Dedicated solo canoe or tandem?

-- Last Updated: May-18-16 12:23 PM EST --

Looking for opinions and experience on the pros and cons of buying a dedicated solo canoe, or just finding a tandem that will paddle well solo.

I'd say that weight and cost are two of my main considerations (I know, they work in opposite directions!). Ideally, I'm looking for a used one, but there don't seem to be many used solos available.

I currently have 2 canoes: 1) A Wenonah Sundowner 18 in Tuf-Weave (just acquired), which seems too large to paddle solo (though I haven't tried) and too heavy to take off the roof rack by myself. 2) A Watermark Cahaba 15 (royalex), which I have been using solo. The problem is it's too wide and flat-bottomed to paddle very well solo. At 59 lbs, it's at the upper limit of what I can comfortably put on and take off the roof rack by myself.

I'm 6'2", 240 lbs, and paddle mostly lakes and relatively calm rivers - no whitewater. Mostly for day trips, but I want enough capacity for camping trips a few times a years.

Not many.
A solo canoe will paddle better solo than a tandem, as the latter requires a third seat at the third thwart position, placing the paddler too far aft of the bow to control it with draws and cross draws. The other tandem alternative placed the paddler near center; the hulls width precluding cross strokes and maneuvers.

OP did not mention his preferred stance in the hull, sitting or kneeling, nor his preferred paddle single blade straight, single blade bent or double blade. An estimate of usual burden would also be helpful, are we camping for two weeks or fishing for a couple hours in good weather?

I maintain a list of all available solo canoes, gladly forward same, [email], but it’s useless until stance, paddle and maximum burden are addressed.

more info

– Last Updated: May-18-16 12:22 PM EST –

I usually alternate between sitting and kneeling, depending on conditions and to relieve stiffness/soreness. I've only ever used straight single-blade paddles. The longest trips I have taken in the canoe have been 3-4 days.

I should also add that I'd rate myself as somewhere between novice and intermediate paddler.

wide field
of choices. If I were looking for your hull… ?<br />

The BWCA paddlers could help, Piragis online,… ?

Big Lake heavy camping people.

BWCA has forums, Blogs.

I have solo river canoes in royalex, a SOLO Plus and a Rendezvous. Terrific but not enough straight keel glide function in the Plus.

I’m told the Voyaguer and Encounter have too much keel

for crooked river.

After paddling solo hulls is obvious there’s no reason for paddling a 2 seater solo or a solo 2 seater.

OT penny
I have been solo paddling my OT penobscot for years, might be hard to find a used one

Well Then

– Last Updated: May-19-16 8:46 AM EST –

Something 15' and up in length by 29" and up in width. It should have differential rocker. There are not a lot; should be more, but... And get a kneeling pad, the Bag Lady has the best.

Colden's StarFire is too loose in the stern to please you.

Hemlock's Eaglet would be a good choice.

NorthStar's NorthWoods Solo differentially rockered; take a look at the bottom.

Souris River's Tranquility Solo, but no rocker

Swift's Keewaydin 15 or Shearwater both differentially rockered

WeNoNah's Wilderness but has no rocker.

Used solos
I see you’re in Wisconsin (though its a big enough state and I don’t know exactly where you are), but you might want to try stopping in at Carl’s Paddlin’ in Lone Rock. He has a lot of used (and new) solo canoes in stock and most are in good condition. Rutabaga in Madison is another option, but I don’t see any used solos in their inventory right now.

Solo definitely better

– Last Updated: May-18-16 7:01 PM EST –

Several reasons that a solo boat is better have been mentioned, but another one is what happens when there's a decent amount of wind (and that seems to be the case more often than not). It's definitely worth looking for a solo boat, but if you found a fantastic deal on something like one of the shorter Penobscot models or an old Bell Morningstar, that would be a good start.

On the loading issue, here I am on my soap box again saying there's absolutely no need to lift more than a fraction of the boat's weight up high. Some minor rack modifications will make it possible to do all the worst of the lifting with your hands no higher than your waist. Have you tried adding a load-assist bar? This is where one cross bar is extended out in the opposite direction as the roof, so you can just walk up alongside the car with the canoe on your shoulders and park the boat slanted up onto that bar. Once you park the boat there and step out from under it, you won't have to lift more than about one-third of the boat's weight when loading it the rest of the way.

There are other ways to accomplish this too.

Of course, getting a lighter boat is the best option, but trust me, it's STILL nice when you don't have to lift the boat's entire weight high up onto the rack.

Definitely solo boat
I am 6’, 220 lbs., so a little smaller than you, and and I’ve paddled a 14 foot Bell Yellowstone Solo for years. I can get gear in it for a 3-4 day trip easily. Comparable boats in royalex that you may be able to find used are the Wenonah Argosy (maybe the Vagabond), the Mohawk Odyssey and Solo 14. I recently got a used whitegold Wildfire that I’ll be taking out for a 3 night trip on Memorial Day weekend. I think all of the manufactures mentioned by Charlie have a 14 foot boat. Might be worth checking out - especially if you do more rivers than lakes. A new composite boat will put a huge hole in the pocketbook, but even used rolex boats are getting more expensive.

Good luck.

A good friend also paddles his Penobscot
solo, and he is the size of the OP.

We have a OT Penobscot 16, and we mostly paddle it tandem, but it would be a great solo boat if I rigged it with a center seat or pedestal

Jack L

Cost of a New Solo Boat
Nothing paddles like a good solo canoe. I use mine far more than I use my 2 man Kevlar Cruiser. As I have aged many of my old time paddling friends have died or can no longer get in a canoe. I still love to paddle and I use my solos about 5 times a week from March to November. Even when my grandson goes he prefers to take a solo boat and he has done so since he was 9.

When I turned 70 a couple of my solo canoes were getting heavy to load and unload so I bought a new Swift Osprey Carbon Fusion solo that weighs 27 pounds.

This solo cast me about $3000 but my journal shows I have used it about 400 times. That averages out to $7.50 a trip and I could sell it for 2/3’s of what I paid for it. Compare that to golf or just about any other form of outdoor recreation!!!

I’ve got
a Wenonah Wilderness for pretty much the same kind of paddling. Works well and isn’t all that heavy (~50 lbs in royalex). I like the option of being able to move the seat for kneeling, sitting high for single blade, or sitting low for a kayak paddle. I weigh 180 lbs, and I think it would be a better boat for someone heavier, particularly loaded.

Thanks - I’ve seen those load-assist bars (online) and meant to research that a bit more. I’ll have to see what type of set-up might work with an Outback roof rack.

How wide is too wide?
Thanks for all the recommendations.

Any suggestions for a maximum width to paddle solo?

Thanks for all the info and suggestions so far!

No yokes on solos?
So I’ve been looking at a lot of solo canoes online, and noticed that most don’t have portage yokes. How do folks generally carry a solo?

If not carrying really far, …
… I just use the front edge of the seat. The folks I paddle with generally seem to do the same. It works pretty well for average distances between the car and the water, but for carries of any substantial distance, a yoke is more comfortable. There are clamp-on yokes that you can buy. The guy here who calls himself c2g has pictures posted somewhere online showing his method for setting up a quick-release yoke. He did a really good job on it, and it might be worth asking to see where those shots are posted.

Detachable solo yoke
You can carry quite comfortably without any hard edge biting into your neck

In Algonquin routinely carry some two miles a day for ten days or so

Thanks for the info about detachable/clamp-on yokes.

Why don’t solos have yokes in the first place? Because they can’t be installed in the center? I suppose the canoe wouldn’t be balanced very well on your shoulders if it is off center.

The leading edge of the seat is very close to the balancing point.