Converting canoe to rowing craft.

My canoe sits wasting away in the back yard since I got into kayak fishing. Its a fiberglas Mohawk 17 foot tandem. I never cared for fishing from it because even sitting in the bow seat when paddling solo, it rode too high in the front, too low in the rear, caught too much wind, and was a general pain in the rear. I have no desire to load up the 70 or so pounds of water or weights that may help that, though may do so when I start taking out my grandson next spring.

I’m now thinking about setting it up for rowing. Will I need to take out the center twhart? I’ve heard that Old Town makes a good set of oar locks for canoes, any other suggestions? Would love to install a sliding seat, but probably not in the budget, so plan on going with a regualar web strap seat. What’s the best placement for it? Even better, is there somewhere on the net that I can find good instructions for converting to rowing?

If you something, let me know
I’m working out these issues through trial and error on a 16’ Scanoe. I could just put a trolling motor on it (and probably will for fishing from it). However, I want the rowing station for the same reason you do. I want to take my girls out, let them paddle the boat, and have a way to fix anything they do before it becomes a problem. The water I’ll be taking them onto doesn’t have anything over a class I, but still, it’s a Daddy’s (or Grand-daddy’s) perogative to be cautious.

I am putting in a bench seat just behind the center of the boat. The oar locks will be just in front of the center of the boat. I have a second bar below the center thwart so that I can lock in my feet from the seat for extra power. It’s going to be a forward rower. I’ll send you pictures when I get it working - but don’t be in a big hurry. I’ve been diddling with it all summer and keep thinking I’m one modification away from having it working.

My thinking is that my kids are small and light. I can load tackle or cooler or whatever I need to counter-balance them. But I’m big and heavy, so I set myself up over the c of g - which in this boat is just rear of center. I do have to warn you that my thinking is likely to be muddled by a lack of experience. This is my first attempt at modifying a canoe.

  • Big D

Foward rowing souds good. I’m thinking
that the rowing option may also good for my drift fishing. When there’s not wind, it appears to be easier to maintain a steady drift with oars than a kayak paddle, Also, could carry one, even two 54 quart igloos to keep the fish I catch on ice. Its a good size tandem. I’ve always liked the way it paddles and its atability. Sharp entry into the water, but broad, not too broad though, of beam. Don’t remember the model, its over 20 years old. Been patched and painted…big tree branch fell on it in a windstorm. Bent the gunwale (aluminum) and broke a small bit of glass.

I’m in no hurry for the conversion. Am interested in the forward rowing option. though I must admit, I’m a backwards drifter…allows me to watch my lines better.

Big D, I looked at some of those
forward rowing options on the internet, I’d be better off saving my money and getting a Hobie peddle system those things were expensive, nice, but expensive.

Not planning to use a contraption
I’m planning to sit in a seat and push the oars instead of pull them. Low tech all the way.

  • Big D

The limitation with a canoe rowing set up is where/How to get the oars out away from the gunnels so you can develop enough swing and power from the oars. Most rec canoes are up to 36" wide that does not give you enough width. Think maybe about a Jon boat for that type of float fishing. You would still be in the center and have enough room for the girls. Most jon boats also have floatation built in the seats.


Good advice. Slight problem for me.
Seems like the same problem that Jerlfletcher has.

I have a canoe.

I don’t have a jon boat.

I did two miles with oars too short and a station that busted after the first few strokes. With longer oars and a sturdier station, it’ll be OK. I’m not looking for the best solution, just one that works.

  • Big D

Other sources
I recently put a center seat in my 16’ Penobscot. The difference it makes in handling the canoe solo in the wind is outstanding. No more lugging extra weight to try and trim the canoe out. It now tracks much straighter and no more fighting headwinds or tailwinds as I did when paddling from the bow seat “backwards.” I enjoy it enough that I may have change my screenname to Canoeangler.

Other options for converting your canoe to a rower.

Other Ideas
Great link. I really like that clamp on outrigger for a quick canoe to rowboat conversion!

I’ve been using a rowing canoe for a while now. For fishing I’d definately skip the sliding seat, you’ll only notice a difference in speed with a very skinnny long boat.

You can row facing backwards from the bow seat if you add a bucket of water or a couple gallon jugs of water to the other end of the canoe. For narrower canoes I’d add outriggers to spread the oarlocks between 38 and 44 inches apart for 7 foot oars.

I get the best results setting up the boat so the oarlocks are 10 inches from the edge of the seat. I like the oar handles just above my navel when the oars are help level.

If you use oarlocks that clamp the oars in one position then they are always ready in the right position. Others may want other oarlocks for more versatility in wind or rough water.

I’m collecting and sharing new rowboat set up Ideas on:

So feel free to join my group or look for ideas there as well.

I’ve had a jon boat. Even though mine
was a deep and wide, it scared me to death everytime the wind kicked up and the waves white capped on the lakes I fished, even though I stayed within a couple of hundred feet of shore. And, a jon boat, with or without oar locks, is a pain in the rear to paddle. Something about all that squareness creating a lot of drag on the water. If I wanted to buy a rowing boat, I’d get a V bottom designed to row. But, I can’t afford that, so its the canoe that gets looked at.

Front Rowing mechanism

– Last Updated: Sep-01-06 9:47 AM EST –

I thought I remembered this thread...found some REALLY interesting and SIMPLE ideas for you guys interested in front rowing:

Calhoun Boat Works Tiptonville Tennessee

The most unique feature of the boat is the bow facing oars. These ratcheted oars allow you to see where you're going while rowing, which was a necessity in the early years of Reelfoot. The design of the oars is another vague historical fact. It's not exactly clear when they were first used. But, the patent for these oars was created in 1884 by Fred Allen of Monmouth, Il.

Dale Calhoun now owns the patent to the bow-facing oars and still builds lake boats to this day. Boats and bow-facing oars are shipped all over the world from his little shop in Tiptonville. The shop has moved a couple of times over the years and currently resides on the Lake Highway across from the State Park Museum. You'll see Dale sitting on the front porch every now and then, when he's not working. But more likely than not, he's back in the shop creating another masterpiece for future generations to admire. As he says, "Some of us have to work for a living". Keep up the good work Mr. Calhoun!

another site with plans for sale to built your own :

– Last Updated: Sep-08-06 5:59 AM EST –

their site has good info about what size oars to use plus they have good prices. i used plywood parallelogram-shaped outriggers with a thwart underneath to brace them when i rowed my mohawk, it was a very sweet rowboat with pinned 7' oars. that essex system looks very cool, it looks like you could adjust the distance between the oarlocks for different oar lengths.

Very cool
I may try to build a variant of this idea that will raise the oars up a little and put them out to the side a bit more.

On the other hand, for $64, this solution is tough to beat. It blows my $50 or less concept, but I’m beginning to think that’s not a reasonable goal. One more try and then it’s the $64 route.

  • Big D

another variation. . .

This might be your answer
Hi, you have a similar need to me.

Have a look at


While that is a neat invention, it
doesn’t look too good for fishing, to much to get in the way.

Canoe Rowing Conversion
You may want to check out the following site:

as it appears Bob Gillette has figured out how to do it himself. Not as pretty as the factory engineered rigs but you will be able to credit yourself.

rowing canoes
Hi! I would like to convert our 17-ft Chestnut canoe (wood/canvas) or 16 ft Old Town to a rowboat. Any ideas? Thanks!

conversion of canoes

I have the same question you have. Did you get some responses? Thanks, CCP, Houghton,MI

rowing 17’ canoes
Get yourself a rigid back stadium chair. Mount a two by four to the front underside. Attach an axil to it and the back and four six inch diameter lawn mower wheels. Now you have a rolling chair tilted slightly back.

Take out the center thwart and re-mount it about a foot towards the bow, if possible or just stern of the bow seat.

Put the seat in the canoe facing towards the stern. Sit in it with your feet/toes touching the stern seat. Bend your legs. Position 7’ oars on the gunnels for rowing. Mark the spots and mount oar locks onto the outside of the gunnels. You are set. good luck.