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      Advantage vs. Merlin II vs. NORTHWIND Solo     
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godsey
member (16)member
 
07/08/2020 04:38PM
I'm planning to put my early '90s Wenonah Advantage up for sale because I'm at a point in life where I'm willing to sacrifice speed and sleekness for some rocker and a bit more stability in certain conditions (especially trailing and quartering waves).

The Advantage is the only solo boat I've ever paddled. I bought it on a whim in 2001 and I've loved it on a few trips and a lot of evening & morning pleasure paddles since then. A small bit of research tells me a Bell Merlin II or Northstar NORTHWIND Solo might be what I'm looking for in terms of balancing efficiency and seaworthiness. I plan to rent a NORTHWIND Solo soon. Not sure if it matters, but I'm 6'2", 220 on a good day.

I'm plowing through as many posts as I can find that mention the Bell and Northstar boats. I've read a lot of Advantage posts. I'm curious about what folks who have paddled all three boats have to say about how they compare.

Anyone got any insight?
 
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Blatz
distinguished member(1395)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/08/2020 10:12PM
I'm an Advantage owner and have owned a NW Solo. The NW Solo will feel slower, will turn easier and is a bit more stable. It's also lighter in the Starlite layup than your Advantage. Is it a dramatic difference? not really, but you will notice those difference mentioned.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/09/2020 08:52AM
Thanks, Blatz.
 
WHendrix
distinguished member (479)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/09/2020 09:48AM
I've not paddled an Advantage, but I owned and paddles a Magic for 12 years before I bought a NW Solo this spring. I would agree pretty much with what Blatz said. The NW Solo is a bit slower and more maneuverable than the Magic, and perhaps more stable, although I'm not sure of that. If you have paddled an Advantage or similar canoe since the 90's I don't think stability is much of an issue. I found that once I got used to the twitchyness (sp ?) of the initial stability of the Magic I could get into just about anything and feel comfortable.
 
Banksiana
distinguished member(2163)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/09/2020 10:14AM
I would say the Northwind solo is considerably slower and much more stable/forgivng than the Advantage. The Merlin II is slower but not more stable. The Merlin is more rounded than the Advantage it's stability/instability is very even throughout the lean making it a little more consistent throughout the angles of a lean than the Advantage.

I think the Advantage does very well in trailing waves and quartering, as well as the Northwind. The Northwind is more capable in beam seas (perpendicular to direction of travel) and noticeably easier to turn (though why people think that is a bonus in anything other than big whitewater is beyond me- easy to learn to maneuver a straight tracking hull- not possible to make an easy turning hull track). I find the Northwind paddling position much less friendly than the Advantage.

Another hull to consider is the Swift Cruiser 16'8". Nearly all the speed of the Advantage plus the sea worthiness and maneuverability of the Northwind. Probably more seaworthy than either.

I can't see the Merlin II having any advantage over either the Advantage or the Northwind.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/09/2020 10:16AM
Thanks, WHendrix and Banksiana.

A lot of my first year with the Advantage was spent feeling nervous about dumping it. I'm well past that, but it still just feels shifty to me in waves coming from behind, either straight-on or at an angle. I'm embarrassed to say I just recently started wondering about whether its lack of rocker might have something to do with that. I'd just always been assuming that I need to get better at handling the boat in those conditions. Seems like both of those things could be true to some degree. And it might be possible that I just need to relax.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/09/2020 11:05AM
That Swift Cruiser is one handsome boat. If $3,000 fit my budget, I'd leave for Connecticut tomorrow to buy this one: https://newlondon.craigslist.org/boa/d/new-london-swift/7150328435.html
 
justpaddlin
distinguished member (321)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/09/2020 03:16PM
You didn't mention whether you plan to kneel or sit. I've got a Merlin II and a Magic and owned a NW Solo for a while. I think the Merlin II and NW Solo are similar for cruising efficiency although I'd give an edge to the Merlin II for effortlessness. Both are slower than a Magic so slower than your Advantage but they are faster than many other versatile solos (I have a Swift Osprey and Shearwater and a Bell Yellowstone solo and the Merlin II is definitely more efficient but less maneuverable than the others). The Merlin II is quite stable for a canoe with 25 inch waterline (or maybe it's 25.5) but the NW Solo is noticeably more stable. Both the Merlin II and NW Solo can easily handle your weight...I usually have a dog with me so my load is 260 ish. I kneel in all except the Magic. Both the Merlin II and NW Solo are friendly in high wind and waves and again the NW Solo probably has a slight edge since it's a bigger boat but I've had my Merlin II out in crazy wind many times and have no complaints. If you come across a Hemlock Peregrine it's an awesome boat that's a touch faster than the Merlin II or NW Solo yet still stable and calm/capable in big wind and water (I like the Peregrine a lot and would get another). Overall between the two boats you are considering it sounds to me like the NW Solo may be the more ideal fit especially if you plan to sit instead of kneel. I don't know where you live but you're welcome to try my Merlin II and Magic...I only recently bought my used Magic and so far I'm really impressed with the stability and seaworthiness even sitting.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/09/2020 07:29PM
Hey, justpaddlin.

I've only ever sat in the Advantage, partially because the logistics of the tractor seat, my size, and a sometimes janky knee don't leave a whole lot of comfortable room for kneeling, and partially because I just really like using the foot brace. I wouldn't be opposed to experimenting with kneeling in a different boat (or re-considering whether it would work in the Advantage), but experience doing it in tandem boats tells me I'd still prefer sitting.

Thanks very much for your perspective on the Bell / Northstar boats. Your description of the NW Solo aligns really well with things I've heard from friends who have paddled it and a lot of other solo boats including Advantages and Voyagers.

I'm in Duluth. Where are you? If we're anywhere close to each other I might take you up on the offer of some test paddling. You'd be welcome to try out the Advantage if I still have it and you're interested.

 
VaderStrom
distinguished member(543)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/10/2020 09:13AM
I've owned and paddled my Advantage for a few years and had a Merrimack Baboosic before that. What I'll say is it feels like going from a wood paddle to a carbon fiber. I can't imagine giving up the ease of paddling my Advantage for a slower boat with a rocker again. Even if it wasn't as fast, the no rocker aspect is the biggest game changer about the Advantage. I would for sure try to test paddle a solo with a rocker so you know what you're getting into, especially with a breeze catching the front.

Overall, if you're going to switch, let me know so I can buy your boat, and then test paddle boats with rockers. Good luck!!
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/10/2020 09:20AM
Ha.

Thanks for that perspective, VaderStrom. I do plan to rent a NW Solo in Ely and paddle it for a few hours as soon as possible, ideally on a windy day.
 
Banksiana
distinguished member(2163)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/10/2020 09:34AM
When paddling the Advantage in adverse conditions you want to be well connected to the boat; a solid connection to the foot brace is vital, added support can be obtained by pressing knees and thighs against the gunwales. Speed increases stability. Also load balancing is vital. The hull is biased towards stern-heavy load. Too much weight forward creates difficult handling in almost all conditions.

Advantage is designed for seated hit and switch paddling- it requires a different seat and seat position to kneel. If your boat feels twitchy consider modifying the seat so your connection to the hull is better. I have a seat from Savage River (I think it's actually from ZRE) and its a huge improvement in both comfort and connection. Seat I have is the Dual Pad carbon fiber seat shown in the options on this page.

The Blackwater is my long hoped for dream boat.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/10/2020 02:17PM
Thanks for the tips, Banksiana.
 
justpaddlin
distinguished member (321)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/10/2020 02:49PM
Hi godsey. I'm in SW Michigan. It sounds like you'll get to try a NW Solo before buying. I think you'll like it.
 
Blatz
distinguished member(1395)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/10/2020 04:21PM
justpaddlin: "Hi godsey. I'm in SW Michigan. It sounds like you'll get to try a NW Solo before buying. I think you'll like it." You really can't go wrong with a NW Solo. I assume you'll be using it for more then just BW trips. It's a great all arounder. Consider getting a footbrace if you get one. Northstar will install it for you if you want. I also raised my seat up on mine which you may also want to consider. It's an easy DIY
 
mjmkjun
distinguished member(2654)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/11/2020 04:31AM
You're going to miss that Advantage. Happy shopping!
 
justpaddlin
distinguished member (321)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/11/2020 01:02PM
Hey godsey. You must have a Northstar dealer near you where you could test paddle, right? If not my favorite canoe dealer is in Lone Rock, WI which looks like a 5 hour drive for you. I'll just mention that the Northstar Trillium is a hot boat that cruises effortlessly and turns significantly better than the Merlin II or NW Solo. I met a young man that works at a Northstar dealer and he's your size and it's his favorite Northstar. It might be nice for you to try the Trillium and NW Solo back to back. Although Northstar calls the Trillium a smaller version of the NW Solo in my experience it has a different character...it's more sporty than the Merlin II and NW Solo which in my view are both capable and versatile canoes but maybe a little boring. Of course boring is good in a strong quartering tailwind.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
07/11/2020 07:31PM
justpaddlin: "Of course boring is good in a strong quartering tailwind."

Exactly.

I plan to paddle a NW Solo soon, and I may paddle a Magic and possibly a Wenonah Prism or a Trillium just for the sake of comparison. I'm aware of what I'd be giving up in terms of straight-ahead speed by selling the Advantage, but I've never been in a canoe and had a rotten time. That includes the Grummans I learned to paddle in and the 85-pound Old Town my wife and I took on a trip a few weeks ago. (I hope it also includes whatever Kevlar boat she and I plan to buy in the next year or two, because that Old Town is a beast to carry for more than 50-75 rods.)

Any of the boats being discussed on this thread are undoubtedly very fun and very capable in their own ways. I like how the NW Solo sounds because I'm looking for an all-around boat I can take on trips or just go paddle around in for an hour or two in the widest range of conditions. There are too many windy, wavy days when I don't take the Advantage out because I just don't like how it feels. Even if a NW Solo is inherently slower and less sleek, I have trouble believing it would be disappointing or actually all that boring in the same conditions where the Advantage feels silly fast. I've also seen a mid-60s couple in an OT Discovery blow the doors off some youngsters in a Minnesota II during a short race, so hull design isn't everything.

I really appreciate everyone's perspective so far.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
08/07/2020 06:56PM
Today I rented a Northwind Solo from Ely Outfitting Co. and headed to Hegman Lake with a friend and the Advantage. On the way out he paddled the Northwind and I paddled my boat. We switched on the way back. It was a little bit windy, but nothing major. Overall an almost ideal morning for a short, mellow paddle.

I like both boats. I definitely prefer the Northwind. I expected it to feel sluggish after paddling the Advantage. It didn’t. I did wish it had a foot brace. I preferred the web seat and liked how much lower its center of gravity was compared to the Advantage’s tractor seat. I also think having the seat attached to the boat’s sides feels better than having it mounted on the the floor.

They’re both very cool canoes. After almost 20 years I feel affection for the Advantage. I felt way more at home in the Northwind.
 
jhb8426
distinguished member(1107)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/07/2020 07:27PM
You can get the Northwind solo with a foot brace.
 
godsey
member (16)member
 
08/07/2020 07:28PM
jhb8426: "You can get the Northwind solo with a foot brace."

It’s true. That would be the plan.
 
justpaddlin
distinguished member (321)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/07/2020 08:57PM
Well it sounds to me like you should get a NW Solo. And keep your Advantage too.

:)
 
KarlBAndersen1
distinguished member(1234)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/08/2020 06:51AM
You didn't ask - but I love my Wenonah Wilderness.
 
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