Then in the 1970s solo canoes gained popularity. Solo paddlers have most control when they sit or kneel in the center of the canoe. Early solos were flared like all previous canoes. Flare brings two significant upsides in rough water. First, flare deflects waves, keeping the paddler dry and water out of the boat. Second, flare increases secondary stability and safety because the width of the canoe steadily increases all the way up to the gunwale. However, flare also makes a canoe wide and uncomfortable to paddle from the center – the paddler’s knuckles repeatedly bang the gunwales (illustration #1).

Eventually, solo canoe designers embraced tumblehome (illustration #2), including all early Bell designs. Tumblehome creates a narrower paddling station, allowing a vertical paddle shaft and prevents bruised knuckles. Tumblehome was a great innovation; however, it had two downsides. First, canoes suffered a loss of secondary stability because the widest part of the canoe was no longer at the gunwale. In fact the widest part was dramatically lowered to barely above the waterline, which was necessary for the tumblehome to be incorporated (illustration #2). Second, the boat became less seaworthy, because when a wave hit the tumblehome, it followed the shape and tumbled home (illustration #3).

Then along came David Yost. He wove the benefits of both flare and tumblehome together into shouldered flare (illustration #4). Shouldered flare contains the benefits of both flare and tumblehome without the downsides of either. With shouldered flare the widest part of the canoe is only a couple inches below the gunwale, meaning the canoe’s flare gives the boat both secondary stability and protection from waves. And the canoe still has tumblehome, so it’s comfortable to paddle from the center. Most Northstars less than 17 feet long have shouldered flare for comfortable solo paddling.

David Yost has designed canoes for many manufacturers, but Northstars are some of the only ones incorporating shouldered flare. Canoes with shouldered flare are the most difficult and complex canoe designs to build. They are drier and more seaworthy than David’s other designs because the flare is carried the highest on the canoe. Many of his designs are compromises, rounding off the shoulder to streamline the manufacturing process, at the expense of maximum seaworthiness and secondary stability (illustration #5). Look for the sharp shoulder transition if you want the driest, most seaworthy canoe.