Maiden Voyage in First Solo

Finally! Hit the water with my new Wenonah Wilderness RX yesterday. Not exactly good weather (15 mph winds) for a first time solo so I decided to hit a small, somewhat sheltered creek. The trip was 1 mile upstream, turn around and head back. The J-stroke had me going pretty straight as long as I had ample water under the boat but the many shallow spots were another story. All in all it turned out well. Trip back was into the wind, which pushed me backwards against the current if I stopped paddling. Not the same stability as our Spirit II but I never even came close to a swim. Secondary stability gave me confidence as it firmed up nicely in a lean.

Here are the questions:

I currently use a 58" paddle and found my hand on the grip was darn near a foot over my head while in the shallows. Would a shorter 54-56" paddle for use in the shallows be a wise move or should I just stick with my 58"?

How about a double blade paddle? I have a double blade but didn’t try it yet. It seems to me that it would help in the shallows but could be a minus when paddling against the current while threading the canoe through downed limbs/branches.


double bladed paddle
I don’t use a double blade in a canoe, but I’ve paddled with plenty who do. As long as it is a take apart, you can easily break it down and stow it and switch to a single blade when you need to. You are correct in thinking that a double bladed paddle is not the best when dealing with a lot of low branches or when maneuvering through tight spots.

On non-whitewater rivers I usually take a wooden bent-shaft for most of the paddling and a somewhat shorter whitewater straight shaft paddle for the narrow, scrapy parts, or for when tight turns and maneuvers are necessary.

A bent shaft single blade
A bent shaft single is a great choice for shallow water since they are much shorter than a straight. Mine are 53". With a bent shaft single, you also have a great paddle for putting away the miles at a brisk pace.

As for playing with a double, I’ll bite my tongue so as not to offend.

I do the same …
as pblanc. On moderate rivers, I take two paddles, one is a very light carbon, thin blade for cruising. The other is a shorter WW paddle. Both are straight. I keep the WW paddle along the bilge with the blade toward the bow and the grip right in front of my knee. When in shallows I switch the two and use the WW paddle to literally pole the canoe forward, while still kneeling and hands in typical paddling position.


canoeing w. double blade paddle

A double blade is annoying paddling in very narrow streams or when there is brush tight overhead. It doesn’t work well for stalking wildlife, as the blade not in the water spooks them when they see it waving in the air. With a single blade and underwater recovery you can get much closer. I find double blade paddles a slight bit better in very shallow water, but all paddles work poorly when there isn’t enough water to fully immerse the blade.

The greater width of a canoe requires a longer double blade paddle than a narrow kayak. Lengths that work with decked canoes (rec. kayaks) are near what you would need. Then you would have to consider the width of your canoe, kneeling vs. sitting, arm length, torso length, and your your stroke to get a exact length. Around 240 (plus or minus 10 cm) should work as a starting length to try.

I use a double blade paddle for all paddling, canoe or kayak. A single blade irritates my rebuilt shoulder-a problem perhaps unique to me. I would rather enjoy paddling with a double than pose with a ice bag on my shoulder while downing vitamin I after every paddle with a single blade. The 25 or so single blades I purchased and enjoyed using over the decades now sit unused in a corner in the basement.


No need for Clarion to bit his tongue.
Different strokes and all that.

You did not mention what type of paddle your 58" was: Traditional? Beaver or otter tail? A shorter, wider blade would work well in shallows, with the O.A. length remaining approximately the same or maybe an inch or two shorter.

Comments about the bent shaft are right on. If you do not want to hit-and-switch you might try a shallower bend paddle, such as 10 or 7 degrees. That would give you much of the power and still have the ability to J and C stroke.

And yes, double blades are PITAS in narrow, overgrown waterways. But they work well in open windy conditions.

And they can be used in canoe jousting.


If God meant for folks to use 260 cm
… double-bladed canoe paddles, he’d have made pick-up beds 9’ long so you wouldn’t need a red flag just to haul 'em to the water :stuck_out_tongue:

Depends a lot on the paddle
I almost always carry paddles in two lengths, with the shorter paddle being, I think, about four inches shorter that the “correct” length. The shorter paddle is very nice to have in the shallows. However, as someone pointed out, the type of blade will make a big difference in shallow-water performance. A paddle with a long narrow blade will handicap you to a much greater degree in the shallows than a paddle with a shorter, wider blade, and if your top hand is up over your head when the blade hits the river bottom, that probably means you have a pretty long blade. Your personal “correct” length of paddle will be different for every different blade style.

Regarding double-blade paddles, I started out using them, but I don’t care for that method anymore.

260cm paddles in PU beds
Hi Clarion,

As noted above, I used single blades for decades, still own a number and now use double blades exclusively due to consequences from a shoulder injury.

As to God’s wishes, here in New England God wanted us to move from PU trucks to something more sensible for routine use (excluding those who still need them for work). He has shown us something he invented called Ferrules. They allow 260 cm paddles to be reduced in length by half, allowing them to even fit in a Fit. I’ll bring some ferrules to Raystown next Fall so you can see what they are.


see Jsaults, I have offended already!

not offended

– Last Updated: May-22-09 7:19 PM EST –


I'm not offended.

While I find the canoe vs. kayak, double blade vs. single blade, wearing life jacket vs bare chest in the sunshine, and similar posturing somewhat tiresome, I usually just click on the next post. Operating rule from my former hockey playing days is "no blood, no foul".

Sorry for the snotty tone of my post- I'm presently very frustrated from other issues, not from your posts. I had a cardiac stent installed May 7th and have been chafing under "no paddling, no biking, no hiking and don't lift more than 10 lbs" restrictions. Even have had to ask my neighbor to mow my lawn. At least my blue dick from blood draining down during the procedure is about back to normal coloration.

After doing whatever I've wanted for most of my 63 years I'm very pissed off and frustrated about the situation. Spring is my favorite paddling time of the year and I'm reduced to just dreaming about paddling.

I'm scheduled for a nuclear stress test June 2nd which should give a better picture of where I am and where I go from here. Ten more days to go, but who's counting?


Good Info!
Thanks for the great responses! I currently use a BB Arrow 58". Thought was to get a BB Explorer Plus in the shorter length, just not sure how much shorter. Thinking maybe 54" would be pretty close. I have tried my wifes’ BB Special 54" in our tandem but that bent shaft just doesn’t feel right to me.

As far as the double blade goes, it didn’t seem like it would work in the tight stuff but I wasn’t sure if I needed to learn some new tricks or not. It doesn’t seem like I would get as much control out of a double either. I will give it a try on open water though. Without any corrective strokes, each paddle stroke really causes the Wilderness to move opposite. No doubt I need to work on my solo strokes. In the couple hours I paddled I went from Woahh to ohhh. Much more finesse needed to make it do it’s stuff than the sometimes heavy handed paddling of our 17’ tandem. It’s all good though!


Good luck Dave
Sorry to hear that. I can understand being frustrated not being able to get out this time of year.

I’ll be rooting for you.

when in shallow waters …
… shallow enough that your paddle is often hitting the bottom or rocks , a wide flat tip blade as previously said is the best advantage I can think for a paddle (some might say time to pole) …

As for the best wide flat tip bladed paddle (a beater paddle) to use in those conditions , a basic plastic blade paddle fits the bill perfectly , like an Old Town golden light or simular .

After all , there is no perfecting a stroke when in those shallows , what you are doing is really using the paddle as pole 1/2 the time anyway , the other 1/2 the time you are just trying to get as much blade surface grab as possible . The T grip on these plastic paddles helps in those conditions also .

I seem to have forgotten how tall you
are. I use 61.5" paddles, which are not at all long for my height, and when in the shallows, I do just raise my hands. But if you can have a spare, a shorter one is a good solution.


– Last Updated: May-24-09 9:12 AM EST –

Why do some people feel the need to bash others for using a double bladed paddle in a canoe??

My solo canoe is an Old Town Pack. It's 12 feet long, 33 lbs, 32" wide in the center and loves to be paddled with a double bladed paddle!

When there's no wind, I'll dig out my spare paddle (old fashioned ash paddle, otter tail blade, no idea of the length...and who really cares since it works). I can track nicely and quietly on calm water with it. If the wind is even moderate, the otter tail gets strapped to the thwart, and my Foxx 260MM KS double bladed paddle rests on the lap and helps my propel against wind and waves. I use it because it works...far better than a single plade, in my canoe. The paddle comes apart into 2 peices and lays across the back seat of the truck...very easy!

Why would someone bash this sort of thing? Good Lord, with todays world there must be other things to bash and complain about. Try to focus on taxes, or medical care, or global policy if you want to show negativity.

So, if you have a solo canoe, and havent tried a double bladed paddle...I say try it. Just be sure you try one long enough so you'll get the full benefit. If it works for you, one and use it. If you dont like it, dont use one. You can get blown all over the lake while I'm happily trolling against the current for trout. No biggie to me...or anyone else for that matter. To each, his own!

Not bashing if you don’t like to use

– Last Updated: May-24-09 11:13 AM EST –


I like a vertical stroke with a double blade and don't like water dripping in my open boat, so double blade paddles don't thrill me in open boats because the ones that are short enough to get a vertical stroke also drip a lot of water into the boat. I use them in the closed kayaks because the water falls onto the deck, rather than into the hulls.

I've never tried a paddle longer than 250cm in a canoe and I didn't like that particular 250cm paddle. I'd like to try a quality paddle in the 260cm to 270cm to see how I liked them.

Use whatever paddle you like to propel your boat.

P.S. A foot controlled rudder works better in the wind on a canoe than a double blade paddle does.

mjflores, you need to position your
post so others can tell whom you are criticizing. By coincidence, I have used double bladed paddles in open canoes, where appropriate, since 1974.

Double blades can drip, and they are horribly clumsy when one is running rapids on creeks under laurel and rhodedendron bushes. Also, while one can do any boat maneuver with a double blade, a really severe turn or brace is more effective with a single blade.

what he said^^^^ :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:
Also, in shallow spots I sometimes use a sweep or a bow draw instead of a j.

I use my bent shaft almost constantly. It is fun to learn all the things it can do.

Most importantly, congratulations on your new solo!!