Name: ArtUnlimited

Most Recent Reviews

I've done a lot of paddling - hundreds of miles over 15 years in a 34 pound Blackhawk Zephyr. When I wanted a longer 16 foot boat, I naturally tried to find a Blackhawk Starship. I've paddled Starships on many occasions (I used to build Blackhawk canoes in Wisconsin) and have always LOVED them (at least some of them). In the end however, I decided NOT to get one - they're just too damn heavy (well over 40 pounds) and hard to come by in great condition. Sigh. Anyway, I test paddled MANY boats over nearly THREE YEARS and decided on the Bell Magic - with no good close second choice, honestly. It's the best, lightest, fastest, 16 foot canoe I know of, but it's not perfect.

Yes, it's fast, relatively stable, and at only 32 pounds in the Kevlar/Carbon/Aluminum gunnels configuration - quite light weight. My Kevlar/Carbon Zephyr has beautiful all-mahogany rails and after 15 years of sanding-in Watco oil, you can KEEP that beautiful wood! But, I digress... The WORST things about a Magic, are the design of the sharp inner-side of the rails (it really cuts into the side of your leg if you lean it against the side. I even place my trusty sponge alongside the rail and hold it with my knee sometimes. At one point, I even considered adding water-pipe foam insulation to the rails! That would really look awful, so I deal with it - but you get the idea. I'm pretty used to it now, so it's not as much of an issue, but still a major design flaw.

In the lightest, clear gel-coat lay-up, you can expect to see a lot of star-cracks and scratches after a season or two of serious use. If you only paddle open water and lakes, it's fine, but if you're pulling it over downed trees and doing some serious exploring, it'll show it's use. I'm not complaining, it's still a good trade-off for such amazing light weight. I mention it only because if you want to buy a boat to really beat on - the light-weight clear model isn't the one for you (I still love it, though!).

The other comment I would make is on turning. Others have said that it turns on a dime and leaves you change. That's just plain stupid. It turns well enough for a 16 foot long boat, hell - maybe it turns better than any other 16 foot boat in current production in the whole universe - but it's no dime. Why exaggerate? I've taken freestyle paddling classes and paddled with paddling instructor Patrick Moore (I still use one of his AMAZING paddles) many times and take great pride in controlling my boat with style and seemingly effortless grace, but this boat turns like a good 16 foot boat should - no better (that's why it tracks so well). When I jump in my 14 foot Zephyr, I never cease to be amazed at how FAST the Zephyr turns. Not a fair comparison, but it doesn't turn nearly well as a 16 foot Blackhawk Starship in competent hands either. To be fair, the Starship won't track as well as the Magic, but anyone who is an accomplished paddler can make a 55 gallon drum track a straight line, so I don't put as much emphasis on that as others. After all this criticism, you might be thinking that I don't like this boat much. Not true! I think it's the best boat made today for fast, day or week long camping trips if you want to carry a total weight over 250 pounds. Put that much weight (or more) in a 14 foot boat and you'll have nearly as much boat below the water than above. So buy TWO! Thanks for reading all my rambling - now go paddle! -Q

I know a lot about Blackhawk canoes. I worked at Blackhawk Canoe the summer of '85 and again from 1991 till 1993. The other reviews really are right on the money. I've paddled a lot of boats, but have never found a boat I like better than my Blackhawk Zephyr.

With admittedly less initial stability than the oft compared Bell Wildfire, the Zephyr is noticeably faster and more enjoyable to paddle. It's attention to detail is unmatched even today (especially today?). The seamless integration of the decks and flotation tanks have to be seen to be believed. It was a lot of work making all those extra parts and later fiberglassing them into the hull - but it had CLASS. I've been paddling my Zephyr for 12 years now and appreciate it more all the time. My model is all Kevlar/Carbon weave cloth with a Spectra belly panel. The wooden rails and thwarts are all mahogany. This particular boat is an experimental layup of my own design (double strength hull bottom with lighter weight decks, flotation tanks and seat pods). Actual weight is the standard spec of 34 pounds for the GOLD (spec was 39 pounds for the fiberglass model).

You should have met the owner, Phil Siggelkow. Early mornings he'd come downstairs with mussed hair wearing a $100 pair of Royal Robbins slacks, barefoot on the resin and gel-coat covered shop floor, a mug of thick Eight O-Clock coffee in one hand and an unfiltered Camel in the other. A certified genius if ever there was one.

If you can't buy a Zephyr, do whatever you can to at least paddle one - it'll give you something to compare all other boats to.