Kneeling thwart questions/source/danger?

I am in the process of installing a couple thwarts into my MR Explorer, and would like to also add a kneeling thwart. I have searched/read all I can on the forum, and it seems like the average placement is ~18" aft of the yoke centerline to the leading edge of the kneeling thwart


  1. Position…I think I am happy with the 18", looks like it will work well and leave plenty of room to the yoke, but let me know if I am overlooking something here.

  2. Where do I buy a thwart kit that has at least 3" of drop? The ONLY one I can find for sale is from Bell, and I believe it only has 2" of drop, which just isn’t enough. Actually I would prefer to get a 4" drop, then I could trim it to the ideal height.

  3. In all the threads that I read on the kneeling thwart, someone always mentions the entrapment hazard that is associated with kneeling on the thwart. I rarely hear people comment on the dangers of kneeling in a standard bench seat, I am curious why the kneeling thwart is considered more dangerous?

    Thanks again!

obstacle spread
if you have room to stretch lengthwise when upsided down your feet even big feet will twist sideways and out.

If you leave yourself only a foot you may not be able to straighten your leg.

Most often there is a good three feet in front of your seat to something else.

Try Ed’s Canoe for your parts. You can also easily make drops and thwarts at home if you are the least bit handy. Drilling the holes is a little testy, but not too hard.

Your dimensions sound fine. I am curious though- why so long on the drops?

I have never felt any danger of entrapment, but my feet are not real big (size 10) and I use very short drops. THe small drops are not because I worry about getting caught, just that it feels more comfortable leaning on a higher postion and it feels like I can get more paddle leverage.

Long drops…whoops!
Thanks Larryn for making me think more about the height! You are absolutely right, I do not need that long of a drop. After I read your post, I went out and ran a string across the gunwales at the thwart location, and 2" drop will be just about perfect. I think what I did initially was measure the drops on my stern seat, which is fairly comfortable for kneeling, and figured the kneeling thwart drops would have to be similar in height. What I forgot to take into consideration was the increased depth of the stern as compared to the mid section.

I looked at Ed’s Canoe for the parts, but he doesn’t have them listed on his website.

entrapment thoughts
I have a few boats that afford me the “luxury” of foot entrapment from time to time. I find TEMPORARY foot entrapment in the OPEN boats isn’t really much of an issue, as even without a roll, it’s pretty easy to at least get back to 90 degrees and have your head above water. There’s been a time or two I’ve floated downstream a bit with my feet caught, but realized the canoe will stay on its side, and my vest keeps me above water. Actually, the more rounded C1 eased my mind by doing this as well.

All my boats are bagged for flotation. Foot entrapment in something sinking negates my response ;-).

Eds Canoe
They don’t list kneeling thwarts on their website, but after a quick phone call, they will be sending me one made to MR specs in a few days. Can’t beat that!

Instead, why not put in a minicell
pedestal placing you just behind the center thwart or yoke.

Unless you embellish it with thigh straps and foot braces, a foam pedestal is safer for escape than a kneeling thwart. It provides better lateral support for the thighs, and if properly designed, can allow you to throw your legs forward for occasional sitting.

A foam pedestal cuts out any vestige of oil canning, and braces the hull in a pinning situation in a way that no kneeling thwart can do.

The one advantage of a kneeling thwart is if you like to go “Canadian” and shift to one side to heel the boat. I wouldn’t do that in an Explorer.

“Canadian”, some people would

– Last Updated: May-03-10 5:35 PM EST –

That boat is almost 36 inches wide, as are a whole lot of tandems. Heeling the boat "Canadian style" came about due to the width of such tandems at the kneeling location of a solo paddler. If it were my boat, I'd want to be able to shift my position a little to one side sometimes too. That'd be a long reach to paddle from dead-center under all conditions, even for me.

Another vote for a Minicell saddle
I’ve recently been using a saddle when soloing a Jensen 18… and have it just loose in the canoe. It’s got built in footpegs and when slid up to the yoke (off-centre, as the canoe’s ridiculously beamy) I can wedge myself pretty comfortably. It’s a flexible solution: I just move to where-ever feels comfortable and get on with paddling :slight_smile:

I’ve recently witnessed one illustrious canadian-style paddler perched on a stuffsac. She’d got a sleeping mat and such like in it when I noticed… but her view was very much “sit on whatever’s to hand”.

Minor thing: If you do go with a thwart, I’d consider even shorter drops - I’m not aware of any biomechanical advantage to be gained from a low stance. The highest you can find comfortable has always struck me as the way to go :slight_smile:

True Canadian Style solo
is done sitting on the heels. As most of us dont watch TV over the winter kneeling on our heels, Becky Mason’s bag of “peanuts” is not quite enough.

Lower might mean more stable but perhaps highe is a compromise for comfort and ease of getting around as in going from heel to not so heeled.

entrapment risk?
I take the risk of entrapment pretty seriously, but I think that the potential for leg entrapment from kneeling thwarts is overblown and more a theoretical consideration.

It seems to me that the potential for entrapment posed by a collapsing kayak wrapping on one’s legs is much greater. Doesn’t seem to be keeping people out of white water K1s.

I was paddling with Ed Gertler last year on the lower Yough. Ed has paddled just about everything in his old Hahn C-1. He showed me his outfitting. He basically sits on a low kneeling thwart.

I prefer pedestals for serious whitewater and agree they do offer more control, but I like kneeling thwarts just fine, and I do appreciate the ability to slide closer to the gunwale. Pedestals also create a stress-riser right at the front edge of the pedestal on the canoe bottom where it will sometimes crack, and they also seem to me to result in more abrasion on the hull bottom under the pedestal where the paddlers weight is concentrated.

no saddle

– Last Updated: May-03-10 7:01 PM EST –

in an MRE, personal opinion. Thwart takes less room, would allow stand up paddling and poling easily. Not understanding the big drops though; that's a real stable canoe, and the higher the thwart, the more foot room and better blade angle, as well as easier switching.
Same entrapment risk (I don't feel it's "danger" as long as the canoe is downstream it won't pin you into a rock or whatnot and generally that's the way things end up) as a seat. Our Reflection has a center seat, real low, and getting into kneeling position in this is about as tight as sitting in this one

I agree with Matt.

You may or may not find this thread useful:

I poled my Tripper with its foam saddle
with no problem. It depends on the details of the setup.

As a person with very large feet, I just cannot take the risk of using a kneeling thwart. At least not in the whitewater I customarily paddle. A lake paddler might well feel differently.

I find it fairly easy to heel canoes by throwing a knee out from my pedestal, if those canoes have hulls susceptible to heeling. My erstwhile Tripper was willing to be heeled. Our newer tandem, a Bluewater Chippewa, is narrower, but has a hull bottom similar to a Spirit II, and does not heel willingly, nor does it run well when heeled.

Here is how I did it.

About a 2.25" drop at the front. I am very comfortable paddling this way, and I do not fear entrapment. I paddle other hulls on rivers where I am likely to go over.

I thought of
installing one of the removable pedestals from Northwater that attaches to the lashing strips on the bottom of the hull, but decided against it. While I can’t claim that I even have a clue what “Canadian Style” paddling is , I do like to shift my body closer to one side to improve my paddling reach, this would be hard to do while sitting on a saddle.

About the entrapment issue, I was just struck by how many times entrapment was mentioned while reading the threads on kneeling thwarts. It make sense now that I think of the thwarts proximity to the next thwart in front. I don’t think it will be an issue for me, and now that I have noticed my math error on the drop length, I think the kneeling thwart will be a good solution for the use this boat will see, as I am not in heavy WW, anything over II and I will be in my IK anyhow. I look forward to trying it out.

Thanks everyone for the great replies!

Canadian style paddling
Canadian style paddling was and is more or less a way of adapting a tandem canoe for solo paddling.

Tandems are often paddled by turning the boat around and sitting “backwards” on the bow seat. This allows the solo paddler to sit where the boat is narrower, so that the reach over the gunwale is less, and it is easier to get an efficient vertical stroke. Another advantage is it requires no additional seats or thwarts.

The disadvantages are that the unloaded boat is not in trim (it is quite bow light) and from this position it is generally not possible to get the paddle blade forward of the boat’s pivot point. That means that bow correction strokes such as C-strokes, bow draws, cross-bow draws, bow jams, Duffeks etc. are not feasible, and one is limited to stern correction strokes, like stern pries and draws, to steer the canoe. This works in flatwater, but may not work in whitewater.

An alternative is to sit close to the center of the canoe, typically right behind the center thwart/yoke. This allows the boat to be pretty well-trimmed and allows the use of both bow and stern turning strokes. The disadvantage is that most tandems are quite wide there and if one sits centered in the canoe, the reach to and over the gunwale is such that many people can’t get the paddle shaft close to vertical for an efficient forward stroke, or get both hands out over the water for effective turning strokes. Also, most tandems don’t have a seat in that position.

Canadian guides solved the problem by sitting with their bodies very close to the gunwale on their paddling side, kneeling with both knees essentially in the “chine” of the canoe and their heels tucked up underneath their butts. The canoe was paddled with a distinct heel to the paddling side, which made it much easier to get both hands out over the water. Heeling the boat also got both ends up out of the water, shortening the effective waterline and making a long tandem paddle more like a shorter solo canoe.

The disadvantages to this style are that this position may not be comfortable for some and cross-strokes cannot be carried out, although one can slide over to the other gunwale and switch paddling sides.

This style of paddling is well-demonstrated in Bill Mason’s videos, among other places.