Adding Seats to a Canoe

I am looking to buy my first canoe. I stumbled across one locally. It is 14’6" and setup as a solo kneeling canoe. I don’t know if I am using proper canoe terminology, but there is no pedestal just to knee pads. Could I replace the two thwarts with two seats? Is this an easy repair? DOes any know about how much this would cost? Thanks.

What canoe is it?
Many canoes that short are too narrow if you convert one station to two.

That is the two paddlers spread apart a little will find that where they need to sit is just too narrow to avoid a swim.

But do tell us more.

Canoe Details
I do not have an exact model. The person said it was an old mohawk canoe similar to an XL 14. Does that help?

seat source

Looks OK

for a tandem ww boat for not too big paddlers.

Don’t replace the thwarts

– Last Updated: Apr-13-10 3:19 PM EST –

Don't replace the thwarts with seats. You can install seats, but seats don't provide much of any lateral reinforcement of the gunwales, because any seat-hanger that "makes sense" and is easy to build is not very rigid in the side-to-side direction. Instead, move the thwarts to a slightly different location if necessary, which means they need to be a different length than before (I'm guessing both thwarts will be moved toward the center, where the boat is wider, in which case you need a "wood stretcher" or completely new thwarts).

If I were doing this, I'd first determine where the seats should go. Then I'd install the new thwarts accordingly, or at least take measurements for the new thwarts before removing the old ones. That way, I wouldn't accidentally change the width of the boat with the new thwarts (changing width at the gunwales also changes the bottom shape and rocker).

One more thing:
You say this will be your first canoe. Do you intend to have a pretty maneuverable, slightly “squirrelly” canoe, or would you prefer something a bit more forgiving while you learn to paddle? If that boat is similar to an XL 14, it will require you to have the ability to paddle reasonably well. I’m guessing just a bit, but it may not be the best choice for a pair of beginners to practice with, unless both of you are determined to work past your initial difficulties. A less specialized boat will be easier for two beginning paddlers. Another consideration is that a 14-foot canoe paddled tandem will be a bit of a slug when trying to cover distance on flat water. Remember, the original design was for whitewater, and whitewater canoes aren’t the best long-distance cruisers, nor are they fast when compared to general-purpose canoes (the canoes you usually see).

Thanks for the replies
I think this would be too much work for a beginner. And then the canoe may still be a little short. Thanks for all the help.

Somebody needs to tell all the canoes
that I have replaced the thwarts with seats that then!

I have done it on at least three different lightweight kevlar ones.

I add them and rearrange them but always keep cross members fairly close to where the original thwarts were.

have never had a structural problem yet.



You understand what I’m saying, though,

– Last Updated: Apr-13-10 9:12 PM EST –

... right? That point where the cross-member of the seat contacts the hanger has virtually no lateral strength. You could bend that connection from its original 90 degrees (or something close to that) to something way different with one hand, not even trying hard, and the same goes for where the hanger connects to the gunwale. With four connections per seat it's "stronger", but it's sure not a method that any carpenter would design. If you need gunwale strength and want to get it from your seats, at least one cross member of the seat needs to connect directly to the gunwale with no hanger, or maybe with a very short hanger (kneelers can mount the rear cross member of the seat right to the gunwale on any boat that's not too deep, making that cross member work exactly like a thwart).

I'm hardly the first to say all this stuff, and Charlie Wilson has his own way of describing that hanger joint which gets the point across pretty clearly.

Of course, it depends on the gunwales too! Guide-boats have no thwarts. Wooden models don't even have gunwales, but they get all the lateral strength they need from the ribs, while composite models have an extra heavy-duty gunwale, but that gunwale is still pretty flexy compared to that of a canoe with thwarts. The Blackhawk canoe I refinished last spring has lightweight gunwales which won't maintain the shape of the boat at all unless cross members connect directly to the rails. The seat and hangers help not one bit on that boat.

suppose the seat drops had …
… “NO” flex at connection to seat cross members ??

Wouldn’t that be as substantai structurally as a thwart ??

You are correct.
That would work just fine. It would require some clever engineering, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be done.