Bow Down?

So, other than my wife, who’s not exactly “excited” by the canoe, my primary paddling partner is my fishing buddy. He is probably the WORST canoeist in all the land. By far. Ever. The only thing is that he out-weighs me by about 20 pounds. Now, I had to paddle his fat ass backwards at several points during our excursion due to his gross suckatude and it went reasonably well, even with him in the “back” seat. My question to you, learned paddlers, is thus:

Is it reasonable to sally forth in a 17 foot Gumman Battle Cruiser with a twenty pound weight bias in the bow, with about a 500 pound total load, in flatwater conditions when the “experienced” paddler has all of two months under his belt?

I don’t think it’s so much the 500 lb. .

– Last Updated: Jun-17-08 12:24 AM EST –

......... gross load as it may be the bow load being to forward if your fishing buddy is in the 280 lb. range .

You may want to consider a little bow seat modification . What about moving it back some . That would help bring the weight more towards the center and lighten up the bow plough maybe . It should also give your buddy some extra width and foot area to work with .

My nephew and I have used the old Grummans on downriver (mountain/rock) trips a number of times (loaded w/ gear). He weighed in at near 300 , but I always took the bow because of our weight diff. , I'm like 175 lb.
The boat handled fine in the mountain rivers , except once when the keel seemed to stick on a ledge (that was exciting!!)

My lady and I paddle the 169 Old Town now and she out weighs me by , well , say 30+ . She's always in the bow seat and my boat handles great , but then neither she or I add up to you and your buddy .

If you do move the bow seat back some , consider lowering it just a bit also to bring his cg down .

Also maybe give him a longer paddle and encourage some paddle technique reading and vids.

Does he have a well fitting and good quality PFD for his weight ??

Maybe to get an idea how it would go , just have him sit backwatds (facing the stern) on the edge of the seat and you paddle around some to see if the weight shift is too the advantage , before actually moving the seat .

I'm guessing , but maybe even moving him a foot(12") towards the stern won't hurt at all .

Can’t answer your total load question–
but I can on the bow.

Bow heavy sucks !

And 20 pounds heavy is even worse.

You will be going back and forth and it will be hard to keep the boat straight.

I guess if you are just lilly dipping it won’t be bad.

Your best bet is for a perfectly trimmed boat.

Two ways to check for trim:

  1. both of you sit in the canoe in the water with your gear in it’s normal place and lay a level on the floor

  2. With the canoe sitting in flat water with no one in it and no gear in it, put a small piece of tape or a black mark about two inches above the water line close to the bow and another one close to the stern. Then you and your friend take your seats and put your gear in it’s normal place. Next have some one observe how parallel the both tapes or marks are to the water at both ends. If they are equal you are in good shape.

    If not you should adjust to make them as close to equal as possible.

    Assuming you are bow heavy, the simplest way to equal things out is to put your cooler and gear as far to the stern as possible.

    If you are still bow heavy just add more cans of beer until you are trim.

    Now comes the hard part: don’t touch the beer for the entire time you are paddling.

    If you do you will end up once again zigging and zagging from either being bow heavy or from too much consumption of your ballast.



A 20 # difference
is less than 3 gallons of water. Take a suitably large dry bag with you, fill with water and place behind you in the stern. Adjust the amount of water if necessary.


a little bow heavy, a lot bad boat
Trim it out better. Ideally, get a better boat. Sorry, I hate aluminum boats.

Trim considerations
Bow heavy is not always bad.

This year I have a boat, two, actually, in which I can easily move around, and I do, to change the handling of the boat. In current, things tend to work better when the upstream end of the boat is lighter than the downstream end. So your set up is good for that, but you say you are lake paddling, so forget current.

In wind, it is advantagous to have the heavy end of the boat pointing into the wind. Given the total load you have in the boat, it may not be such an issue, because the more boat in the water, the more it is affected by hydrodynamics than aerodynamics. But I have been in a strong-wind situation with a paddler about 40 lbs lighter than me, total load around 300, and a 17.5 foot boat, where we could not paddle up or down wind without changing positions so that the heavy end pointed into the wind. We’d work our tails off controlling the direction of the boat and just could not make headway until we adjusted the trim.

I think the suggestion to adjust trim with a container of water would have been a good way to overcome our problem on that strong-wind day. Have not tried it, so don’t know for sure.

Good luck.


Once had to get a 260 lb guy down
Lower Amicalola Creek in Georgia. We were in a 16’ Blue Hole OCA, and I’m sure we were a little bow down. He was new to canoes, but we got through some class 3 rapids, because he seemed to have some natural sense about how to get his boat to do what it should. I’m sure I had all our gear behind me in the stern, but there wasn’t enough to level the boat.

If the big guy in the 17’ Grumman can tolerate kneeling, maybe a kneeling pedestal could be wedged in BEHIND the front seat. Or, if you catch a lot of fish, throw them in the back of the boat, and things will improve through the day.