Solo a Tandem?

Any suggestions on how to best solo a tandem ?

OT Tripper 172, I sat in bow seat backwards and paddling was almost impossible in a light wind. Boat just spins around. (Partner couldn’t go that day)

Google Canadian Style Solo
this will get you started

Basically two ways
You spun around because your boat was not in trim. If one end is much lighter than the other, the light end will get blown downwind like a weather vane, which is called “weathercocking” or “leecocking”, depending on which end is light.

If you sit on the bow seat and paddle backwards the boat is less out of trim than the other way around. There are several potential problems, however.

First, the boat will still probably be light in the front end. That can be fixed by putting a little weight right in the front stem. A couple a milk jugs filled with water may work well.

Second, some boats have quite asymmetrical hulls and don’t like being paddled stern first.

Third, you will still be sitting well sternward of the centerline, and you won’t be able to get your paddle blade far enough forward of the center to execute any correction strokes from the bow end. That usually isn’t a big deal for lake paddling, but might be in current.

The second method is to kneel in the canoe so that your center of gravity is at or very near the centerline. That usually means kneeling with your body just behind the center thwart so that your navel is very close to center.

The problems now are that it may be uncomfortable for you to kneel (a pad or pads helps), and a tandem is usually wide enough at the center point that it may be difficult for you to reach your paddle over the gunwale to take a good stroke with your paddle shaft more or less vertical if your body is centered in the boat.

As Kim pointed out, Canadian guides got around that problem by paddling “Canadian style”, kneeling with both knees in one chine of the canoe, body close to one gunwale, and the boat leaned or “heeled” over toward the side they were paddling on. This allows one to reach over the gunwale much easier as you are not only closer to the side of the boat, but the gunwale is also lower to the water.

By leaning the boat, the ends or stems also come up out of the water which makes a long tandem boat functionally shorter and much easier to turn. You can’t do any cross strokes that way, but you can always slide over to the other side of the boat and change paddling sides.

I had a minicell foam saddle stuffed
under the center thwart of my Tripper, where I knelt with equal access to both sides. I’m quite tall and had no difficulty reaching over the gunwales, but I knew a little, short guy who paddled a Tripper in whitewater in all conditions with no great difficulty.

Paddling a boat that is underloaded will make wind a greater problem. I have a new whitewater OC-1, and even though I weigh about 225#, the boat is so underloaded that winds can give me fits. On the other hand, if wind isn’t blowing, an underloaded boat can be forced through maneuvers quite easily. I like a boat that sits lightly on the water, until the wind comes up.

Best way to solo a tandem
Standing, with a pole. :wink:

Tandem canoe solo + wind=no fun
Canadian style is a neat way to paddle a big tandem solo, but it really won’t help you in windy conditions. If anything, the boat now has more surface area exposed to the wind and less hull in the water to help you track.

The only thing you can do beyond what you’re already trying is to trim the boat as previously mentioned. ONLY use water jugs since if you capsize, they’re neutrally buoyant. Using rocks, etc. for ballast can sink your boat if you swamp it.

Find a copy of Bill Mason’s “Path of the Paddle”, which though a little dated in some respects, is still the bible of canoeing. Everything you’ve asked (and more) is explained.


Actually it can be if you have
the open side off the wind…and tracking is far easier CS than conventional style because you can get that paddle very close to the pivot point under the water.

Dont forget that most people who use CS have gear.That gear can be moved around depending on the wind direction. It still is a popular way to travel solo where you need a bigger boat like in the Barrenlands…though as Peter pointed out boats like the Super Nova are intended to be solo boats and have their one seat far aft with the intention of you being able to reach your equipage without turning around in your seat.

A small portable bench will help your knees.

weight in the front
When my wife and I go paddling we have a similar problem. She is about 105lbs and I am 265. Luckily we usually go on overnight down river trips so we have a bunch of gear. The cooler goes right behind her and the heaviest stuff goes behind that. We typically have everything in front of the portage yoke and this seems to balance our 16’ Nova Craft Prospector quite well.

Old Town makes some pretty nice removable seats that hang from the gunwales. Try one of these or install a kneeling twart somewhere near the middle of the boat. Other than that load up the front of the boat with gear and a cooler and you’ll do fine paddling backwards.


The OP
says it all…in a wind with the weight to the rear the bow is a sail and it goes downwind…

Bow ideally is trimmed heavy for going upwind. Forget gadgets and rocks and learn to paddle from the middle. Its been done for thousands of years.

Plus you have more control over the boat when you are nesr the middle.

Thats not to say that you cant rest on a bow seat when going downwind or when control is not required as in straight crusing down a calm lake.

three cheers
damn near poetry.

best post i’ve seen in months.

i was trying a little CS in my MR indy today. i was suprised at how well it handles heeled over.

it’s an art, and i love to tinker in my wood strip tandem. i need serious lessons, though.

how about a Florida version of Raystown?

i’ll host. :slight_smile: