Modifying OT Pack Width

-- Last Updated: Aug-03-10 9:39 AM EST --

I'm in the process of modifying my Old Tow Pack canoe (so far added a rear thwart, lowered seat to floor, added front & rear float bags) and was reading some older info I found while searching around that was suggesting that you could sometimes improve the handling of a Royalex boat by changing the thwart lengths. Adding any stability would be welcome for the faster rivers.

From what I've read, it sounds like increasing the front of the boat's width and slightly narrowing the rear has yielded some good results (sounded like +/- 1.5" or so was what people were trying). Since I'm installing a new front thwart this week and will have to cut to length, I was curious if anyone here has ever tried pushing the front out a little and what effects it had on the boat?

I'm paddling with a 280cm Wave double ended paddle, so the boat tracks well for me, but I'd like to be able to make it more friendly for Class II water (possible very light Class III), so I'm looking to make the most of what I have.

I'm also considering adding a center vertical riser down to a lower stiffener at each thwart to eliminate oil canning.


You would probably need a
floor stiffener at thwarts near the center.

I’m sceptical that you or anyone has affected the stability of that little boat by thwart length changes. It should be pretty stable for a boat of its length as it comes from the factory.

If you get to running class 3, make sure you have friends ready at the pool below.

I may just keep the new replacement thwart up front the same length as the factory thwart.

I added the Old Town angler seat (with folding back) and dropped it down an additional 3", but at times I can feel it contacting the bottom of the boat while in rougher water. I’m thinking about glueing a 1/4" piece of microfoam to the bottom of the seat (to prevent wear from rubbing) and dropping the seat down to where it’s resting on the bottom of the boat to help eliminate any oil canning.

I was thinking that changing the thwart length may help with oil canning, but dropping the seat to the floor would probably make more sense and add more stability by further lowering the center of gravity.

I’m trying to figure out a way to add a vertical stiffener that would run from the under side of the front thwart to the floor also. Not sure if it will gain me anything, but was thinking that I could use the front factory thwart that I’m removing as a riser, maybe cut a section off to use as a base plate and mount it under the new thwart. None of that may be necessary if I drop the seat though…

You could glue together two pieces of
3" mincell foam and (after proper dimensioning) stuff it between the thwart and the bottom. The pieces should be at least 6" wide, maybe more. If it isn’t in the way and has the desired effect, you can glue it in place. This is similar to what I do in my whitewater boats, where a minicell kneeling pedestal serves the function. Adds flotation too.

I’m just figuring out that’s what most people are referring to when they talk about “foam pillars”. I do have some spare foam, so I’ll give that a try, it will also help keep the weight down.

Thanks for the input!

Minicell Foam
I just grabbed a couple additional 12"x12"x6" thick minicell from NRS, any ideas on the best way to cut foam that thick and still have it look like something?

Coping saw
If you want to cut 6" thick shapes out of the stock, I find that a coping saw does a pretty good job. Just keep the blade perpendicular to the stock as you cut.

It is wise to cut forms slightly over sized. Minicell is easily shaped but creates a lot of dust that sticks to everything due to static electricity. You can shape it with sandpaper, Surform tools, Red Devil Dragonskin, 3M Scotch Brite or Sandblaster products, and the like.


– Last Updated: Aug-04-10 1:50 PM EST –

Got the seat dropped down to the floor last night, hope to see the foam blocks arrive tomorrow so I can get them installed under the front thwart and get it out on the pond in front of our house for some testing before the weekend.

I didn't realize how much the floor moved until I was fabricating the drop seat mounts last night, had to support the caonoe from each end to let the floor drop down to it's normal position. I ended up sliding the seat even farther forward than I had previously, so it's now about 8" forward from the factory seat location. My PVC D-rings showed up from NRS today, so I'll be able to get the floatation bags properly secured tonight.

I'm expecting a total different beast when I hit the water with it next time, I'm anticipating that is won't be as stable now that the floor won't be so flattened out, but I hope to see some improved handling and an increase in paddling efficiency.....we'll see.

I don’t think you’ll find it less stable
More efficient? Hope so, but the difference won’t be big.

Got to paddle about 12.5 miles on Saturday with the seat lowered down to the floor and the foam pillar under the front thwart. No oil canning to speak of, but the boat tracked terrible (even with my double end paddle) and it took a lot more paddling effort to make it move. I floated the same stretch that I have floated a few times in the past month or so and the water was the same as always. This time it was noticeably more difficult to paddle than times before.

I raised the seat back up close to where it was before I dropped it all the way down, let the sides back out to wear the thwarts originally had them (I had pulled them in about 1.5" at both front & rear thwarts prior to paddling on Sat), and pulled the foam pillar out.

The results were definitely not what I had expected, actually the opposite. Another thing to note was that with the hull so rigid it seemed to get stuck a lot more in the shallows and when I would hit a rock it was a very solid hit…I’m pretty sure that oil-canning isn’t neccesarily a bad thing for a boat like this and shallow river runs. The seat was so low that I lost a lot of paddle leverage and had the paddle hitting the sides of the boat some…not to mention some very sore shoulders from fighting with it for 5 hrs. I guess the old saying applies…“if it’s not broke…” :)!

I think my new arrangement will be on the money. Adding foot braces this week and will hit the water again next weekend. I’ll follow up with a report and some pictures of said modifications, since it’s so hard to find complete info on modifying an OT Pack online anywhere.

It’s true that floppy bottoms can get
over shallows a bit easier. Otherwise, impossible for me to critique what you’ve done, as I don’t know the Pack and can’t see what the foam pedestal has done.

pack mods
I met up with a guy on a Canadian river, he lived in Marquette, UP. He modified his OTPack by shortening the rear thwart and seat width. He also had it completely covered (full spray deck). Traveled all these obscure rivers north of Lake Superior.

I stayed in contact with him after that and he ended up switching to a Mohawk Challenger (now renamed the Odyssey) and claimed it was light years a better boat. I followed suit and bought a Challenger also, and I have to agree, it works nicely. I shortened the thwarts; and raised the seat and brought it forard a bit (factory seat placement was not good); which did make it less stable, but I don’t mind that. This prevented oil canning 98% of the time, made it easier to reach over the sides with a bentshaft paddle, and made it slightly faster. By installing knee pads, and a foot brace, I can kneel and use a straight shaft in rapids, and sit using a bent shaft in flat (the foot brace is so nice).

I have a Mad River Guide Solo, and it
also can carry more while being better on both lakes and whitewater than the OTPack. The Pack is ok if one has to use it, but it is too short for serious wilderness travel.

I’ve been trying to make the best of what I have at the moment, since I’ve had my Pack for about 8 yrs and up until we bought my fiance an OT Otter Kayak last month I had only used the Pack three times…I’ve used it every weekend since the beginning of July now that I have somebody to paddle with. So I would hate to ditch it since it’s practically brand new. Her son is wanting to get into paddling now though…so I’m seeing an “opportunity” :)!

I really want a good solo (lightweight) canoe that can handle up to light Class III when properly equipped, but still be somewhat decent on the Class I - II stuff (yeah I know…keep dreaming!). Since I only live about 1.5 hrs from Chattanooga, I’ve had my eye on the Mohawk site a lot lately…their XL13 appears to be a possible comprimise between hard core whitewater and flat paddling.

a Solo 13

Actually the XL13 isn’t better on
flatwater than a lot of whitewater canoes with more modern designs. The XL13 already has enough rocker to require different technique on flatwater. I paddle a 15’ Mad River Synergy much of the time, because it can handle class 3 well and also has acceptable pace on easier rivers. I usually prefer it to my MR Guide.

You can learn to paddle whitewater canoes on flatwater without using a J- or rudder correction on every stroke. Your canoe has to be trimmed level, and you need to reach forward and take short strokes with a fairly firm catch, ending each stroke with the blade opposite your hip. This works best if the bow is cocked just slightly to your paddling side. With each stroke, a small mound of water builds up opposite your paddling side, and during paddle recovery, you will actually see the bow come back again to your paddling side.

They describe this briefly in the Kent Ford video Drill Time. Once you get the hang of it, whitewater boats are much less work when paddling on the flat. This approach may even work on your OT Pack.

So, once you master this trick, you can use pretty much any whitewater canoe you want on any class of water you want. They still aren’t fast, and they still don’t belong in the middle of windblown lakes, but they are no longer classifiable as totally specialist boats.

Hey g2d -

– Last Updated: Aug-11-10 6:12 PM EST –

Gonna hijack my own thread for a second......just noticed you're from GA. We're thinking about doing a float down the Toccoa River from Deep Hole to Sandy Bottom (Toccoa River Canoe Trail), ever been down that? Good float? Read a little about it on here, but didn't have much info.


– Last Updated: Aug-13-10 12:59 PM EST –

got it finished up. I've moved the seat so many times that I decided to plate the top of the gunnels with 1/8" think aluminum to help reinforce the area where the seat mounts, turned out pretty decent and made for a good, solid mounting. I let the sides back out to their factory location for now, I left enough length on the thwarts to drill new holes farther outboard, so I can pull the sides back in easily if I ever decide I want to.

This time instead of using brass sleeves to lower the seat, I used 1" x 1" aluminum tubing, one section between the mounting bracket and seat and one section between the bracket and gunnel. This has made for a much more solid mount that should hold up to anything I throw at it.

I added PVC D-ring patches in the bow and two on the floor at each end for mounting the floatation bags. Now they attached on all three corners at the bags integral tabs with carabiners, and the bags are also strapped in separately, and I've got the stretch cord over all of it.....yeah a little overkill.....but I'll never have to worry about the bags coming out when they're not supposed to, yet they are still easily removable if I need to pull them out for some reason.

Installed a set of Carlisle adjustable foot braces last night. I cut about 4" off the plastic tracks, since I don't need any more adjustment than that and it also helped them conform more to the arc of the hull being shorter. They turned out pretty solid and should work a lot better than my first attempt with glue-in foam wedges.

It's obviously by no means a WW boat, but it should make for a fun little river runner. I've got everything in the boat strapped in (dry bag, Camelback, sponge, etc) and my Harmony bilge pump should be arriving today, so I'm pretty confident that it will handle some of the lighter Class II waters with not much of a don't mind swimming in the summer anyways :)!

That’s a good Toccoa float, but right
now there’s no water. Visit the AW river information page for Georgia. They suggest 300 cfs minimum for either Toccoa section, and I agree. Right now Toccoa’s getting down toward 160 cfs.

Do you have an update? How was it on the river?