Recommendations for a canoe paddle to use with a Curtis Ladybug

I bought the Ladybug I was looking at last Saturday. Took it for a spin on Fish Creek near Saratoga Springs on Sunday using one of my 230 cm kayak paddles. I like the boat and want to get a proper canoe paddle for it but not sure what I should start with. I am a moderately competent flatwater tandem bow paddler but this is my first solo other than an hour spent in a borrowed Swift a couple of years ago.

I will be in Saratoga again in a few days and Mountain Man Outfitters there has at least a dozen models in all sizes of straight and bent paddles — I would be unlikely to find that variety back in Pittsburgh so I would like to buy one there this coming weekend (plus they have the 48 to 52” size range for my stubby 26” tail to nose height, and many on line retaikers do not.)

. What would you solo canoeistas suggest for a novice paddler for short flarwater day trips? I understand the bent paddles are more efficient but I would have to learn the technique. Any advice would be welcome.

Meanwhile, the coastal inlet kayaking up here in Maine has been wonderful with perfect weather. Celia has graciously shared her Vela and Romany with me —my own boats have not left the roof rack!

You are lucky to be on the coast right now… We have a trail work weekend here inland western Maine… It never has been 98 for two days… that paradise is over; Sat and Sun… aagh… That onshore breeze ought to make your padding more comfortable.
Bent shafts are for hit and switch to get you going to where you want to go if you are sitting… You didn’t specify if you do that or sit or both. You can sit and have a straight shaft paddle. technically its a bad attack angle but the straight is more versatile…

Your stubby height is the clue for shaft length… Sorta… How far is your tail off the water? ( how high is the seat? Add that length to the 26 inches. An inch or two difference really doesn’t matter; you can adapt. Yep you need to take a tape measure. As the blade ought to be submerged you can ignore that . ( I wish lengths were given in shaft lengths not LOA)

I take it the Blackburn was too big a paddle? I have had several chances to get one and all were so long… I would have had to massacre them with a saw.

Just check the MM inventory for fit… Some may have shafts that feel too big… Others may have too wide blades. I have a Bending Branches Espresso that I like sort of . but its been discontinued. BB shafts tend to run long so I never buy them unseen without a tape measure.
I have some old Grey Owl FreeStyle blades that are 52 inches, The closest is the Fleetwood now

I have had students about 5 feet tall use them ( the 52 inch length)

I use mostly a ZRE Medium bent shaft with an 8.0 or 8.25" wide blade that weighs about 10.5oz. Wider than 8.25" is too much work for me.

I don’t have a very powerful motor, so I typically go for narrower blades and shorter shaft lengths.

Some will say to save your money and get the Recreational ZRE that weighs about 14oz, but cost much less. I own both the Rec and Medium versions and much prefer the Medium version, but the will chose the Rec version over most wood paddles.

ZRE also makes straight shaft paddles for a bit more money.

I bought all of my carbon paddles used at probably around 1/2 price of new. I’ve had to be very patient to find those deals.

Wenonah also still makes carbon bent shaft and straight shaft paddles, I believe, but I haven’t checked their website, yet.

IIRC, my most commonly used ZRE bent shaft paddle lengths are 48 and 49", depending on seat height in the canoe. With straight, I don’t go over 54" with a 20" blade. I think I can get away with 52" in a solo canoe some of the time.

Most wooden paddles are are either too heavy or have too large of blades for my preference.

Foxworks, if still in business, is a relatively inexpensive wood paddle maker that has some models with relatively small blades and used to make custom sizes for added money.

Good like finding the right paddle(s) and congratulations on the purchase of the Lady Bug. You can spend a lot of time in that boat just exploring it’s many moods by sitting, kneeling, single blading and double blading.

But, most of all, have fun and don’t get to serious about it.

Go to the Solo Canoe Rendezvous south of Pittsburgh this fall and get some great instruction and hang around with some great people.

Congrats on the Ladybug and also on your successful kayaking adventure with Celia. I strongly recommend that you start with a straight shaft paddle to fully enjoy that Ladybug and to develop your skills. I also agree that the Fleetwood is a fine choice within the Grey Owl lineup. I’ve had success sizing paddles by hanging your arms straight down at your sides (limp) and holding the paddle upside down while cupping the handle in your hand and the throat (the place where the blade starts widening from the shaft) should be up around your hairline or a bit lower on your forehead. I’m a bit over six feet and could get away with a 56 Fleetwood and unless you are all legs and no trunk I can’t imagine that you’d want to go shorter than a 52. You should look at the paddle and examine the blade for straightness. If they have water you should go slice it back and forth through the water to make sure it doesn’t buzz or flutter (there is variation in those darn wood paddles). I think the Fleetwood is a great choice. If you want to drop $300 I’d recommend ordering a straight shaft Zaveral (it’s a bent shaft carbon fiber paddle where you can order a custom angle and then you order a zero degree angle for an extra $15). If you are brave you order it a bit long (54 for you) and with the handle unglued and then you shorten the shaft a little bit at a time with a hacksaw until it feels perfect…you can hold the handle in place with electrical tape until you find the ideal length and then glue it or just keep using tape. I’d recommend the “medium” lay-up which would still be plenty light. But again the Fleetwood is a nice choice and the symmetric grip is nice and they are light paddles and they do have some edge protection. I had one but it buzzed in the water so I gave it away as a gift…not that I’m fussy or anything.

If you don’t mind a detour home I am about 20 minutes off exit 75 on the Maine Tpk. I would be happy to present a selection of paddles at the Irving Station or the frozen custard stand a mile away ( much more inviting). I am kinda looking at cleaning out the paddle shed as I no longer teach.

I would suggest borrowing some paddles or buying some inexpensive ones initially until you can work out what shaft length is going to work for you.

Bent shaft paddles are best for sit and switch type paddling and are typically going to be 4-6" shorter is overall length than a straight shaft paddle of similar blade size. Straight shaft paddles are usually better for the full panoply of strokes that might be required to make quick maneuvers on a tight stream, although experienced paddlers can do pretty well with a bent under those conditions. Some paddlers will request a bent shaft with an intermediate angle (less than the usual 12 degrees) that offers a pretty good compromise between a straight shaft and a bent shaft. If I recall correctly, David Yost uses a custom ZRE with an 8 degree bend.

Zav (ZRE) paddles and such like carbon fiber bent shafts are very nice for sit and switch paddling but are pricey. It would be good to refine your optimal shaft length and angle before buying one.

Best method would be to be in the Bug and with the paddle blade submerged to the throat-no deeper- while right beside you, your grip hand should be somewhere between your nose and shoulder (shaft vertical). Kim is correct that an inch or two difference won’t matter. That certainly will give you a great starting point. Almost always best to choose the paddle to fit the exact boat. Stick time will instruct you to further refinement based on personal preference.

Thanks all — I think I will pick up one if the modestly priced Fox Works straight blades at Mountain Man when I get to Toga tomorrow. Start with a 52” and see how it goes. I seem to recall they had one for $79 with a not-too-wide blade. As when I progressed through kayak paddles, it will take some boat time to find what feels best in the new craft. That solo canoe rendezvous sounds like a good place to get to see how some others work.

Kayakmedic: appreciate the generous offer but I am already dreading the “you can’t get there from here” drive from Friendship, ME, to Wilton, NY, tomorrow and really don’t want to take on any complications en route. Solo drives like the one I am facing with constant highway changes without a co-pilot navigator are dreadful.

Its actually easy. Granted I am not on your route… 95 to 101 to 93 to 89 then across RT 4… Yah even though thats not first choice by Google Maps… 495 makes me tear my hair out… we have to travel it alot. And the switch from 495 to 290 is a huuge bigly backup always.

The FoxWorx paddle is a great choice…nice and light and easy to use and it won’t tire you out but the blade is plenty big to push that Ladybug around.

Which Fox Worx did you get? The XL lite? It looks huge but its not. I have a paddle that is ten inches wide which is way too wide. 8 inches is fine for day tripping… Go a little narrower if you take the Ladybug canoe tripping putting on 15 miles a day

Did not get the paddle yet - am heading to the Mountain Man paddling annex at Fish Creek Sunday to pick one out. I think they had a couple of the FoxWorx models. I’m a GP fan and the Euro paddle I use for a spare has narrow tapered blades so I am probably going to tend towards a slender canoe paddle as well.

From Celia, thanks Willowleaf for the kind mention. Even warm on the coast yesterday and I guess today until we get some rain. But not the total oven of inland. I will find plenty of heat when I get home but at least I miss this wknd’s.

The Ladybug is a nice looking canoe. Should be a nice solo boat.

The Grey Owl Scout is pretty nice for a low cost paddle

Celia, the rain that came through last night has damped down the temps here in Saratoga today. I just did some housekeeping on my car out in Nick’s driveway and it feels 10 degrees less hot than Saturday, which had been truly oppressive. In fact the predictions for the week in the Capital District are quite mild so it should be fine by the time you get back.

TL: I think the shop I am heading to this afternoon did have some Grey Owls too so I will check for that one. There is also a canoe outfitter near Schenectady, where I will be today visiting my aunt and uncle nearby — if they are open they may have other options. At this point I will not obsess too much over selection since I will need seat time to dial in preference

Alas, the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous was in June., not in the Fall. But perhaps I can find another somewhere in an adjacent state before then.

There is a Midwest Canoe Symposium the weekend after Labor Day in Peninsula Ohio
Small solos respond better to wider blades because they have better physics robaid turning
Sure you can use a narrow blade but it is way more work

I tried to look up robaid.

Got my paddle this afternoon at Mountain Man’s paddling shop : settled on a 52” Foxworx (no model ID on it but it is a straight blade, vertically laminated wood with an 8.25” wide square bottomed blade.). I dithered between the 52” and 54” but the 54” had some rough spots near the handgrip and the laminations looked a bit uneven. My arms are short so I think it will be OK. The paddle was lighter than the similar same-sized Bending Branches that they had in stock so I am happy with it so far, The shop had a BB Espresso paddle and it is gorgeous but $50 more than I wanted to spend until I am sure of size. The Foxworx was under $100.

Planning to take the Bug up to Lake Arthur next weekend, weather permitting, to poke around the shady inlets and birdwatch. The seller threw in a nice kneeling pad so I can practice various positions (kanoe sutra).

Thanks so much for all the sage advice — I would have been clueless without it!

KayakMedic — The Blackburn paddle that Steve in Rochester is selling is a 54” (shaft 34” and blade 20”. ). I am posting pics he sent me of it. He wanted $125 for it — it looked to need a varnish touch up in places but seemed intact. It is one that was commissioned by Curtis to be labeled by them and sold with the Ladybug. Has a Curtis decal. I can guve you his contact info if it interests you.