Ouch! My head hurts!

I went paddling on Lake Erie and the Buffalo River two days ago in my canoe, with a friend in another solo canoe. And I had a chance to get in a little practice carrying a canoe on my head (although my lifting technique still leaves a lot to be desired).

All I can say is…ouch! The top of my head hurts! I was told those little buttons on the top of a baseball cap will dig into your scalp, and yes, they DO.

Short of buying a Tilley hat (not my style), do I go bare-headed in future when carrying my canoe, or what?

Shoulders Ness, shoulders
If you have a portage thwart, they’re the best way to go. My Dumoine, at 74 pounds, is the easiest boat of mine to carry. Not sure how strong you are but my other “modified techniques” are…

Aarons Reflection 15 with the center seat gets “straight armed” over my head. At 55 pounds, this gets old fast, but truck to river trips are okay. River back to the truck not so good ;-).

2 playboats with saddles get head (with/without helmet) bracing saddle, but arms carrying as much weight as possible.

I’ve found the straight thwarts aren’t too bad on the shoulders either, just end up looking downward a bit.

Here’s what you need (not a Tilley)…



I want one!
LOL. That’s better padding than my “big hair”.

Tilleys and yokes

– Last Updated: Oct-19-07 7:31 PM EST –

Well, I for one think you would look fetching in a Tilley. Hopsing, too!

Looking at your boat (I snapped a pic) you have several options available. Mike's suggestion of a Mowhawk yoke is valid, especially if you are only carrying from car to water.

A clamp-on yoke is another option. Several commercial models are available that would work.

Check with Doc first though: He had a nifty yoke for his Magic that sort of hung onto the seat (only works with a flat bench such as yours) and had the CVCA hammock pads like mine does.

Ya never know - JCS&F* yokes might be available to the right people.......


*Jims Custom Sewing & Fabrication

Just thought of another option - somebody somewhere is selling a fabric yoke that buckles all the way around the hull and has a wide piece of fabric tensioned from gunwale to gunwale, with a V-notch for your neck. Could it be Hemlock? Or maybe Hornbeck....I will check.

Dear Ness,
DO NOT rest said canoe on yer punkin’ head. This is certain to cause maladies beyond mucking up your hair-style. Follow McRa’s suggestion for short carries. Beyond that contact a fellow at used to be known as Raggamuffin. He will build a wonderful quick install yoke custom for your Osprey or Dave’s Shearwater. I’ve used this yoke in the BWCA for three years now on portages up to 2/3 mile with great satisfaction.

Now back to the question at hand. Your telling us that your comely locks don’t provide sufficient padding…hmmmm…think helmet…Nightswimmer can likely give direction!!



Been searching for that darned fabric yoke without success.

but I did find a YouTube test of the CVCA (ragamuffin’s) pads. No joke.



Might be able to use the seat, too
For short portages with a solo canoe or with my rowboats (which bear a superficial resemblance to canoes), I rest the front edge of the seat across my shoulders. It’s not perfect, but works well enough. Two of my canoes are rather nose-heavy when carried that way. On semi-long carries using the edge of the seat that way, I have supplemented the carrying effort by raising my head against the hull on the boats where the “fit” is right, and it helps. But putting the whole weight of the boat on my head? I don’t think I’d like that (even when I wear my Tilley).

Have been heading boats 30 years.
Often I have a helmet on, but the foam pedestal seat in each of my boats provides good cushioning. The heaviest boat I carry routinely is close to 70 pounds. I can carry it the 1/4 mile uphill from the Chattooga, but I don’t like it. A couple of my c-1s are down in the middle 20# range, and they are really easy to carry a long way.

The Magic Yoke
Well, I still have the yoke that fit my Magic which is now redundant since the Magic was purloined. (Good title for a movie - The Purloined Magic?) So Ness, you’re welcome to try it but I know it didn’t fit the wooden seat in Frank’s Prism. It’s worth a try though.


thats cause its not made any more
It was a Grade VI solo yoke that strapped around the boat and you had to tension it.

Contact Placid Boat Works to see it they are still making it under another name.

I thought it was a PITA, all that wrapping and tensioning. I did an Adirondack route with eight ports in one afternoon and I think I threw the thing out after.

Now I go for a plain removable solo yoke, Chosen Valley makes a bombproof but expensive one

Heres a link for the Osprey solo yoke


“Lifting technique” can hurt, too!
The lifting technique promoted that includes lifting

a canoe up to your knees and then sort of flipping

it up over your shoulders is not for everyone.

I gave up on that one for the lift that starts at

one end of the canoe. I think of it as 2 steps, with

the first being lifting the tail end up with your hands on each gunnel,

and standing parallel to the canoe. I lift it up slowly about a foot,

just to break the canoe end free from the ground. Then I pull up with

both hands with a slight rotation at the half-way point that pulls the outer gunnel overhead. I then have the canoe tail directly over

my head with my hands holding it up on the gunnels.

Next I walk slowly to the center of the

canoe while sliding my hands on the gunnels or

using push-up type pressure to permit walking to the center of the canoe. For this to work, the bow must be implanted in the ground, or up against something that will not move. I have a small peg attached to the bow to serve that purpose. When I

am under the yoke I set the canoe on my shoulders.

Then I back pull slightly to release the bow from the ground and establish my grips forward on the gunnels.

Use your head and buy a canoe cart.
They sure make life easier. It only takes a few minutes and you can be off to the put-in with all your gear.

look at rutabaga.com
Chosen Valley has a bunch of solo yokes/yoke pads.

Its nice to have a little elevation to see better.

If your boat is out of trim you can hang something light from the light end.

Portage lines free up your hands. Then its simply a walk in the park , one hand has the line and the other can scratch your head now that its free. Adjust trim by pulling forward or back.

Its very nice not to have sand imbedded in your head.

one shoulder
Ness the boat on the head will hurt your neck. Don’t do it.

A clamp on or strap yoke is the most comfortable way to carry. Or just hang the boat to the side from one shoulder. That’s how I carry mine. Not as comfortable but less hardware to deal with.

use your head
But remove the button! i tandem carried a glass Sundowner through teh Aderondacks using my head.

Maybe taht is why I am now the Baldpaddler!

That’s using your head!
I’m still trying to invision this.

Some different ways to do it.
















Fabric yoke
Placid Boatworks has one. Call Charlie Wilson and tell him I sent ya.


Thanks everyone
I have so much to learn.

I was instructed how to carry correctly, and told to carry the canoe on my shoulders, but I didn’t listen very well. And it was only carrying the canoe from the car to the put-in, and back again (not far, not a portage).

When I apparently rested the canoe “too much” on top of my head, that’s how I got the dent on my noggin from the button of the baseball cap. Won’t do THAT again. Live and learn.

Thanks for all the useful info and links – VERY much appreciated, everyone. I’m going to start looking into getting a yoke, via the various suggestions.

baseball cap.
The little button which was causing you all of the head problems is easily removed from baseball caps with no functional effect on the hat. I personally believe that a hat actually looks better without the button.