Northstar Phoenix (White Gold);
L: 14'6"; W: 30"; 37 lbs.
($2,245 with wood trim, $1,895 with aluminum, northstarcanoes.com)
Dave Yost has a long history of designing winning hulls. The first solo canoe I ever paddled was a lovely dark grey Sawyer Summersong and it was a life-changing experience for me. It might be the canoe that sold me on solo canoeing. Since the Summersong, DY has had time to redefine his designs, from Sawyer to Curtis Canoes, Bell Canoeworks, and now to Northstar Canoes.
If you can only own one solo canoe, the Phoenix would be a ne choice. At 14'6, the Phoenix is a larger version of the venerable Bell Wild re/Yellowstone Solo. The Wild re was always a bit small for some paddlers, and the fullness and depth make this a wilderness traveler for more people. It carries a 200-pound paddler and a couple of packs with aplomb.
It's a pretty canoe. It has a pleasant roundness to it, as do most of Yost's designs. The shouldered tumblehome is characteristic of Northstar's resurrection of a classic Bell design. The seat hangs from wooden trusses, and is low for sitting. If you want to kneel, you'll need to trim the trusses to raise the seat for proper foot clearance.
The Phoenix has excellent secondary stability; I had fun laying it all the way over until the gunwale kissed the water. Even on edge, the Phoenix was docile and predictable.
It isn't going to win any speed contests, but it is efficient, running well between strokes. If you push it past its hull speed you'll throw up a bow wave. My advice is to slow down. Last one off the water wins, people. If you're not trying to break speed records, the Phoenix is an omnibus solo canoe.
The White Gold layup is Kevlar with fiberglass reinforcements. Northstar bills it as a performance-oriented replacement for Royalex. It took a few bumps and scrapes in stride, and while I didn't smack anything hard, it took a few good bumps.
Material: Betula Papyrifera
Material: Tuff Stuff
A rundown of five post-Royalex canoe materials
Material: Kevlar Flex-Core