Center Seat advice needed please

Hello, I need some experienced advice please. I’m a beginning paddler with a Mad River Explorer 15’ RX, cane seats, plastic/alum gunnels (not IQ) which is used for floats/fishing on med/slow rivers, both tandem and solo. I weigh 260 and when solo have been using bow seat w/ballast up front. This works but is cumbersome. Would a center seat be a justifiable improvement? And…can I permanently remove the center thwart and replace with a center seat without adverse effects? Many thanks in advance.

You could do it but why?
You’ll lose the carrying thwart that makes it easy to lift and carry the boat when you put in a center seat. I’d stick with paddling backwards from the bow sear and find a big water bag that is easy t0 fill and put up front for ballast.

I bet you only need one or two gallons up front.

Perhaps you could put a seat
far enough from the center thwart so that you can extend your legs under the thwart, with your thighs braced against the thwart, which you could pad. Not sure if this would work in an Explorer 15. Depends on whether the boat is deep enough. If you fit properly, much less counterbalancing will be needed.

You may not like kneeling, which can be restrictive for fishing, but I would put a minicell kneeling pedestal under that center thwart.

If you decide to put a seat near the center and find the thwart is in the way, you should move it away from the seat. Note that the seat should not be right at the center of the boat, but a little back of it. Having a thwart somewhere in the middle of the boat is important for Royalex rigidity.

Yeah, but after one or two gallons, he
won’t be able to find his way back to his car.

Will there be an improvement??
Ok, I’ve figured out it can be done with a few bucks and a little time…but…is it worth it? My thought is that paddling from a seat closer to center, and without the ballast weight (25 pounds), should make it easier to trim and maybe handle a little less like the pig it is. Will it really make much difference?

I’ve done it on a couple of boats and think it is well worth the effort. The only thing you’ll want to consider is how to carry the boat. On my last boat I rigged a 2" wide piece of webbing with buckles to replace the wooden portage yoke. That allowed me to get the seat exactly where I wanted it.

I’d say “yes” too
I have a center seat in my Penobscot 16’. You can put one in your 15’ Explorer with little trouble, I think.

Put the seat just aft of center and add a thwart just behind the seat. Remove the center thwart afterward. You can either use one of the many clamp-on carrying thwarts available or rig your original carrying thwart with a quick-release system like that sold by Wenonah or make your own with aluminum door hinges.

Seats can be easily made at home or bought ready to install from Ed’s or elsewhere. It’s really a cost-effective modification if you will be doing a lot of solo paddling, and paddling from the center is easier IMO.

Not only that, but…

– Last Updated: Oct-11-09 11:29 PM EST –

... if you don't need "serious" portage capability, the front edge of the center seat isn't such a bad "portage yoke" either (it's all I ever use unless I'm carrying the boat a truly long distance). Also, there are some really nice portage yokes that clamp right onto the center seat - nifty! Giving up the existing center thwart as a portage yoke seems like a small price to pay for vastly improved boat-handling! Just do as has been suggested, and install another thwart right behind the seat, to help maintain the right gunwale & hull shape. One thing to keep in mind too, is that if the seat is mounted on a slope for kneeling, and IF you mount it high enough with the rear of the seat right against the gunwale, the rear rail of the seat will act much like a thwart (this won't be the case if the rear rail is "hung" below the gunwale).

A drop-in box type seat will work -
Here is an example, although you can improvise on this

in many ways.

As long as you are not doing white water, this is ok.

Should have some non-slip bottom, all the same.

It can be adjusted from front to back for trim.

The near center position will improve everything,

including efficiency and control.

Good luck!

Thanks for the help folks…
The drop in box is simple but I do get into some class I & II so probably won’t work for me. Since I’m 6’ 4" putting the thwart behind center seat will be tight for tandem but I think it will work. I’ll get the seat in and go from there, may look at putting thwart forward, between center & bow seats.

Now I have time to post a photo
Keep in mind the camera angle compresses things a bit. It’s roomier than it looks.

The main disadvantage to the added seat (besides added weight) is that it is a little cramped for poling, but this isn’t my primary poling boat. Even so, I can still do mild poling in it.

Notice the carrying thwart - it has quick-release clips bolted to the hull. The clips were a special order part, but they really aren’t anything more than aluminum strap hinges with large clip pins instead of hinge pins. The “frame” side of the hinge goes horizontally against the hull under the gun’l with the pin loops down and the strap or “door” side of the hinge bolts to the underside of the thwart. Line up the sides of the hinge and insert pins, and you’re off and carrying. You have to shave a little off the ends of the thwart to accommodate the thickness of the hinge.

Not really center
Should center seats really be in the center?

Personally, I don’t think so. I think the center of gravity should be a little behind the center of the canoe. Especially for a boat to be used in whitewater, you want to be able to dominate the stern with control strokes, and sitting a bit behind center-boat makes this easier.

If you position your center seat so that when kneeling, your knees fall a little behind the center thwart, you can probably just leave that thwart there.

In the MRE I just sold, I wanted a big bay in front of the center seat. I rigged the seat so it is tight to the side of the boat and used seat truss to increase the stiffness of the seat mount. I don’t think it suffered from lack of a center twhart.

Carrying in the MRE was accomplished with a carry-strap. I like using a strap but use of a quick release buckle made me nervous, because the Explorer was only a bit lighter than the Chipewayan, and the buckle broke on the Chipewayan’s strap.

Steve, I’d like to know more about your temporary thwart, and what’s this about aluminum hinges? What does that do for a carry thwart?

I suggest you convert to a center seat. It’s definately worth it for solo use. If you get store bought, look for something with a wide seat. The strapped area on the Explorer’s seat is too narrow, as I frequently want to shift weight to one side and my ass falls through the holes!


Aft of center

– Last Updated: Oct-12-09 2:04 PM EST –

Chip - I don't know about having room behind the center thwart....My center seat's leading edge is right at 8.5" aft of center. Not enough room to leave the thwart in place without possible entrapment. Maybe I can't make really aggressive turning strokes to the rear, but I can still make a fairly effective Duffek or bow rudder with some reaching from that seat. It's not a whitewater boat anyway...

For me, the boat trims out pretty good sitting there (slightly bow-high) and kneeling against the center seat brings the bow down a little when needed.

The "hinge"...

This photo might be clearer...

BTW - I'm not entirely sure the added thwart behind the center seat was necessary, but this is an old boat that's seen a lot of abuse and neglect - so I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea.

Yes, and furthermore…
…the seat is NOT the centerpoint of your mass. Your center of mass will be forward of the seat, so even if you wanted the boat to be “perfectly” in trim from front to back with no other load onboard, you’d want the seat to be a little to the rear of center.

Oh yes…
…if I were doing it again, I would make the webbed portion of the seat wider than I did.

Thanks everybody…
I appreciate the coaching and the pics. Steve, your boat is set up exactly like what I had in mind. I’m going to go without the rear thwart, will put one forward, just far enough to give me leg room. That should also make a nice hand-hold when carrying it. I’ll have to get creative attaching the hinges, my gunnels are square tubing, but I think I can figure a way to make 'em work and stay tucked under gunnel. You mentioned special ordering, what did you need that you couldn’t get at the hardware store?

I put a wide cane seat ,
… just aft of center in my Mad River Royalex Explorer, which was my first canoe. I removed the center thwart.

Paddled it that way for many years in white and flat water both from the center of the seat and with knees in the bilge Algonquin style.

In the rare cases I need a portage thwart in the center of that canoe, I use a clamp on one that I made.

All of the parts…

– Last Updated: Oct-14-09 11:30 AM EST –

...could be found in a hardware store, Jim. Or you could order it as a kit...

You can see in the photo that it's really nothing more than just a strap hinge and mounting hardware with clip pins - but it includes instructions.

Doesn't matter what material your gun'l is because you can just drill bolt holes in the hull just below it for one half of the "hinge".

Yep…figured that out after I posted
Hoping to find a hinge I can cut down and use existing holes. Would rather not drill hull below gunnel but will if I don’t have room to mount hinge on bottom side. This is my first canoe and already wishing I’d held out ‘til I found a 16’ but this not canoe country and you don’t find many decent used river canoes. Would like to keep mods as clean as i can for resale when the right one does show up!