the boat out earlier this week at Gouldsborough Lake where I wanted to go up the stream entering the lake to have a look. There was a lot of in and out of the boat lifting over beaver dams with one short carry around a foot bridge. I was concerned that the boat wouldn’t be stable enough to step directly into it when it is perpendicular to the dam and in deep water. When the end of the boat is supported by the creek bottom and can only sink so much there is no problem. But when the water is deep and the stem can sink unempeded it can be tricky in any boat. While it was a little sketchy in this boat it was doable, and after a few times I gained confidence. All went well and as long as I made a quick weight transfer from my foot on the bottom to my hands on the rails as far forward as I could reach the boat was only tippy for a split second. I was happy with the boats stability when doing this. It wasn’t as stable as my flatter bottom boats but was acceptable and passed the test. D9B59686-F82D-4216-B536-3FC17D977A40.jpegCC02AA5B-5374-4F2C-AD0E-F1B081965B90.jpegE5A8EBAE-1C86-4BD2-92E4-F6CF829A4056.jpeg1B0F7A4C-F645-4590-B580-21E831FF2B8E.jpegCCEC96F3-46EE-4279-85C8-F0748D361795.jpegD54BFEEA-8FC0-4011-BB10-9F66E81C7966.jpegSo far so good, the only thing left to test is how it does in current. I expect it will be more affected by it because of its draft, but should be good enough for the WW that I would take this boat in.
 
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I really like the sculpted thwarts. I wish Northstar had continued the graceful shaping of brightwork and the hand-friendly barrel shaping of the carry handles. I suppose I could get out the router…
 
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I wondered if Northstar continued with the same brightwork, I would have been fine with regular shaped thwarts and yoke and don't see any advantage to the Bell design. To me it would make more sense for the thwart in the above picture to be facing the other way. That way when I kneel on that thwart, which is pretty often, the curved side would be against my back. Which is the reason I think traditional thwarts are curved in the first place.
The only good thing about the thwart is that when I'm sitting on it I can tell when I'm perfectly centered in the boat by where the point is in relation to my butt crack.
 
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I wondered if Northstar continued with the same brightwork, I would have been fine with regular shaped thwarts and yoke and don't see any advantage to the Bell design. To me it would make more sense for the thwart in the above picture to be facing the other way. That way when I kneel on that thwart, which is pretty often, the curved side would be against my back. Which is the reason I think traditional thwarts are curved in the first place.
The only good thing about the thwart is that when I'm sitting on it I can tell when I'm perfectly centered in the boat by where the point is in relation to my butt crack.

Ha! Indexing by butt crack! You could turn that thwart around.
 
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