Seat lowering/seat height in canoe

-- Last Updated: Jan-07-07 7:52 PM EST --

Recently the wife & I purchased a OT Penobscot 16. Today we took her out on a shake down cruise. After getting in the boat seemed unusually tender/tippy. The wife & I had 52" bent shaft paddles,and it felt like we were reaching for the water.{no cushions} One thing I did notice sitting in the stern seat,sitting straight up,I can't touch the water with my hands.{unusual since I can in all my other canoes}.I measured from the canoe bottom, to the center of both seats. The bow seat is 10", the stern is 11". Seems awefully high since all my other canoes measure between 7-9"{similar hull depths,but solos} The 52" bents work well with the solos. I have already lowered the stern seat 1 1/2",but have not had it back in the water to try out.

My question is from all you canoe experts. Is there a fairly standard height from seat to bottom,and should you be able to touch water sitting straight up in an unloaded tandem ?. We are not kneelers,but may if the water gets rough,is this to accommodate your feet under the seat. In my solos I can't get my size 13 feet under the seats to kneel. I tried soloing reversed from the bow seat,and I REALLY had to reach for the water is seat lowering in order?

All & all a nice handling boat. Just felt like we were way high out of the water. Thanks for any info you can provide.

Happy Paddling billinpa

We (my wife and I) got a Penobscot
16 last year for down river racing, and removed the cane seats and replaced them with gray foam pedestal ones.

We lowered them since we felt the original ones were too high. I think thay were eight inches and we lowered them a couple of inches.

If it feels tippy and you are a fairly accomplished paddler than by all means lower them.

Ours didn’t feel tippy. They just felt too high.

We experimented quite a bit by duct taping various height blocks, until we found what was comfortable.



I use a drop-in box seat just behind
the center thwart when I solo a tandem, and here it is:

You can improvise to your liking if you decide to.

I demoed a Penobscot with a partner and we noticed an initial bit of tenderness, as you did. I thought that the secondary stability kicked in remarkably quick and very well though, if and when you needed it.

It tracked well, and the wind did not blow us across the lake as it would have in the Camper model.

I am interested to know if your lowering of the hung seat will make any difference in felt stability.

Remember the weight is still being hung from the gunnels. Another option might be to 'glass some seats to the floor, although that might be drastic.

I think you’ll adjust to the Penobscot well.

Happy Paddling!

Help with canoe
We have the same canoe. I dropped the seat 2" by getting some dowel rod and drilling them. I also went to Walmart and picked up two collapse 5 gallon water jugs. I fill them up with water and put them on the floor of the canoe. I slide them around for balancing out the canoe. This helps to make it more stable.

The tippyness…
really didn’t bother us{feeling was gone after a few minutes},it was the fact we were stretching with 52" bents to reach the water. I don’t want to buy all new paddles just for the tandem. I think if I get both the seats down an 1 1/2" it should be better with the paddles. I used length cut ,drilled 5/8" hardwood rod stock,and 10/24 threaded rod,stainless acorn nuts on top of the gunnels to lower. Anybody have a line on 10/24 machine bolts that are longer then 6",or is threaded rod the only way to get that length ?

Happy Paddling billinpa

not kneelers
If you are no kneeling then I’d definately lower the seats.

If you can kneel but haven’t converted yet I’d get with the church of kneelers and try it out. I small kneeling pad like they sell at Lowes for gardening will work fine and you’ll have two comfortable positions one that is fast and comfy and one that it super duper stable.

If conversion to kneeling seems stringent and you don’t like it after you have tried it for about ten trips then it is easy to decide then to lower the seats and do the sit and switch style.

Seat height
Kneeling seats are normally a minimum of 9" from seat bottom to hull, sitting seats are about 6" for the same measurement. Dropping the seats will help a lot.

Your boat, like most tandems, is rigged for kneeling paddlers despite the general knowledge it will be paddled by folks who are sitting.??

You can get wooden seat drops and 6" SS machine screws from Bell Canoe Works or Placid boatworks.

Aluminum deep drops can be made at your local sheet metal shop.

Rule of Knuckles
Rule of thumb for hard paddling in flat water is to have the seat set so your first set of knuckles on the fist just touch the water when sitting or kneeling. For more white water, not sure, but may want to be higher. In flat water, the paddle tends more to 50" when knuckles are dragging.

I use these

in combination with stainless rods/bolts.

Nearly flush on your gunnels.

If you need dowels that long, I would rather use trushes (like MR or Esquif does). Not as wigely as long dowels.

For class II & III whitewater
those seat heights are great! You will find that they are just right when combined with glued-in kneepads and outfitted with thigh straps. You and Joan will be able to hang opposing braces waaaaaaaaaay out for those dynamic eddie turns.

Ummmmmmm…Wait a minute. I bet you are not going to be doing II-III water, right?

Go ahead and lower the seats like has already been recommended. You will be happier and so will Joan.


Watch for knee pain

Nine (9) {IX} inches is a good standard height for sitting while leaving room for all but the largest feet if you want to kneel.

When I got into a Penobscot I found the primary stabilty pretty nonexsistant. It does firm up nicley with a touch of a lean.


Yeah, Jim…

– Last Updated: Jan-08-07 5:11 PM EST –

I think class I might be the highest Joan would get involved in. The initial stability thing wasn't the issue it was bending over the side to reach a good catch with the paddle. I gave Joan My 52" ZAV,and she said to me this suckers a short one,don't you have a longer one,and I was already thinking the same for the paddle I was using. I am going to leave my seat at 9 1/2",and bring the bow seat down 1". I am afraid any lower we will be banging our elbows on the gunnels. Hopefully That will allow us to kneel if we encounter any WW ,and allow us a better paddle stroke position,sitting.

Happy Paddling billinpa

Where are the design engineers?
There seems to be some opportunity for an entrepreneur with good shop skills to come up with a much improved, adjustable seat design. This would allow adjustments horizontally, vertically and tilt. Comfort would also be addressed.

I will be starting a new job soon ,and I will have access to 304 & 314 stainless sheet metal,tubing,rod stock,bending,welding,drilling,milling,and CNC machines,and a design team. I plan to totally eliminate the wooden hangers,and flat webbed seats. I probably will be using tractor types seats,using scrap SS tubing,and sheet metal to make a quick change adjustable seats for the Penobscot. I know stainless may be over kill,and add a little weight,but I will have access to scrap,and I am far better with metal,then wood. There are some seat,and seat hanger designs out there that I think would work. Fabricating them will surely get me more shop time then CWDH,and the possibility of a Duckhead design award. LOL

Happy Paddling billinpa

Pensobscot seat height
I had a Pensobscot and they are a bit lively by design…the shallow vee hull likes to move around more than the shallow arch design that seems like the new standard.

I always kneel so that helps calm the boat down; not sure if you kneel or not.

If you kneel then I’d suggest lowering the seats as much as you can until you have trouble getting your feet under the seats. If you sit then again I’d suggest that you go as low as you can. One inch makes a huge difference, 1/2" is still a big change, and I think even 1/4 inch would be a noticeable change.

If you get longer seat drop spacers…you can always shorten them a bit if you find you’ve lowered it too much.

Yes the 1 piece seat drops (like Bell) will be stiffer than individual seat drops but at same time you don’t need the additional stiffness so even the cheap Mad River drops or just buying some 5/8" or 3/4" wood dowels and drilling a hole in them - should work fine for you.

The Penobscot is a fine boat and surely worth tuning for a better fit for you.