Solo a 15 ft Canoe

I have a 15’ 3" Cabala 15. I think it is Mainstream or Dagger… both those names are on it.

I am looking at paddling the river behind my house as well as some of the other local lakes and rivers in East TN.

Is this Canoe going to be too big to handle alone? I am an intermediate paddler and don’t want to get in over my head, even in my own back yard. is it common to paddle a 15ft alone?

Thanks for the info


That’s a good length for a solo, Tommy
It will be easier if the boat isn’t wider than 34". First thing you need to do is to set it up so you can sit and kneel just back of the center of the boat, and then go out and practice paddling in a straight line.

Check around for sources of instruction. You can google for TSRA… Tennessee Scenic River Association. There is also CHOTA in the Knoxville area. TSRA are real good people… I first soloed a river with them in 1976.

Go for it
+ 1 for what g2d said.

The only problem I have when paddling a tandom boat solo is the wind. You’ll be under weight in the tandom canoe and ride higher out of the water. Adding to the problem, tandom canoe generally have highers sides than a solo. But I’ve solo’ed in my 16’er more than I tandom. I cheat and use a double bladed paddle. I also just turn the boat around and sit/kneel backwards on what used to be the bow seat. You’ll be a little far back and may need some ballast up front if you do this. Ballast can also help you track and fight the wind better.

Thats just how I do it. Most prefer to install a kneeling twart so you are centered better.

Go for it and have fun,


Length is not the whole story

– Last Updated: Apr-10-07 9:25 AM EST –


A fifteen footer is not too big for you, per se. I frequently paddle my Tripper by myself, and that is a 17 footah, and 37" wide, to boot.

But length is only one dimension canoe designers play with. The shape of the hull and the amount of rocker are big considerations. Rocker is hull curvature. Put the canoe on a flat surface and if both ends are near the surface, there's not much rocker. OTOH, if the center is on the surface and the ends are 6" above the surface, that's a lot of rocker and you have what folks call a banana boat.

Generally, boats with lots of rocker turn easily, to the point of distraction. Take your paddle out of the water and rockered boats immediately go into a turn. Boats that have little rocker are often said to "track" well--they will glide in a straight line. But, they are more difficult to turn. In a rapid, you want a rockered boat. On a lake, not so much.

Seems to me you shouldn't worry about this abstract stuff now. Take the boat out and see what she does. Start in easy conditions and work up from there. Wear a PFD and unless you wear wet or dry suit, don't go anywhere you could possibly get stuck in water 60 degrees or less. A quick dip is okay (narrow river), but no big lakes where you could have prolonged emmersion.

If you are going to be solo paddling, definately set up a kneeling thwart near the center of the boat. Mount the thwart about ten inches behind center. Your knees will be on the bottom in front of the center point. Wear knee pads or glue some foam pads to the bottom. Here's a picture of me and the Tripper. You can see my butt is on the added "Kneeling thwart".

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Yeah, I used to solo our Tripper, but
mostly on whitewater where I had some help. Tripper was an excellent poling boat also.

Yes but…
Beware the wind.

I frequently solo my 16’ Mad River Explorer, mainly from the bow seat with the boat turned around(bow becomes stern).

The beam (36") kind of limits the strokes I can use but the big issue is the wind. With most of the boat out of the water it pretty much blows around like a leaf. An extra 100 lbs of gear brings it down where it belongs and the wind becomes much less of an issue.

If you do decide to add ballast pay attention to your trim. Slightly bow heavy will aid in paddling up wind but hurt you paddling down wind or up into current. Slightly bow light will do the opposite.



My boat is rather wide in the center… I do have one of those Snap in center seats for it as well. I thought about using it for solo trips. as for weight, I will have some weight in the front, but not a lot. I can’t seem to find any information on it on the net either. it was given to me used… If I snap a pic or two do you think we could track down some specs on it?


Specs tell a little
Throw a tape measure across the beam and stand it on the bathroom scale and you will know as much as many manufacturers offer for specs.

I wouldn’t worry too much. There’s a lot more that goes into hull design beyond most manufacturers specs.

I’ve got a friend who carrys a dozen gallon milk jugs on a string.

Fills them up when he wants the ballast. Dumps them out when he’s done. Nice thing about water ballast, it won’t sink your boat if you flip.


If you paddle reversed in the bow seat you’ll have less beam to deal with than if you paddle from the center. Put your gear as far forward as possible for trim – if that doesn’t work, the safest way to add weight is with a couple of gallons of water.

Another way of dealing with width is to paddle from one side Canadian-style.

I just found this:

My son Aaron
has been soloing a 15’ dagger for his second season now. He just turned 13, is 5’7", 160 pounds. Has no issues, mainly paddling rivers to occasional cl.3.

The beam is 36.5" across. So would it be better to paddle the boat in reverse or paddle forward with the center seat in?


try both ways
and let us know.

Sounds good
I will give it a try… I have also started to collect milk jugs… Good thing my kids drink about a gallon a day…now I don’t have to waste all of those stupid jugs…lol


Fishing boat?
Since this boat probably came from Cabela’s, has a MainStream label (Confluence Holdings’ value priced line), and is 37 inches across the beam, am I correct in assuming that it is probably a big flat bottomed fishing canoe?

Won’t that make it even more difficult to paddle from the center?

That is is
It does have a pretty flat bottom. The center side says Mainstream with Dagger below that.

The front is Cahala 15 or Cahaba 15.

solo paddling a tandem
a) I agree with C_Brice. Get yourself a good 9 1/2 double bladed canoe paddle (available from both Caviness and Carlisle)

B) make yourself a seat that will sit on the floor of your canoe. You have the advantage of being able to lower your center of gravity (if you are a big or tall guy).and you can adjust the trim of your boat for whatever the prevailing conditions are. You can make it to the exact height you are most comfortable and stable at, and slide it back and forth to whatever position you like!

Not all that big
Before I bought one of those dropin seats I let the 3rd person in the canoe sit on one of those soft folding campchairs. would that work in the center? any suggestions on a good paddle?

I am 6ft about 150lbs… so I am about average size.


Try this seat
If the sides on your canoe aren’t too high this seat might be great:

I’m thinking of getting one for my pirogues


Nice Chair
That is a pretty nice chair. I am going to do some testing after work tomorrow to see what setup works best.


Here are a few pics of the Canoe.