Canoe to kayak

I have been canoeing since i was a baby. My brother and i did so extensively from age 10 to our early 20s but he is married and in the military (navy of course!) so i lost my paddling partner. We started in our dads old plastic coleman ‘barge’ but managed to save and buy an old town canadianne in our early teens- we spent 100% of our summer income on that canoe and it is tressured. Anyway since im solo 80% of the time im thinking about moving to a kayak. I have alot of experience in reading the river, navigating, outfitting etc but have never kayaked.

My usage is mostly on the potomac above greatfalls and up to harpers ferry area. No real whitewater and i dont like floating i want something that can go upstream. I also like to go on the lower potomac around dc and on ocassion down to assategue/outerbanks. Basically i want something as capable as my oldtown in rapids and big water, but much faster and able to paddle myself

Been browsing on craigslist trying to go cheap on my first boat and then buy new once i figuee out exactly what i want but the prices (after negotiation) is 60-70% of new on plastic boats i.e wilderness systems tsunami which seems like a ripoff when i can get neww for 200more…

So any suggestions for my situation?

Solo canoo, Pilgrim
Faster an’ yer kin paddle it by yerself!

Why go backward in de paddlin’ woyld.


Another suggestion for solo canoe
If you are a decent paddler already, a solo canoe might be more enjoyable. A solo canoe is definitely more difficult a boat in which to become “reasonably proficient” than a kayak (though either craft gives you the chance to get better and better if that’s what you want), but if the only reason to get a kayak is to go solo, there’s a whole other world of opportunity to check out besides kayaks. I say that as someone who looked into getting a nice little rowboat as an alternative to a canoe, BEFORE I was aware that solo canoes exist.

Well i “solo” in the canadianne which is 17ft and definently not made to do so. I use a cooler and golden retriver as ballast and can get around but its not ideal. I honestly never considered a solo canoe. My main concern is speed. Like i said i hate thr logistics of getting picked up downstream and much prefer to paddle up and float down, and the current on the potomac is decent 2-3 mph. Whith my brother in the oldtown we could get upsteam pretty easy but by myself or a weak paddler it is not much fun.

I am a fit 200lbs and a strong paddler would a solo canoe get me upstream ok? What is cruising speed? Any designs to look at? I might prefer to go this route as i am already an experienced canoist and the leanrig curve would e minimal. But speed is key and i dont think they are fast enough for my river

solo paddling
Turn around, and face backwards in the forward seat. This give you better trim, and for the upstream portion consider using a double (kayak) paddle. Borrow a paddle first to see if it suits you, if so, you avoid spending a lot.


I do
Run backwards solo but it is 70lb boat 200lbs me and still take abou t 80lbs ballast to even out more if not on flat water 350lbs and almost 18ft long is alot to paddle up the potomac solo believe me i tried. Cant get more than 2-5 miles depending on conditions/launch point.

Havent tried a kayak paddle but gunnels are high and running backwards in front seat boat is pretty wide i doubt it would be effective.

canoe to kayak
In my opinion, the transition from a solo canoe to kayak is pretty easy. Reading water and predicting the effect that current differentials will have on the boat is the same in either case.

In a kayak the strokes are symmetrical from side to side, less effort needs to go into correction to keep the boat going straight, the paddle cadence is somewhat higher, and a brace is available on both sides of the boat, which is a tremendous advantage. It is also easier to stay warm in a sit in kayak with a good spray skirt, wave trains present much less of an obstacle, and the boat is less affected by adverse winds.

On the other side of the coin, kayaks are somewhat more likely to be stopped and retained by holes, and the view downstream is not quite as good, the vantage point being lower.

If you want a boat capable of running rapids but making upstream attainments, I would suggest either one of the newer crossover designs, like the Liquid Logic Remix XP series or the Pyranha Fusion. If you don’t want to shell out the money for a new boat, I would look for a circa early 1990s “old school” whitewater K1 that is 10.5’+ in length. I have a Perception Pirouette which, at 11’ 2" in length, has a hull speed that gives up little to rotomolded “sea kayaks” in the 12-13’ range.

If the rapids you speak of require no real maneuvering, you might be better served by a 14’+ rotomolded sea kayak which will have even better upstream speed and provide more storage in the boat.

My .02
Go for it. Find a used kayak and enjoy. If speed is what you’re looking for, the longer and narrower the better.

Try to stay over 14’ in length and less than 24" wide.

Just my opinion,


with a solo canoe
you can use a double blade or improve your technique with hit and switch with a lightweight paddle for upstream paddling.

Fit the boat to the spread of your knees. Longer arms can deal with a wider boat and still avoid the dreaded gunwale sweep.

Hit and switch is extremely effective for going counter wind and counter current. While intuitive among beginning paddlers, its not a terribly easy skill to master.

You may be able to handle a 30 inch wide solo though yu might get a blast out of a 24 inch wide RapidFire canoe reinforced for kneeling.

If its speed you want the Placid Boatworks Shadow at 16 feet and 22 inches waterline width will outrun many sea kayaks. It has a L/W ratio of 8.5. Its a canoe. Double blade or short shafted single.

speed is sufficient
I routinely outrun the Hudson at its max ebb current (3.5 miles per hour). This is in a Placid Boatworks RapidFire (expensive), paddled as a solo canoe (high, kneeling seat); they market it as a “pack canoe” (deckless kayak) with a kayak-style seat, so getting the kneeling seat is a customization. I can’t say that I outrun 3.5 mph by very much, though. When I am paddling against the current, I typically hide from the current by paddling along the edges; then I make good time.

Two reasons I prefer solo canoeing to kayaking: the multiple leg positions, and the reduced strain on my back when paddling slowly. (I find that, when I am kayaking strongly and my abdomen is “activated,” my back doesn’t hurt; but I can’t maintain the pace for more than an hour.)

Models you might consider (some discontinued, but buying used can be very economical): Bell Magic, Wenonah Prism, Wenonah Voyager (might be difficult when lightly loaded and the wind picks up), Mad River Independence (a/k/a Indy), Swift Osprey. There are other possibilities, both faster and slower. For speed, look at 30 inches wide or less. Search for CEWilson’s (Charlie Wilson’s) writeups here on and on the larger Web, to get an expert’s view on the models. Or just post questions here.