Large paddler, solo/tandem canoe

Hey guys, long time reader and user of this forum, but just recently have found myself not lnowing which way to turn for a new boat.

I mainly pladdle coastal rivers and flatwater. But the small rivers I paddle are log strewn and very tight. My canoe right now is an Osage 17. Love the boat, but its a tank. I dont mind the slowness, but would like something quicker.

I am looking for a sort of 2 in 1 boat. A large solo/small tandem. Im 6’4 290 and need a tandem day boat for the family, and a overnight solo boat for myself.

So i have been looking for something in the 15’ range with 3 seats, but narrow enough to use as a solo from the center seat.

I have found, either the Mohawk odyssey 15t, or possibly the Mad River Reflection 15. But im sure im missing a few.

So what guidance acan you guys give me? I would also like the canoe to be able to handle class 2 ww. We try to get to the carolinas at least once a year.

Are you keeping the Osage 17?
You didn’t say. If you are you’ve got a lot of good options, especially for a guy of your size. A lot of the crossover capable tandems don’t cross over very well for smaller paddlers.

I’d think about keeping yourself in the Osage 17 for family outings and putting some smaller members of your family in the new boat. That way you can get something that you can paddle really well solo and the smaller ones can paddle well tandem.

Yes keeping the Osage
The osage will be used as our pack horse for camping trips. A second boat will be needed as we are quickly running out of space with our family of four.

So for a second boat what do you reccomend?

Here’s the start of list
Others will chime in too

Wenonah Solo Plus

Mad River Malecite

Novacraft PAL

Novacraft or Wenonah Prospector, 15 or 16

Wenonah Escape

Mad River Reflection

Old Town Disccovery 169

I have 3 of these boats. The Novacraft Prospector 16, MR Malecite and Wenonah Solo Plus. They are all great assets to a family situation, especially since I am big enough to paddle effectively paddle all of them solo, but not as big as you.

The MR Reflection 15 might sit too deep
when paddled tandem. There was a Reflection 16, but if MR has the mold, they haven’t used it.

I know some of those rivers, and the Solo Plus would be stiff handling solo, and more so tandem. It is fast on more open water.

I think the Prospector designs are promising for solo/tandem. The Wenonah Prospector 15 has a lot of rocker, nice for solo, maybe not enough tandem capacity. The 16s are nice poling boats.

OT penobscot?
i searched the listed boats, but found one more i over looked. The OT penobscot 16rx. I kinda like this one.

A Few Boats
Mad River Explorer 15 is a good big-guy solo, used one for years, sold it to a friend when I bought me a new (used) solo boat. I put a solo seat just aft of center and took the tandem seats out. My friend re-installed his so it is a 3 seater. I use a 16’ Esquif Mistral for that dual boat purpose, now, but it has more rocker than you would want/need.

Other boats that bear looking at is a Bell Morningstar, Bell Northwind and a Bell Prospector. I had a Northwind and it is a bit long for twisty-turny stuff IMHO. The Wenonah Adirondack worked well for us years ago, but I’d like to give their Prospector 15 a try. There’s you a start. Here’s a pic of that 3-seat Explorer 15 with my buddy paddling it. Not sure what he weighs, but probably over 230 and I’m your size. RW

Penboscot & Morningstar
The Penobscot 16 RX has a good reputation a a solo/tandem boat.

I’ve got a Bell Morningstar RX I use for tandem/solo, and have borrowed a P16 a few times. The Penobscot is narrower, faster, tracks better, is less maneuverable and is less stable than the Morningstar. I’m also used to the tumblehome on the Bell and so keep whacking into the aluminum gunwales on the Penobscot. Photo here:

The Penobscot is more versatile because it has a symmetrical hull, so you can paddle “backwards” in the bow seat. The Morningstar is asymmetric, so I usually solo from a kneeling thwart.

I’ve had the Morningstar out in whitecaps on the local lake and felt comfortable.

You might consider the Esquif Avalon
I just bought an Avalon for similar use as you describe. Its a 16 footer designed for tandem flat-water paddling, but well suited to solo use. From what I understand, it is very similar to the OT Penobscot but has a little more rocker and a shallow V hull instead of a shallow arc. Unfortunately, the only canoes I can directly compare it to are the alum boats I grew up with and rubber tubs I’ve rented over the years. Needless to say, the Esquif is lightyears ahead of any of them. I’ve only had it out twice, but so far I really like it. I suspect its one of the nicer ABS boats out there. I’m 6’1"/250 lbs and find it very easy to handle solo. The hull is symetrical and you can paddle solo either from the kneeling thwart in the middle or from the bow seat facing backwards. It looks to me that replacing the kneeling thwart with a real seat would be fairly easy. The bow seat is on a sliding rail, which is really nice if you end up paddling tandem with different sized people - you can adjust the seat to trim the boat better. Being on the racier side of canoes, the hull is rather “tender” stability-wise; I won’t try to fish out it until I develop my “swivel-hips” a little more. From everything I’ve heard and read, the Penobscot is the same way. But on the plus side, it carves beautifully into turns like a bicyle. Just a really nice canoe that I look forward to paddling every chance I can get. Good luck with your decision.

How much does the width really matter?
Will I notice a difference between a 34" and 36" beam? I want a narrow boat but don’t know if I’ll see a difference.

If you plan to sit or kneel amidships when you paddle solo you will need to reach out over the gunwale to get your paddle in the water, ideally with the paddle shaft as close to vertical as you can get it.

If you sit centered on a middle seat or pedestal, it may be significantly more difficult to paddle with good form with a boat wider than 34", depending on your arm length.

If you plan to utilize any cross strokes or paddle sit and switch, the wider boat will be considerably more awkward.

16 foor tandem
At your size, I would rule out 15’ canoes as too small to serve the family tandem purpose.

Get a 16’ tandem. They can be paddled solo just fine no matter whether they are 34" wide or 36". You will be able to reach the water easier from a central solo seat in the narrower canoe, but it also will be tippier.

I don’t think the extra two inches makes that much of a difference to a solo paddler. Here’s why. If you’re a lousy technical paddler, you’ll never notice the difference. If you become a good technical paddler, you’ll heel the boat when you paddle solo to reduce the effective width and waterline.

16’ Penobscots and Explorers are classic boats that have been used solo and tandem in all sorts of waters for decades.

as above, MR 15 too small
I have the Dagger Reflection 15, and with my son and I at 210 apiece, it’s a flatwater only boat. For solo it’s great, but even back when my son was 100 pounds or so it was a pretty wet cl.2 boat. Pretty flat bottom hurts performance as well.

Combi Hulls
Combi Hulls are great for dealers: small tandems for a compact couple or nice solo’s for the larger amongst us. which seems to be the current case.

Unfortunately, they do not work as a tandem for two large folk too.

To optimize solo performance for a 300 pounder, look to smaller tandems with tumblehome, Bells’ maybe still available NorthStar, Colden’s StarFire, Hemlock’s Eaglet, Swifts’ Kewaydin 16 con to immediate mind.

But to paddle tandem with family, does that include kids too?, will require something bigger. Hard to say without knowing the number and weights of all involved, but 18 ft at a minumum.

Family outings will not include all the
Family for to much longer. I have 2 boys 6/4 years. They seem like the will take after the wife’s family and be tall but nit large like me. Wife is or normal build. And I’m not about to ask her weight! But I know it’s sub 130-140. The boat would be in addition to my current boat for long overnighters. Really looking for some thing more to solo that can be used as a tandem when one of boys , or both go with me. If all the family goes we will take 2 canoes.

Nova Craft Bob Special

Mad River 15 NOT Too Small
Had another thread a few weeks ago that had the same rhetoric about an Explorer 15 being too small. That is a boat I have several years experience in. I owned one, paddled one tandem and solo, paddle with a friend who has my old one. Paddled from day trips up to 4 day trips. Have easily had 500+ lbs in it a few times over the years. If you have a chance, paddle one. You may or may not like one, but it’s NOT TOO SMALL. WW

Wenonah Solo Plus!

solo plus might be too small
I’m the same size as the OP and have test paddled the Solo Plus. It paddled okay solo, but not great. However, it’s narrow footprint wasn’t great for stability with more people on board. If I moved back to the rear seat, it put us too far out of trim. If I stayed in the middle seat, it’s so centrally located that unless you put relatively equal weight in the front and rear seats, again the trim was too far out of whack.

I put the question of a “best” solo boat to the folks at Wenonah, asking specifically about the Solo Plus. At my size, they suggested that I would be more comfortable with the stability of their Kingfisher instead.

I’ve reconfigured an Old Town Camper, putting a seat in place of the rear thwart, which lets us paddle tandem with good trim, but as I have discovered, it solos suprisingly well for such a flat bottomed boat. Better I thought than the Solo Plus.