How to trim a canoe?

We just bought a canoe. It is a Wenonah and has a sliding bow seat. I was thinking I would set it on the ground and measure up from the ground and put some graduated marks on the bow and stearn. Then have someone observe from shore while we slide the seat forward and back. Then I could mark the spot that was level for each of us in the bow. Is there an easier way? Has anyone ever done this before? I have no experience with a sliding bow seat.

trimming Wenonah
Don’t know what your Wenonah is made of, but mine is thin enough that I can see the water line through the hull when backlit. Still, my wife and I usually adjust the canoe trim by how the canoe handles in a particular situation, rather than trying to achieve a uniform displacement.

Good Advice…
from the above posts. I’d add two things. What feels best to you is what is best. One of my paddleing friends likes boats trimmed more bow heavy than I do – its just a personal prefrence.

Also, some boats may be more fussy about trim than others. My old Cruiser had a striaght keel line and fine stems. It tracked great. It did not turn as well/easily as more rocker boats, however, and so I very often ran it a little stern heavy to help manuverability.

Have fun with it and you’ll get the feel for what you like.

Trim marks
I have two long lake cruisers and I have put trim marks on the inside at the 4" waterline on both. I agree that if you always paddle with the same load and the same partner that trim marks are unnecessary. In my case I’m a big guy (about 265 lbs) and I occasional paddle with different bowmen and differing weights of cargo. In these situations I find the trim marks most useful and the fastest way to get the canoe trimmed and get going. I set up wide top saw horses and put the canoe upright on these. Leveled the canoe front to back and side to side and shimmed it securely on the sawhorses. I used a 3’ carpenter level on the inside of the canoe: along the mid line, mid ship on the bottom for front to back; used the center thwart for side to side level. Sat on the floor under the canoe, clamped on a carpenter square to extend the level, and leveled crosswise on the bottom center of the hull. On the outside of the canoe I marked the 4" line reading off the carpenter square. Then I set up an inexpensive laser level on a tripod about 15’ perpendicular to the center of the canoe. The laser is able to project a horizontal line. Set the laser to the 4" line you just marked. Turn off the lights and you can see the laser line through a composite boat to make marks on the inside. I used a sharpie marker to mark in the bow where the bowman can see, in the stern where the sternman can see, and also in the center - which I find handy.

you should have
seen the trim my friend Roadkill put on the canoe he borrowed. The frt. half was out of the water!

Trim Marks
My buddy put trim marks on both of his canoes and in some cases it helps but I think that you can tell without them on there as well by just eyeballing. Also, Mike’s opinion about changing trim for different waters is right on the mark. Especially if you are poling! Found that out the hard way on the Mattawamkeag at 7000cfs. Made for a long day.

Either way you’ll figure it out as you use your new canoe more. Personally I think they look real nice but I’m just to damn lazy to put them on my boats.


I use trim marks
on all of the boats I paddle. Generally if it is stock boat I will read the specifications then measure down. stern 17 inches I will measure down 13 inches and put a tape or a sharpie mark. ditto for the bow. Then when I start paddling I watch the waater in the bilge. I want the water more or less level when I am paddling at a high cruise. When we stop I hope the water goes forward. It probobly doesn’t matter But it gives me an excuse to not do the dishes and putz around outside…fplus it is a great converstion starter. look for the prettiest girl around and ask her to check your trim… works alot better then the old etchings line…

colored lights and
tinsel is nice. Not many places to hang ornaments

easy way
Put the boat in the water…no one in it.

Put a piece of tape at the waterline on the bow and stern. This shows the trim with no weight in the boat.

Now get both of you in it.

Have someone LOOK at the tape to see if either the bow or stern tape are abouve or below the water with weight in the boat.

If the bow is submerged and the stern in way above water…adjust the seats.

Same for vise versa.

YOu want the bow to be slightly lower than the stern…reason is…when the boat is gliding along as speed, the bow is naturally lifted out of the water…it rides on the cusion of water caused by displacement…thus the boat is trim.

Adjust trim according to wind and waves action. A heavey bow can help when it get rough.

All this is basically meaningless unless you are really trying to be effiecient, which is usually the case in racing or speed etc. It wont make a bit of difference if you just out for the day or month with no real EXACT time restricions.

EXCEPT when you talking about wind and waves…then trim is important.

And to add to it…
…after you take the boat out of the water, replace the tape with permanent black marker, and add another mark or two at inch intervals.

Then have some one on the shore advise as to your trim and adjust the seats forward or back acordingly.



I’d think of trimming
I’d think of trimming the canoe with a chainsaw… it’s fast and cuts through the rails, and the hull. Lots of fun!!!