70/30 Solo/Tandem

-- Last Updated: Apr-04-13 11:19 AM EST --

Hello to all,

Looking for some advice on a composite canoe for the Mrs. and myself. I have been looking at the Wenonah website for what I would say should be a 30% tandem/ 70% solo composite canoe.

Mainly for use on flatwater lakes, and I'd like something that could cover some water pretty quickly if I wanted to.

I used an Old Town Pack some and the "oil canning" (I believe that's what you call it) really bothers me, even sitting on the bottom, and it's not very quick to me.

I like the looks of the Solo Plus(center seat in place) but not sure about the size. I'm a big fella at 6'2" and 325 lbs, and the Mrs. at 140lbs.

I don't mind used, as composites are expensive, but in Ohio there doesn't seem to be a bunch of chances to do any "try before you buy" on new canoes. Heck, we don't have any nice canoe shops even.

Anyway, all of your help is appreciated.

I use an old town penobscot 16 in the way you discribe

when I solo I sit in the front seat facing back

No tandem canoe…
is as pleasant to paddle solo as a good solo canoe. So your situation is tough one. I haven’t paddled the Solo Plus, but I’ve heard that it’s not very good as tandem for larger people, though it would probably be pretty decent as a solo for you. The Penobscot probably comes closest to what you’re looking for. It paddles okay solo…not nearly as nimble as a good solo canoe, but acceptable. If you turn it around and paddle from the front seat facing backwards, it gains a little bit of maneuverability, but if you want more speed and optimum tracking ability, you’ll need to figure out a solo seat somewhere closer to the middle of the canoe.

In my opinion, though, it would work best if you bought a good solo for yourself, and a used tandem for when the wife goes along.

Have a look at Wenonah’s Escapade…

– Last Updated: Apr-05-13 4:11 AM EST –

as well. You can get it with a factory fitted centre seat.

Combi Boat Myth

– Last Updated: Apr-05-13 9:05 AM EST –

The combi boat concept is basically dishonest. If one is large enough to dominate the boat as a solo paddler, the boat will be too small for a second paddler. Conversely, if the hull fits two compact paddlers it will prove too large for one of those paddlers to control when paddling solo.

The ~200 lb difference in the two paddlers weights further suggests two boats.

Better composite solos would include Wenonah's Wilderness, the Curtis Companion/Hemlock Eaglet and the Swift Shearwater. Rig for sitting, with a slider to adjust trim.

Any workable tandem will require custom seat placement to trim the hull. A 17 ft Prospector might do, but I'd rather see differential rocker and asymmetrical hull form like Swift's Winisk or Wenonah's Champlain. The latter would need be trimmed to skeg the stern a little.

Penobscot solo
I solo a 16 ft royalex penobscot 2 or 3 days/week. I am 6 foot tall and 200 lbs and I fitted the boat with a kneeling board just aft of the bow seat - paddling the boat backwards, such as it is. Of course, while I see it as a good jack-of-all-trades canoe, it is an even better tandem boat…as long as my bowman weighs less than me…it gets tender with two 200 lb boys in it.

At 325 lbs, a Penobscot might work quite well for you solo if you can also fit a kneeling board. I have a suspicion that it will be much too tender for you to paddle as a tandem…that amount of weight at the bow or stern of the canoe does effect stability. I think that will be especially true of all of the solo/tandem crossover designs.

It would be best to get a solo and a
tandem. But here are two possibilities.



The first is the Bluewater Tripper 17, 33 inches wide and not so bad solo.

The second is Mad River’s very asymmetrical new tripper, about 17 feet long and 34 inches wide.

Both are pretty fast boats. Bluewater claims 510 pounds upper limit for best performance. Mad River contemptably quotes a capacity over 1000 pounds, which is pure horse puckey. But it should carry close to 600 with good behavior.

Because of your weight, you will have to do a bunch of custom outfitting. On either of these canoes, the rear seat kneeling position will need to be moved toward the center. If your wife is small, the bow seat can be moved well up toward the bow to counterbalance your weight. For solo, you should put in a minicell kneeling saddle and experiment until you find the balance point.

Don’t mess with sitting backward on the bow seat. That’s mickey mouse and won’t solve the problem at all. There seem to be a lot of people who think they can paddle efficiently sitting backward on the bow seat. If you rig your position properly, you will leave them behind in your wake.

Some Expert Paddlers Have Already…
…weighed in with their opinions here. I’m just an advanced beginner who’s a big guy with a smaller wife that has been paddling about 35 years. There was mention for solos and I’m inclined to agree that’s the BEST solution. My wife and I prefer to paddle together but in different boats. But, if you are certain you want to get a small tandem, here are some boats and things that have worked for me over the years.

Forget the Solo Plus for tandem, it’s too small for our size as a tandem boat. And the Penobscot has many fans. But that rounded shallow arch that’s fine for 150-250lb paddlers, but at 325lbs every time you move a bit your wife will think you’re going over. If you’re sold on Wenonah, I used the Adirondack solo and tandem for years. If you paddle solo from the bow, with boat turned around you need a bit of ballast in front to trim the boat with your weight. Wenonah’s Tuffweave is a darn fine layup too.

A few other boats that I’ve used would be the Bell Morningstar and the Bell Northstar. Bell’s no longer in business, but you can find them around fairly easily. The Northstar might be a little unsettling for your wife, as the Penobscot would, but not as much so. My personal favorite is the Bell Starfire, now made by Colden Canoes. http://coldencanoe.com/Starfire.html

Another tip is that I always repositioned my stern seat about 1-2’ forward of “Stock,” depending on the boat. This is easier in a boat with wood or vinyl gunnels. You might ask whatever dealer of boats you decide upon what they would suggest with the weight differential. I recall One of my Wenonah Adirondacks they made with Stern seat about a foot forward per their recommendations. Hope that helps!

WW and wife have a similar
though I think not quite as great weight differential. Ignore his advanced beginner plea. He and she know of what they speak.

Chiming in
to endorse the views of WW & Kaymedic. In my household we have not been at this as long as either of them have. But we, too, seem to have settled on paddling together in separate boats. In your case it would give you the advantage of choosing boats that are well matched to paddlers of substantially different weights.

You could also think about buying solos made of Royalex. The individual boats would weigh about the same as a composite tandem. Two could be had for the same cost as a single composite tandem and you won’t cringe when you hit a rock.


Rounded shallow arch?? Penobscot has
a softened V profile. A shallow arch is rounded by definition.

If you are open to all options
then try an SOT. Right, a 14’ tandem SOT will be the most forgiving when considering trim for your weight differences. And it will work for both 30/70 and 70/30.

Good luck!

Thanks for…

– Last Updated: Apr-08-13 9:17 AM EST –

all of the replies. Looks like I have much to consider.

So, at 325lbs, will the canoes like the Wilderness and/or Prism be a good choice if I decide on a solo only?

And, wouldn't a Royalex solo still "oil can" or is it stiffer Royalex than an Old Town Pack. Are there different grades of Royalex available, some "more stiff" than others?

Really do appreciate all of your ideas, thanks.

what length would be the best solo that I should consider? That should have some bearing on a person’s physical size, right?

seems to oil can in direct proportion to how flat it is. If you want to limit oil canning, do not buy a flat bottom Royalex boat.

I’ll leave it for others to suggest which boats might work. The Swift Raven and the Nova Craft Supernova come to mind as load capable solos, but I have no experience with either one.

At your weight and height, you might also consider setting up a small tandem for a solo. I have done that with several different canoes and prefer them to dedicated solos. When considering small tandems, it helps to be tall as it makes reaching across the boat easier.


Royalex and Hull Flex

– Last Updated: Apr-08-13 9:54 AM EST –

How much flex there is in the bottom will vary from one boat to the next, but is less on boats with a rounder bottom. Every Royalex boat I've paddled showed at least some flexing and sometimes a lot, EXCEPT for my Nova Craft Supernova. The Supernova's hull is very round-bottomed, and I detect no flex at all in normal paddling.

Edit: I see pgeorge mentioned this already, but anyway, I can tell you a Royalex Supernava is very stiff. It's not an ideal lake boat though.

I haven't paddled a Wilderness, but if it's basically an over-sized Vagabond as I've sometimes heard, I'm sure the bottom of the hull will flex a lot. I had a Royalex Vagabond and it became slightly reverse-rockered even with a little guy like me on board (total load under 170 at times).