first time canoe solo with canoe paddle

I give, whats the trick to solo canoeing with a canoe paddle? Im not at all experienced with soloing a canoe. Ive been paddling for a few years but not solo. I gave it my best shot at a “J” stroke and made some headway but it seemed like a huge amount of effort and forget paddling into the wind. I thought I understood the “j” stroke but I think I may be doing something wrong. Can someone explain this to me. Im kinda slow, maybe draw me a picture.

I execute a standard stroke, pulling towards me slightly then at the back end of the stroke, I give a flip either to the inside or outside, I tried both, before bringing the paddle out of the water. I can hold course this way but it seems like alot of effort for little return. Today there was a fairly strong wind. If I tried it into the wind, I would lose most all of my momentum at the end of each stroke and had to resort to just digging to make any ground.

Other than my inability to use the canoe paddle, I was very pleased with the performance of my little OT Pack. I did take my kayak paddle along and I switched off occasionally. I thought the Pack felt slightly tippy for about the first 10 minutes then I was over that. I also thought it excelarated well and tracked well when I used the kayak paddle. Overall Im very happy with the little boat so far, I just need to work on my paddling technique for this boat.

yak paddle
A yak paddle is very fast. There iso doubt about it. However I like a single blade. It just feels right to me. I do not know the pack. I paddle a Vagabond. It is my first solo and I have not had it that long. I find that it is helpful to lean the canoe to the side you are paddling on. It helps with tracking. Also, the directional part of the stroke should be short. If you are making a negative stroke you are basically braking. There is also the c stroke where you draw in at the start of the stroke and pry out at the end. Try to think of it as more of a rudder than a pry.

You will never be as fast with a single blade as with a double. You may want to take a trip to the library. I went to my local one and found 3 books on canoeing. I live in ohio where canoeing is not a huge sport and was suprised at what I found. good luck

Pack was my first solo,…
…and I thnk it’s a great boat. In the interests of better tracking/speed, I moved to a WNN Sandpiper, which was less stable than I can handle, and now own a Vagabond, which seems about right, altho on the heavy side for me. From the outset, I’ve used a double paddle, and although I carry a single as backup and for a change of pace, rarely use it, so am not expert. However, when I do use it well, I’m doing a C stroke of sorts. One of the basic solo books describes it well, but I can’t remember which one. Basically, you’re drawing in front and prying at the rear, but not severely with either, and you’re stroking forward always, unlike the J, which seems more like a rudder to me. I’m sure better paddlers will chime in on this. For me, the double meets 95% of my needs.

Pack a special case?
Isn’t the pack kind of in the family of the Rushton canoes? They were intended for double blade use. When all is tried you may have your best results with the double.

The pack’s short length and hull design don’t lend themselves to great tracking. Even working on the c-stroke as, krebs and tapelgan well described, is going to take you only so far in terms of straight tracking – that isn’t to say give up on it. Just know that you’ve got some boat limitations in that regard and keep your expectations reasonable.

You might also try the hit and switch style, getting into a candence of 2 or 3 strokes on a side then switching sides. This was developed with hard tracking boats though I think so I’m not sure it would work great for the pack.

Enjoy your boat. They sure look like fun. And give yourself some time to work out steering.

Elegant Solo Paddling
For my .02 the single blade is an elegant approach to canoeing. Properly executed the single blade solo can pace a kayak or a tandem canoe of double bladers. Speed is not the issue…it all comes down to experience, technique and hull design.

Start off properly and try not to develop bad habits and sloppy technique. I’d suggest you secure a copy of Bill Mason’s Path of the Paddle. Get the video and you’ll have the opportunity to see not only the J properly executed but you’ll also be exposed to a range of strokes and skills that will serve as your basic skill kit. View his examples, practice in good conditions and then begin to push the margin as you gain competence with your boat and technique. Explore more challenging environments (wind, big water, etc.) and learn the characteristics of your boat. You might even consider other hull designs as you discover your paddling preferences.

With advancing experience with boats and conditions you’ll develop additional refinements that will allow you a more pleasurable paddling experience. Once mastered, you’ll not look back at the double blade.

I refer to my double blade as the
’equalizer’. I practice with my single blade and enjoy it. I can’t kneel, so there’s more to work out to allow me to do what the rest of the gang is doing. If I’m paddling with tandems, out in a wind, or need to do a lot of back ferries, I use my doubleblade. It also works well in shallow water where it’s harder to get a good bite. It has added a lot of comfort and confidence to my solo paddling. One of our ACA instructors said it makes a lot of sense in my situation.

The comment about ‘might as well get a kayak if I’m going to use a doubleblade’ is a common thought. My physical limitations make getting in and out of a kayak very difficult and less safe. I would be limited to a rec kayak. My solo canoe is easier for me to handle and I can haul more stuff.

My opinion would be to practice with your single blade and bring the double blade as a backup. Bill Mason’s videos are great and will help. My skill level improved quickly when I took lessons. We belong to a club and also took pool sessions. It really helps to have instructors and experienced paddlers giving you immediate feedback and good technique.

It gets better…
the more you practice. I do suggest to learn the “proper” techniques, but in the end you will learn that a combination of styles will suit you best.

I started with the infamous “goon” stroke as Mason calls it… never having seen or been instructed I thought I was doinG the “J” stroke - nope. Only question I have is, when you end your stroke is your thumb up or down? Thats how you tell the difference… up - J, down - goon. Neither is wrong and both will suit you well.

I now use primarily a bent-shaft paddle and can easily stay with a kayaker, in fact another very skilled and famous paddler, Verlyn Kruger states that a single blade is more effecient and better than a double.

So, either way… single or double, it all boils down to how you apply it to the water…

Good luck and have fun.



Pack is a very short boat
As canoe solos go, this hull is very short, very shallow, very flat bottomed, and very wide. It takes so many cubic feet of water displaced to float a given paddlers weight, short boats get wide so they don’t sink too deep and drag the bottom. Longer solos can be narrow and have the same buoyancy. The flat bottom makes is initally very stable, which is good for it intended usuage; but limits how well it can be leaned and paddled from the side. The Bill Mason videos the others refer to are excellent training videos. But remember that he is paddling a 16’ tandem as a solo, and leaning it to purposely shorten the waterline to make turning easier, and to narrow the waterline to give less resistance. Try this in your pack and the 12’ waterline becomes 10’ or less and you have lost significant buoyancy. The canoe will be gunwale deep on your paddling side and even harder to keep straight. And the Chestnut Prospector Mr. Mason favored has a very rounded bottom, it gets more stable leaned against the side of the hull. Your Pack is flat-bottomed. Leaning it over makes it unstable. Flat bottomed hulls feel great sitting straight up, but as they are leaned less and less of the hull is in the water and they tend to turn turtle suddenly.

This is a dandy little solo used in its intended manner, recreational paddling in quiet water, tight stream, narrow backwaters. It a canoe for fishing small streams, remote ponds, calm water. Number 2 son had one for several years, he would float down the local streams and fill it with fish. He could sit in the smallest eddy, poke among the flooded swamps, and carry the little hull one handed. But he only took it up the Raquette River one time, we waited over an hour for him to get to camp when we had paddled upstream only three miles.

Go slowly, don’t apply too much power with each stroke until you have the correction at the end of your C-stroke worked out. The Pack can turn almost 90 with a well placed sweep stroke, so a little power out of control will keep you wandering from side to side.

And if you want to travel far and fast, look at other solos suited to this type of paddling.

One thing to keep in mind
your boat is very wide. The further the paddle is from the centerline of the boat the more correction it will take to keep her straight after a stroke. One way to aid you in going straight and keep up your speed up is underwater recovery.

As you roll the blade for the J–leave your paddle in the water, slip it edge first towards the bow in the water, then roll it back to make your next stroke. By doing this, if you need more correction to keep the boat straight you can do a little draw at the bow before rolling it back into a paddling position.

I find when I underwater recover, I tend to travel at greater speeds with not much more effort. It takes some getting used to but it is really nice when you “get in groove”.

Weighting down the bow a bit
might help with keeping the oncoming wind from pushing the boat around. Of course, bear in mind I say that knowing nothing about this canoe. Still, the less of the bow that can catch the wind, and the more of the bow that is in the water doing its best to track forward, the better chance you have. You can shift yourself or your gear forward a bit. Good luck and have fun!

  • disclaimer: I’m a novice.

Trim depends on wind direction
From the front–bow down, From the rear, stern down. From the side–equal.

Think of the boat as a weathervane. The part that is out of the water goes with the wind.

Pack is stable when heeled
It has good final stability. You can heel it to the rail. If you keep your head within the rails you wont tip over; it wont turtle. Most flat bottomed boats have a lot of tumblehome(tuck back in at the rail) and if not properly designed will turtle over. Its the shape of the side and the shape of the rurn of the bilge and the half of the bottom thats in the water that influences final stability. That means there are three factors here, and the Pack does everything right as opposed to the average Grumman, which heels to about 2 inches from the water then flips.

Heeling may not even be of interest to you, you can do just as much as necessary to get a vertical paddle plant.

The thumb is down at the end of the J.
Thumb up is a ‘goon’ or rudder/pry and will cause a braking action. It really slows you down and causes more work. There are times to use it to make a strong, quick correction in strong current. When you do your power stroke and J-stroke, make sure your grip hand is out over the gunwale. The paddle shaft should be vertical. Hold the paddle shaft about shoulder width from your grip hand. It’s much harder to get the paddle in the right position if you hold the shaft down by the blade. Plant the paddle in the water about 2’ in front of your hip. Rotate your upper body to face the gunwale as you bring your hip to the paddle. (Think of your paddle being stuck in a bucket of mud. The boat moves to the paddle. You aren’t moving the water.)The stroke ends at your hip.(much past the hip just lifts water and slows you down)As you finish the stroke, turn your grip hand so the thumb points down and the blade is parallel to the hull. Push the blade away from the hull for the correction part of the stroke. More push produces more correction. Then either slice the blade out of the water or do an underwater reovery. Practice feathering an out of water recovery so that when you are in wind it is part of your normal routine.

Some cues that I try to keep in mind:

Face your work. Vertical shaft. Plant the paddle and Rotate the torso. Hip to paddle. (you’re moving the boat to the planted paddle)

If you’re in a correct position when you finish your stroke, you should be able to drop your paddle and have it land in the water, parallel to the hull. (This is before you recover and rotate back to the ‘start’ position.)

Keep your upper body upright and relaxed. Breathe and SMILE!

Paddle safe and have fun!

Drop the J
And try a pitch stroke. You’ll read about it in Mason’s book.

For turning into the wind, rotate your paddle underwater during the recovery of a short “C” stroke.

Experimenting and playing around is the best part.

my bad… pamskee was correct… up goon, down J…

Thanks for catching that…