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Thread: Bell Alaskan

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default Bell Alaskan

    Maker's Spec

    Royalex - 72 lbs.

    Length: 17'
    Length/Width Ratio: 5.5
    Rocker: Bow 3" Stern 2"

    Bow: 22"
    Mid: 14"
    Stern: 20"

    Gunwale width - 36"
    Max width - 37"
    4" WL width - 32.5"

    2" WL - 210 lbs.
    3" WL - 365 lbs.
    4" WL - 500 lbs.
    5" WL - 670 lbs.

    6" Freeboard: 1155 lbs.
    Optimum Load: 365 - 700 lbs.

    Maker's Write Up
    A design inspired by Bell aficionado and wilderness guru Cliff Jacobson, the Alaskanís river tripping features also make it a phenomenal family canoe. The Alaskan has plenty of room to squeeze in the kids, cooler, and the family pet. Of course, if you do just happen to be headed to the Yukon and need a solidly-built, responsive ride with room for the kitchen sink Ė the Alaskan has it.
    Last edited by Chrish; 26th-October-2007 at 10:26 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2006


    We have recently taken delivery of our Alaskan as a replacement for an Old Town Allagash that we had. The Allagash was a good boat, but a bit heavy and "ploddy" so we wanted a boat that we could enjoy and also paddle tandem on whitewater with ease, also large enough for our two boys, dog and camping gear.
    The choice of 17ft Royalex boats in the UK is somewhat limited. I wouldn't touch a Mad River and we already have a Kevlar Wenonah Spirit II so other than Old Town Penobscots there isn't much choice.
    Nevertheless we ordered the Alaskan happily.

    In a word, superb. As all Bells are. The only drawback is that the seats were too high and the yoke is rubbish.
    The yoke was swapped with a Teal yoke i had on the Allagash.
    The seats were lowered with aluminium channel as i couldn't obtain 7" bolts anywhere.
    There is noticeable hull flex when paddled, but no oil canning.

    On the water

    The Alaskan feels very stable when leaned, but is somewhat tippy, this is not a criticism as it will become clear. It is wider than it looks due to the sharp tumblehome near the gunwale.
    This canoe is unbelievably manoeverable. It can be pivoted, at speed in its own length - tandem! It's by far the most manoeverable boat we have, more so than my Prospector. The downside to this is that tracking is almost none existent. Its no slouch in the speed department either. A very good compromise and shows how good the design is.
    We have only paddled it on grade 1 water so far, but practicing a few eddy turns in a jet of water, we found it to be no less than excellent.
    Bell market it as a "family" boat as well as a big water tripping boat, this it may be, but it is absolutley not a beginners boat. It would be near impossible to control by a novice crew.

    Solo vs Tandem paddling

    The Alaskan really is a tandem only boat, but i have played in it solo and to be honest, it paddles OK. But it would be a serious handful in the wind!

    Load carrying

    Huge. With us two aboard, a dog and large pack it drew only a couple of inches of water.


    The Alaskan feel lighter than it says on paper. I'm not a fan of trollies and I portaged it solo for about a kilometre without too much trouble - the Teal yoke was fitted though. More than acceptable for its size.

    Good points
    • Carrying capacity
    • Manoeverability
    • Speed
    • Build quality
    • Durability
    • Reasonable weight for its size

    Bad Points

    • Need to replace the yoke for something better
    • Seats a bit high for us (minor point)
    • More expensive than competitors at £1450 list (but i feel better value for money)


    Top notch tripping boat.
    Can be used as a family boat if you have reasonable experience and skill. Ideally suited as a river boat.


    I'd give it 9.5 out of 10 for the reasons we bought it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Excellent review.

    From your description of the handling it sounds like it is very similar to my Bell Yellowstone. I found tracking much improved if paddled with a bit of edge or bow heavy. And the Yellowstone is also a handful in the wind - needs a lot of trim adjustment to get the best out of it and at f5 I give up.

    Agree the yoke is uncomfortable.

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