At a loss

Because I’m a paddler I sometimes have people ask me for advice about what sort of canoe or kayak to purchase. My first question is always “what are you planning on using it for?”

Well today a friend mentioned he was looking for a decent canoe and his described use fit the “general recreation” category.

I normally could think of may suggestions but for one thing. My friend is on the larger size, probably in the mid 300 lb range and his paddling partner is slight and no more than 120 lbs. My first thought was that unbalance might negate the benefits of most canoe designs.

So are there any recommendations for canoes that can handle this sort of unbalance, or is it just a matter either throwing a sandbag or cooler up front to trim the canoe, or perhaps moving the rear seat forward, or am I overthinking the entire issue?

Anything with
Id look at any canoe that has sliding seats in the front and rear. That way, he can move all the way forward, her all the way back, and even then I bet he’ll have to put some weight up front to be sort of trim.

The first one that comes to mind is the Clipper or Wenonah White Water X (WWX). Although it was originally a down river WW canoe, its not too different than a MNII with more depth. Its 18’6", stable, has ok speed and would be ok for general recreation. The draw back may be that with the bow person all the way back, the boat is fairly wide at the paddling station.

Any tandem could work if it has dual sliding seats. If hes buying new most manufacturers could probably add dual sliders as an option. Used limits him a bit more.

“Could” work. At his weight, he may not
fit between the gunwales with the rear seat way back.

Mad River’s new 18.6 is radically swedeform, bulged way out in the stern, and that might help him.

Otherwise, he could paddle in the bow, but well back of the usual seating position, and she can be way back in the stern.

He’d be closest to the middle

– Last Updated: May-07-13 2:55 PM EST –

Basically you want the heavy person closer to the middle and the light person closer to the end, regardless of who sits where. Its a simple lever effect.

He would never have his seat all the way back if he were in the stern, thus gunwale width would not be a problem. It may be in the bow because he would be all the way back, and it can get kinda wide if you're all the way back in the bow.

A couple guys I race with made custom sliding rear seats that have about 2.5 feet of adjustment on them. Ive seen a 120lb woman paddle with a 250 lb guy in a trim boat. In this case, the weight difference is so large that they may have to weight her end regardless. I can take a picture of their setup next week if you're still curious and a do-it-yourselfer.

Also, Brian (OP), how did you get a picture in your profile? Does the profile take HTML or UBB code?

Wenonah Champlain
The 18’ Champlain was built for big paddlers. It will tolerate paddler weight differences better than a slimmer canoe. The suggestion for dual sliders is right on the money. Only way to get close with that big a difference. Putting the big paddler in the bow in hopes that it puts him closer to the midpoint of the hull and thus better trim is offset by the narrower bow vs stern. There is a lot more volume in the hull 4’front of the stern than there is 4’back from the bow. And in paddling posture body weight is centered forward of the seat, not on the seat.

If you were ordering a new hull you could talk to

Wenonah about putting the aluminum anchor plates into the next set of ribs in front of the usual spot. Then you could custom locate a rear slider farther front. And with a 300+pound paddler I would replace the stock cross-bar of the sliding seat frame with a stronger piece of aluminum. I have managed to crack two of them with big 250+pound paddlers. In addition to the heavy weight sitting on the bar, very large people tend to drop onto the seat and not ease onto it. The oval thwarts of a MichiCraft are one solution that has worked for over 10 years.


How about a symmetrical tandem design

– Last Updated: May-08-13 7:49 AM EST –

but seating backwards?

By way of example, I have an old Dagger Legend 16 that I paddled solo WW with for many years. I just float bagged it and paddled it from the "front" seat facing to the rear seat, i.e. backwards. It worked great. On a few occasions when using it as a tandem I had a lighter passenger; it worked just as well to put them in the "back" seat facing the new forward. You could also get a new "front" (rear) seat and cut the supports longer such that it could be positioned closer to the center by drilling a couple of new holes in the gunnels.

A Few Thoughts

– Last Updated: May-08-13 9:52 AM EST –

Back in the days when we paddled tandem all the time, I weighed in the 220-260 range. My wife tipped the scales 100-110. To handle that disparity, I usually re-mounted the seat further forward and put more gear forward with her. I had a couple canoes made with the stern seat further forward. Trimming is the easiest part of the equation.

The tough part will be finding a canoe they're comfortable in. A 34" wide tandem may feel stable as a rock with smaller and/or experienced paddlers. But when you have that much "Live" weight, every shift in the canoe will be noticeable. With his weight, you're going to need a canoe at least 36" wide and preferably greater than 16' long for a nice, large "Footprint" in the water. I had a friend of similar size and he used an 18' Grumman. Not crazy about his choice, but it worked. I believe something like a Champlaign (already mentioned), a Wenonah Kingfisher, Souris Quetico 18, Bell Eveningstar would be good choices to start out. If you could find an old Mad River Revelation, THAT would be a great one for them.

Another thing he may need to do is reinforce his seat, since, he would need to move it closer to center anyway. Ed's Canoes makes a nice heavy duty seat and seat drops:
If he can kneel, that would be better still for stability with that weight. If not, his seat should be low for stability.

Another thing to beware of, getting in and out. If possible, he needs to enter and exit the canoe carefully, and first. I recall my friends wife getting out onshore and when she got out first, the canoe "Popped up," tripping her, upsetting the canoe, and putting both of them in the water.

So, your friend needs to be judicious on boat selection and seat placement and trim. Moreso than other paddlers, they REALLY need to "Try before they buy" to see what will fit.

Turn it around
most symetrical hulled canoes can simply be turned around and paddled “backwards”, putting the heavier paddler closer to center and the lighter paddler closer to the end. That assumes that the lighter paddler will paddle bow and there is enough room for their legs up there.

I used to do that with my 80lb daughter. I go 180 - 200 lbs. My MR Explorer trimmed out nicely like that with no mods to the boat.

Some rec canoes have a thwart directly behind the bow seat. I’d pull that out without a second thought. Your Milage May Vary.