Single blading a pack boat

-- Last Updated: Mar-25-15 9:39 AM EST --

I know most if not all of the designs out there are set up to accommodate sitting basically on the hull in conjunction with a double blade paddle.

How possible is it to single blade one of these things in the default configuration? I came across an interesting video wherein the instructor espouses just that ( Knowing how unorthodox this technique is, I emailed him, and he replied:

"The Ojibwe natives of this area once used small solo hunting canoes, which were paddled in the way you saw demonstrated in the video. In my kayak research, I found a few Far-North peoples who also use single rather than double-bladed paddles."

I am assuming, if anything, paddling in this way just has a really limited application, or ?

My experience
I prefer single blade paddling and did it some when I had a Hornbeck pac boat. I found it doable, but not as nice as single blading from a kneeling seat. You need to use a real short paddle. Some people, who may chime in raise the floor seat up to get a better position.

have fun,Turtle

High seat
Here’s what you do. Enter the Pnet sweepstakes and choose the Placidboatworks SpitFire. When you win it, ask Joe for the high seat so you can use a single blade.

I know I’m being a bit facetious, but I also know that seat was developed to facilitate using a single blade in their pack canoes.

High seat
Joe gave me the highest rail mounted seat he has for my Placidboat Rapidfire. I single blade almost exclusively, not just for recreational paddling, but for workouts for when I am otherwise unable to train with my voyageur race team.

When not training sometimes I like to use a short shaft straight wood paddle with a narrow “willow leaf” blade that easily slices through various strokes. Other times, always when training, I use a 49" carbon bent shaft. When not actually racing I really dislike paddling hit and switch, so I use a fast unhesitating correction stroke. It is pretty easy to keep that boat going perfectly straight at speed with very minimal correction, or to turn it sharply when required.

The only exception to using a single blade is when I sometimes solo paddle the Adirondack 90-miler race in the Rapidfire. The rules for the race class that boat fits in unfortunately (IMO) requires using a double blade.

Two options
leap to mind…

Install a removable pedestal seat. One of my boats has a foam pedestal seat that is held in place by two strips of industrial velcro on the bottom of the boat and further secured by an adjustable strap running over the top of the pedestal to D rings secured to the bottom of the boat on either side of the seat. Works fine. I suspect this could be done in such a way as to allow a choice that would allow reversion to the original seating arrangement for double blading.

Another is to use a kneeling bag as seen in Becky Mason’s Classic solo canoeing.

My own experience is that kneeling against the heels with the toes against the hull, Indian style, hurts. Probably a person (especially a young one) could train and adjust to it, but the process might not be pleasant.

If the pack canoe
has a narrow enough paddling station it certainly can be paddled with a single blade. It is hardly unorthodox technique.

I use a 46 inch bent with my Placid Boatworks Rapidfire.

Whether with the low seat, or with the drop in medium seat, it works…

Hornbecks have a constant flared hull and are too wide to allow comfy single blade paddling. Some of their new designs may work as Pete has incorporated tumblehome.

I don’t know how single blading would work with the budget friendly Next.

I like single blading my pack canoe in the twisty mangroves or the brushy Pine Barrens. It keeps me from losing the double.

I am at a loss why you said no solo canoe would fit you… I suspect information overload rather.

Within the budget constraints, I meant. So, under 1k, which limits me to the used market, which is certainly thin by all estimations, especially considering the already limited range of models suitable for a smaller person.

I’ll just stir the pot a little
I understand your concern about boat size for a small paddler like yourself, and I think you could potentially have a lot of fun in a pack boat set up for kneeling. But before you conclude too strongly that all of the “standard” solo canoes are just too big for you, watch some old instructional videos of Bill Mason solo-paddling a 16-foot tandem canoe. He was a pretty short person, and not heavy either. Actually, there are also new videos of his daughter Becky Mason demonstrating some graceful tricks with a 16-foot tandem. I’ve met her, and by my recollection she’s not any taller than you.

You’ll see that Bill Mason often solo-paddles a tandem canoe from an off-center paddling position to help deal with the boat’s width, but the whitewater video shows that it can be done while centered as well. In a standard solo canoe, the problem of the boat being wider than ideal is far less pronounced than what you see in these videos. I think this will show how “do-able” a medium-sized solo canoe would be for you, in case you have a chance to buy one.

Solo Basics:

Solo Whitewater Basics:

Not fun IMO
I made my nephew a Snowshoe 12 SOF canoe which I’d guess would be similar in dimension to many pack boats with the seat on the floor.

I took it out for a while myself with a single blade and while it was doable I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable, mainly due to the high sides of the boat relative to your low sitting position. I’ve single bladed a lot in kayaks and that actually is enjoyable because, while you’re sitting low relative to the water, you’re sitting high in relation to the sides of the boat.

Kneeling in the Snowshoe with a single blade was better.


its not

– Last Updated: Mar-25-15 9:26 AM EST –

Snowshoe has higher sides. Pack canoes are deliberately shallower.

Snowshoe also has no tumblehome.

There is an Argosy for sale here. It fits smaller paddlers pretty decently. I have one.. I also have a friend who is 100 lbs who has one.

Thanks for that.

– Last Updated: Mar-25-15 9:38 AM EST –

I actually am very willing to buy a boat out of my optimal size range, and still have a shot on that Odyssey, actually, so keeping fingers crossed.

This thread was more born of my curiosity about the paddling style demonstrated in the video I linked to (which is apparently not as uncommon as I thought), and to sort weather, if I happen upon a pack boat, it's worth consideration. Original post edited so as to avoid misrepresentation.

At this point I'd probably even consider a small tandem.


– Last Updated: Mar-25-15 9:34 AM EST –

According to the specs, which I'll grant may not be entirely accurate, the Rapidfire is 11" deep in the center and the Snowshoe 10".

Overall width is roughly the same but, as you say, tumblehome would help.


In OT Pack Angler
The Angler seat is pretty low. I have used single blade with it but it is awkward for distances. I paddle double blade to fishing spots then switch to single for maneuvering in smaller areas. It doesn’t hurt to have a spare paddle on board and I know that I could make it back to the put-in with the single blade if I needed.

Sounds right
but the low seat in the RapidFire elevates the tush 2 inches off the floor.

Its a well canted seat.

Single & double blade
I use both in my Rapidfire. The Single blade is my spare paddle and is used frequently on narrow winding creeks and when there are over hanging alder trees or other obstructions. On open water I use the double blade primarily because I’m not that good of a paddler with a single blade. On open water I’ll occasionally use the single blade but I’m slow with it so tend to switch back to the double. Single blade paddle is a 46 inch bent shaft and double blade is an Onno usually adjusted to 220.

Same as single blading a kayak – UGH
A so-called pack canoe is just an undecked kayak, designed as a sit-on-bottom (SOB) hull to be propelled with a double blade paddle.

CAN one single blade it? Sure, and some people in this thread say they do. Is that a functional or aesthetic way to propel a pack canoe? Not for me; I think it’s an unpleasant perversion of reasonable, much less optimal, single blade physics.

Paddling any SOB hull with a short single blade sitting on the floor is very rarely done. Just look at how many kayakers do it. Look hard. You won’t see any. Well, you may see me do it for 30 minutes once every few years just to do something different. But to trip that way, to play that way, to maneuver precisely that way, to be comfortable that way, for extended periods – NO WAY!!

If a single blader wants to kneel in a SOB hull, some sort of seat will have to be hung way up high, probably almost at the rails. This is an unstable position for these SOB hulls, designed with very narrow waterlines, and would be very unpleasant for the vast majority of paddlers other than a few advanced paddlers or racers, who probably have several other properly designed kneeling hulls in their fleets.


I single blade kayaks frequently with
A 45" Zaveral bent and greatly enjoy it. Nearly as fast as with a double blade and turns are shaper.

My spare kayak paddle is usually a short bent ZRE.


Didn’t like a single in Bell Bucktail.
Didn’t like a double in the Bell Bucktail, either.

the Bucktail
was an odd fish. Kind of wide for a pack canoe… I dont remember how deep but IIRC no tumblehome.

Some folks loved it for its stability

Me too
I greatly preferred a short single to a double when I still had kayaks and just wanted to take a pleasurable paddle. For workouts I’d use a double bladed wing. I hated paddling slow with a double.