New paddler needs advice...

-- Last Updated: Jun-01-07 5:45 PM EST --

So it's been 25 years since I have been in a canoe, and after 6 years of living just a few blocks off the water I have decided to pick up a used canoe in order to pry the kids away from the video games and to get some much needed exercise (and relaxation) myself.

I am new to buying a canoe as I said, but have found a deal on a rarely used Sea King ABS canoe... 16 footer. At $100, it seems like a good starter canoe... and at that price it's hard to go wrong I suppose as long as it is water-worthy.

My main question is... how do I, or can I, paddle this thing on a slower moving river (Fox River in IL) by myself? I know the kids will not want to go as often as I will, so I would like to be able to go out myself. I am guessing a better way is to get a kayak for those lone excursions, however, I am just now buying the canoe, so let's not get nuts here. I am planning for a kayak maybe next summer if all works out...


I would cheat and use a kneeling pad and a kayak paddle and kneel in the middle of the boat.

watch this

if you cant kneel the best control you will get is sitting backwards on the bow seat.

You can paddle with a kayak paddle but with less control; you will still get from a to b

Buy a center seat and a double bladed
canoe paddle

No problems!
I’ve paddled my 70# 16.75 ft. fiberglass canoe throughout the state of Florida (including the open Gulf of Mexico). Yes, it’s heavy and yes, it’s somewhat slow but I’m in good physical shape (except for the spinal injuries due to a hit-and-run) so enjoy your solo journeys in your tandem canoe and don’t waste your money buying a kayak; you can do things in your canoe you can’t do in a kayak, such as stand up and walk around in it, carry far more gear, and use a push-pole.

Larn how ta single stick…
first. Ye become a much better canoeist at de end.


canoe solo
I’m not familiar with Sea King canoes but traditionally when a single individual paddles a tandem hull, stationing is in the center. Tandem canoes are too wide to do cross strokes so the most efficient technique is Canadian style. This is where the paddler is stationed on one side and paddles with the hull at a standing heel. All strokes are done on that side, including forward with correction. If the hull is narrow enough the paddler is still positioned abeam, but can use cross-bow strokes for maneuvering. The reasons for abeam stationing when solo canoeing are many and require long discussion but it has proven over hundreds of years to be the best method.

I agree with Fat Elmo, it makes you a much better paddler in the end.


You could sit backwards in the front seat and put about 30 pounds or so on the floor at the other end to keep the end opposite you from being too much out of the water. I use a dumbbell, some use a 5 gallon water jug (gallon of H2O = 8 pounds). Or, use a bit more weight and sit in the back. Or, take a sturdy ice chest and sit on the that just back of the center twart. You might need two narrow pieces of wood to put under the chest if the canoe center in not flush with the bottom like my alum canoe had. Make sure the chest is not real tall compared to the sides of the canoe. I used to use a plastic bucket I cut a bit to make it a bit shorter. I paddle alone often on “slow” rivers and on lakes. I seldom switch sides with my “single blade” canoe paddle. I use the “J” stroke. Not hard to learn. All it really is is to make something of a “J” shape with your paddle out away from the canoe at the end of the stroke. You kind of turn the paddle/your wrists a bit. You don’t need to hurry it and use it only enough to keep the canoe going straigth. You’re really just steering the canoe. It doesn’t have to be much of a “J”. And, don’t hurry into your next stroke. Kick back and get a feel for it and take you time enjoying the journey and the feel of the paddle and stroke. You can get more official versions of the “J” on the web if you want.