How does a tandem paddle as a solo?

I occasionally would like a tandem kayak, but one can own only so many kayaks. I paddle all winter in Upstate NY and I figure a nice wide tandem couldn’t possibly capsize, so I would get some use out of it that way.

But how do they paddle solo? Does the weight being unbalance have a big effect, or are they so wide it doesn’t much matter.

I am specifically thinking of a Wilderness Sea Two available cheaply nearby, but just in general…

If you are a big strong guy… go for it
There is a guy that does the 300 mile Everglades Challenge every year that paddles a 23 foot long tandem kayak by himself, but he is a young, big, strong guy.

I am a 155 pound old weakling who is a strong paddler and would never even consider paddling one solo.

See if there is some place where you could rent one or if you can find someone who will let you try theirs out prior to springing for one.

I know of several outfitters that rent them

Jack L

get one that works for both

– Last Updated: Nov-02-14 3:47 PM EST –

Tandems are brutally heavy which is another reason they are a pain for solo paddlers. That Sea Two weight 90 pounds!! It's a real barge. I have a better suggestion:

There's a Pakboat Saranac for sale on eBay (bids end tomorrow) that is a stable recreational kayak that can be set up as both a tandem or a solo. It's a folding kayak, super light at around 30 lbs. compared to standard plastic boats.

The Saranachas removable decks, one single and one double and the seats can be moved within the hull depending on how many paddlers are using it. You can use it with or without the decks as an open boat or closed deck kayak.

These are well made boats, easy to set up and very tough and pleasant to paddle. Look on the Pakboat website for more info -- there are YouTube videos of people using Pakboats if you want to see how they perform. Besides the aluminum frame, they have inflatable sponson tubes down the side which makes them very buoyant and stable.

The seller only wants $850 as the "buy now" price, which is less than half what it's worth with all the accessories. If I did not already have too many kayaks (including a smaller Pakboat, the solo 12' version of this boat for sale) I would buy it.

Plus, besides being versatile and light, you can pack it in a duffel bag and throw it in your car trunk or closet or take it on a plane as checked baggage. I have no connection with the seller, just hope somebody that really likes to kayak takes advantage of this deal.

why getting?

– Last Updated: Nov-03-14 11:39 AM EST –

Wasn't clear if you are getting this because you want a boat to take 2 people with, or you are getting it because you want a more table boat than a single?

If the former, it could work. You'd sit in the back seat when paddling solo. But it is an older boat, so doesn't have some of the comfort/benefits of newer boats.

If the latter, might be worth thinking again. Yes, many tandems are more stable. But that also could make them harder to re-enter and drain when you do find the way to flip it over (can happen with any boat). And that boat doesn't look to have a front hatch, so possibly doesn't have much flotation there to allow you to re-enter. Nor deck lines to allow you to easily hold on as you swim next to the boat. A better solution would be classes on how to re-enter and appropriate clothing to allow you to survive an unexpected swim.

somebody got a deal
I see that Pakboat went for $355 on Ebay yesterday. Somebody got a heck of a deal.

Willow, I don’t think it was sold
because if you check out the ‘original’ listing for the Pakboat, it says “Reserve not met”. I buy a bit from ebay and that usually means the item didn’t sell. I could be wrong but that’s been my experience.

It can be done
It can be done, but depends on the model. I would look for one with the rear cockpit closer to the middle of the boat, plus a rudder. Then be sure to put some weight in the front.

I knew a crazy Russion who did a 6-week solo expedition in the White Sea in a tandem, put his gear up front, paddled from the rear, had a great time.

I’ve done it
once or twice and found some were unusable as a single, some were just pigs to paddle, others are OK. If hull design is a factor smaller boats, the issues are amplified over longer boats.

Overall stability is, in my opinion, more due to paddling skill more than hull design. Width may increase initial stability (the temptation of the boat to heel over in response to wave forces), but the ease of capsize does not change a great deal in a wider boat - it just is slower to heel over. Once the boat begins to heel, most “stable” boats fail to stay upright just as easily as some of the tippiest boats.

So, if it is initial stability you want to have, the wider double probably has some advantages in that area.

The weight of doubles, as someone has pointed out, can be rather excessive. One could find an inflatable or folding boat (or even a modular one), which tend to be considerably lighter, but you may suffer quite a performance hit. These tend to be pricey.

The last option is the wood boats. The Pygmy osprey, for example, comes in double and triple cockpit. The 20 foot long hull only weighs 60/64 lbs. (most doubles will be 20-30 lbs. heavier). Kevlar layups will be somewhere in between those weights, but will cost as much as a wooden hull.

These are expensive, but gorgeous, but the lighter weight may be worth the price. The downside is the assembly (unless you want to do that - always been a temptation to me), the high cost and (probably) higher maintenance. Other companies also make double designs, I just chose the since spelling Guillemot is a pain in the ass and I don’t know if they have a double design.