The lure of moving water seems to have moved the major canoe makers in 2006. All the models in this review focus on versatility, with three of the four advertising at least moderate whitewater capability. When hybrid bicycles came out years ago, they were neither pure road nor mountain, and with these boats there is a similar emphasis on expanding the range of places that one can go. Not big enough to build a vacation around, these boats respond to the busy schedules of weekend warriors or, better yet, some midweek hooky.
The boats have been independently rated in various categories. The scores are representative of how the average canoeist would feel in each boat.
Yellowstone Solo, Bell Canoe Works
Put-In: Introduced this year in new composite constructions, the Yellowstone Solo replaces the Wildfire as Bell’s spotlight “river-touring” solo canoe. The look is classic Bell, and fans of that style will not be disappointed. Our test model was Bell’s WhiteGold construction, with anodized bronze aluminum gunwales riveted from inside-a very clean look. Inside, the end flotation chambers blend nicely into the hull (they are not sealed, however, and look a bit unfinished).
Performance: The Yellowstone Solo holds very few surprises – a good thing for a boat intended to be used in moving water. Reliably stable, it has comfortable edging and great maneuverability. Tracking was acceptable, especially considering the length and rocker. Despite having more asymmetry than the Wildfire, the Yellowstone Solo was still a bit of work to push upstream.
Comfort: Sitting comfortably in the Yellowstone Solo will probably require some personal modifications. The seat is installed low, positioned well for sitting, but a foot brace is an up-charged option. The seat can be easily raised or canted if kneeling is preferred, but the model we tested became slightly bow heavy when paddled that way. The midsection gunwale width carries forward, interfering with good paddle entry during the stroke.
Take-Out: The Yellowstone Solo is a nice boat for day-trip playing in moderate rivers or poking around on small lakes and in backwater areas. Gear capacity and efficiency limit the range of this boat, but the handling on and off the water will get you out exploring with ease.
5-Point Rating: Speed, 2; Maneuverability, 5; Tracking 2; Stability, 4.5; Comfort, 3.5