Adjustable canoe seat...

I’ve picked up a Wenonah Solo Plus to get the grandkids out more often.

I’d like to make the rear seat move forward and back to compensate for the various weights of bow paddlers I have. From someday adult size, to currently 50 lbs or so. My yougest grandson is a very little guy for his age.

The boat has lovely wood trim, with the seats dowel hung.

So, I can imagine making aluminum tracks with an expandable aluminum crossbars that the seat would mount to. Holes drilled every inch or so. I kind of hate putting aluminum in my wood and kevlar boat, but I’m not coming up with a wooden alternate for the expandable crossbars.

Any better notions? Pics?

Also, how far forward do you think I’d have to move to bring the bow down? I suppose I’ll just have to grab the smallest one, and experiment unless someone has done the math. Given the variables, I doubt there is a substitute for experimentation.

Further, I doubt the dowel hung center seat (used for solo paddling) acts as an acceptable thwart if I should have to move one. Any ideas?

It’s a fine craft when trimmed correctly, and a bear with the nose in the air and a crosswind.



you can probably make your own
Essex Industries sells a sliding seat kit:

Note that this kit utilizes cross-members in front and behind to support and suspend the slide rails.

Some sliding seats use slide rails that have a slot routed down the center. The seat then mounts onto the slide rails with machine screws that go through the seat frame and the slot in the slide rails that are secured with wing nuts. This allows the slider to be infinitely adjustable. These slotted slide rails tend to be weak unless the wood is substantial, however, and the wood can split at the end of the routed slot.

It is more common to place the sliding seat in the bow. This could be partly because the bow paddler is often lighter, putting less stress on the seat. The problem with sliding seats is how to suspend the slide rails so that they are parallel when the inwales of the canoe are obviously not parallel unless the seat frame is mounted amidships.

Here is a plan for a slider that uses a single stout cross-member behind the seat:

(scroll down to “seat plans”)

Obviously, this type of design will work for a bow seat but not a stern seat, as the stout cross-member would be in the way of the stern paddler’s legs.

This photo shows construction of a bow sliding seat in progress that shows the same type of design:

Distribute ballast as needed.
Reliant 5-gallon collapsible water container inside an old nylon bag works great for me.

Could you …
make a removable, sliding kneeling thwart with rails that attach to the front of the stern seat and to the mid thwart or back of the center seat?

stern slider issues
Stern sliders have seldom worked well without the infusion of cubic dollars, as per Crozier’s.

The issue is that the simple solution requires parallel rails, whether tube or wood. In the bow slider rails drop from the thwart behind the bow paddler and extend forward to drops from the rail.

In stern, the third thwart needs to be pretty close to the stern seat to maintain rail strength without excessive weight.

Jim Henry had a couple neat floating brackets on a couple of his tandem tourers in the late 80s that did away with the third thwart. Galt had tracks mounted on side pods in his Heron.

Too bad, because there is more weight variation among active men than women, and the heavier belongs in the stern recreationaly, so sterns need a slider more than the bow does.

Anyway, easiest solution is to mount the Essex kit in the bow of your fusion and slide the kid[s].

Bow Slider
Start with an adjustable bow seat. 2 reasons.

First is weight distribution for trim.

Second is width at paddling station. Kids are light and have narrow shoulders. The sliding bow seat allows you to place them close to the bow where the width between the gunwales matches their shoulder width. They just slide front till their feet are firmly on the bow floatation tank.

The stern slider is not impossible in wood, nor is the bow. The Essex kit shown in the prior post is easily adaptable for the bow.

Old Town used a notched bow slider for their wood trimmed canoes in the 1980s (when they made composite canoes).

The side rails were parallel wooden rails, notched on top to fit the cross beams of the cane seat assembly.The side rails were mounted in the front to small brackets fastened thru the hull. The rear of the side rails were mounted on top of a cross beam mounted again on brackets fastened thru the hull to keep the seat assembly low in the canoe. Using hull mounted brackets eliminates the wobble of using drops from the gunwales. The brackets could be blocks of wood to keep your trim all wood. As an alternative small pieces of aluminum angle are easy to pop rivet thru the hull and don’t show much with the wooden cross beams and side rails.

Years ago all seats in Wenonahs were mounted on aluminum angles pop riveted thru the hull. And after close to 30 years none in my old Spirit have pulled loose or leaked. It has front and rear sliding bucket seats.

We put sliders in a wood trimmed Blue Hole Kingfisher that we patterned after the Old Town sliders we saw in a Columbia. The notches in the side rails give about a one inch increment in seat movement and are very positive when there is weight on the seat. There is a small bracket that goes under the side rail from the seat cross beam to keep the seat from falling out when you invert the canoe for carrying. They allow enough vertical movement to move the seat from notch to notch, but keep it from coming out of the canoe.


High and low tech solutions
For an even higher tech version of the wooden sliders others have linked, here is Woodsong’s version:

I have a low tech version of a central solo seat I have been using for more than 30 years. No reason it couldn’t be used as a stern or bow seat. I kneel or sit on three of these type flotation cushions:

You may even want 4 for the stern if you like to be high. You can slide these anywhere, instantly change the height, and if you dump you have PFD’s floating all around you. My three cushions have all held up since 1980 and have been used in tandem and solo canoes.

You could remove the stern seat entirely to use the cushions. However, the stern seat may already be as far back as you’ll ever need to go. Hence, you may only need to plop the cushions in front of the stern seat, or you may be able to jam them partially underneath.

Another benefit of the cushions is that you can sit on one or two of them on the bottom of the canoe with one or two braced vertically like a seat back against the wooden seat or against a thwart. And you can aslo use them for cushions to sit on the river bank or campsite.

Easiest, lowest cost
solution is to use the aforementioned collapsible 5 gallon container and fill accordingly. There should be room in front of the bow paddler…that will really level the hull.

It’s not as easy as you think to fill the darn thing though so you might consider a roll top (or zip lock style if you want to spend the money) waterproof bag that you could lean against the bow air tank or, lacking a tank, lean into the bow. Stand it upright leaning against something and you should be fine.

Thanks everyone,
Some very good thoughts to ponder. Different ways to look at the problem. Very nice.

I also thought of the 5 gallon solution, but after taking an unexpected swim w/ grandson #1 last Sunday, I’m thinking it’s not the right approach. Kids are only a bit more predictable than having a large dog in the boat, maybe less. Having 40 lbs of water tethered to the boat would have made things very ugly.

Thanks again,


Best of both worlds
Hi Tom

I have two canoes with sliding seats in both the bow and the stern.

Using them both is perfect for trimming the boat.

I have made several myself, and was going to post how, but it sounds like you don’t want aluminum, so held off.

If you want to use aluminum for supports, let me know and I’ll describe how I did mine.

Also it is easy to move thwarts and make new ones as long as you don’t move them too far.

Once again I use aluminum, but I also have removed and used carry yokes

jack L

Might look at
Green Valley boat works. They sell plans for a very nice looking slider. Might be a bit constricting if in the stern, usually the bow seat is the adjustment if there is to be only one. Still it might be worth looking at if only because it might spark ideas.

no need to tether NM

That’s right, and well-placed ballast
usually adds stability.

Yep, I solo a 16 ft penobscot. I have a kneeling thwart, but I still sit aft of the center. A 2 gallon bucket of water in the bow balances the canoe very nicely.

Don’t tether the ballast. If I flip my canoe, the 2 gallon bucket of ballast up in the bow can worry about itself until I have time to go back and get it.

I only skimmed above
I have a Solo Plus (and i LOVE it)

I felt i had to move the bow seat back a few inches. It just felt cramped. I never under stood how the Solo Plus is almost identical to the Jensen 17 which has a sliding bow seat, but thy jammed the SP all the way up in like that.

I made a new thwart that was curved to accept the new seat. I got a nice foam tractor seat (more comfort for my girlfriend). Took aluminum angle and ran it back off the brackets. OH yea, I have the Aluminum trim, so your hangers will be different, but anyways. I used a bit of all thread and flat aluminum to help support the seat (the flat up front) and to stop the rider’s weight from bringing the sides in (the all thread in the rear). A bit of strapping helped support the rear of the seat, but give some give to the ride.

When i do it again, I will use angle in the rear and flat aluminum at both the front and BACK of the seat.

The all thread wasn’t quite tough enough, so it bowed under the stress. It is fine, but I don’t care for that, I want it to look better, and I see it on every trip.

I lost the pictures I was taking of the whole process, but they weren’t too exciting anyways.