Best way to solo a tandem

OK, I know this topic has been here several times – J-stroke, Canadian style, straight shaft, bent shaft, heeled over, level, poling, etc.

But what is the most efficient way you can move a tandem when paddling solo? Heeled over with corrective strokes using an ottertail? Sitting in the center, hit-and-switch with a long bent shaft?


double bladed paddle
My guess would be not heeled over (so as to maximize waterline length), with weight centered amidships (for proper trim), using a sufficiently long double-bladed paddle.

Speaking only for myself
I am most efficient with a pole.

But that could be because my paddling technique ain’t so good and I spend more time with the pole.

As a novice paddler, I don’t seem to be able to go any faster or farther with a double blade than I can heeled over with a single blade.


– Last Updated: Apr-20-09 4:13 PM EST –

How wide is your canoe? Tumblehomed? Straight side? Rockered? Center seat? Kneeling thwart? Molded seats? Can you kneel? Do you kneel? Do you paddle with your arm/shoulder muscles? Do you use your torso?

35 inches. It has tumblehome in the center. it’s a 16-foot version of the Bob Special – wood strip.

seats are cane. i can kneel and do kneel

i definitely use torso muscles, not an arm paddler.

i also paddle it standing up with an 84-inch blade.

I have no trouble solo paddling a 16
foot boat. I once saw a wasp-waisted young woman solo a 17 foot keeled Grumman on the first documented run of Tesnatee Creek in Georgia. She never missed a move.

On flatwater, if you’re small, you might want to kneel to one side so you can get a vertical stroke. Tall people like me can paddle a 35" boat fairly well from a center pedestal.

I’m 6’2" and about 190 pounds
I can reach the water pretty well.

I’ve been using a 56-inch bent shaft wooden paddle for kneeling from the center.

I’m not doing so well with a 54-inch beaver tail with it heeled over.

I do like stand-up paddling it, though. I love the boat and love being in it, but it’s a beast paddling solo compared to my savage river C1 and Bell Rob Roy.


I think it depends on the boat

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 11:54 AM EST –

And likely the paddler. When soloing my Explorer on quiet water I find kneeling in the bilge with the hull heeled pretty hard and J stroking to be the most efficient method. I hear that has to with less skin friction and good body ergonomics?
In rough water I move back to the center for greater stability and to give my paddle access to both sides.

In my Malecite any heeling causes a pretty pronounced turn away from the low side so I paddle that from the center with no heel. I tend to alternate between J and switching depending on how fast I want to go.

I suspect your Bob is more like my Explorer and might see some reduced skin friction with a pronouced heel. But I have not paddled one so I could be wrong.

Edited to add,
I use a 58" straight Mitchell Premier, a 57" straght Bending Branches Traveler and a 54" bent Zaveral Whitewater.
I always kneel.
54"for a straight sounds too short to me.


well I have an opinion …
but I am no expert, so keep that in mind. You said you do not do well with a 54 inch beaver tail. I would say at 6’2" you need a much longer paddle. I am 6’4" and use a 62 inch traditional shaft as my absolute shortest. I can use a 64 or larger and have better controll with less effort in my 16 footers paddled heeled over. I like to sit on a kneeling thwart, but cna use the bow the seat and drive backwards, if real windy I put a little balast in the bow. Basically I use C - J strokes and just varry the amount of correction needed. I try to keep the blade verticle (especially on the catch) but at times try to draw the blade under the boat for control. I am not especially fast, but I figure I travel a bit over 2 mph and can go all day, so I do feel it is effiecient, just not real fast.

I hope this is helpful


what is efficiency?
I suspect the answer depends of how you define efficiency. If efficiency means how far can you go in a given period of time, then it relates to the boat’s top speed and how long you can maintain it.

For most people, efficiency probably relates to the ease with which you can maintain a brisk cruising speed well below the boat’s theoretical maximum speed. In that case, heeling the boat to reduce the wetted surface area may allow the easiest cruising, but it probably depends on the hull.

I don’t think too many paddlers can get a boat up to its maximum speed and maintain it there for very long.

For marathon racers in any given boat, it seems to be all about stroke cadence and eliminating any need for correction strokes, which reduce power stroke cadence, therefore the sit and switch method seems to have been universally embraced.

It may well be that a marathon racer can maintain as high a cadence with a single blade switching sides as a paddler with a double blade can. In whitewater slalom racing, prior to Jon Lugbill the times for top C1 boaters were consistantly about 10% greater on a given course than those of the top K1 paddlers. But Jon was able to close that gap.

A tandem, however may be too wide to allow a solo paddler to do a fast switch and still maintain a vertical shaft angle. That is why I suspect that a double blade would allow a higher stroke cadence with no need for corrective strokes in that setting.

Yeah, my paddles are all around 62",
even my 5 degree bent shaft. The length goes with the kneeling position.

solo a tandem
I’ve been soloing my OT Penobscot for a while now. For the greatest speed I would definitely go with a kayak paddle. I’ve tried both a 240 and 260cm paddle. The 260 gives me more leverage and thus more power and speed. I like to put a plastic 5 gal. jug of water in the front. Of course I turn the boat around and sit in the bow seat. I have a pole but haven’t tried it yet.

Helps to have that bow help you out as much as possible when adjusting your trim.

$.01 (from 5’8",170lb Steve)

Trial with GPS
I paddled yesterday with a GPS in my 16-foot bob special.

Used a 56-inch bent shaft and my 84-inch stand-up paddle.

heeling the boat over canadian style with the bent shaft, i was moving along at 2 mph at a comfortable cruise.

using the same paddle, although it felt short, i could hit-and-switch at level trim and do 2.5 mph at cruising speed.

Standing up I could cruise at 3.5 to 4 mph and topped out at 5.6 mph.

Standing up is harder work, but it’s much faster when moving from spot to spot.

I think those speeds will be consistent for me for a 10-mile trip.


Stupid question!
It is said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but your query indicates otherwise. You are an internet paddler, a theoretician, a poseur. I deduce this because no one who has actually paddled a canoe would pose such a question in such a way. If you had paddled before, you would know that the reason there are all these different techniques is because there are so many different conditions in which to paddle. Poling? This is an upstream technique. Including this in your question probably made ten thousand Canadians a little embarassed for you. Americans, on the otherhand, are used to stupid questions and dont usually feel embarassed for others.

So congratualtions, you have proven that there is such a thing as a stupid question, and you have asked one. Now, to remedy this you must go out and acually paddle a canoe and collect your thoughts. Then ask an intelligent question. And start living in the real world of actions and deeds. It’s better out there.

Stupid comment. Poling is not just
an upstream method. And kanulife is not asking a question in such a vacuum as you presume.

stupid is as stupid does
I just did a downstream trip today - poling all the way. Guess I’m just stupid that way, but it was easier for me to solo my tandem and keep up with the fully-manned tandem that was with me than paddling would have been. Probably even more so, since the boat I was in is a “barge” by comparison too.

Some people think they can read minds. Bleah…

KomminSense hasn’t got common sense
or common courtesy. Probably doesn’t paddle canoes, either.

No, it’s not
It was an honest question.

I’m trying to determine for myself which is the best/most efficient way of propelling a tandem canoe while paddling solo.

But kommin – or whatever your name is – if you’d like to test my skills in various disciplines: whitewater, outrigger, solo, marathon, stand up, poling, freestyle – please let me know.

RSVP – :slight_smile:

I think Kanulife wants a race
Maybe Komminonsense ought to put up or shut up?