Adding a solo seat to a tandem canoe

I have a Wenonah Adirondack that my wife and I use. I would like to do some solo canoeing and was wondering if I could add a solo seat to my canoe. Looking for feedback on; placement, methods, seat choice etc. Any help would be appreciated.

Friend of mine has a removable center seat in his MR Explorer. I think it came with the boat. Can’t have a center thwart, and you’d need a wide seat a little back from center. It’s a wide paddling station.

I would recommend a kneeling thwart for solo use. If the canoe has a thwart between the rear seat and the portage yoke, remove the thwart and put the kneeling thwart there. If there is no thwart put the kneeling thwart about 18" aft of the portage yoke. If you put in a seat you will lose the portage yoke. Many people, myself included, prefer to solo from a kneeling thwart as you get much better control. You will need a pad of some sort for your knees. Other people may chime in on seat placement, but if you put the front edge of the seat about 8" aft of center you will be close. As for methods, it is all fairly straight forward. If you buy a kit for either the thwart or the seat it will come with screws and drops. A 3/16" drill is needed.

Ed’s canoes in Vermont can supply either the kneeling thwart or a seat.



As mentioned the width could be an issue if you use a conventional single blade canoe paddle. I solved that problem with a 260cm kayak double blade and it is a pleasure to paddle solo. I still carry a canoe paddle and will switch to it if I get into a tight spot. My 260 is a two piece and have been kicking around the idea of making a tee handle for just half of it for those times.

I converted a old OT Guide 147 and I didn’t need the ability to switch between a solo and tandem so I removed the tandem seats and all the weight they added and then did thwarts where I wanted them and the seat where I wanted it for a solo. I added a seat back and built the support hung from the gunwales. All the holes are still there and I could put it back to stock tandem in about and hour if I had the urge.

For me losing that heavy wood center carry yoke was not a problem as I never carry it overhead. I have a kayak foldable dolly cart I use to move it alone that is much easier for me.

My knees are too old for kneeling so I ruled that out. I run mild mostly flat water and fish out of mine a lot so comfort both paddling and sitting for 5-6 hours at a time were my major focus.

About 8” behind center as mentioned seems about right.

I prefer canoes to be neutrally-trimmed and for solo canoes with relatively symmetrical in-water hull shapes I position the seats with the front edge of the front transverse frame rail no more than 4" behind the longitudinal center of the boat. For a kneeling thwart I might go up to 5" aft of center.

But that is for solo canoes. The Adirondack is a tandem and fairly wide at 35-36". If you position a seat that close to center you are going to be placing your stroke at the widest part of the hull which will require a lot of reach for an efficient stroke with a vertical paddle shaft angle. For a tandem I would follow pgeorg’s advice and place a kneeling thwart, assuming you can kneel, a bit farther aft. This would result in somewhat bow light trim but you would be stroking at a narrower position on the hull and could retain a center portage yoke.

I’ve had 2 tandems with center seats, in one the leading edge of the seat was 9 inches behind center of boat and in the other it was 11 inches. This range is pretty normal in my experience; if you get too close to center the boat may become hard to control. I think Wenonah offers a center seat option so I bet they’ll tell you right where they’d put it if you ask. I think seats are considerably more comfy than thwarts so if I were you I’d lose the yoke and install a permanent fixed center seat. is indeed a good source for parts.

I agree trim is important and in the case of a tandem running as a solo and empty it will likely be very under-loaded as compared to a solo canoe. When lightly loaded IMO trim becomes more important depending on rocker and if it has a keel line.

My first attempt, second and third attempt left me wondering if it was even possible to do. My first attempt was to paddle the boat backwards sitting in the bow seat. That only worked if I had a five-gallon bucket of water in the other end and who would want to paddle all the extra weight. I then moved the bow seat closer to the center about 10” hoping to maintain the ability of a tandem and solo both. With any wind at all that clearly didn’t work also. I then added a center bench seat hoping for tandem spacing similar to a tandem kayak for two paddlers taking out the center yoke. The center seat was good but paddling like a kayak was a problem for the two of us. At that point she announced she didn’t really like sharing the boat and would much rather have her own rec-kayak. Two boats two people opened a lot of possibilities for hauling more gear and doing assisted rescues etc. I still had no desire for a rec-kayak over a larger longer canoe so I gave up on the tandem idea.

The 4-5” to the front of the seat is correct and because I have a seat back I was thinking the back of the seat. And I may be a bit more because I have factored in some gear that almost always goes ahead of me in the boat.

Our river runs very low in spots this time of year and with just a couple inches of water with the larger hull of the tandem I can get thru places most get hung up. I came up on a tandem kayak stuck the other day and I hung up beside them and I asked if they needed help they said no they were going to get out and walk it thru. I said ok have a good day and I leaned forward changing the trim ever so little and the water caught under the canoe and lifted me enough I was on my way. I heard the woman say how did he do that.

It really will boil down to needing a quite long kayak paddle and if you like using that I think.

Paddling a tandem canoe solo will always require some type of compromise. That is why solo canoes exist.

Paddling from a central position with a double-bladed paddle is certainly an option. But for a canoe the width and depth of the Adirondack that will have to be a very long and pretty heavy paddle.

Five gallons of water (41-42 lbs) is going to be lighter than any adult tandem partner so the effect of the additional weight on performance will no more or less than if you had a child passenger in the bow seat. For myself, I would opt to paddle the boat a little farther back and add ballast to trim if need be than heft a heavy double-bladed paddle all day.

Thank you all for such good (although overwhelming, for me) advise. I received this from Wenonah this a.m., after sending an email yesterday, concerning this topic.

Good Morning Grayson, Thank you for contacting Wenonah regarding your Adirondack. You can certainly put a center seat in your boat, although a bucket seat in the center would make it more difficult to reach the water as that model is fairly wide in the center. If you’re really tall or have long arms, there wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Otherwise, you could always turn the canoe and paddle from the bow seat. Happy Paddling! The Wenonah Canoe team.

I may leave well enough alone and possibly just paddle from bow seat, or at least try that for now. I hate to alter the canoe if it won’t, i the long run, be something I will do a lot. We are very much beginner paddlers. We do find, however that paddling for us is much easier with extra weight ahead of my with in the bow. We struggled with this canoe for some time until adding weight. I am 230 ( a few meals ahead of myself) and my wife is 125. The boat tracks so much better after adding the weight, it is truly a joy to paddle.
Thanks again, any help is appreciated.

This is true. My canoe is likely 40 pounds heavier also than most of the solo pack canoes I would love to have as well. Being new to paddling I know what I don’t know is way more than what I know at this point and my $40 paddle I’m sure is a lot heavier than it needs to be and when I extended it to 260cm I added a little more weight. For me it doesn’t feel heavy and being double ended it feels balanced where my single blade wooden canoe paddle didn’t feel balanced. Trying both the shallow angle alternating sides each stroke of the double seemed to be the less tiring of the two, but that is just me. I will add I do a lot of paddling in 8-10” of water in our creeks and rivers and the shallow angle double blade works fine where I have issues with a single. Also and again it could just be me but the double seems to suit restricted mobility than a single with a deeper more upright stroke.

I paddle 99% of the time with others in rec-canoes on ether flat lakes or slow flat rivers. I would say most of the time I’m as fast or faster than those I paddle with. Most of the rec-kayaks I see look overloaded even though the weight in them is within the limits.

I don’t know much about the OPs abilities or desires or the type paddling he does. I know in my case I never have a need to carry my canoe overhead and the only travel it gets out of the water is from the car to the water and back. Some people I know do a lot of it jumping lake to lake and around dams and rapids and such.

I had an Old Town Penobscot 16 I added a center seat for solo paddling. It was possible to order a matching wooden and cane seat replacement. The existing center thwart had a modest yoke carrying profile. I cut it down some and reinstalled back about one foot.

I mounted the new seat with longer bolts and wooden dowel sleeves making the seat level drop about three inches for a nice lower center of gravity, and slightly tipped a bit towards the bow. However, I had to purchase a removable carrying yoke with pads, which I left on shore when out.

It all worked pretty well. Not sure if there is any useful information for your setup.

Here is yet another idea. The voyageur’s developed the style of paddling now called Canadian style to paddle their large canoes solo. Good examples of this style can be found on Charles Burchill’s website. Rather than installing a permanent seat you may look into using a Welsh plank . Welsh Plank

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I like to shift closer to the side on which I am paddling. Heeling the canoe, so it isn’t as much of a reach when paddling my MRC Explorer 16 tandem facing the rear. I will kneel without a thwart just behind the yoke but sit in the bow seat some when my knees start bothering me. I don’t sit on my heels but am more erect kneeling with my thighs vertical. I have a 3.5" thick closed cell foam pad I kneel on. It is a throwable seat cushion. This method works well in that boat, I had as many as 5 solos in the past but am down to 2. I prefer them for solo paddling but when going on trips with my wife I take the tandem and use it solo when she isn’t paddling.

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Lots of interesting ideas.

Northstar sells kneeling thwarts at the width you would need. Then just learn to paddle to one side as Castoff mentioned. You can actually order their boats with the kneeling thwart installed.

Yep, lots of options. If you kneel and like the idea of a kneeling tgwart you could just replace the thwart behind the yoke with a kneeling thwart. And just FYI if you want to experiment to see what different solo seating positions feel like you can just bring a small hard cooler and sit on it. To fix the trim problem you have tandem I suggest bringing a large dog.

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Sure, but you have to take out the center thwart usually.

I converted a tandem OT Canadienne to solo, the 15’7" one.
It meant moving some thwarts around, I removed the tandem seats.

There is another option. Spring Creek makes drop in seats that can be installed and removed at will. If you want to solo just pop one of these seats into place. It also works for carrying children or extra passengers. Then if you want to load your canoe for camping you can remove it for extra cargo space.

Drop in seat is pretty high making boats top heavy. Usually the center thwart is still in the way.

On my new Prospecteur 16, I installed a removable yoke kit from Wenonah. That way when I put my center seat in, I have plenty of space.